18 May 2011 : Column 1377

18 May 2011 : Column 1377

House of Lords

Wednesday, 18 May 2011.

3 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.

The Earl of Lytton took the oath, following the by-election under Standing Order 9.

Faith Schools: Imported Hate Material


3.07 pm

Asked By Baroness Deech

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, new arrangements for inspecting maintained schools, academies and free schools are being developed, and relevant training on aspects of pupils' spiritual, moral, social and cultural development will be provided to inspectors. Specialist inspectors who undertake work relating to independent faith schools are soon to receive more detailed training to enhance understanding and awareness of the hate material that they may encounter under exceptional circumstances. We are sending a clear message that extremism will not be tolerated in schools.

Baroness Deech: I thank the Minister for that Answer but I wonder whether it is not too little and may be too late. Will he promise us that he will address two problems? One is that the inspectorate has so far failed to detect extremist material-for example, that sodomy should be punished by killing. Perhaps the problem is that there are at least two distinct inspectorates. The second problem is that there seems to be a failure of safeguards in part-time religious schools, which seem to have slipped through the net. Will the Minister assure us that safeguards will be put in place-for example, to prevent the excess use of physical discipline in part-time schools?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, lots of points were wrapped up in that question. This is a complex area. I agree with the noble Baroness's two underlying points, the first being about the need to make sure that inspection is rigorous and that inspectors are trained to know what to look for. Part of the problem is, as the noble Baroness says, knowing what to look for. In spite of the best regulatory frameworks, that will remain a problem but we are addressing it. I agree that the point about supplementary schools and physical chastisement needs to be looked at. A report was published last year by Sir Roger Singleton. He discussed its findings with my ministerial colleagues-particularly

18 May 2011 : Column 1378

the point about physical chastisement. They are reflecting on that and working out the practical implications of his recommendations.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale: My Lords, recent incidents of religious hatred in Scotland have been a wake-up call for the Scottish Government, and it is to be hoped that they will reintroduce some of the measures that they abandoned in 2007 to tackle sectarianism across the west of Scotland and beyond. I recognise that religious bigotry and sectarianism do not respect devolved and reserved areas in our constitution but will the UK Government, with the Minister speaking on their behalf, support in any way that they can the national efforts being made in Scotland to send sectarianism into the dustbin of history?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an extremely good point. Unfortunately, hatred and bigotry come in many shapes and sizes and we must all be very wary about thinking that they come in only one. We take this matter seriously and are looking at what further measures may need to be taken. I should be very happy to learn from whatever practice there may be in Scotland to make sure that, between us, we do everything that we can.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the inspectorate is only the second line of defence? The first line of defence is the teaching staff in schools. Can he tell us what is done to protect the teaching profession from the arrival in it of people likely to inculcate religious hatred, and what steps are taken in training teachers to enable them to combat that phenomenon when they meet it?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, there are a number of lines of defence: inspection is one and parents and the wider community are another. Clearly, teachers are a further line. There is also the issue of ensuring that teachers are not guilty of spreading hate material and the kind of thoughts and ideas that none of us would want to see spread. We are carrying out a review of teachers' professional standards, and we have asked them to look at how those standards can be used to guard against extremist conduct and the promotion of extremist beliefs by members of the teaching profession.

Lord Avebury: What guidance is given to inspectors in detecting teachers who apply the Salafist doctrines that are infecting Pakistan's madrassahs? How do they look for that kind of teaching, and what reports has the Minister had on the results of those inspections?

Lord Hill of Oareford: As I said in my Answer, Ofsted is looking at the way in which it trains and will be carrying out pilots of its new inspection regime in the autumn. It will also be setting up a group within Ofsted that has more specialist expertise in knowing what to look for. As regards my noble friend's precise questions, I do not know the specific way in which it is training. I would be happy to ask the chief inspector of Ofsted to speak to the noble Lord and then to answer his questions directly.

18 May 2011 : Column 1379

The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I am interested that the focus of the question is on faith schools and does not include community schools, particularly academies and free schools that seem potentially to be less regulated and accountable in this area. For Church of England schools, there is a framework-the statutory inspection of Anglican schools-which makes specific mention within the grade descriptors to community cohesion and to all children feeling valued and included, regardless of their theistic or non-theistic life stance. Is the Minister aware that, were there to be a proliferation of race and religious hate material in a church school, it would be regraded as "inadequate" and would prompt a diocesan intervention? Does he agree that high-quality RE, which supports mutual understanding and valuing, limits the impact of that hate material? Would he therefore agree that any reduction in the capacity to develop such high-quality RE within the wider curriculum is to be deprecated?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I very much agree with the core point made by the right reverend Prelate about faith schools. It highlights the reason why one has to be careful of generalisations. One-third of all our schools are faith schools. One has to be careful not to spread across an entire sector concerns that one might have about a subset. I also know that Church of England schools have a particularly good record in promoting strong community cohesion and addressing some of these issues in precisely the way that the right reverend Prelate outlined.

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, why, then, in the Education Bill are the Government removing the requirement on inspectors to report on children's well-being and community cohesion? Are these not the very factors that are relevant to the issues of race and religious hatred that noble Lords have raised today?

Lord Hill of Oareford: We believe that the Ofsted regime that we propose to put in place will enable inspectors to check for precisely these points. We are extremely hopeful that the additional training that I talked about will enable the sharper focus that we need to be applied.

Higher Education: Funding


3.15 pm

Asked By Lord Knight of Weymouth

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My Lords, 139 institutions intending to charge above £6,000 for any undergraduate course in 2012-13 submitted access agreements to the Director of Fair Access. Fee waivers and bursaries that universities

18 May 2011 : Column 1380

plan to make available mean that we will not have firm cost estimates until students have received their loans late in the 2012-13 academic year. We believe that fee loans will be significantly below an average of £9,000. We will closely monitor the situation but currently expect the cost to be broadly within the Government's estimates.

Lord Knight of Weymouth: I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Back in December when we voted on this, we were told that the assumed average fee was £7,500 and that £9,000 would be charged only in exceptional circumstances. The House of Commons Library tells us that if the average fee goes up by just £400, the extra cost to the taxpayer through loan subsidy and underwriting will be £340 million. Therefore, I will try again with the Minister. It is clear that with more than two-thirds of universities saying that they will charge the maximum fee, £9,000 is not exceptional. If the assumptions were wrong, who will pay the extra cost? Will it be the national debt or students' prospects through fewer places?

Lord Henley: My Lords, as the noble Lord rightly said, we made the assumption in December of an average fee of roughly £7,500, with a 90 per cent take-up by students. However, it is up to higher education institutions to decide what application they should put in, and for the Office of Fair Access to look at that and make recommendations. As we made clear, there will be a number of bursaries and waivers, so we think that the average figure will come down well below the maximum of £9,000. I remind the noble Lord also that merely because a university puts in an application to charge £9,000 for one course, this does not mean that all courses will cost £9,000. I am afraid that the noble Lord will have to wait and see. As my right honourable friend Mr Willetts said in another place, we see no reason at the moment to amend the broad estimate that we put before the House last autumn.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: What is the Government's estimate of how many students will not repay their debts after 30 years? In the light of that, are the Government continuing the policy of wanting to securitise the debt, and what sort of discount do they expect on such securitisation?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I have no estimates of the numbers of students who will not repay their loan. We hope very much that all those who benefit from higher education will, as we have made clear, have a higher earning potential throughout their working life. Therefore, it is likely that the vast majority will be able to repay their debt.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I have declared my interests in the Register. Is the Minister aware that very good-quality higher education is taking place in the highly trusted sponsor private sector of higher education? Is he aware that the potential for discrimination against this sector caused by some of the present regulations will damage not only the institutions in that vital private sector but the partnerships that they

18 May 2011 : Column 1381

have with state universities, many of whom will depend on the income stream that they will get from the private sector in order to make up the cuts in their teaching grants?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord is right to draw the House's attention to the private sector. There are, I think, five degree-awarding institutions in this country that are private. We hope that they will continue to prosper, and we will do what we can to ensure that they do so.

Lord Tanlaw: I declare an interest as chancellor of the University of Buckingham, the only privately funded university that operates a four-term year and a two-year degree. If the country operated a four-term year and a two-year degree, would these fees be necessary? If it implemented them now, could they not be reduced? Is he able to say whether the increase in tuition fees will increase the number of student tutorials?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord always has very interesting points to make to the House about time, in whatever form it takes. His experiences of Buckingham are interesting and they are ones that universities throughout the country could look at. The point we should always make about higher education institutions, whether they are private, like Buckingham, or receive quite a large proportion of their money from the state one way or another, is that it is open to them to decide what they should do. The noble Lord has made a very interesting suggestion. Let them study that.

Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, when the Browne review came to pass, one of the great concerns of the sector was how to pay for, particularly, science and engineering courses, which are incredibly expensive. The £9,000 goes nowhere near covering the cost of those courses. Will the Minister assure the House that there are measures in place to ensure that universities get additional funding and make that very clear in a statement at the earliest possible opportunity?

Lord Henley: Obviously, one course will cost more than others according to the sort of subject being taught. My noble friend is right to make that point. It will still be open to HEFCE to provide money for courses that are necessarily more expensive. It will do that as is appropriate. Whether this is a matter on which my right honourable friend should make a statement is another matter, but I will certainly draw the point that my noble friend has made to his attention.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, since the Scottish Executive are under the same financial constraints as the UK Government, will the Minister explain to the House, and indeed to English students, how it is that Scottish students can go to Scottish universities without paying any fees at all?

Lord Henley: My Lords, fortunately I am not responsible for the Scottish Executive, and I have no intention of answering for them. The circumstances in

18 May 2011 : Column 1382

this country are different, but perhaps the noble Lord could have a word with his noble friend Lord Barnett and have a lengthy discussion, to his own benefit, on the Barnett formula, how it works and what benefits it brings to those who live north of the border.

Rugby Union: Twickenham Railway Station


3.22 pm

Asked By Lord Addington

Earl Attlee: My Lords, Twickenham station already serves passengers attending large rugby events on a regular basis. It is for Stagecoach South West Trains as the train and station operator at Twickenham to work with the British Transport Police, the RFU and the local authority to manage passenger flows at the station during special events. The operator has a significant amount of experience of major rugby internationals that take place at the stadium.

Lord Addington: I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, how does he suggest that a very full platform that is not long enough to take longer trains will cope sufficiently with heavy congestion and use? Would the world cup not be a wonderful opportunity for extending it? Could any major sporting event not be seen as an opportunity to expand and improve the infrastructure? I draw my noble friend's attention to the Rugby League World Cup in 2013. Are there any infrastructure plans or increased funding guarantees for that?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, in response to my noble friend's second question, I would not normally expect the business case, the BCR or the transport infrastructure project to be significantly affected by an existing sporting venue. In response to my noble friend's first question, it is envisaged that many of the eight-coach trains that currently operate into London Waterloo will be lengthened to 10-coach trains by 2014 under the HLOS. Platforms will similarly be lengthened at busier stations, such as Twickenham, providing substantial extra capacity at major events such as the Rugby Union World Cup. There are well established plans to manage passenger flows on to the platform so that there are not too many passengers on it at the same time.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is not much good trying to encourage more people to travel by rail with improved station facilities if at the same time the Government are driving some people away by agreeing to fare increases way above what is already the Government-induced high rate of inflation?

18 May 2011 : Column 1383

Earl Attlee: The Government are just about to commence a study of the whole fare structure of the railway to address exactly the problem the noble Lord has identified.

Lord Naseby: Is my noble friend aware that one of the problems at Twickenham is, frankly, that too many people have had too much to drink? Is he also aware that whereas at Murrayfield and the Millennium stadium, no alcohol is sold while a match is taking place, at Twickenham it is available in the bars during matches? Will he have a word with the RFU to stop that because it goes against the interests of anyone who wants to go and watch a match, and afterwards people might be a little more sober?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I am not completely sure that that is a matter for my department. However, I also understand that, ironically, although rugby union is a contact sport, it actually experiences less bad behaviour than football matches.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, today is the 776th day since Governments on either side have ordered any new rolling stock for our railways. In circumstances where noble Lords in this Chamber will have found it extraordinarily difficult to get on to trains, and many people are crowded out, how are we going to show the world that we have a railway that is worth using unless some new rolling stock is ordered very urgently?

Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend has made some good points and we are working on them.

UK Border Agency


3.26 pm

Asked By Lord Dholakia

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Browning): The UK Border Agency has issued a full response to the chief inspector's report. We accept all 10 of his recommendations, eight in full and two in part. I will place a copy of the response in the Library.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the clarity of her Answer. In the present climate, terrorists pose a serious threat to the security of the United Kingdom. What is being done to establish proper co-ordination between the work of the UKBA and our intelligence services, something that was identified in the Vine report? I ask the Minister to ensure that the allegations made in the 100,000 calls made by the public to the agency each year are recorded and published, particularly to build confidence that adequate measures are being taken to protect people against immigration and customs offences.

18 May 2011 : Column 1384

Baroness Browning: I hope that I can reassure my noble friend. At the time when the inspection of the UKBA was being conducted, the agency was in fact part way through a programme to assess how it manages intelligence. My noble friend is right to point out that intelligence is absolutely key to securing our borders. That is why the agency is willing to accept the report because it will inform the action that will be taken to ensure that intelligence operations are improved. My noble friend also asked about reports made by the public. One of the recommendations in the chief inspector's report deals with that. We have accepted the recommendation and intend to take action on it.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is welcome that the recommendations are accepted, but does the noble Baroness accept that they are one of a number of responsibilities being placed on the UK Border Agency that include the immigration cap, the student visa system and the policy of preventing the children of failed asylum seekers being held in detention, which the Government have still to implement, as well as the issue that we discussed yesterday, that of returning asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo and other countries? Yet the UK Border Agency's budget is being reduced by 20 per cent. Is the noble Baroness confident that the UKBA can do all this and at the same time cope with the massive disruption brought by reductions in budget and staff?

Baroness Browning: I hope I can reassure the noble Lord that I do believe that that is possible. That is why the emphasis on intelligence and the way it is gathered and disseminated has been a key plank of the new Government's negotiation with the UK Border Agency over how it operates in future. We regard security of the borders as a very high priority for all the reasons that the noble Lord mentioned. Intelligence is so important here that making sure that the agency maximises the efficiency of its intelligence operation is why we have quite openly accepted the recommendations of the chief inspector's report. We are anxious to improve security with all the help we can get, including from this report.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that one of the recommendations of the report pointed to the need to focus on those responsible for organising and facilitating the illegal entry of people and goods rather than on the individuals. Does she agree that we owe that not just to the British people as a matter of securing the borders but, as a duty of care, to the people who are imported from overseas into slavery? This is big business; it is a matter of human decency.

Baroness Browning: I totally agree with my noble friend. The agency is very clear that the processes that it uses are as important as the efficiency with which it uses intelligence. As my noble friend has indicated, it needs to make sure that fairness is also at the heart of the way in which it conducts its business.

Lord Tomlinson: On overseas students who are in this country-I remind Members of my earlier declaration of interest-does the Minister accept that the state university system would be a much more secure place

18 May 2011 : Column 1385

if we knew precisely where the students who have been given visas actually are? Will she try to encourage the UK Border Agency to follow the lead given by some private sector higher education colleges in introducing a system of digital identification at lectures so that we know precisely where our students are and exactly what their record of attending lectures is?

Baroness Browning: I am very grateful for that suggestion and am very happy to follow up on it.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: Is the Minister confident that for those with different languages coming into the United Kingdom there are officers who can communicate with them effectively when they arrive here?

Baroness Browning: If the due process of law and the regulations are to be followed properly, that is an essential ingredient. If my noble friend felt that this was causing a problem at any point for people receiving due process of law and regulation, I would certainly wish to investigate it.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, will my noble friend say anything about the use of intelligence to improve the quality of decision-making by the UKBA, which, as we heard only recently, is incapable of making decisions on a regular basis that are not challenged successfully on appeal?

Baroness Browning: This is an area in which the agency has openly accepted, particularly in response to this report on intelligence, that it needs to make improvements. It is genuinely looking to improve the way in which it carries out its functions.

Weightman Report


3.33 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat the response that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change made in another place to the Urgent Question on Dr Weightman's report. The Statement is as follows.

"Earlier today I laid before the House the chief nuclear inspector's interim report on the events at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear site in March. Dr Weightman's final report is due in September.

Safety is and will continue to be our number one priority, and I believe that it is vitally important that the regulators and industry continue to adhere to the principle of continuous improvement for all existing and future nuclear sites and facilities.

Dr Weightman has drawn a number of conclusions. He states that the direct causes of the nuclear accident-a magnitude 9 earthquake and associated 14-metre high tsunami-are far beyond the most extreme events the UK could expect to experience. In this respect he concludes that there is no reason for curtailing the operation of nuclear power plants or other nuclear facilities in the UK.

18 May 2011 : Column 1386

Nevertheless, Dr Weightman notes severe events can occur from other causes and that learning from such events is fundamental to the robustness of our nuclear safety arrangements. I can therefore confirm that once further work on the recommendations is completed, any proposed improvements to safety arrangements will be considered and implemented in line with our normal nuclear safety regulatory approach.

The interim report also identifies various matters that should be reviewed to improve the safety of the UK nuclear industry. I consider it an absolute priority that the regulators, industry and government act responsibly to learn from the 26 recommendations in the report and to respond to them within one month of today's report.

My officials will review carefully the interim report but, from my discussions with Dr. Weightman, I see no reason why we should not proceed with our current policy-namely that nuclear can and should be part of the future energy mix in the future as it is today, providing that there is no public subsidy. The interim report does not identify any implications for the strategic siting assessment of new reactors, and I do not believe that the final report will either.

Subject to careful consideration of the detail of Dr Weightman's interim report, I intend to bring forward for ratification as soon as possible the energy national policy statements.

I strongly welcome Dr Weightman's interim report. I encourage the regulators to work closely with industry and other partners to take the recommendations forward, and I look forward to receiving the final report in the autumn".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.37 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Statement. I was disappointed to learn that, until an Urgent Question was granted in the other place today, the Government had intended to make this announcement in a Written Statement. Such an important issue should be debated, so I am grateful to the noble Lord for repeating the Statement today.

I thank Dr Weightman for his work. He and his team have clearly worked extremely hard and we appreciate the way in which they have undertaken their task. Given the time available, they have produced an informative and detailed report. We accept that this is an interim report and that the full report will be available in September. However, he has clearly been able to examine the reasons for the catastrophe in Japan and the likelihood of any similar factors being present in the UK. Can the Minister tell us whether Dr Weightman and his team were able to visit the site in Japan-with the appropriate safety precautions, of course? If not, will they be able to do so before they finalise their report and bring it forward to us in September?

As the Minister will be aware, we support nuclear power as part of the mix of a low-carbon energy supply, which is why we are so concerned that all safety and security aspects should be effectively examined

18 May 2011 : Column 1387

and dealt with appropriately. Public confidence in new and existing nuclear demands nothing less. So we welcome this report and look forward to the full report.

I have a few questions for the Minister. If he is unable to address any of them from the Dispatch Box today, I would be grateful if he would write to me with the answers, given the importance of the subject.

Will Dr Weightman consider in his full report any further developments in Fukushima since he completed this interim report? Given that it may be many years before the full extent of the catastrophe is known, can the Minister assure us that the UK nuclear inspectorate or other appropriate body will be fully engaged with the Japanese nuclear authorities to ensure that we are able to learn from the ongoing consequences of this incident? Can he also assure me that all potential risks, natural and otherwise, are being fully examined?

The report contains 26 recommendations. The noble Lord has assured your Lordships' House that it is a priority to respond to the recommendations within a month-for which we are grateful-and that once further work on these recommendations is completed, any proposed improvements to safety regulations will be considered and implemented. I know that he will share my view that any actions required should be undertaken as a matter of urgency and not delayed because of any funding or costs issues. Can he assure me that the Government's stated policy of no subsidy for nuclear will not at any stage delay or hamper necessary safety or security measures? Will he also agree to report back to your Lordships' House on monitoring arrangements and the implementation of the recommendations?

In the Statement, the noble Lord said that the energy national policy statement is to be brought forward for ratification as soon as possible subject to consideration of this interim report. I am unclear on this. Would there be any merit in the Government waiting until the final report is available before bringing the national policy statement forward? The noble Lord emphasised the point made by Chris Huhne in the other place, that the national energy plan should proceed as part of the low-carbon energy mix. We welcome that, but we have the usual caveat-providing that there is no public subsidy. As the Minister will be aware, the highly regarded Energy and Climate Change Select Committee in the other place has reported that there is, in effect, a public subsidy for nuclear through long- term contracts and the carbon floor price. The committee has urged the Government to be upfront about the subsidies provided to nuclear. Is the noble Lord able to explain this contradiction to your Lordships' House?

Finally, shortly after the explosion in Japan the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, was far more pessimistic about the future of nuclear power than were his government colleagues. He insisted that no extra government money would be found for any additional costs. He also stated that energy firms struggle to raise investment from the private sector. He then added that, as Deputy Prime Minister through the coalition agreement, he had the right to veto the provision of any additional government funds. The

18 May 2011 : Column 1388

Minister will understand the concerns about such doubt over the future of nuclear power at the heart of government. Does he consider that Nick Clegg's comments have damaged, or could damage, investment-or did that intervention have no impact? Potential investors need commitment, stability and certainty. The noble Lord's comments on this would be welcome.

This is a thorough and useful interim report which is an important part of the process of ensuring safety and stability in the nuclear industry for the public benefit. Our gratitude goes to Dr Weightman and his team.

3.43 pm

Lord Marland: My Lords, the noble Baroness has made some excellent points and I should like to tackle them head on, as I hope I always do. She made the valuable point about having a debate in this House. Between us, we have tried to get a debate in the House but sadly the order of business up to Recess prevents that, despite our efforts. We should have that debate in this House because, on all sides of the Chamber, we have incredible knowledge and expertise particularly in this nuclear field and, broadly speaking, a consensus of views which will allow us to make progress in the nuclear industry now that we have this excellent report that Dr Weightman has done with such efficiency and in so short a timeframe.

Quite naturally, he has not yet been close up to the site but will go next week. It shows the esteem in which he is held within the international community that the IAEA has itself chosen him to write the broad-scale report on Fukushima. We should congratulate him on that and have great pride that he has been chosen to do it. As I said clearly in our Statement, the report's recommendations for future safety will be acted upon. We will ensure that they are acted upon speedily. The ONR-the regulatory authority is independent, unlike in many other countries-is led by Dr Weightman and will oversee that.

On the issue of the delay, there has been delay as a result of these tragic events. They were indeed tragic. There was delay and various members of the political community, including the Deputy Prime Minister, were quite right to put forward their views and concerns as a result of this terrible tragedy. However, we as a Government are committed to new nuclear. We are committed to no subsidy for it because we believe it is a mature industry with a great deal of expertise and there is the finance available to make it happen. We will be pressing as hard as we can to achieve this and make up for lost time. Dr Weightman's report gives us the platform to progress and with the support of your Lordships I hope we can do it.

Moving briefly to the excellent point about the carbon floor price-of course it supports nuclear; of course it supports renewables; of course it supports a lot of the activities that we are carrying out to ensure that we have nuclear security and to achieve our stated goal of a low-carbon economy.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, perhaps I may say how much I endorse both Dr Weightman's report and my noble friend's statement on the safety grounds,

18 May 2011 : Column 1389

which of course are of the first importance. Dr Weightman's findings fully tally with the view I took almost 30 years ago when, as Secretary of State for Energy, I fired the starting pistol for Sizewell B. The problem with nuclear is not a matter of safety provided we have the very high safety standards we have always had in this country. After all, we were the first country to produce nuclear energy for the grid, in 1956. We have had no serious problems in this country and if we maintain these standards it is not a problem.

The problem is the economic one. My noble friend said no subsidy, but as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said, the carbon floor price is a subsidy. How about doing away with that and with all the greatly increased subsidies for renewables? If you want a non-carbon energy, nuclear energy is infinitely more competitive than wind and all the other renewables. How about taking advantage-in the rather fragile economic conditions in which this country finds itself-of the abundance of gas available for generating electricity far more cheaply and actually producing revenue for the Exchequer instead of having a hand in the Exchequer's pocket?

Lord Marland: We owe a great debt to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, as one of the founders of the nuclear industry in this country-

Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

Lord Marland: Obviously, my colleagues behind me feel I am saying the right things. Of course, safety was paramount when the noble Lord pressed the button for Sizewell B. It is worth just rehearsing some of the differences between what the noble Lord and subsequent Ministers did and the difference between ourselves and the Japanese incident. We have gas-cooled nuclear reactors not water-cooled ones. The future ones are pressurised water and as far as I understand it-noble Lords will know I am not many things and I am certainly not a scientist-that reduces the density. Our design predictions are based on what might happen, not what has happened. That is a fundamental difference.

We have not taken the issues that have happened in the past; we have taken the issues of what could happen and magnified them to modern standards. We also do not store as much fuel at the plant and we have an independent regulator which can determine whether nuclear power stations should be operating rather than there being government intervention. These are just some of the issues and I am very grateful for all the work the noble Lord did. He will forgive me if I do not, when we are debating a Weightman report on the back of a seriously tragic incident, get too distracted by the debate about renewables and gas at this point. However, as always, I will be delighted to have that debate on another occasion and I very much look forward to it.

Lord Oxburgh: My Lords, I have a little familiarity with the Fukushima event but I have not yet had the privilege of reading Dr Weightman's report. However, it is worth making a few comments. First, I make no comment on the relationship between the operating company and the regulatory authority in Japan or

18 May 2011 : Column 1390

indeed on the way in which the plant was operated. However, it is worth recognising that the Fukushima plant was actually designed 50 years ago and constructed around 40 years ago. Both of these dates are before the days of modern computers, which is an astonishing advantage that one has when one is designing a modern nuclear plant. Anyone looking at the issue carefully today, although with hindsight we have all sorts of bright ideas how things could have been better, is impressed at how well this ancient-almost fossil-nuclear plant came through an event that was far beyond the design specifications agreed at the time that it was built. It was built to withstand a tsunami of five metres high. In the event, it had to withstand something over 12 metres.

It is worth emphasising the extreme improbability of the event that faced Fukushima. The earthquakes of the magnitude that hit Fukushima occur something like once every 25 years somewhere along the 40,000 kilometres of the Pacific rim. But that was not the only remarkable event. The second event-or the second coincidence, if you like-was that it had to be approximately where it was, 200 kilometres off the coast. Had it been much closer to the plant, there would have been much less effect. There would have been much less water available to push in the tsunami. If it had been further out, the tsunami would have been much more widely dispersed. So effectively it required two rather exceptional events. I do not know that anyone has satisfactorily computed the probability or improbability of this sort of thing happening, but it is very, very small. I do not think that it really ought to influence our nuclear debate one way or another.

That said, when there is a nuclear accident, there are always lessons to be learnt, and I am sure we shall learn design ideas or get new ideas on the basis of what has happened.

Lord Marland: As always, we have had an object lesson in nuclear science from someone who really understands it. I would just add that three people died as a result of this incident-part of the 25,000 rumoured to be in the tsunami. One died from exhaustion and one from actually going outside the bounds of where he was allowed to operate. So this has been an incredible result in the horrific accident that happened along that coastline. The most important point that the noble Lord is asking us to consider and understand is that we must not be complacent. We must take on board these things. We owe it to the nation as a whole and this Government are not going to be complacent. We are determined to learn the lessons and to act accordingly.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, I welcome both this report, which is wide-ranging and international in its scope, and the positive statement from the Minister about the future of UK nuclear power.

Nuclear safety is highly advanced in Japan, the United States and Europe, more so than in some other significant areas of technology. That point was made in the recent high-level United States Government report, by the dean of physics and engineering at Harvard, in a review of last year's Gulf of Mexico oil platform incident-the report was actually a very interesting study of how nuclear safety is conducted around the world. For example, nuclear technologies

18 May 2011 : Column 1391

analyse and measure tiny, fluctuating signals and how they are correlated. I have seen this as a mathematician. We are building on that.

The other issue is that the long-term policy for nuclear waste is not a safety issue but a political issue in the context of nuclear power. Therefore, the Government in making their future plans must also connect with their policy for first storing and then perhaps reprocessing wastes to reduce their radioactive life. This is perhaps an area in which the Government also need to address the question.

As the noble Lord, Lord Oxburgh, pointed out, the other important issue is how nuclear power stations withstand external impacts. The Japanese incident showed that some aspects worked while others did not. One reason why they did not was because of the storage of wastes on site. That shows how safety is very much a matter of management as well as of technology-again, as the US report noted-in dealing with these major accidents. The question of interaction between different organisations is a critical part, which the report of Dr Weightman indeed mentions.

Will the Minister, in his commitment to develop UK technology and science in nuclear energy, which is part of the government programme, ensure that it is international and also that expertise is a strong element of management?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I remind noble Lords that it is very important to be brief in the questions that they put to the Minister on the Statement. Otherwise, other people will not be able to get in.

Lord Marland: I, of course, do not like people asking questions, so I am happy for them to go on for a very long time.

However, I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and I am grateful to him for setting out the platform as an experienced scientist in these matters. He raised one fundamental point, which is that we cannot consider just the new nuclear and the old nuclear reactors, but we also have to be vigilant about our decommissioning and reprocessing. As he well knows, I am committed to an investigation before a decision is made on a Mox plant and regenerating Sellafield as a centre of excellence. We are spending £2.5 billion, which in the current climate I managed to get out of the Treasury so that, within the lifetime of this Parliament, we can put our hazard decommissioning into as good an order as it will ever have been. I completely concur with that.

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in 1706, following an earthquake off the south coast of Ireland, a tsunami flooded the lower reaches of the Severn and the Somerset levels, which are adjacent to the Hinkley Point nuclear power station and, indeed, to the planned further nuclear stations on that site? Can the Minister assure us that, in spite of everything that has been said about nuclear safety in this country, we will not assume that such an event could not take place again, and that developments on that site will be secure from such accidents?

18 May 2011 : Column 1392

Lord Marland: I am also aware that a few years later, in 1755, there was the horrendous Lisbon earthquake, which caused a tsunami 2 metres higher than the high tide. We are clearly aware of the implications for this area. The most encouraging thing about the ONR is that it plans on a 1 in 10,000 year event, which is probably just about enough to get me through my lifetime but, with the will of God, perhaps not enough for the right reverend Prelate-I know which direction I am going in, and I have an idea in which direction he is going. Obviously, we need to keep refreshing that and ensuring that safety and security of that nature is fundamental.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I welcome very much the fact that this report has been produced so quickly on behalf of the Government, who have responded to it very well in demanding a response on the 26 recommendations. Perhaps I might concentrate on just one or two areas. Conclusion 11 states:

"With more information there is likely to be considerable scope for lessons to be learnt about human behaviour in severe accident conditions".

Recommendation 4 states:

"Both the UK nuclear industry and ONR should consider ways of enhancing the drive to ensure more open, transparent and trusted communications".

What concerns me most about this incident was the fact that the Tokyo Electric Power Company was not seen as being open and was not quick in responding, not only to the public but to its own Government, and that those communications and the threats that came from them were quite huge. That has done great harm, unfairly, to our own nuclear industry, which used to have a similar reputation of being closed and unwilling to share information. I hope that the Government will work with the industry in the UK to make sure that the new and increased openness, which we hope will remain, stays there. The public's concern about the nuclear industry could be one of the greatest casualties.

The Minister also mentioned stress tests in the review and said that they would be carried out by the European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group and the European Commission. I suggest to him that together those might not be the most trusted of organisations, and perhaps we could do with some more independent scientific input into those tests. Perhaps he could reassure the House that the stress tests will be rather more comprehensive and trustworthy than those that looked at the European banking system.

Lord Marland: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who is a recent convert to nuclear, which is extremely encouraging. I applaud his support and am grateful for it.

Transparency must obviously be at the centre of what we do. The report has made a number of recommendations, of which, as he rightly says, transparency is one, and we will be adopting those recommendations. It is fundamental that the British public feel secure. That is why the report is so important. It has been a broad-scale report. That is why we got it out early, so that we could bring comfort to the British public, and transparency is at the heart of that.

18 May 2011 : Column 1393

I am convinced that the nuclear industry is committed to stress testing. It is part of the industry's research and endeavour; indeed, it is almost a byword within the industry. As such, I feel confident that the industry will support us in this.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Has the Minister been given any briefing at this stage on the implications of what has happened in Japan for the British reprocessing industry?

Lord Marland: The Weightman report does not go into great detail about reprocessing. As the noble Lord knows, that is my responsibility within the department. I am comfortable with the briefing that I have and the progress that we are making. I am grateful to him for raising the question; as he knows, I try to keep him informed as a man of Cumbria who has represented it well for many years. I am confident that there is a strong commitment to that industry in that part of the world.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I join my noble friend in thanking Dr Weightman for what has been, in an astonishingly short time, a very detailed interim report. We look forward to his final report, which will go wider than the electricity-generating industry-that is what he is offering. As well as thanking him, though, I express my admiration for what the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, was able to do while he was in Tokyo. There is no doubt about it; he was extremely valuable in understanding what was going on in Japan and giving advice to the Japanese from his great experience, as well as keeping this country thoroughly informed about what was going on. It is right to mention that.

I have one question, which I hope that my noble friend will be able to answer. It is mentioned before conclusion 3 that the ONR is in an interim state at the moment, half way between its former nuclear installations inspectorate and the final solution where it will be, as it is said, a "standalone statutory corporation" outside the Health and Safety Executive. We have been waiting a long time for this to happen, and I know that Dr Weightman and his colleagues attach enormous importance to establishing and reinforcing their own independence from Government. When will we have the statutory instrument that will create that final stage?

Lord Marland: I add my comments to those of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, about the role of the Chief Scientific Adviser. Sir John Beddington has been magnificent. This also gives me a final opportunity to thank Dr Weightman because between them the two have been efficient, sound and reliable in the way in which they have produced this excellent document.

The independent regulatory body, the ONR, was an idea conceived by the previous Government, on which I congratulate them. It went into abeyance as we went into the election period. When we got into power, one of the first things we did was to put the ONR into operation so that it is now an agency that operates unilaterally. By the end of this year, or certainly

18 May 2011 : Column 1394

by the beginning of next year, we hope to have put that on to the statute book to give it total independence, which will be ratified around 2013. As we get closer to the date, I will be happy to give that information to the noble Lord, who I know follows this matter closely.

Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield: In the light of the interim Weightman report, can the Minister give the Government's latest assessment of both the timing and the severity of the so-called energy gap?

Lord Marland: There is no energy gap at the moment. If there is an energy gap we will look at it and try to deal with it accordingly. Our current plans are on target to deliver a continuous energy supply. It would be wrong of us to be complacent about it. One of the benefits of the recession-if there is such a thing as a benefit of a recession-is that there has been less energy demand and therefore less requirement for a supply of energy. The time until a potential gap has lengthened. However, it is clearly the Government's responsibility to make sure at all times that there is no gap.

Nuclear Deterrent


4.06 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever): My Lords, I am sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the family and friends of Marine Nigel Mead from 42 Commando Royal Marines, who was killed in Afghanistan on Sunday 15 May. My thoughts are also with the wounded, and I pay tribute to the courage and fortitude with which they face their rehabilitation.

With the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made in the other place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence:

"Mr Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a Statement on our nuclear deterrent programme. The House will be aware that we have been considering the next stage of investment, called initial gate, in the programme to deliver a successor to our current nuclear deterrent. This is the point in the MoD's procurement cycle at which we decide on broad design parameters, set our plans for detailed system assessment and order any long-lead items that might be required. Taking this action enables us to be sure that we will take the right decisions at the key investment stage, the main gate, which for this submarine programme will be in 2016. I am announcing today that we have approved the initial-gate investment and selected a submarine design that will be powered by a new generation of nuclear propulsion system-the Pressurised Water Reactor 3-that will allow our submarines to deliver our deterrent capability well into the 2060s if required.

At this milestone in the project it is useful for me to remind the House of this Government's policy on the nuclear deterrent. The first duty of any Government is to ensure the security of their people. The nuclear deterrent provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security, and for the past 42 years the Royal Navy has successfully operated continuous deterrent patrols to ensure just that. I pay tribute to the crews and support

18 May 2011 : Column 1395

staff who ensure the continued success of deterrent operations, and I extend that tribute to the families of all those personnel, many of whom are regularly away from home for long periods.

We assess that no state currently has both the intent and the capability to threaten the independence or integrity of the UK, but we cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the UK might re-emerge. We simply do not know how the international environment will change in the next few years, let alone the next 50 years. And, as this House concluded in 2007 when it voted on whether the UK should start a programme to renew the deterrent, the time is simply not right to unilaterally do away with it. This is not to say that, if the time is right, we will not move away from nuclear weapons. Our long-term goal remains a world without them and we are doing all we can to counter proliferation, make progress on multilateral disarmament and build trust and confidence with nations across the globe.

In this spirit, as part of the value-for-money study, we reviewed carefully how we manage our deterrent programme, and concluded that we could take significant steps to demonstrate our commitment to disarmament by reducing the number of warheads from no more than 48 to no more than 40 carried on each deterrent submarine, consequently to reduce our overall stockpile of nuclear weapons from no more than 225 to no more than 180 in due course, and giving a stronger assurance to non-nuclear weapon states in compliance with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The value-for-money study delivered £3 billion of savings and deferrals over the next 10 years.

The coalition agreement reflected both parties' commitment to a minimum credible nuclear deterrent, but also the desire of the Liberal Democrats to make the case for alternatives. As Secretary of State for Defence, I am absolutely clear that a minimum nuclear deterrent based on the Trident missile delivery system and continuous at-sea deterrence is right for the United Kingdom and that it should be maintained, and that remains government policy. But to assist the Liberal Democrats in making the case for alternatives, I am also announcing today the initiation of a study to review the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures. The study will be led by officials in the Cabinet Office, overseen by the Minister of State for the Armed Forces. A copy of the terms of reference of the study will be placed in the House of Commons Library.

As I have said, the Government have approved the initial gate for the nuclear deterrent successor programme. We have now agreed the broad outline design of the submarine, made some of the design choices, including the propulsion system and the common US/UK missile compartment, and developed the programme of work we need to be ready to start building the first submarine after 2016. We have also agreed the amount of material and parts that we will need to buy in advance of the main investment decision.

We expect the next phase of work to cost in the region of £3 billion. This is a significant sum of money, but I am confident that it represents value for

18 May 2011 : Column 1396

money for the taxpayer as every aspect of the programme has been carefully reviewed by the MoD, the Treasury and Cabinet Office officials. It will fund the programme we need to conduct to make sure that we can bring the submarines into service on time. Overall, we assess that the submarine element of the programme will still be within the £11 billion to £14 billion estimate set out in the 2006 White Paper. These figures were quoted at 2006 prices and did not account for inflation; the equivalent today is £20 billion to £25 billion at outturn, but it is important the House recognises that there has been no cost growth in the programme since the House first considered the findings of the White Paper.

Between now and main gate we expect to spend around 15 per cent of the total value of the programme. This is entirely consistent with defence procurement guidance. The cost of long-lead items is expected to amount to around £500 million, but it is not true to say that large parts of the build programme will have been completed by main gate. Although we are ordering some of the specialist components, this does not mean that we are locked into any particular strategy before main gate in 2016.

I focus for a moment on the matter of nuclear safety. There has been some ill informed comment suggesting that our nuclear propulsion systems are not safe. That is simply not true. All our nuclear propulsion plants meet the stringent safety standards set out by the defence nuclear safety regulator and the Health and Safety Executive. However, given that we are developing a new design of submarine, it is right that we take advantage of the opportunity that affords to advance our policy of seeking continual improvement of nuclear safety. A new propulsion plant allows us to do this, while giving us the opportunity to improve the availability of propulsion systems and lower through-life support costs.

I have announced a major step forward in this programme. We have some of the finest submarine-builders in the world, and the approval of the next phase of work in the programme will secure the jobs of the highly skilled and professional workforce already involved in the programme, as well as providing further opportunities for the engineers and apprentices of the future. However, both my department and industry have much to do to deliver the programme to ensure that we continue to maintain the sustainability of the submarine industry, that we improve performance and that we drive down costs through more efficient and inclusive working. I am confident that all sides will respond to that challenge.

This is a programme of great national importance so, today, I am placing in the Library of the House a report that sets out in detail the work that has been completed so far, the key decisions that I have presented to the House today, and the work required over the coming months and years.

I believe that the decisions we have taken on our nuclear deterrent programme in initial gate are the right decisions for the country and that, as a result, future generations will continue to benefit from the security we have been so fortunate to enjoy".

My Lords, I commend the Statement to the House.

18 May 2011 : Column 1397

4.17 pm

Lord Rosser: My Lords, we on this side of the House associate ourselves with the condolences expressed by the noble Lord to the families and friends of Marine Nigel Mead, from 42 Commando Royal Marines. Tragically, we often find ourselves expressing condolences to families and friends of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our country. I hope that the frequency with which we need to say these words does not appear to detract in any way from the heartfelt sincerity with which they are said from all sides of your Lordships' House. We also associate ourselves with the tribute which the Minister paid to those who have been wounded.

I thank the Minister for the early sight of the Statement and of the initial-gate parliamentary report. We endorse what he said in tribute to the crews and support staff who ensure the continued success of deterrent operations, and to their families.

In December 2006, the then Government published a White Paper entitled The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent. The issue was debated in Parliament and a vote taken in favour of renewing the deterrent with a successor class of ballistic missile submarines. Since then, the Ministry of Defence has been undertaking work to assess potential submarine designs and propulsion systems. The Minister has now announced the Government's decision on an outline submarine design to be powered by a new-generation nuclear propulsion system, which will, in the words of the initial-gate parliamentary report,

It is our view that, in today's world, as long as there are other countries with such capability, it is right that United Kingdom retains an independent nuclear deterrent.

I have already referred to the December 2006 White Paper. The previous Government met their commitment in that White Paper to reduce the number of operationally available warheads to fewer than 160, meaning that the United Kingdom has now reduced the UK nuclear arsenal by 75 per cent since the end of the Cold War. We thus welcome the Government's announcement in the strategic defence and security review to reduce operationally available warheads and to reduce the overall weapons stockpile. We will continue strongly to advocate the nuclear non-proliferation treaty since non-proliferation, disarmament and the right peacefully to use civil nuclear power provide the framework around which we should base our policy.

We face potential nuclear threats today from unilateral armament, specifically from North Korea, which we know has a nuclear capability, and Iran, which we know has nuclear ambitions. We cannot ignore the present possibility that other countries may join the list. The appropriate response to these threats is for the United Kingdom to remain committed to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and to be an active disarmer alongside our allies and other nuclear-weapon states. We want a world free of nuclear weapons and need a multilateral process to achieve that. Maintaining our own independent deterrent as part of the international

18 May 2011 : Column 1398

non-proliferation efforts is therefore vital in enabling us to combat the threats we face at home and to sustaining regional and global security.

I should like to raise some specific points. In the Statement the Minister said,

In the next breath, though, the Minister said:

"But to assist the Liberal Democrats in making the case for alternatives I am also announcing today the initiation of a study to review the costs, feasibility and credibility of alternative systems and postures".

First, what does "postures" mean? Secondly, since the Statement says that:

is that-in the light of the study now being made,

a government policy that is now under review? That is literally one sentence after it was confirmed. Or is the policy of continuous at-sea deterrence not something that is within the remit of the study just announced on "alternative systems and postures"?

Will the review look at international co-operation over nuclear policy, including deeper co-operation with France above and beyond the agreements made in the UK-France defence co-operation treaty? Will the review look at the Government's procurement policy in this Parliament for successor submarines? Will the study conclusions be published? What will be the cost of the review being undertaken-by inference, I think it is not because the Secretary of State thinks it necessary but to "assist the Liberal Democrats"? Can the Minister give an assurance that the study will be evidence-based and in the interests of national security, and not be driven by the dynamic-or lack of it-between the coalition parties? The strategic defence and security review stated that the Government would reduce the costs of the successor programme by a total of £3.2 billion over the next 10 years. What part of that sum is savings and how much is deferrals? Can the Minister say whether that £3.2 billion takes into account the £1.2 billion to £1.4 billion additional costs of extending the life of the Vanguard-class submarines in service until 2028?

Finally, will the Minister say what the total cost of the replacement programme will be and over what period, and confirm what I think he said-that the figures are still in line with those indicated in the 2006 White Paper? We have made it clear that we will support the Government when we believe what they are doing is in the national interest. We therefore welcome the Statement made today on the minimum credible nuclear deterrent programme.

4.25 pm

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his broad support for the Statement. I am grateful for the Opposition's continued support for the maintenance of Britain's nuclear deterrent and, indeed, the reduction in the number of warheads and in the stockpile.

18 May 2011 : Column 1399

The noble Lord was very interested in the study that was announced today. I am sure that this is genuine interest rather than an attempt to drive a wedge which does not exist between the coalition, and I shall try to answer his questions as best I can. The purpose of the study is to help to fulfil the coalition's Programme for Government, which states:

"We will maintain Britain's nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives".

This study will help the Liberal Democrats to make the case for alternatives.

The noble Lord asked whether the study will be published. The final document will be an internal Cabinet Office paper. Given the highly classified nature of the study, there are no plans to publish it but a decision will be taken nearer the time about publishing a statement of the conclusions. The work will be led by the National Security Secretariat in the Cabinet Office with oversight from the Minister for the Armed Forces. It will report jointly to the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister. Initial scoping work has already started taking place. The study will begin in earnest next month and we hope that it will take about 18 months to complete.

The study involves no additional costs. All the costs will be met from within existing departmental budgets. So far as concerns the resources allocated, the study will have two staff within the Cabinet Office-a dedicated project manager and a lead official providing oversight of the work. It will commission relevant work from our government departments.

The noble Lord asked whether this was a concession to the Liberal Democrats. It is not. Agreement was reached on the scope of this work in March and the study simply represents the implementation of the coalition agreement.

The noble Lord asked me about international co-operation, particularly with France. We announced in the SDSR that we could minimise costs by co-operating with the French on our research programme and that we would develop a joint test facility. The United Kingdom and France have agreed to construct and operate jointly a new hydrodynamics facility at Valduc in France and a technology development centre at the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom. The facilities will be operational from 2015. This programme, named Teutates-my French is not perfect-will assist both countries in underwriting the safety and reliability of their respective nuclear weapons stockpiles in a secure environment and will improve expertise in countering nuclear terrorism. The facilities will enable each country to undertake hydrodynamic experiments in a secure environment and will enable us to model the performance and safety of the nuclear weapons in our stockpile without undertaking nuclear explosive tests. The programme will not involve the sharing of any operational nuclear deterrent capability, such as submarine patrols; nor will it involve the physical movement or transfer of nuclear warheads. This country and France will each retain an independent nuclear deterrent.

18 May 2011 : Column 1400

The noble Lord asked me about the continuous at-sea deterrent. It is the policy of this Government to continue with the CASD. Obviously we cannot hold any Government to that after the 2015 elections, but it is our policy to continue with it. Our continuous at-sea deterrence posture removes the incentive to attack our country with nuclear weapons or our nuclear forces pre-emptively. Further, the assuredness of the capability provided by the submarine on patrol is a key component of the credibility of our deterrent. This enables us to keep a minimum deterrent. Obviously, this whole issue will be looked at in the review, but I am confident that it has been looked at so often in the past that we will come back to the CASD.

Finally, the noble Lord asked how the cost has increased from £14 billion to £25 billion. The costs have not increased. In the 2006 White Paper, we estimated the costs of the programme to be £11 billion to £14 billion at 2006-07 prices. This provided an understandable way of maintaining the costs at a constant price-base. We will continue to provide a comparison against the White Paper estimate. Our most recent estimate is that we will still deliver the programme within the White Paper estimate. However, MoD approvals are usually given on an outturn basis which includes inflation. This is how the £25 billion was arrived at.

I will look at Hansard and if I see that I have not answered all the noble Lord's questions, I will write to him.

4.30 pm

Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, the Minister will recognise that the Statement he has repeated today is a major one, not least on the cost issue. In the more dangerous world in which many of us feel we now exist, it must be right to ensure that we maintain our deterrent. However, it is noticeable that the £25 billion as the outturn cost of a submarine takes no account of any additional costs that may come from any upgrading of the missile in the D5 Trident system, which is being deferred until the 2040s, or of any work done on the warhead, which is being deferred until the 2030s. There is also reference to the infrastructure. I certainly hope that any design work will ensure that the extremely expensive infrastructure work in which we got involved at Faslane will as far as possible remain usable by any new submarine.

I have reservations as regards one area. I recognise the awesome power that is represented by the warheads that we are intending to maintain. I also recognise the different world in which we are now living, compared with the Cold War period with its detailed targeting plans and requirements assessed against the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. Therefore, in this different world, I do not believe that there is not room for improvement and a further reduction in the number of warheads that we are seeking to maintain in our national stock.

I am pleased to read in the Statement that, echoing the call of President Obama, the long-term goal remains a world free of nuclear weapons-a world that we would like to see. Obviously, it is not a realistic possibility in the short term, but I believe that we could give even more of a lead to non-nuclear powers by showing our determination to maintain the absolute minimum number of warheads needed for our national defence.

18 May 2011 : Column 1401

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, my noble friend makes a good point in recognising that we live in a totally different world. I agree with him that the policy of the coalition Government is the long-term goal of a world free of nuclear weapons. We will do all that we can to work towards that goal. We will constantly keep under review the number of warheads that we require. As my noble friend said, it is a dangerous world and I do not see our long-term goal happening in the near future.

Lord Gilbert: Perhaps I may make it absolutely clear at the beginning that there is at least one Member of this House who has no desire to live in a world without nuclear weapons-no, it's not funny. I believe that nuclear weapons are a deterrent and I never want to see another battle of the Somme, or of Stalingrad, or of Okinawa, or an invasion of any other country. I therefore want us to keep nuclear weapons and I welcome the Government's Statement as another step forward in the maintenance of our nuclear deterrent.

However, I found one thing in the Minister's Statement absolutely deplorable. He did not say a word about whether, in the context of the reduction in our existing stock, he has made any agreement with any other nuclear state that it should reduce its weapons stock in exchange for the reduction in ours, or whether he has attempted to. My experience is that we have, as my noble friend pointed out, reduced our weapons stock by something like 75 per cent and have not negotiated a single reduction in any other country's weapons stock, nor tried to do so. This Government, like the previous Government, are simply following the policies of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that we live in a very dangerous world. That is why we are renewing our nuclear deterrent. I very much welcome the noble Lord's support for what we are doing. In response to his last question, obviously we will keep this under review and do all we can.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, I welcome the Statement and in particular the emphasis on nuclear disarmament, with concrete actions beginning here and now. It shows the strength of purpose in delivering on the coalition agreement. I am also extremely pleased to see the establishment of the Trident alternative study. Will my noble friend tell us whether external expertise will be involved? I recognise the need for high-level security clearance, because these are sensitive matters. However, I emphasise that the inclusion of experts would make the study far more valuable, despite the competence that exists in the Cabinet Office.

I turn to the issue of continuous at-sea deterrence. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, was not clear about alternative nuclear postures. Will my noble friend confirm that point 3 of the terms of reference is quite clear? Are there alternative, non-CASD nuclear postures that would maintain credibility? Will my noble friend give an assurance that, should the review conclude that there are alternatives, they will be seriously considered?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, in answer to the noble Baroness's first question, I suggest that she has a word with her honourable friend the Member for

18 May 2011 : Column 1402

North Devon, who will be keeping oversight on this. We will do all that we can to help him with this study. I am not sure who he and the Cabinet Office will call in to give advice.

We feel that submarines are the most cost-effective way of delivering a credible deterrent. Their invulnerability to detection makes it impossible for a potential aggressor to launch a pre-emptive strike. Trying to achieve this level of capability with other platforms is either not possible or would require an enormous number of platforms. Obviously if the review comes up with an alternative, it must be considered. The matter has been looked at over and over again and I am confident that there is no improvement on the submarine system.

Lord Boyce: My Lords, first I apologise to the Minister for not being here at the beginning of his Statement. I declare an interest as a non-executive director of Atkins. I welcome the government Statement. However, perhaps I may ask the Minister to confirm that we would not have a credible nuclear deterrent were it not for the people who man our submarines. As we are launching this study-which I happen to believe will be a complete waste of time-it is very important that there is no irresponsible talk or conjecture by responsible people about the importance of the role that our submarines currently carry out in exercising their duty, as they have done for the past 42 years, in order that the operational commitment of our sailors conducting their continuous at-sea deterrence on submarines is not undermined.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble and gallant Lord. The Statement paid tribute to the sailors on submarines who are very often away from home for very long periods, and also to their families. I agree entirely with that.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, I had the privilege of serving in the Ministry of Defence for six years towards the end of the 1980s when the Polaris system was coming towards the end of its time. I think I must have been responsible for a great many of the second-order decisions relating to the start of the Trident programme. I was therefore pretty fully briefed on those issues at the time. That was, of course, a great many years ago. I must confess to having listened to the Statement made by my noble friend with some considerable concern. I have to be honest: my view is a lot nearer that of the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, and other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon. Will my noble friend now please answer one of the questions put by the noble Lord, Lord Gilbert, about how many other nuclear nations are reducing their warhead stock as we have announced today? In my day, the watchwords for disarmament were "balanced" and "verifiable". Do those words still apply?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, this is being negotiated, as I understand it. Certainly the United States and Russia have reduced their number of warheads. As I said earlier, this is an area that we constantly want to improve, and we will do all we can.

18 May 2011 : Column 1403

The Lord Bishop of Bath and Wells: My Lords, may I from these Benches express our condolences to the family of Marine Nigel Mead of 42 Commando and to those who have been injured in this most recent incident in Afghanistan. I welcome the Minister's long-term goal remaining a world without nuclear weapons. I note that much has been said about the present danger that we face in our world and our need to anticipate future dangers. In the light of that, what would the criteria be that would lead us to a position where we could safely say that we could disarm our nuclear deterrent with the long-term goal as its objective?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I fear that that is a very long way away. Although it is our goal, I cannot see it happening for a long time ahead.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: Will my noble friend accept that for an effective nuclear deterrent to remain effective, it has to retain its credibility? Will he confirm that his Statement today has fulfilled that purpose in every respect?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I can confirm that.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, in the context of possible Scottish political independence, may I ask my noble friend two questions? First, is the life expectancy of the bases at Faslane and Coulport dependent on particular types of submarine and, secondly, has his department begun to consider the possibility of those two bases becoming a treaty port, as occurred at four Irish ports under the 1921 treaty with Ireland?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, that is a hypothetical question. I cannot believe that the Scottish people would vote for independence, so I do not think this will arise.

Lord Davies of Stamford: My Lords, I apologise for coming in to the Statement a little late. First, I disagree very strongly with the suggestion by the noble Lord, Lord King, that we should further reduce the number of our warheads to what he calls the necessary minimum. The trouble with that is that you never know what the necessary minimum is. The world is far too unpredictable for that, and you therefore always need to have a reasonable margin of error. Without it, you do not have an effective deterrent.

I welcome the Government's general decision. It is the first time I have been able to say with enthusiasm that the Government have done something right in defence procurement since the election. I also welcome the decision to go for the new reactor, which has great advantages, as the noble Lord knows well. Can I put it to him that it is absolutely essential if we are going to maintain continuous at-sea deterrence that we continue to have four boats? Anybody who has looked at this closely, as I have going through it with all the experts many times, always ends up completely convinced that with fewer than four boats we will not have continuous at-sea deterrence, and without continuous at-sea deterrence-if you think you can take a holiday from deterrence at any one point-you do not have deterrence at all.

18 May 2011 : Column 1404

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Davies, on both issues. We require a reasonable margin of error, so to make continuous at-sea deterrence work we need four boats. Obviously this is an issue that the review will look at but, as I said earlier, I am confident that this will be what is agreed.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, can my noble friend help me to understand the cost figures he gave? He quoted the figures from the 2006 White Paper as £11 billion to £14 billion. He said that those figures, quoted at 2006 prices, do not account for inflation and that the equivalent today is £20 billion to £25 billion at outturn. That is an increase of 78 to 82 per cent in cash terms. The inflation rate from January 2006 up to May 2011 is 22 per cent. How does the rate of 22 per cent tie in with the 80 per cent increase in the figures he has given?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the figures of £11 billion to £14 billion are quotations at 2006-07 prices, and therefore do not include inflation. This equates to £20 billion to £25 billion at outturn prices. It is a very complicated issue and I would be happy to write to my noble friend in order to set it out clearly.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, I listened with some concern to what my noble friend said about the alternative study. Can he give the House an absolute and unequivocal assurance that the policy will be in no sense on hold while that study is completed? Can he also give the House an assurance that if the study results in the sort of outcome that he forecasts and which I would forecast, our Liberal Democrat colleagues in the coalition will then withdraw their opposition to the nuclear deterrent?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I can confirm that nothing is on hold at the moment. We are spending money to make our policy good, but we are in a coalition. We have made an agreement with our coalition partners and we have to stick by it.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, 2015 is an important year in terms of defence because it is the year during which we will have to examine the economic situation and see whether it is possible to continue with the intent set out in the announced SDSR. The costs of the new deterrent submarine announced or at least hinted at today are, of course, going to run on over that time. Can the Minister confirm that in the study, the question of the affordability of the future defence of the country will be taken into account, bearing in mind that we have now added a given which was not there before in quite such stark terms? I notice that the study is going to take on only Liberal Democrats and not others. Perhaps it may be sensible to widen the people participating in this study to include more than merely Liberal Democrats.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, this is what we have agreed and we will stick to the agreement. It will be as has been set out in the Statement. However, I take the point made by the noble Lord about the difficult financial environment in which we are working. However, we do have this in hand.

18 May 2011 : Column 1405

Lord Stirrup: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the only sensible alternatives in this case are the minimum credible nuclear deterrent or no nuclear deterrent at all, not something that falls between the two? Credibility is in the eye of the beholder, so proposed savings around the margins of the nuclear deterrent programme -in themselves, they may be quite large sums but they are necessarily only a small percentage of the total programme-then put at risk the effectiveness of that programme. They do not represent value for money.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for his question. He has used the word "credibility" which is very important. That is why I am so grateful for the support of the Opposition on this issue, because it strengthens enormously the credibility of our policy.

Lord Jopling: My Lords, the Minister has given an undertaking that the programme is not on hold until the committee he has announced comes up with its conclusions. But that is not quite the same thing as giving us an assurance that it is not proceeding at a slower pace than it otherwise would have done if that committee was not going to be set up.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, the fact that the review committee has been set up is not going to affect in any way the amount of money that we will spend up until 2016.

Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill

Committee (2nd Day)

4.50 pm

Moved by Lord Strathclyde

That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, all those who are interested in this Bill will be aware that, last Wednesday, a short debate took place that, at certain times, became quite philosophical about how we should continue Committee stage. I thought that it would be entirely fair and appropriate for me to move this Motion and explain to the House where we are and why we are here in terms of process and procedure.

Last week, the Committee of the Whole House, to which the Bill has been committed, took an unusual decision. On the very first amendment, on the first day in Committee, the Committee decided to leave out from the Bill the very principle of elected police and crime commissioners, which was, as I think the House will know, the essence of the Government's policy. As the Opposition Chief Whip said at the time,

"It makes a mockery of the discussion and debate on this part of the Bill if we continue as though this has not happened ...

18 May 2011 : Column 1406

Having ripped the guts out of a piece of legislation, I cannot see how we can intelligently proceed as though nothing has happened".-[Official Report, 11/5/11; col. 961.]

He was right. Last week, through the usual channels, I put a proposal to the Opposition to secure a better process for scrutiny of Part 1. I suggested leaving it out of the Bill completely at this stage; I suggested facilitating discussions on the policy off the Floor of the House; and I suggested making time available for detailed consideration in Committee of Part 1 in whatever shape the Commons might send it back to us. The Opposition's response was to reject that suggestion in favour of continuing with the Marshalled List in the usual way or, at most part, taking Part 1 in a few days' time at the end of Committee stage. We thus find ourselves resuming Committee in the faintly unreal world where the Bill no longer reflects the principle of the policy which the Government and the House of Commons support. The Government remain in favour of elected individuals as police and crime commissioners. The Government cannot support any of the amendments on the Marshalled List which relate to those parts of the Bill affected by last Wednesday's vote on Amendment 1. The Government cannot therefore support the scheme of Part 1.

The Committee will thus work its way through the Marshalled List. The Minister's replies will be limited, but, as the House would expect, she will approach the debate as constructively as she can. But the House should understand that, by voting so early on the principle of the Bill, it has restricted its usual function of scrutiny and revision in respect of Part 1. That is the decision the Committee took, and the Opposition rejected our procedural alternative to where we find ourselves today. For the Government's part, we will do our best to be constructive as we proceed through the Committee, but we do not accept the new principle of Part 1.

I hope that that explains sufficiently where we are and I therefore beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into a Committee on the Bill.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will welcome the presence of the Leader of the House and thank him for his words. We welcome the Government's decision to be constructive. The noble Baroness the Minister will know that we very much welcome her and the approach that she has taken in this House since she was appointed a Minister in the Home Office.

The remarks of my noble friend the Opposition Chief Whip were related to the situation which appertained immediately after the defeat of the Government on Wednesday last when he suggested that it might be advisable to adjourn for the evening in order that all Members might consider the consequences. We believe it is best to carry on with the Marshalled List. I hear what the noble Lord says about the principle. He will be aware that consequential Amendment 31 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, sets out a construct of a police commission with two elements: the first element is a police and crime commissioner; the second element is a police and crime panel. Many of the amendments to be debated apply as much to that situation and the relationship between a police

18 May 2011 : Column 1407

and crime commissioner and the police and crime panel as they would between an elected police commissioner and a police and crime panel. They embrace issues such as whether there should be pilots, whether the operational independence of the chief constable should be enshrined in statute, and the role of the police and crime panel in being able to veto any decisions of the police and crime commissioner.

It will be worth while for the House to debate these matters. We look forward to the response of the noble Baroness and welcome the fact that she will be as constructive as possible-I never doubted that. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, for allowing us to have this short debate before now moving into Committee.

Motion agreed.

Clause 1 : Police and crime commissioners

Amendment 14 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 15 not moved.

Amendment 15A

Moved by Baroness Henig

15A: Clause 1, page 2, line 5, leave out subsections (6) to (8) and insert-

"(6) The police and crime commissioner is head of the Police Commission and must co-operate with the police and crime panel to enable the functions of the Police Commission to be discharged effectively and efficiently."

Baroness Henig: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former chair of a policy authority, as a former chair of the Association of Police Authorities and as the current president of that association.

The amendment is in a group of amendments, the majority of which are in my name. The substantial amendments are Amendments 15A and 31D but I shall speak also to Amendments 32G to 32R, 34B, 35A and 36ZA.

The two key amendments seek to explore and fill out the new structure that has been put in place by the changes incorporated in the Bill last week. In particular they set out the key function of the new police commission and explain that, as the head of the commission, the police and crime commissioner must work with the panel to ensure that the new body works effectively and efficiently. The majority of the remaining amendments are consequential amendments to parts of Schedule 1; they essentially confer on the commission powers and protections that were previously conferred on the police and crime commissioner, particularly those for appointing staff.

I shall begin by saying a little more on Amendment 15A, which focuses primarily on the theme of strengthening checks and balances by placing a duty on the police and crime commissioner to co-operate with the panel. While I am hopeful that the changes to the Bill have put in place a structure that is based more

18 May 2011 : Column 1408

on co-operation than conflict, I am conscious that the legal structure will not in itself guarantee this.

The amendment seeks to ensure that a spirit of co-operation is explicit in the way in which the commission has been established. The relationship between constituent members of the commission-that is, the police and crime commissioner and the panel-will be vital in ensuring that policing remains resilient and responsive in difficult times. It is important to strike a proper balance from the outset to ensure that we do not set up a landscape that is combative rather than collaborative.

Amendment 31D sets out the core overarching function of the police commission, which has now been established. It is clear that these key functions should belong to the commission rather than to any one of its constituent parts. It is not necessarily an exhaustive list and I am sure that we will have some interesting debates later in the Bill about where some functions should properly sit, whether with the police and crime commissioner, the police and crime panel or the parent body in the form of the commission. However, it seems to me that these core functions should sit with the commission, and I look forward to the debate testing this proposition.

One of those functions is new compared with the functions of their predecessor police authorities, and that is the one relating to the new crime role envisaged by the Government. It is important to explore this crime role in more detail because it is not entirely clear what it means in practice and whether it is adequately covered in the Bill at present. Apart from a short and generic section in Clause 10 about co-operative working between police commissioners, community safety bodies and criminal justice bodies, the new role seems to rely mostly on explicit powers to make grants to reduce crime and disorder.

5 pm

I am sceptical that making additional grants to external bodies is realistic, given the current cost-cutting pressures on the police service, unless the Government are proposing to increase central funding, but perhaps the Minister can confirm that. I am also curious as to how this will fit with the new payment-by-results approach which the Ministry of Justice is developing for criminal justice bodies generally. This must lead to concerns about the timing of the Bill, because arrangements are being put in place when the landscape of criminal justice is still being developed. If police commissions or police and crime commissioners are genuinely to be given a greater role in the criminal justice system, I am concerned that their functions are drawn too narrowly in the Bill and that the ability merely to make grants will not achieve what is intended.

For instance, the Audit Commission has highlighted the limitations of grants on the basis that,

"A grant is a gift or donation-the commissioner giving it has no right to receive anything in return but may attach terms and conditions specifying how the grant is to be spent".

Hints are given in the Bill that a wider approach is intended, but this seems to be limited to specific circumstances. Changes to the Housing Associations Act in Schedule 16 give police and crime commissioners

18 May 2011 : Column 1409

a wider power to promote and fund the Housing Association, but this is not carried through elsewhere. The Bill contains generic provisions that a police and crime commissioner may do anything calculated to facilitate the exercise of their functions, but their functions are limited through Clause 1 to securing the maintenance of the police force, securing that it is efficient and effective, and holding the chief officer to account. Clause 1 also confers the functions in Chapter 3, but these are limited to making grants and co-operating with partners. Clause 10 refers to working with criminal justice partners to secure an efficient and effective criminal justice system but only in so far as it is appropriate to do so.

Perhaps the Minister can therefore explain exactly what is appropriate in this context and illustrate the kinds of things that she expects the police and crime commissioner or a police commission to be able to do in this wider crime role. For instance, would a commission or a police and crime commissioner be able to mandate other parts of the criminal justice system to take particular actions? If not, would a public, who may have elected a police and crime commissioner-that is not currently in the Bill, but the question arises-on a platform of locking up more criminals, have the right to feel cheated when he then has to admit that he does not have the power to make this happen? If on the other hand it is intended that a police and crime commissioner should have some authority over the criminal justice system, should not the Bill put the matter beyond doubt and explain the exact nature of that authority? Given the intentions set out by the Government in their paper, Policing in the 21st Century, to include a role in relation to crime, it seems sensible to make this explicit in the functions of the new commission or the police and crime commissioner. That is the intention of this part of my amendment. I would be interested to hear the Minister's views.

In the proposed new clause in Amendment 31D, subsection (2)(b) makes it explicit that the police commission should,

One reason why it is important to spell this out is that the commission would, I hope, build on existing best practice in this area. I envisage the police and crime commissioner taking the lead in holding the force and its senior command team to account and exercising strategic oversight of force needs and national strategic policing needs. Individual members of the commission, however, should be assigned to the different police divisions to oversee their functioning and the crime and disorder reduction partnerships in local areas. Forces now delegate significant financial and operational powers to divisional commanders, and it is very important that divisional policing is carefully scrutinised. Local councillors on the police commission are in the best position to undertake this scrutiny, working with local councillor scrutiny panels where appropriate. I envisage a sensible division of responsibilities, with the commissioner operating at force level and dealing with collaborative agreements and regional links with other forces and the other members of the commission operating at divisional and borough level.

18 May 2011 : Column 1410

Two additional points incorporated in this amendment are worth noting. First, proposed new subsection (3)(c) in the amendment is intended to clarify the responsibility to hold to account chief officers performing their duties under all legislation. The Bill originally contained a specific provision about holding chief officers to account for functions relating to equality and diversity legislation but not to other legislation. I have incorporated wording in my amendment to change this and highlight two additional Acts on human rights and on children which I think are important. It seems to me a key principle of governance that the chief officer should be held to account for the exercise of functions imposed by any Act. I believe it is also important to reassure communities that a police chief is properly carrying out his duties under all legislation.

The Human Rights Act tends to come into play in certain sensitive policing operations such as counterterrorism policing or public order policing. It often involves difficult and complex issues where mistakes are made, and if they are it can have a corrosive effect on trust in the police. The Children Act is also important because this is the legislation that imposes responsibilities for the welfare of children and sets out how children are to be safeguarded by local public bodies, including the police. High-profile deaths of vulnerable children are often linked to failures to implement these partnership obligations correctly. For these reasons it is important that communities see there is an independent reality check on how police powers are being used to ensure the public have a voice in how they are policed. At the moment, police authorities have a legal duty to do this, and it seems logical that that should pass to the commission or to the police and crime commissioner.

I also draw the attention of the House to the wording I have included, which both obliges the commission to hold meetings with the public and ensures that the police and crime commissioner must attend a minimum number each year. It contains some very specific provisions about ensuring that a diverse range of the public is included in these meetings. A failure to engage minority or disenchanted communities who feel they have no say in how they are policed is likely to have a dramatic impact on public confidence in policing. The dangers of not getting engagement right have been understood ever since the Scarman report into the Brixton riots highlighted the importance of working with all communities in an area, not just some of them.

I am aware that there are separate provisions about consultation, but this is about giving the public a chance to engage personally with the police and crime commissioner or other members of the commission to raise concerns and to ask questions. It is also about making sure that this opportunity is open to a wide and varied range of people to ensure that meaningful connections are made with all sectors of the community.

Finally and briefly, as mentioned earlier, there are a number of consequential amendments to Schedule 1, which reflect the new structure of a police commission, in effect transferring a number of powers that previously fell to the police and crime commissioner to the new commission, which will enable the commission, rather than the police and crime commissioner, to employ and pay staff. It will also confer on it incidental

18 May 2011 : Column 1411

powers in carrying out the overarching governance functions which the substantive part of my amendment would impose on the commission.

I hope I have satisfied the House that the issues I have raised are ones that are in the Bill whether the police and crime commissioner is elected or appointed. These concerns relate to policing as a whole and we really do need to debate and discuss them in this House. I therefore beg to move my amendment. In doing so, I must tell the House that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, had hoped to speak in support of this amendment but is suffering from laryngitis. She is very sorry but she will not be able to do so.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Fookes): I should point out that if this amendment were to be agreed I could not then call Amendments 16 to 19 by reason of pre-emption.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the Committee owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for tabling this series of amendments that seek to put some flesh on the bones of the amendments that we considered last week. This is a useful attempt to help the Government in their response to the difficulty in which they find themselves with the original legislation.

Amendment 15A sets out how a police commission might work and what its functions might be, and in doing so it addresses many, although not all, of the original objectives of the Government's proposals. It also addresses many concerns expressed in the Committee and at Second Reading about the issues around the Bill. It sets out a clear framework of accountability, making clear how the mechanism will work and to whom chief officers of police are accountable. Given that concerns have been expressed about the visibility of existing police authorities, the concept of a police commission may well be seen as a much more visible entity and one that will have some of the benefits that the Government are trying to achieve. The clarity in the amendment about what the commission will do is extremely important, but it is also valuable in that it addresses some of the concerns that Members of this House have been exercised about as we have debated this matter in the past few weeks.

My concern, which I have expressed on a number of occasions, was where the visible answerability of chief officers of police was to be located. Where would the public see that the police service in their area would be held to account? Clearly, that mechanism will provide that opportunity in what will no doubt be public gatherings of the commission, which will no doubt attract considerable public attention because of the very high profile associated with this work. The example that I cited in our discussions last week was of a location in which the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan Police was able to apologise to the public, and in particular to someone's family, when the police had failed in investigating a crime. It would also provide a forum for those who were deeply concerned about other incidents that occurred in a police area. All that would be located in meetings of the commission.

18 May 2011 : Column 1412

That is a very important principle-where the visible answerability will be whereby the public can see that the police service in their area is being held to account.

The other issue very helpfully addressed in this amendment is the question of public engagement. While I am sure that the Government's original proposal envisaged that policing and crime commissions would engage with the public, a single individual covering a large local area was always seen as a tall order. Many noble Lords expressed that in debate. This group of amendments provides us with a structure whereby that public engagement would take place. Setting a framework for that is also extremely helpful in enabling us to see how these arrangements might work, who would be responsible and who would be entitled to be part of that engagement process. No doubt in some parts of the country the police commissions would take a very broad view of this and might want to include other categories of people with whom they would engage as part of this process. However, this sets a minimum standard and is one that the commission itself would be expected to meet.

I am conscious that the Government are determined to have these functions carried out by a single individual-a single, directly elected individual. I also recognise and am very conscious that a number of Members of the House expressed real reservations about the amount of power that that placed in the hands of a single individual. This mechanism, while clearly creating the police commissioner as the most important part of this structure, also makes it clear that that person does not act on their own but has to act in concert with other members of the commission who are appointed as part of the panel process that this amendment envisages. It would therefore not be a single individual who, because of their mandate and feeling of power, might be tempted to go off in capricious directions but an individual working with colleagues as part of a commission. That addresses one of the concerns that have been expressed.

Clearly, the structure envisaged in this amendment is that the person who acts as commissioner is appointed by the other panel members of the commission. They would appoint one of their number to be the commissioner, which is of course entirely contrary to the Government's intention that that person should be directly elected. I certainly said in earlier speeches that, when I was a police authority chair, I would have welcomed the additional authority of being personally elected to fulfil that role. Obviously, if we are in what will no doubt be an iterative process between the Houses, it will be possible for the Government to insert some mechanism of direct election into this. However, what we have before us was the will of this Chamber when it met in Committee last week. That does not necessarily preclude further discussions as we go down the road.

The concerns about direct election are ones that the Government clearly need to consider. I have reservations about some of the wilder fantasies that people might have about what direct election would bring, because I believe the electorate would take these elections extremely seriously. As they would be for large areas, I suspect

18 May 2011 : Column 1413

that the political parties would invest considerable energy in making sure that their choice of candidate was not part of any lunatic fringe. The fundamental point is that this process would temper the concerns that there might be about direct election, were that to be reinserted into the Bill, because that person would be acting as part of a commission and with other commission members.

This amendment is helpful to your Lordships and sets out a framework with which the Government can work. I feel very sorry for the Minister, who is new to this role and is being confronted with a Bill that is perhaps no longer quite as coherent-if that is the right word-as it once was. I am conscious of that and of the demands that it is now placing on Home Office civil servants. It is therefore incumbent on the Committee to offer the Home Office a structure with which it can work, that will deal with many of the concerns that your Lordships have expressed and that will enable us to have a constructive debate as we go through the rest of the Bill.

Lord Bradshaw: I wonder whether I might respond to what has just been said. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, referred to a coherent area and to a person who is well-known in that area-through the available media, both newspapers and television-and who is elected by people. It will be much easier in that sort of area than in many of the police areas up and down the country. Those are large, extremely diverse areas, many of which have no coherence whatever other than that they contain one, two or three counties. There is nothing else.

I have been told today that the Thames Valley police force covers the diocese of Oxford, but that is its only boundary, as it were, other than the old country boundaries, which have changed over the years. I would draw a strong distinction between London, where people might have had the benefit of knowing Toby Harris before they voted for him, and an area in which a person is likely to be elected from a small and diverse police area and will be known to very few people, even if he has a party ticket. That person, I suggest, will concentrate his attention on the area in which he lives.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I want to make it clear that, in trying, as ever, to be helpful to the Government, I was saying that, if they were so minded as to restore the principle of direct election, this framework would allow them to do so. I suspect that we are not at that stage yet and perhaps I spoke for too long on that point. Clearly, that would come back as an amendment from the other place and we would no doubt have the opportunity of debating it then. I was simply saying that the framework does not preclude that if the Government were so minded.

Lord Bradshaw: I accept that point. I am not against-as I do not believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, was-the idea of an elected head of the police authority or head of commission. I just wanted to point out that London, as a trial area, if you like, is not typical of the rest of the country. It is actually atypical and inferences drawn from it might be misleading.

18 May 2011 : Column 1414

I want to raise the question of who will hold this person to account. Is it the public in quite incoherent areas who do not even know various places, or is it the press? I fear that they will press the commissioner to pressure the chief constable to do things. Last weekend we saw a disturbing manifestation when certain organs of the press claimed that the Prime Minister had directed the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to devote resources to a case that I think is well known to Members of this House. I am very worried about the possibility of political direction being passed to a chief constable. A chief constable has myriad duties and he or she should be the person who decides where attention is most needed. I would be sorry if that were changed.

I share entirely what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, said about concentrating power in the hands of an individual; the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, referred to that as well. If there is an elected police commissioner -or not-he must be subject to rigorous checks and balances, otherwise that person will be accountable to no one other than in a four-yearly election. It is important that that person gives an account month-by-month not only of what money he is spending but of what is being done about crime and about relations with the community.

I hear what the noble Lord says and I agree with some of it, but I plead: do not assume that we have had a trial area in London or that London would make a good trial area.

Lord Harris of Haringey: I have never suggested that we have had a trial area in London. London has essentially a completely different set of proposals here. Indeed, I have amendments, which we may or may not get to today, that would try to make London more like the proposal that the Government originally put forward. The London clauses of the Bill are not affected directly by the amendment that we passed the other week, simply because they do not relate to police and crime commissioners.

Lord Soley: My Lords, I intervene in what is a difficult situation for the House, as has been recognised on all sides. The Bill, if not holed below the water-line, certainly has a large torpedo gash marginally on the water line. It is worth saying, given some of the comments that have been made from the Government's side, that the amendment came from a government Member and several government Members supported it in the Lobby, with a number abstaining. Therefore, it would not be wise for the House to make assumptions about what will happen in the House of Commons when it looks at this again.

I draw attention now to something that my noble friend Lady Henig said, which is very important to this debate. She made the point that the structures we are talking about now-this is possibly the point which the Minister will want to address in replying-would imply whether the police and crime commissioner is elected. That makes no difference to the structures that you need to put in place to safeguard police independence. Clause 1(4) states:

"The police and crime commissioner for a police area is to be elected, and hold office, in accordance with Chapter 6".

18 May 2011 : Column 1415

I make no secret of my desire; as I said in the previous debate, there is a strong case for separating this Bill by taking out the drugs and alcohol provisions and dealing with them as a separate Bill, and bringing this back in a form that might be more acceptable to the House. Either way, there is a problem about the control of the police. That goes to the heart of the concern on practically all sides of the House. Everybody has expressed the concern that we are in danger of creating a structure in which political control can override police control. That is the fear that underpins so many of the arguments about this. I am pleased to see the noble Lord, Lord Howard, in his place. I well remember him, many years ago in the 1980s, warning the Labour Party about the danger of elected police commissioners. His position seems to have moved considerably since then, but I suspect that underneath it all he has the same concerns.

My noble friend Lady Henig, ably supported as usual by my noble friend Lord Harris with his special knowledge, has indicated that you can build up a structure that will make that political control less likely, regardless of whether the police and crime commissioner is elected or appointed. It is important to note that the term "police and crime commissioner" is referred to throughout the Bill, not just in Part 1. It appears in some of the schedules as well. There is a problem in assuming that there will not be a police and crime commissioner. My assumption is that, whether elected or appointed, the Government want a police and crime commissioner. In that context, I say simply that the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Henig, supported by other Members of this House who put their names to similar amendments, means that we need a structure that ensures that the police can police without political involvement. That has been an absolutely fundamental principle for this House for many years. We do not want to lose it.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, has done the House a great service by moving this amendment, which is about good-quality governance. I have a sense of déjà vu about this, which goes back only to yesterday. Yesterday the Government presented us with some proposals that seek to replace something rather odd, which has evolved and works quite well-namely, your Lordships' House-with something new, the working of which is extremely uncertain. In the proposals in the mere 19 pages of that White Paper, the Government set out what looked to me, after reading it all, like the very elaborate rules of what is bound to be an unsuccessful board game.

It is to be hoped that, if we are to have elected police commissioners and police commissions, we will be able to take the best practice of police authorities and ensure that it is set out, either in statutory form or, if the Government prefer, in some form of code of practice or other clearly designated publication that ensures that good governance occurs.

As the original proposals stand-we have to be realistic and talk about the original proposals because we will certainly return to them in due course-we do not have absolute clarity about the responsibilities of the police commission. Nor do we have absolute clarity

18 May 2011 : Column 1416

about the relationship between the commission, the police and crime panels and the commissioner, let alone the relationship with the chief constable. If we are to reform the governance of the police service so radically, it seems to me that it is the absolute responsibility of the Government and of both Houses of Parliament to provide the police service, and everyone concerned with it, with the clearest possible rules of governance. I urge my noble friend the Minister, whether or not she supports these amendments and the principle behind them, to tell this House that provisions will be introduced which will meet the aspirations of the noble Baroness's amendments, and will therefore satisfy us that there will be good governance for the police.

5.30 pm

Lord Dear: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about torpedoes and water-lines; I think that we are talking about horses and carts. We are trying to design a cart without knowing whether one, two or four horses will be drawing it. We know where we are, and it is a confusing state for your Lordships' House. I sincerely hope that the opinion of the House will not be tested on this amendment. I take this opportunity to make a few if not random then certainly general, comments. The general thrust of the measure we are discussing is helpful, tidies up some of the framework and deserves the close attention of officials. It does not seek to dilute power but to channel and harness it and-to use the word again-to check capricious behaviour. All in all, I do not think that it is unduly prescriptive. I sense that noble Lords are generally trying very hard to be helpful to the Government. The latter find themselves in a difficult position although I will not go into the horses and carts scenario again. In broad terms, I support what is being said. As I have said before, I support the principle of the elected commissioner, but checks and balances need to be reassessed and strengthened. I trust that the Government will do that in due course.

Lord Howard of Lympne: My Lords, I rise only because my name was prayed in aid by the noble Lord, Lord Soley. I do not believe for a moment that these amendments are necessary to prevent the commissioner taking control of the police because the Bill in its original form makes it absolutely clear that the operational independence of the police is protected. Therefore, the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Soley, is completely wide of the mark.

However, I was intrigued-since I am on my feet I shall make a further point-by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and his attempt to draw parallels between the discussions that took place in this House yesterday and the discussions that we are having today. I had assumed that the whole thrust of the proposals which were put forward yesterday emanated from the devotion of the Liberal Democrat Party in particular to the principle of democratic elections. I thought that that was at the heart of the proposals which were put before this House yesterday. However, the fact that a significant number of Liberal Democrats were not prepared to accept the principle of democratic election in respect of police commissioners has resulted in the difficulties which have also been discussed today.

18 May 2011 : Column 1417

That is the most significant and odd lesson to be drawn from the contrast between our discussions yesterday and our discussions today.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: I do not want to turn this into a little contest between lawyers but I do not know from where my noble friend derives the assertion that I am in some way opposed to democratic elections. As a lawyer like him, I am in favour of tidy and comprehensible solutions-that is my concern about yesterday-but perhaps we should move on to today.

Lord Howard of Lympne: It was the noble Lord who brought yesterday into the discussion in the first place. I did not introduce the subject of yesterday, he did. I just thought that I would point out the beginning of a discrepancy between the approach of the Liberal Democrats to what we were discussing yesterday and the approach of at least some of them to what we are discussing today.

Lord Beecham: I will not intrude on family grief on the government Benches, but the decision taken last week was a decision of the House. It involved Members from all sides of the House, including a significant number of Cross-Benchers. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Howard, has singled out one group, or part of a group of Members, for his animadversions. I am also a lawyer although a much humbler one than either of the noble Lords who have just spoken-I am a journeyman solicitor, not an eminent silk. However, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Howard, he slightly misreads the nature of the amendment, which is not at all about controlling chief constables. The amendment deals with the function of the panel. In many ways, it is an amendment for all seasons because, as other noble Lords have said, it would fit with any structure-an elected commissioner; a commissioner appointed in the way described by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig; or any structure as long as it has a panel. I think it is commonly accepted that that will be part of the final structure that emerges from all this.

The amendment is a paving amendment. It is to strengthen the role of the panel. In Committee, we had the benefit of the protocol, which spoke of checks and balances. There is a widespread view in the House that those checks and balances were insufficient. The amendment is directed at strengthening the checks and balances and the role of the panel. That is something that I hope the Government will take seriously. It seems to me and to others who spoke last week that the Bill does not achieve what the protocol purports: that there are sufficient checks and balances on either the commissioner or, for that matter, arguably, the chief constable-but particularly the commissioner.

Let us regard this as a helpful and constructive amendment to reinforce the Government's intentions, which I accept at face value, of having substantial checks and balances in the system. In that context, I hope that it will be widely accepted in the House.

Lord Condon: My Lords, I declare my normal interests. I agree with the aspirations of the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Henig. I do so with some hesitation because I am not against the principle of elected police and crime commissioners. Last week I

18 May 2011 : Column 1418

found myself in the position of saying yes or no, but I voted against the idea because I was concerned that, as drafted, the position of elected police and crime commissioners was a mission impossible. Today the amendment gives us a vision of how a more collaborative structure might reinforce, support and enable an elected police and crime commissioner, should that be the end result of the iterative process. It would give an idea of how that person might operate in a more collaborative environment.

My concern has always been not whether we should have elected police and crime commissioners but that he or she, when elected, should have a real chance of doing the job well and of tapping into the best of local democracy and working with it, rather than against it. The amendment gives us some aspirations and some background vision regarding how, when we think again today and subsequently about how an elected police and crime commissioner might operate, this might be helpful in that process.

I was concerned last week when we voted on the issue. I accept that the noble Baroness was very new to her post, but she gave no comfort whatever about how an elected police and crime commissioner might be drawn into a more collaborative endeavour locally, rather than being totally isolated. It seemed almost as if the notion of an elected police and crime commissioner working in a committee, commission or panel structure could somehow emasculate them, dilute their role or disable them in a way that committees, boards or panels do not emasculate people in other aspects of our society. Many successful companies work with an effective board structure; indeed, many effective organisations work with boards, commissions or panels. I hope that the amendment will at the very least tease out from the Minister some support on the need, in rethinking how elected police and crime commissioners might operate, to move towards a more collaborative endeavour which involves a board, panel or commission, rather than the very isolated and adversarial role which the Government currently propose for the elected police and crime commissioner.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am afraid I am going to compete with the déjà vu of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. My déjà vu goes back to the point where we were at an ACPO dinner together when we discussed accountability, the role of police authorities and what the membership ought to be. I remember clearly that the noble Lord wanted diverse views to form the view of the community expressed towards the chief constable in an area. I also refer to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, about different police authority areas and police service areas. From my experience of living in Lancashire since 1969, I know that a very competent police commissioner who had to say no to a public meeting in Burnley, and who happened to be based in Blackburn or Blackpool, would get short shrift. My concern is that the roles envisaged in my noble friend's amendments would assist a police and crime commissioner in gaining, keeping and knowing what the diverse communities were thinking about. There is ethnic diversity in Lancashire and diversity not only between urban and rural but between different parts of rural and different parts of urban areas. It would also be impossible for a single individual to be

18 May 2011 : Column 1419

present at local meetings at divisional level to hear the views of the local community. If the role envisaged in my noble friend's amendments were to be accepted in principle, and worked on in detail by the Government, it would help the process of establishing a new system by building on what is best about the old.

I said that it may be that people would shout down someone who was elected from Blackpool at a meeting in Burnley if the person at the meeting in Burnley was unable to give them what they wanted. That would undermine the job of the police service in Lancashire, which the Minister was good enough to recognise as a superb example of good policing. It would undermine the divisional commander's role if the commissioner, elected or otherwise, could not be present at all these meetings. They would be able to share the responsibility. I hope that the Government will take away some of these concerns.

I have a final point to make which I think is critical when we look at the role of the commissions, to which my noble friend's amendment refers. Comparisons are made with the United States. Were the Government to suggest that Burnley, Blackpool and Lancaster should have their own locally elected commissioner, there would be a different argument because, as with my noble friend Lord Harris, everyone who lives in London believes that they live in London, although they claim allegiance to certain parts of it. However, we are not considering that. We are not considering the people of Burnley or Blackpool asking someone to represent their concerns; we are considering the whole of Lancashire.

Whatever happens, I am proud of the police service in my locality. I hope that the Government will do what I am trying to do, which is to ensure that nothing we decide undermines good practice and that we can build on that good practice rather than take away the foundations.

5.45 pm

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I share the view expressed by many noble Lords that the noble Baroness should not proceed to a Division with this amendment. It should be regarded merely as a probing exercise, giving all of us the opportunity to discuss a situation which is, to say the very least, extremely complicated. The Leader of the House referred to the discussions last week as being philosophical. However, I would say that, if anything, they were more metaphysical than philosophical.

There is a great deal to be said in favour of the amendment in very general terms but I doubt very much whether it can cure the situation either in part or in whole. I shall not repeat this on other amendments, although it governs the whole situation, but I believe that the idea of a police commissioner or a police commissar, to use a term which illustrates the problem more classically, is alien to the whole concept of a disciplined force and a disciplined hierarchy-as alien as it would be in relation to the armed services. I say that as someone who 43 years ago had the very great privilege of being a Minister for the police in the other House. I do not believe that you can treat the police in that way.

18 May 2011 : Column 1420

Having said that, I do not in any way doubt the genuineness of the approach to this problem taken by any of the main political parties. There is obviously room for improvement in the relations between the police and the public, and there is room for better scrutiny and greater efficiency, but I believe, with all the sincerity that I can muster, that all these considerations have been borne in mind by the parties that have allowed themselves to be led down that path in the belief that there is a massive problem that has to be dealt with in some revolutionary way. I do not believe that there is a massive problem.

With very great respect to the noble Baroness who has proposed the amendment, I do not believe that the amendment can ameliorate the problem, because I do not believe that you can ameliorate the unameliorable, redeem the unredeemable or repair the irreparable while the concept of a police commissar is central to the whole of Part 1 of the Bill.

I would not pretend in my most egotistical flights of fancy to have a complete answer to this situation. However, I believe that the answer lies somewhere in the direction of strengthening the position of the chairman of the police authority. Police authorities have served this community well over the years. I believe that their record is honourable and impressive, and that one can go in that direction without damaging the whole concept of a disciplined hierarchy. I believe that one of the most important questions in relation to this whole matter was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw: who controls the controller-or, to use the words of Cardinal Richelieu, quis custodiet custodes ipsos? It is a massively important question.

There is a fallacy that has been expressed by the noble Lords, Lord Howard of Lympne and Lord Carlile, two gentlemen for whom I have immense personal regard. But the very fact that a person has been elected by way of a democratic process does not of necessity lead to a good, democratic result. If I remember rightly, Adolf Hitler was elected Chancellor by a democratic process. It is not the process that matters; it is the purpose that is served by that particular person. If tomorrow you have a proposal by the most direct process of democracy-I shall not animadvert as to whether that would be some form of PR or first past the post-and if there were the most direct and fair system of election of a person to a dictatorial post, that would still be wrong. It would still be antidemocratic.

As regards relations between the police and the public, 100 years ago the ordinary, decent citizen regarded police officers as sentinels who stood on the ramparts of civilisation, defending people's rights against all the evils that existed in this world. Then one thing above all happened to change everything: that was the internal combustion engine. It led to the possibility of millions of ordinary, decent, law-abiding citizens suddenly finding themselves crossing the line into criminality. If anything over the past 100 years has changed the benign relationship between police and public, it is the internal combustion engine, but I am not suggesting that it should be abolished.

18 May 2011 : Column 1421

Lord Laming: My Lords, continuing the debate about governance and organisational and managerial matters, it might be appropriate if I say a brief word about practice, and in particular support Amendment 19. I do so because I believe this to be an important amendment. I am grateful to those who have tabled it, and particularly to the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, for her comments. It is important because it is essential that a police constable is left in no doubt that one of the priorities for which they will be held to account is that of safeguarding children. These duties are not discretionary; they have been placed upon them by Parliament under the Children Acts, notably the 2004 Act. It might seem self-evident that chief constables have these responsibilities, but, sad to say, experience indicates that this work can easily become lower-order activity in the great responsibilities of policing. Indeed, some people have described in rather derogatory terms that it is a matter of social policing, as though it is a marginal activity. In the evidence to the Victoria Climbié inquiry, witnesses variously describe this area of work as being "woman's work" or a convenient place to put less able staff. It certainly was regarded by many witnesses from the police service as a career-limiting posting.

After the Victoria Climbié inquiry, the Metropolitan Police reformed and reinforced its police child protection services. Sadly, by the time of the death of Baby Peter, the staff and the resources devoted to this work had been seriously reduced in favour of other policing priorities. Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the police child protection services in London and I venture to suggest that the Metropolitan Police now has one of the foremost police child protection services in the world. However, it is important that the standard of the child protection service is maintained. To achieve this will require determined leadership, and police constables should be left in no doubt that they have a continuing and prime responsibility to tackle the abuse, neglect and exploitation of vulnerable children. If they fail to do so, we know from experience that this can lead not only to terrible suffering but to the death and murder of children. For this reason, I press the Minister to take seriously Amendment 19. I hope that it might be incorporated into the Bill to reinforce what I know is the commitment of the Government to ensure that the safeguarding of children remains a significant priority in the responsibility of chief constables.

Lord Bradshaw: Perhaps I may make a point-

Lord Imbert: My Lords, I must admit that I am confused. Regrettably, I was unable to be here on 11 May for the first day of Committee. I received a telephone call in the rehabilitation centre where I was staying for a few days to say, "No worries, we won". Now I find that the debate is still centring on elected police commissioners.

We have heard a lot about democracy. It seems that some people have the view that if we vote, that is democratic. My view-with which noble Lords may disagree-is that living in a democracy means living where there is a free press, a well informed public and, most importantly, a politically neutral police service. Whichever way this debate goes, we must ensure that

18 May 2011 : Column 1422

the police are not only politically neutral but are seen to be politically neutral. My fear with a party-political, elected commissioner is that the public will not trust that the police are politically neutral. I appeal to all noble Lords not to put politics before common sense. Some will vote for this proposal because that is their political view and they want to follow their party. Others will vote against it because they, too, are following their political party's views. I ask noble Lords to vote one way or the other to ensure that the public of this country know that we have a politically neutral police service that is also seen to be politically neutral.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, does the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, recognise the contribution to that political neutrality-and to the confidence expressed by the public in many parts of the country-of the noble Lord, Lord Howard? In the 1980s he was part of a Government who sought to deal with the issue and with these concerns. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, will seek to prevail on the noble Lord, Lord Howard, to take an evolutionary approach to his many previous successes.

Viscount Brookeborough: My Lords, I support the amendments, which take us in the right direction. I do not mind whether the commissioner, or the head of a commission or a panel, is elected or otherwise: coming from Northern Ireland, I have no right to that view. However, from my experience with the police there, it is clear that an individual cannot do the job without the backing of a committee, panel or commission, which must supply him with the means of interrogating the police and different departments in order to get the story out. One individual cannot do this: we have committees with numbers of people on them because one gets a variation of views and questions. Otherwise, there would be no point in having this Chamber; we might as well have just one person. Therefore, he must be attached to a panel, a commission or a committee of some kind.

Taking that into account, as far as I can see, the panel, as it stands at the moment, only makes recommendations or questions the commissioner, who is not policeman, and is expected to get satisfaction from that. This is Chinese whispers by the time you get to the end of the road. The panel has an obligation to have public meetings so that the public can put their views forward. We have already been into that. It may be that a single panel for a single police area is not local enough or accessible enough, which is a different matter, but I question whether the public are going to continue to turn up to a panel where the police are not present to ask a panel to ask a commissioner, a chairman or however you put it to ask the police a way down the road.

If we are talking about democracy or, indeed, connectivity, which is what it is all about, the Government's current system does not suffice. Unless they are able to amend their plans to ensure that the lowest denominator -the man in the street-feels that he has some method of influencing his destiny as far as crime and policing in his area goes, they are not going to work. This idea of having different people at different levels without the panel actually having the police there to talk to

18 May 2011 : Column 1423

will not work. If you look at public meetings held by hospitals and other organisations, if people do not think they are getting anywhere, they will not turn up, and you will have lost the vital part of policing in this country.

Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I have not spoken on this Bill before and I rise now with some diffidence because I feel somewhat estranged from the debate. What people really care about is what happens to them, not just perceptions. I will be slightly frivolous about internal combustion engines. I live very near the A1 in the north-east of England and I have had several internal combustion engines taken out of my garden. The security measures that I now take are much more comprehensive than they were in my youth. For example, we used to leave the keys in our cars, if I remember rightly.

At certain times of night in the north-east-the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, knows more about this than me-there are parts of Newcastle where the anti-social behaviour is pretty compelling. As the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, knows, my son-in-law tries to assist the police in dealing with some of this behaviour. I think there are places in south-west Durham where the police do not go. I shall not quote the names of the ex-mining areas into which they do not go at certain times of the day and possibly hardly ever.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page