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There is something wrong in the judgment of people who have a large share of our media. If we want healthier media, people should be able to trust them. I therefore put it to the House that the present situation is unacceptable. A healthy democracy does not mean simply diversity and plurality; we now have to do something more about it. We need an independent public inquiry; we need to know what the facts are. If anyone is in doubt about that, they should look at the settlement with Sienna Miller. It said, "We settle; we did wrong; we should not have printed it; we should not have paid for it". But how did they do it? The settlement means that she will be told in private how the company did it. There is no open court situation exposing it. We listen to all the hypocrisy from the press about super-injunctions. They tell us that we should have open courts and should be given the information, but when it comes to a criminal act, they do not want an open court; they settle with money; they settle with power; and they settle with an agreement not to tell the public how they did it. That is unacceptable; that is not the force and influence that create a democratic society.
We know that there is a delay in the takeover of BSkyB; I hope that that is a good sign that we are not going to give it to News International. I do not know whether the Minister can tell us any more about what is going on with the inquiry, but I ask her to pass on the message that this Government must now consider an independent public inquiry for the health of our own democracy and the media. That is what we should be debating, because that is the issue that the public are concerned about. Let us have that open public inquiry so that we can get to the bottom of this matter and prevent it happening again.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, as one of those who had the pleasure of serving under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, on the Communications Select Committee and contributing to the report that we have had referred to, I add my welcome to the order. It is a dramatically important step forward. Certainly, at a few meetings that I have attended recently, it has been indicated that new plans are in hand to provide back-up for companies in facilitating more independent, local programmes in both radio and television. That is all to the good.
I should like to take up one point about the public interest. Controls exist in the form of Ofcom and the Competition Commission intervening as and when necessary. Although I quite accept that the previous speaker does not think that that goes far enough, it will be of some reassurance to us. The question has been asked as to what the public interest is. Is it really to ensure standards and quality in what is put over? Are we to be certain, for example, that a few eyes will be kept on some of the extremely bad taste which has crept into a great deal of broadcasting, both before and after the watershed? Then if we look at what has happened with children's broadcasting, we see that the BBC has rather dropped out of it in a number of areas, particularly in radio. Organisations such as
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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her very helpful introduction to the order. We have debated media plurality before in the context of the national media, and she will know that it is an issue about which many noble Lords across your Lordships' House have voiced concerns. In many ways, the fundamental issues remain the same: in a vibrant democracy, it is not in our interests to allow a monopoly of news and opinion to dominate media outlets. Consumers need a guarantee of choice and diversity.
That is why Ofcom, quite rightly, has been cautious in its advice on this matter when it has been sought by Ministers. I have read the advice issued by it on local media rules both in 2009 and 2010. It appears that it is only with some reluctance that it is recommending a further step towards the liberalisation of the remaining rules of local ownership. We understand that reluctance because, whatever the immediate circumstances might be that force us to go along with a more laissez-faire approach, it remains the case that once the rules of ownership are relaxed it is difficult to backtrack should an unhealthy monopoly develop. We have to be satisfied that the Secretary of State remains committed to the fundamental principles of plurality, is alive to any threats and is prepared to intervene under their remaining powers if necessary.
However, we are also sensitive to the difficult commercial environment currently challenging local media. I say to my noble friend Lord Prescott that, on this issue, we differentiate between trends at local and national level, because it is true that local advertising revenues are down and many local newspapers are struggling to survive. As we have heard, those that do survive are cutting back on quality and local reportage. Meanwhile, the pressure of competition from multimedia outlets across a wide spectrum of platforms is damaging the economic viability of local radio. Those services still have a valuable customer base, but are in danger of becoming commercially untenable. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and my noble friend Lord Gordon both made powerful cases for strengthening the role of the regional press and local radio in delivering diversity in local media output. We therefore recognise that if the Government were to maintain too strong a grip on the issues of local plurality, it might be at the expense of the very services we are seeking to protect. So, along with our undeniable caution, there is a case for some pragmatism.
As the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, reminded us and as Ofcom pointed out, we are protected from a complete monopoly at a local level by the continuing
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The Government have also created great publicity around their plans for local television. While we are not yet convinced of the commercial viability of these proposals, we nevertheless acknowledge that if they were to be realised, local TV could provide new players in the market locally and thereby increase the diversity of media outlets. However, this would be the case only if the plurality rules were applied to ensure that one proprietor could not own local TV, local radio and local newspapers in the area. In other words, what would stop one person controlling all the commercial radio and TV output in, for example, Manchester? Can the Minister guarantee to the House that, should the order be agreed, the liberalisation of the rules would not be extended to local TV? It would be helpful if she could update us on progress in this regard.
If we approve the order today the last backstop preventing local media monopoly is the Secretary of State and his residual powers to apply the public interest test. So far his track record in this regard is not good. His handling of the debacle of Murdoch's proposed takeover of BSkyB, which he has continued to support against a barrage of criticism from the public, politicians and media competitors, shows a callous failure to defend the principles of media plurality. My noble friend Lord Prescott has, quite rightly, again raised concerns about the credibility of the Murdoch empire in going forward and seizing further control of national media.
What reassurance can the Minister give the House today that the Secretary of State understands the strong demand for diverse media outlets in this country as part of a vibrant democracy and that he is prepared to actively intervene to prevent media barons' creating monopolies at a local level? There is a crisis of confidence in his role and we still need convincing that he remains ready to stand up for these principles. On this issue I share the comment of the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, that a robust restatement of the role and status of public interest would be helpful.
There remains a residual protection against the development of unfair monopolies in that the Government give a commitment in the Explanatory Memorandum to reviewing the new measures a year after they come into effect. Can the Minister give some clarification as to the nature of that review and how it will be reported back to Parliament?
I appreciate that the order may raise some concerns about the need to protect a wide variety of opinions and views in our media; equally, we acknowledge the
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It is these principles which underpin the Government's current proposals for local television, which will add to choice and balance at the local level. Television is a powerful and trusted medium and local television has the potential to offer many social and democratic benefits to communities and economic benefits to the local media industry. As I said earlier, the rules that this order removes have always been in addition to general competition rules and the public interest test. These remain in place to make sure that there is proper choice to protect against undue concentration.
I turn now to the specific questions asked by noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I accept the vast knowledge of my noble friend Lord Fowler on this subject and I agree that the regional press are greatly trusted. I thank him for his support, especially in regard to the public interest test. He asked about competition rules, an issue which I suggest should be considered by the communications review. DCMS recently published an open letter inviting responses to high-level questions related to the communications review. Responses to these questions will inform our approach to a communications Green Paper, due to be published at the end of this year, which will in turn be followed by a full consultation and White Paper. I encourage all noble Lords to contribute.
On the question of local newspapers and their ownership, I was interested to read that over 80 per cent of local and regional titles in the United Kingdom are owned by six publishing groups-Archant, Associated News, Johnston Press, Newsquest, Northcliffe and Trinity Mirror Group-which have made some progress despite the downturn over the past two or three years.
My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones asked why the order took so long. It was due to parliamentary business, the Easter Recess and the Recess we have just had. He asked about public interest and sufficient plurality, as did the noble Lord, Lord Prescott. I assure the noble Lords that plurality can still be maintained through competition law and, where appropriate, the public interest test. Plurality means giving citizens access to a variety of sources of news, an essential part of a democratic society resulting in a healthy media sector.
On the issue of emerging local television and the possibility of investing in further local television, the Government believe that one of the barriers preventing commercially sustainable local television from emerging in the UK was the restrictions around media ownership. With the removal of the rules for local media, which
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The noble Lord, Lord Prescott, returned to the Sky debate and his concern about hacking. On the merger of BSkyB and where it has got to, this is not the subject of today's debate. However, I can confirm that the Secretary of State is now considering the responses made to the consultation and will make a statement as soon as possible. This merger is being considered under the public interest rules and I can confirm to the House that these rules will remain untouched by this order. The Secretary of State is following a quasi-judicial process and this is a matter for him. I am sure the House will appreciate that I can discuss only the process. The Secretary of State has followed a very transparent process and has published even more than is required by legislation. As to the phone hacking mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Prescott, as I have said before, these are serious allegations-but they are matters for the criminal courts and not for this debate today.
The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, asked on behalf of the Opposition about the removal of the last rule, reluctantly agreed by Ofcom. A strong local media sector that can invest in new content and in high-quality news provision is essential and Ofcom have reported that local media businesses are operating in difficult market conditions. In their report from August 2010, Ofcom said removing all these restrictions was a matter of judgment for Government and Parliament. Removal of these unnecessary rules would allow local media companies to move to new platforms and develop new cost-effective business models and partnerships. Plurality can still be maintained through competition law and the public interest test, wherever appropriate.
The proposals to remove Ofcom's duty to renew the media ownership rules for every three years-which I think was mentioned-is part of the Government's deregulatory agenda. It reduces the need to undertake unnecessary reviews and will bring back powers to the Secretary of State. Most importantly, the Secretary of State will have the power to ask Ofcom to undertake a review of media ownership rules as he sees fit.
I believe the noble Baroness also asked about local television and the BBC. The BBC agreed in October 2010, as part of the licence fee settlement, to support local TV by providing capital start-up costs of up to £25 million, and up to £5 million per annum for three years to acquire content. Decisions around the level of provision of the BBC's own local radio and news services are a matter for the BBC.
(2) No police and crime commissioner nor chief officer of police shall be liable for damages or compensation for any injuries caused as a result of a breach of health and safety law in the performance of their duties, save where it is proved that the individual acted maliciously or with reckless disregard for the safety of others.
(a) to prevent crime,
(b) to prevent risk to the health and welfare of others, or
(c) to save the lives of others,
shall not be prevented from taking that action or actions by the intervention of any other public official, of whatever rank, who alleges that there is a health and safety risk to the officer.
(4) It shall be an offence for any public official to obstruct a police officer in the execution of the officer's duty when the officer has decided under subsection (3) that an action or actions are necessary.
(7) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary shall issue general guidance on health and safety matters to all police forces for every police area listed in Schedule 1 to the Police Act 1996 (police areas).
Lord Blencathra: I need to correct a mistake I made in 1996-97. It was not the only one I made then, but it is the only one I may have a chance to rectify at the present moment. Putting the police under the statutory provisions of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act
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All the great and the good, and even I, thought this Bill was the right thing to do. It was a jolly good move and put the police on the same basis as other workers, and we thought there would be no problems. In that frantic legislative climate at the end of 1996-97, heading up to the election, the Police (Health and Safety) Bill was given to a Back-Bencher in another place to introduce as there was no time in the government programme-I believe I had led on about 15 Home Office Bills in that last Session. It was bounced through on the nod in another place at 2.30 pm on a Friday, not having received any debate whatever. It then got 45 minutes in Committee, on a Friday. There was no Report or Third Reading. When it got to this House, it had 19 minutes of debate at Second Reading and, since no amendments were moved, it had no Committee stage, no Report stage and no Third Reading stage; and it passed into law. I am not being critical here, because I put through Bills with even less scrutiny. However, this Act received a total of 64 minutes' scrutiny in both Houses of Parliament. From a total of about 1,400 Members of both Houses, only one Member queried its provisions. So, I pay tribute to Mr Michael Fabricant MP, who at the Committee stage in another place, said:
He went on to ask what action officers should take when faced with danger. Do they retreat or intervene? He queried the potential conflict between the operational independence of chief officers and the powers of the health and safety inspectors. He said:
For an answer, Mr Fabricant was given the reassuring line to take which I had prepared and approved, having apparently changed my mind in the intervening period since I had addressed the seminar. That answer was:
"A potential conflict remains between the requirements of health and safety and the operational requirements of the police service but it is well understood by all parties. I am optimistic that those conflicts will always be resolved in a sensible manner against the background of the statutory provisions of the Bill".-[Official Report, Commons, 14/2/97; cols. 578-584.]
Yet, just six years later, two of the finest Metropolitan Police Commissioners who I have ever had the privilege to work with stood in No. 2 dock at the Old Bailey, in
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I take this opportunity to apologise publicly to the noble Lords, Lord Condon and Lord Stevens, for the injustice that they suffered from a law that I was responsible for and which went through with inadequate scrutiny. That prosecution was outrageous, wrong, misguided, expensive and so lacking in common sense that it convinces me that one cannot leave a provision on the statute book which can be abused by bureaucrats-admittedly, well-meaning bureaucrats. It should be amended.
"Police officers ... should not be at risk of investigation or prosecution under health and safety legislation when engaged in the course of their duties if they have put themselves at risk as a result of committing a heroic act".
My noble friend Lord Young is absolutely right in coming to his analysis of the problem and I believe that the principle of what he has enunciated is now government policy. With respect, however, my noble friend has misdirected himself in his last sentence. He has suggested that the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Health and Safety Executive and the Crown Prosecution Service should get together and ensure that police officers should not be prosecuted for a possible breach of the law. That is not the right way to go about it. If it is the law, it should be enforced. What signal does it send if a cosy deal has been done between the CPS, ACPO and the HSE not to prosecute police officers? No-the approach must be: if we do not want to see police officers in the dock and being prosecuted for that sort of breach, we must amend the current law which allows it to happen.
I believe that my proposed new clause, while no doubt inadequately drafted and with some technical flaws, attempts to do just that. It seeks to ensure that chief officers are not prosecuted for a health and safety breach while trying to ensure that ordinary police officers are not disadvantaged and receive full employment law protection. At the same time, it does not leave a big black hole with no health and safety guidance whatever, because I want HMIC to promulgate non-statutory guidance.
a health and safety breach. I do not intend that to apply to police officers in the course of their duty. Of course, all police officers of whatever rank must receive full damages and compensation for accidents at work-that is the normal employer's vicarious liability law. I merely intended that subsection to apply to outsiders or, shall we say, third parties. Hypothetically, if a bobby rugby-tackles a burglar who is running away from the scene and the burglar knocks down some other member of the public, the police might be accused of a breach of health and safety there and be sued. I do not want others to get on the back of the health and safety compensation culture and sue the police without valid reason.
who says, "You can't do that, Guv. It's health and safety, you know". That could deal with some of the reports coming out of the 7/7 inquiry on the Aldgate bombing, where evidence was given that police officers were deterred from going underground because some official said that the area was not yet clear. I believe the learned judge's report said that even if the officers had got in instantly, it was unlikely that they could have done anything to save the victims there.
Nevertheless, if a police officer thinks, "There's something happening and I have to take action on it", that officer should not be deterred by another official who says, "You can't risk your life there. You cannot take that risk because I am making a decision that you, as a police officer, are not fit to take that decision for yourself". That is wrong and my amendment tries to change it. In subsection (4), I say that it will therefore be an offence for a public official, of whatever rank, to try and obstruct a police officer who wants to take that action,
In subsection (5), I have put that once the officer makes that decision that he or she is going to take a risk, he or she cannot compel someone else to join them. I am not being critical of police sergeants, who are wonderful people, but let us say that a sergeant decides, "I am going to rush into that burning building and you lot are going to join me". This would prevent him compelling other officers to take the voluntary risk that he or she wished to take, and that is right. If someone wishes to step outside what may be the normally regarded health and safety ambit and risk
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That was my attempt, which I accept may be inadequate legally, to ensure that ordinary police officers who suffer an injury are not disadvantaged or sacked and told, "You can't get damages or compensation". If it is inadequate in its purposes to do that, I am quite happy to have my noble friend the Minister's expert draftsmen make sure that it covers it.
because we do not want to leave a black hole of no health and safety cover at all. All I am suggesting in this amendment is that the police should not be subject to a statutory requirement to comply with the 1974 Act, but they will of course wish to. Every single chief officer in the land will wish to make sure that all the officers under his or her command are as safe as is humanly possible and able to do their duty.
I have read a comment from a member of the Police Federation who said, "If this proposal of Blencathra's goes through, we will be back to the bad old days of policemen having to grab dustbin lids to defend themselves". I say to your Lordships that if this went through, I cannot imagine any chief constable deciding that he was going to downgrade the safety equipment of police officers. When I had the privilege of being a Minister and when the noble Lord, Lord Condon, was police commissioner-this must have been in 1993-he came in to brief me on all the work that the Met was doing to try to find stab-proof vests, because they already had quite good bullet-resistant vests. He was desperate to find vests that would stop knives penetrating them; they are actually more difficult to find than bullet-resistant vests. They had of course developed all the other protective measures, such as shields, and were looking at the ASP side-handle baton. All around the country at that time-and not just when I was Minister, but in the 1980s and 1990s-chief officers were trying to find the best ways of protecting their people. That was long before we introduced a statutory requirement for them to do so. If the statutory requirement is taken away, it will be nonsense to suggest that there will be any serious diminution in the practical health, safety and welfare of police officers. This is a good task for HMIC. The police service is awash with health and safety guidelines and codes of practice. We should give HMIC the job to promulgate these, add new ones and ensure that there is a consistent, coherent system.
Finally, subsections (8) and (9) of the proposed new clause make it clear that if HMIC were promulgating this guidance, it would not then have the force of law and people could not sue and say, "You didn't follow the guidance, therefore I want compensation", or "You
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I am sorry that I have taken so long to describe my amendment, but I think that this is a very important issue. One thing that worries me is the growth of the health and safety culture. In his report, my noble friend Lord Young pointed out that half the stories one hears in the press are not true, such as that of the policeman who could not jump into the paddling pool to rescue a child because of health and safety rules. A lot of those are untrue and a lot are exaggerated. I know that one has to exaggerate things for form-I have done it millions of times. But there is no doubt that police feel held back by health and safety. If they do not all feel that they are held back in some way, there is certainly a view in the press and the media that the police are not responding fully in the way you expect a bobby to do because health and safety requirements are tying their hands. That is damaging to the whole police service.
I believe that this significant gesture-not just in terms of preventing good officers appearing in the Old Bailey on ridiculous charges-of removing the legal framework while keeping a practical working framework of health and safety would do a tremendous amount to reverse the health and safety culture which is perceived to be in the police service. I beg to move.
Lord Condon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for moving this amendment. In his typically generous way, he has been unnecessarily harsh on himself; certainly he owes no apology to me or, I dare say, my noble friend Lord Stevens. At the time that Act was introduced, none of us had any idea it would subsequently be used in the way that it was.
It was an interesting experience to stand as a defendant in the Old Bailey, gripping the rail that murderers, rapists and terrorists had gripped in previous years, and knowing that if the jury found me and my noble friend Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington guilty, I would certainly have resigned from this House and he would have been under pressure to resign as commissioner. It was a very interesting experience.
Had the prosecution succeeded, it would have effectively paralysed operational policing. It would have required probably emergency legislation to rectify matters. In essence, the prosecution was saying that police officers operating above ground or below ground or in any environment apart from flat, ground-level operations, would need to be involved in risk assessments, contractors and a whole range of issues which would have emasculated operational policing. Fortunately, the jury in the trial applied the common sense so sadly lacking in the HSE at the time. To my disappointment, there must have been law officers who were also involved in allowing that prosecution to go forward, but that is by the by.
I realised that the jury was applying the common sense that the HSE had not applied when the expert witness for the HSE, when asked what a police officer should do when pursuing a violent criminal who was a danger to the public and had gone on to a roof to escape, said, with a straight face and with all the gravitas of his office, that at that point the police officer should contact the police station, stop the
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The trial judge, Mr Justice Crane, was scrupulously fair throughout the trial, as you would expect, and never expressed an opinion on the merits of the case until it was complete. But once it was over, he said that the prosecution was a waste of time and money and that the HSE had failed to understand the nature of policing in any way. We calculated that it cost at least £3 million in real and opportunity costs-at the time that would have paid for 70 neighbourhood police officers for a year.
However, despite what I have just said, events have moved on and I do not think it is appropriate for the police service, or parts of it, to be exempted from the legislation en bloc. The world has changed; events have changed; the climate has changed. But I congratulate the noble Lord on moving this amendment, which I am sure is a probing amendment. Time has moved on, and to try to go back would bring the Government and this country in conflict with Europe. Complying with European legislation was the genesis of this Act in 1997, so we would be back in that loop of challenge and dispute.
I do not think that this is an opportunity for us to consider seriously taking the police service outwith the jurisdiction of health and safety, but it is a real opportunity for the Minister-either today, subsequently in writing, or at some stage-to reaffirm the need for a sensible balance to be maintained regarding the safety of police officers, which we all value. As the noble Lord said, it so happened that at the time of the prosecution, we had had seven years of an officer safety programme that had brought injuries and deaths to their lowest level for decades. There was a certain irony in being prosecuted as a commissioner and former commissioner just at the point when death and injuries had been reduced to the lowest level almost on record.
There needs to be a sensible balance with regard to the safety of police officers. I can think now of every one of the police officers seriously injured or killed on my watch. I will never forget the anxiety and distress felt by their families and friends. But there has to be a balance between that and allowing police officers to follow their courageous instincts to put themselves in harm's way to protect the public. I would expect nothing less from them. That is what the legacy of policing is about.
Although the spectre of prosecution remains, I hope that the Minister will feel able to say something reassuring about the balance that needs to be maintained. As we sit here today, a policeman or woman could be doing something today which would lead to them receiving a gallantry medal from Her Majesty the Queen. At the same time, that would provide prima facie evidence that another chief officer should be prosecuted for health and safety offences because, by
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I am delighted and grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for raising this issue today. His generous comments in our direction were very warmly appreciated, but no apology is necessary. It is an opportunity for your Lordships' House not to take the police service outwith health and safety requirements but to reassert the need for a sensible balance.
Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington: My Lords, I, too, say to the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, that he owes me no apologies at all. As an old friend and over time, he has shown total support to the police service across the board in a way that others have not. It was very disappointing that some would come up with the saying that we are going back to dustbin lids. To be pointing in the direction of the noble Lord is totally unworthy of whoever said it. I do not wish to take up too much of the time of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, has led in taking us through why the Bill came into existence in the first place. I remember, while I was chief constable of Northumbria, also thinking that it was a good idea. That was after the stabbing of Sergeant Bill Forth on an estate in Gateshead.
I also associate myself with my noble friend Lord Condon. It was an extraordinary experience to stand in the dock of No. 2 court at the Old Bailey when, only 30 years previously, I stood in that court with three other officers and was commended with them, although mine was a lesser role, for bravery and initiative in chasing three armed robbers over a roof at night and arresting them in difficult circumstances. It was extraordinary to see how policing had changed in 30 years to become what I refer to, taking the health and safety approach, as being risk averse.
Policing is all about taking risks. It is all about putting yourself, as a servant of the public, in harm's way on occasion. Yes, my noble friend Lord Condon has led on health and safety. I was, as noble Lords will remember, in Northumbria the first chief constable to introduce long batons, reinforced windscreens and, on only that occasion, stab-proof vests, which were not as effective as what the noble Lord, Lord Condon, brought in for the Metropolitan Police. Therefore, no one in this House or elsewhere could ever accuse the noble Lord, Lord Condon, or me of not treating officers' safety as a primary consideration in our roles as chief officers. I think we will hear from the noble Lord, Lord Dear, who is included in that, as the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, certainly is. To lose an officer through death or severe injury is an appalling thing to live through, and some of us have lived through it.
I shall quickly talk about where we were on the night we were found not guilty at the Old Bailey. I would certainly have resigned if I had been found guilty; I had my letter in the safe and had shown it to some of my colleagues. It would have been absolutely unacceptable for me to continue as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police in those circumstances. More important than my future and personal commitment was how it would have affected national policing. We
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I know that there are legal niceties around European law. I can quote the articles on how we need to continue with the European directive and so on. However, we should start by going back. It is a delight to have the noble Lord who introduced the Bill here. We know why it was introduced. We know about the lack of thought and attention to detail, and the effects of that. The noble Lord was there; he brought it in. I would like to see us look again at this part of policing-the Health and Safety Act. I would like us to look at it in a common-sense way, taking police officers' views into account. Of course they need to be protected and must not be prosecuted or sued in a way that exposes them. However, why not go back to the Bill, have a look at the original health and safety legislation, and take in the recommendations of the noble Lord, Lord Young, and the details and accounts that have been put forward in the debate that has taken place in this House? We should not ignore what the House of Lords says because we are spending time on this in detail. I know the Minister is a listening Minister; I know the Home Secretary is a listening Home Secretary. We should look at this and see if we can come up with something that allows the police to go forward without the spectre of being prosecuted when they are chasing a criminal over a roof or putting themselves in danger. That is what the police service is paid to do.
As a police officer for 43 years, I was paid to put myself at risk and in danger on occasion. Sometimes the red mist might have come in front of my eyes. Sometimes I might have been other than sensible. However, at the end of the day, that is what I was paid to do.
Lord Dear: My Lords, enough weight of artillery fire has been directed at this target to demolish it. I shall take a few moments more with my own artillery to reduce the demolished target to rubble. We are not talking about protective clothing or equipment. Clearly, that is a requirement that all chief constables always have to address. We are not talking about the adequacy of kit and, for example, putting appropriate equipment into patrol cars to cone off and properly protect the scene of a road accident, to protect not only the police officers themselves but others who are still present on the road. All of that is common sense.
The nub of this discussion is that we are not here to inhibit the voluntary assumption of risk. Medals have already been mentioned in this debate. I remind this House of the range of medals that are available not
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I repeat-because it is worth repeating-what has already been said about any chief officer who puts forward a recommendation or citation for the award of medals. I recollect putting forward six recommendations for George Medals on different occasions, all of which were granted. It means that, if you take this subject to its logical conclusion, in writing that recommendation, you are also inviting a prosecution against you for having allowed that act to take place. It has to be a nonsense.
I give one more quick example, not from high buildings or the London Underground. What about public order? Like other Members of your Lordships' House, I have, on occasions in the past, been in control of very large, serious outbreaks of public disorder, when violence and injury were part of the scene. In those circumstances, if the senior officer, with properly equipped and protected officers, orders those officers to maintain a position-to control a road junction, for example-or to advance against a disorderly crowd, he is, by definition, inviting them to a position where they will incur injury. The case follows that they will incur injury.
I conclude by reminding your Lordships of two instances of about three years ago. The first was in the north of England when two young people died in a very large lake and the police were criticised for not going in to rescue them; I do not know the circumstances, but that was how it was reported. Around the same time, in the Thames Valley police area, a barbeque in somebody's garden got out of hand. There was an altercation, somebody went and fetched a shotgun, and a man was shot and lay bleeding in the garden. Armed officers were called, and were told to stand off until a health and safety assessment had been made. It is said, rightly or wrongly, that the man, had he been rescued, would have lived. It is said, rightly or wrongly, that he died because he haemorrhaged to death because of the timidity of the police officers who were holding back. I emphasise that I do not know the circumstances
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The public quite rightly look to the police, and other uniformed agencies, and almost expect bravery. They expect a degree of putting service before self. We should recognise that in your Lordships' House as well. We cannot require people to be brave; it is the voluntary assumption of risk that is rewarded with the medals that I have already mentioned. However, we must not inhibit it when it would take place. We must encourage and applaud it. Anything that can be done by Her Majesty's Government to relieve the circumstances which we have heard described today, and which still hang in the air as a possibility, would be a good thing. For that reason, I applaud and support the generality of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I was chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority when the noble Lord, Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, as the then Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, was called to the Old Bailey to answer the charges. I well recall the internal impact that it had on the service, and the implications that would have followed had there been a guilty verdict.
However, the context of all of this is one of ensuring that there is a legal framework protecting the health and safety of our police officers. I do not think that anyone is arguing about the importance of doing that. When I ceased to be chair of the police authority, I took over chairing the committee of the police authority which, among other things, monitors the health and safety obligations of the police service. I am not sure where that function might fall under the new arrangements that we are talking about in the rest of the Bill.
Something that struck me powerfully was that one of the responses of the police service-and, indeed, many other organisations-to new legislation is to create an internal unit that is responsible for guidance on it all. That is often quite separate from the people who are making day-to-day operational decisions. Something that I have tried to ensure and, through the committee that I chair, now require is that each senior police manager certifies once a year that they are personally satisfied with the health and safety arrangements in the area for which they are responsible. Each assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police takes on that responsibility for their area. That is not really different from what the law actually says about senior managers, but it has helped to mainstream this as part of the normal, day-to-day operational decisions that any police leader would be taking.
That is the critical point. The danger is where you have a department created which says, "This is health and safety law, and this is what the rest of you in the police service must do". That is the sort of environment in which you get some of the silly responses that you hear reported or which are alleged to have taken place. However, the way forward is to make sure that the person who has managerial responsibility takes all of these factors into account and then makes a proportionate
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I am not convinced that we should be exempting people from the legislation. I am sure that we should be making sure that the response inside each police service is proportionate and seen as a mainstream activity of senior police leaders. Most senior police leaders that I have spoken to acknowledge that uppermost in their minds all the time is not only the safety of their officers but the public's safety as well. It is a question of acknowledging that and creating a system whereby that happens, rather than it being seen as an external imposition which then leads to some of the rather crazy anomalies that we sometimes hear about.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for instigating this debate, although the precedent he sets of seeking to put right past legislative mistakes is rather disturbing for some of us. We would not have much Summer Recess this year if we were to follow his course of action. I had an enjoyable two years as Health and Safety Minister and dealt with the Health and Safety Executive on a regular basis. I recall discussions with the Minister of Defence on some similar issues; not in relation to Armed Forces in the theatre, but certainly in training exercises where some of the same issues obtained because of the need in training to help the Armed Forces understand the dynamics of being in theatre. I have some sympathy with where the noble Lord and noble Lords who have served as police officers are coming from.
However, my experience of health and safety is, first, that the legislation since 1974 has had a hugely positive impact in terms of a dramatic reduction in the number of lives lost and injuries suffered by people in the workforce. One ought to pay tribute to the Health and Safety Executive for the work that it has done. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Condon, when he recognised that and described the HSE as taking what he described as a common-sense approach. Secondly, my experience is that the HSE moved away from a kind of performance-management culture which judged the inspectors on the number of prosecutions that they instituted to one that was much more proportionate. That starts from the basis that if we can encourage employers to do the right thing in health and safety that is our preferred option unless there has clearly been a gross abuse of the law by an employer.
To be fair to the HSE, it has come under considerable criticism in recent years as the number of prosecutions that it has undertaken has gone down, but I think that that has been a common-sense approach. I am sure that the focus of inspectors on giving advice and guidance and seeking improvement is right. The noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, referred to the urban myths that often surround health and safety stories in the media. I share that view. When you dig down into some stories in the media, you find that, far from the Health and Safety Executive inspector saying, for example, "You can't have hanging flowers in pots", that is often an excuse used by public authorities for reducing expenditure.
The second problem relates to health and safety advisers. I very much agree with the comments of my noble friend Lord Harris, who has great experience of this. One of the problems is that a whole plethora of health and safety advisers has grown up and the advice that they give to organisations is often very risk averse. Sometimes employers run away from the fact that in the end this matter is not the responsibility of the health and safety adviser but of management and the employer. Sometimes employers need to say to health and safety advisers, "You may have given this advice, but it defies common sense and we are going to carry on doing what we want to do".
If the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, were tempted to press the amendment either today or on Report, he would risk compounding his original error by encouraging us to pass bad law. This matter is much better dealt with through effective dialogue between police forces, the DWP and the Health and Safety Executive. I invite the Minister to encourage her colleagues in the DWP to institute discussions between the police service, the HSE and the Police Federation because it is important that the staff in the police force own any future development. The development of a dialogue and a greater understanding between the three parties is probably the best way forward rather than the way proposed in the noble Lord's amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am relieved at the way this debate has developed because, when I first saw this amendment, knowing of the noble Lord's seniority in his party I wondered whether this was some sort of "done deal". Clearly, that is not the case. It sounds terribly patronising to say this, but the balanced attitude which noble Lords have displayed in their speeches is extremely welcome. The noble Lord, Lord Condon, talked about not exempting the police force en bloc, but where is the demarcation line? I think that all noble Lords have recognised that there needs to be one. Like other noble Lords, I think that health and safety, with a capital H and a capital S, is important and has had an unjustifiably bad press-not that I tend to read that press but one cannot avoid hearing about it. The law in regard to health and safety, and certainly the way in which it is applied, may have gone too far one way, but the pendulum should not swing too far in the other direction.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra, for introducing this fascinating debate. However, I should make clear that we on this side join the Police Federation in opposing the amendment, which would remove from police officers the statutory protection afforded by the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. We believe that this would be a seriously retrograde step.
I had made a note to remind the noble Lord that a Conservative Government had brought the police service within the health and safety legislation through the 1997 Act but clearly I did not need to do so. Therefore, I congratulate him on mentioning that. Notwithstanding the debate that we have had, I believe that it was the right thing to do. I am not familiar with the detail of the prosecutions that took place, which were clearly traumatic and difficult for two very senior members of
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Perhaps I may pick up the issue around myths, because health and safety is beset by myths, half-truths, and sometimes downright fabrications. The police have been on the receiving end of this too often. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said, this is sometimes because people want to use health and safety as an excuse for not doing something, sometimes by overzealous application of health and safety requirements and sometimes due to ignorance of the law. The HSE, together with partners in local authorities and the wider health and safety community, has gone to great lengths to push back against these myths and to explain what is required. I shall come back specifically on that in relation to a case that the noble Lord, Lord Dear, mentioned.
My noble friends Lord Harris and Lord Hunt got it absolutely right. My noble friend Lord Harris said that it was important to inculcate health and safety into the mainstream of an organisation and to address it proportionately. Analysis shows that organisations, whichever one we are talking about, with good health and safety management invariably have other good management systems in place. My noble friend Lord Hunt referred to the positive impact of the 1974 legislation. That is right. It has stood the test of time. It is non-prescriptive and is meant to be operated proportionately. My noble friend said that sometimes it is the role of overzealous consultants to encourage people down paths that are not required under the legislation. One of the things on which I would congratulate the Government is the introduction of a register for consultants. It is work that we could claim to have started in our term of office and it will help to address this issue.
The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the bad press that the Health and Safety Executive and others get. Let me refer to the report of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Blencathra. In Appendix D, entitled "Behind the myth: the truth behind health and safety hysteria in the media", he picks up one of the issues referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Dear. The appendix refers first to the "Story" and states:
"In May 2007, newspapers published a story concerning the death of a 10-year-old boy who drowned while fishing for tadpoles with his siblings in an outdoor pond. Questions were asked about the role of the emergency services and accusations were made that the policemen involved stood by and watched a boy drown because health and safety rules forbade them from entering the water to save him".
"Fishermen noticed that two children had fallen into the pond and they tried to bring the children in with their fishing tackle. They managed to drag a girl out of the pond but were unable to reach her brother. One of the fishermen tried to call 999 but was unable to get through so he called his wife. She rang the police and reported the incident. There was some confusion over the location of the incident and this resulted in the police attending the incorrect location. At the same time Police Community Support Officers were undertaking a normal patrol when they came across the incident. They alerted police officers to the correct location.
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I am bound to say that there are responsibilities on us all not to recycle these myths. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, when addressing the IOSH conference a little while before he was formally appointed, cited an incident some 18 months before when two police community support officers had stood by and watched a 10 year-old boy, who had jumped into a pond to rescue his sister, drown. The noble Lord said that they explained afterwards that they had not had their health and safety course on rescuing people. He also said that if that was thought to be completely exceptional, there was a case only a few weeks before where a man allegedly drove his car containing his two children into the river. He and the boy escaped but his sister was trapped screaming in the car. The two policemen stood by for 92 minutes while a diving team was brought from the other end of the county and said later that they were not allowed to rescue the girl themselves on health and safety grounds, and she died the following day. We all need to be mindful not to recirculate these myths.
Lord Dear: Perhaps the noble Lord will accept that my point was not on the facts, which I know; it was on the public perception of inactivity by the police. Criticism followed because there was an expectation that the police would act bravely and positively rather than negatively. I was making that narrow point.
Lord McKenzie of Luton: No, indeed, I very much agree with the noble Lord. I was not suggesting that he, by raising the point, was helping to recirculate the myth; I was just indicating how it can unwittingly be recycled, creating the concern that he identified.
The HSE issued guidance in 2009 in a document entitled Striking the Balance between Operational and Health and Safety Duties in the Police Service. That was in response to concern and misunderstanding about how police services can comply with health and safety legislation in their operational work, given the often testing and difficult circumstances in which they are called to act. I understand that work is now under way to draft an explanatory note to the guidance which will help further to clarify how effective and efficient policing can be delivered.
The guidance sets out why the application of health and safety law is challenging for the police service, but it also makes clear that health and safety duties are not absolute and are generally qualified by the test of what is reasonably practical. It points out that the Health and Safety at Work Act places duties on employers, but also on employees to take reasonable care of themselves and others and to co-operate with their employer, but it does not require all risks to be eliminated. The Health and Safety Executive recognises that even when all reasonably practical precautions have been taken to deal with foreseeable risks, injuries and deaths will still occur.
Let us not forget, as was raised by several speakers in the debate, that dozens of police officers have lost their lives or been injured by putting themselves in harm's way on our behalf. The guidance also sets out what officers and staff should expect of the police service in terms of good health and safety management systems and how the HSE will approach any investigation of individual police forces.
Following the report of the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, commissioned by the Prime Minister and debated in your Lordships' House in November last year, renewed guidance was issued by the Crown Prosecution Service concerning circumstances where police officers may, in performing an heroic act, have breached Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work Act in failing to take reasonable care of their own safety. It states:
The document and the other guidance seems to do just what noble Lords have asked, which is that we need to address this in a sensible, proportionate way and there needs to be co-operation in how these measures are applied.
Although not without challenge, the current system is not broken. As my noble friend Lord Hunt said, the HSE gets challenged as many times for not prosecuting people as for prosecuting people. The briefing we received from IOSH includes a quotation from the chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales. It reads:
"All the major police officer representative bodies; the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Police Superintendents' Association and the Police Federation agree the position that the Police (Health and Safety) Act in its current form has resulted in significant improvements in the health, safety and welfare of police officers whilst still allowing effective policing to be achieved".
The law as it stands serves both the public and police effectively. It is certain interpretations of the law that have produced isolated anomalies. Therefore, clarity of interpretation is needed rather than the unnecessary changes to health and safety law that could turn the clock back decades on the protection afforded to society.
The briefing paper that we have received is clear that, as deliverers of front-line policing, they know that health and safety legislation does not prevent them carry out their duties for their communities. They are clear that since the 1997 Act there has been a real and beneficial reduction in sickness and injury to
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The impact of the amendment would be to remove the statutory protection afforded by the Health and Safety at Work Act from police officers-I think that that was the point made by the noble Lord. It would do that not only when officers were involved in front-line and, particularly, dangerous operations but when they might be involved in more routine duties, if such exist for the police service, and training. The provisions of proposed subsections (3) and (4) would seem to undermine the chain of command and create a possible free-for-all in situations of operational delicacy. Perhaps, in responding, the noble Lord could clarify the definition of,
and whether that would include a police officer of more senior rank to the individual involved. If that is right, that is an encouragement to ignore the chain of command. That may not be what the noble Lord intended so perhaps he would take the opportunity to clarify that.
It seems to me that if there are issues and problems to address, the solution is not to discard the statutory protection-the Health and Safety at Work Act-but to address issues of training and management systems and not to throw away any engagement with legislation that has served this country well for nearly 40 years, which is why we are unable to support the amendment.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in a very useful, serious and worthwhile debate. It is appropriate to say from the government Front Bench that we will take away the points made and consider whether we have got the balance right. On that basis, I will ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. I note that prolonged service as Chief Whip does not adversely affect one's rhetorical skills.
The noble Lord, Lord Condon, talked about the need for a sensible balance, and that is what we all want to achieve. The noble Lord, Lord Stevens, rightly said that policing is all about taking risks. My wife and I were invited to attend the Leeds police awards dinner some months ago and the award for bravery was given to a constable from Northumbria who had been blinded when stopping an offender in his car. It was quite an emotional experience.
My only close experience with the Health and Safety Executive was when the parliamentary choir was due to perform in Westminster Hall in 2003. On taking the portable organ into Westminster Hall and playing the 16-foot stop, bits of wood began to fall off the roof. Our first response was to say, "The Minister responsible for the HSE is a contralto in the choir, surely we can override the rules", but the HSE pointed out that in addition to parliamentarians, there would be senior civil servants in the audience, so it would clearly be dangerous to go ahead with the concert and we had to make do with performing in Westminster Abbey instead.
We all recognise the culture of health and safety that has evolved through the media. I regularly read the Daily Mail, which demands that there should be nil risk to the public in anything that is undertaken in
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The proposal to repeal this clause would have to go significantly further than the noble Lord, Lord Young, recommended in his independent review of health and safety last year. He did not call for the duty to be removed as it serves both to,
Of course the Government recognise the need to strike a balance between protecting the police and the public while acknowledging that it is in the nature of police duty that officers take risks and should not be at risk of prosecution under health and safety legislation when engaged in their duties.
Following the report of my noble friend Lord Young, the Crown Prosecution Service issued guidance in March-which the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie, quoted-under the title, Heroic Acts by Police Officers and Firefighters, which clarifies the legal situation and highlights the fact that the public interest would not be served by taking forward the prosecution of police officers who act in heroic ways when decisions are likely to be taken in fast-moving and dynamic situations. The Government will carefully consider the extent to which the recommendations of my noble friend Lord Young's report have been adequately met through the CPS guidance. We will institute a dialogue, if it is needed, between the police, the Home Office, the DWP and the HSE, as suggested. We recognise that this has to be a question of balance and we will assess whether the balance has now been struck in the most sensible place.
Lord Blencathra: My Lords, I am so pleased in retrospect that I tabled this new clause, because it has enabled me and the House to hear such excellent speeches from noble Lords such as the noble Lords, Lord Harris of Haringey, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Lord Condon, Lord Stevens and Lord Dear. Tomorrow when I read Hansard I will come to the same conclusion that I came to when I heard their speeches, namely that between them they have got the solution to this problem.
I do not want the whole police service exempted en bloc from health and safety legislation, or even from its statutory duty. However, neither do I want a situation in which we rely mainly on guidance, so that one day, somewhere, a prosecutor or an HSE person, possibly not following that guidance, will create a situation where a Metropolitan Police commissioner could still be in the Old Bailey in the circumstances that I described, and which the noble Lords, Lord Condon and Lord Stevens, witnessed first hand. I say to the noble Lord, Lord McKenzie of Luton, that common sense did prevail-but in the jury. To me, that was a couple of steps too late; I wish it had prevailed in the HSE and in those who brought the prosecution.
I am perfectly content to withdraw my new clause and will not come back to it on Report. However, I urge Ministers to go back to the Home Office tomorrow with the Official Report and initiate that dialogue, because I am not convinced that the guidance at the moment is enough. I would like to see a few more steps
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I conclude by saying that if at the end of the day, after all the dialogue, we still face the possibility that a brave police officer may get a bravery award one day while their commanding officer may be prosecuted for that act, that will be wrong. No matter how many million words of guidance and advice we have, we cannot have a situation where a chief officer is still liable to prosecution for a brave act by one of his officers. Let us initiate a dialogue. I am not volunteering to participate; I have done my inadequate duty.
I was always told that when one went to the House of Lords, one would hear expert speeches. I have had the privilege today of listening to such speeches from all sides, which proves that this House should continue in its present form, because we would never have heard these speeches from elected politicians. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(c) at the material time, the defendant was not a constable acting in the course of his or her duty.""
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 233A on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill. Reference has just been made to experts. I am not as expert as my noble friend, and I may get into trouble because I am not going to use all the briefing that he has given me.
Amendment 233A would exclude from Section 329 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 a constable in the course of his duty. That section is what noble Lords might know as the Tony Martin defence. It was enacted in response to the case of Tony Martin, who shot two intruders in his home thinking they were attempting a burglary. It provides that the court must give permission for an offender to bring a civil suit for an assault committed at the time and in the circumstances that the offender committed the act for which he was convicted. It provides the defendant with a defence to such proceedings provided that his action was not grossly disproportionate. The defendant must believe
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"There is nothing on the face of the section or in its shoulder-note which manifests an intention to afford the police a novel protection from claims by offenders for objectively unreasonable or unnecessarily violent arrests".
"The consequences should not go unnoticed. In place of the principle painstakingly established in the course of two centuries and more, and fundamental to the civil rights enjoyed by the people of this country-that an arrest must be objectively justified and that no more force may be used in effecting it than is reasonably necessary-the section gives immunity from civil suits, not confined to those involving personal injury, to constables who make arrests on entirely unreasonable grounds, so long as they are not acting in bad faith, and accords them impunity for using all but grossly disproportionate force in so doing".
In summary, Section 329 has only ever been used by the police, and my noble friend tells me that it has led to a mismatch between civil and criminal proceedings with no equality of arms between police and private individuals. The current position does not recognise that the police are public officers of the state endowed with special powers and that as a corollary they have special obligations that Section 329 allows them to circumvent. My noble friend says that ordinary people may be given some leeway for honest and instinct overreactions when protecting or defending themselves or another from a crime but, on the other hand, a police officer trained in the use of force must be required to justify his or her actions objectively and to use no more force than is reasonably necessary.
I had not appreciated until listening to the previous debate how neatly this followed on in some ways. My noble friend Lord Lester has tabled this amendment and as he is not able to be here this afternoon he asked me to move it.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on having picked up this point so well from her noble friend Lord Lester. I congratulate him too on putting down this amendment. I hope he will forgive me in his absence for describing him in this instance as a dog with a bone. He has come back to this issue today after first raising it following the judgment in the case that the noble Baroness
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There is undoubtedly a point here-the noble Baroness has described it very well. This particular section of the 2003 Act was clearly intended as some sort of response to the Martin case and the Act's purpose was really intended, or so it said, for other citizens as opposed to the police. There is some sort of at least theoretical clash, as Lord Justice Sedley pointed out in the instant case, between the position of police officers and others on arrests, so it does require an answer from Government.
We said on 25 February 2010-it was me, I am afraid to say-that the consultation that we had said would take place had not taken place by that date. But of course the noble Baroness will know that her Government have now been in power for a good 13 months now-it is 15 or 16 months since I uttered those words-and I am quite sure this consultation will have taken place regardless of government. I therefore look forward to hearing her response to this small but quite important point about the 2003 Act. I presume the consultation has taken place and the Government will be able to tell us what they intend to do about the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, it falls to me to answer this debate. I have to say that I am not fully briefed on whether or not the consultation has taken place. I suspect there was a little bit of irony there from the noble Lord, Lord Bach, and his confidence that this will automatically take place regardless of changes in government, but I will write to him to inform him about how far it has got.
We are talking of course about Section 329 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The intention was to benefit victims of crime, together with third parties who are not the direct victim of the offence but who may have intervened to protect the victim or deter the criminal. We are aware that it has so far been invoked only in respect of damages claims by police rather than by others who have sought to rely on the provisions as a defence in a number of cases. As noble Lords have mentioned, Lord Justice Sedley, in the case of Adorian v The Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis, made a number of criticisms.
Section 329 of the 2003 Act is not a licence for the police to use disproportionate force as under the criminal law. The police can use only reasonable force. Neither does the section affect the criminal liability of householders, victims and others. Let us also keep in mind that the section applies only when the offender has been convicted of an imprisonable offence committed on the same occasion as the incident he is now suing for.
With these points in mind, this amendment raises a number of issues. First, is it fair and reasonable under general law to treat a person who holds the office of constable less advantageously than any other member of the public? Secondly, we should be very clear on
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We note the thrust of the comments in the Adorian case and that the application of Section 329 to the police was not expressly discussed in Hansard at the time that that legislation was passing through Parliament. However, we are currently unconvinced that for the police to invoke Section 329 is really an unintended consequence of that section. Arguably, the police are the people most likely to rely on a provision which restricts liability towards a person who is committing a criminal offence at the time. The reference in Section 329(5)(b) to the defendant believing that his act was necessary to,
might suggest that it was not so very far from Parliament's contemplation that the police could seek to invoke this provision. But what matters is whether it is right, fair and proportionate for this protection to apply to constables.
I am afraid that as yet we remain unconvinced that the provisions in Section 329 are not right, fair and proportionate in their application to the police. Therefore, we remain unconvinced that they require amendment as the noble Lord suggests. In particular, we cannot see any reason why the civil liability of a victim and a constable who act jointly on the same occasion, or act as individuals on separate occasions, to resist and detain the convicted offender should not be subject to the same threshold.
Nevertheless, as this amendment raises important issues relating to the role and powers of the police, and given that the noble Lord has been patiently pursuing this matter for some time, I can give the noble Lord and the noble Baroness on his behalf the assurance that this Government, while bearing in mind other government priorities, will take one final look at this matter before the next stage. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness feels able to withdraw this amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend may be a dog with a bone, but he is quite a pedigree sort of dog. Clearly, the noble Lord as an outgoing Minister did not leave a letter on his desk for his successor, so we have no amendments.
Baroness Hamwee: My noble friend has made a number of detailed points on the amendment, which I understand. I am prepared now to undergo a seminar
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"(na) an alcohol monitoring requirement (see paragraph 24A of that Schedule),".
"(ka) paragraph 24A(2) (alcohol monitoring requirement), and".
4A If the responsible officer is of the opinion that the offender has failed without reasonable excuse to comply with an alcohol monitoring requirement, the officer may arrest the offender and must cause an information to be laid before a justice of the peace in respect of that failure.".
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Front Benches for allowing a partial degrouping whereby we will debate Amendments 235, 236, 242 and 243 in this group, and in the next group consider Amendment 237A and link with it Amendment 244.
This is a new part of the Bill. The new clause I want to attempt to insert relates to a requirement for alcohol monitoring. This Bill was heralded in the gracious Speech as legislation that would be introduced,
That is precisely what this amendment seeks to do. It falls within the scope of the Bill as it would give the courts additional powers regarding alcohol-related behaviour and complements police and licensing authorities' powers. It is consistent with the objectives of the legislation by ensuring that alcohol-related violence is tackled at the point of sale and supply, and by changing behaviour related to alcohol and crime through clearer punishments. The Mayor of London, with whose office these amendments have been prepared, wants to trial a compulsory sobriety scheme in the capital. This amendment would introduce a new clause to allow the introduction of a new sentencing power: the alcohol monitoring requirement. It would amend previous Acts, the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008.
Let me be clear that the amendments would not require the adoption of a scheme, but would simply allow authorities such as courts within the Mayor of London's region to pilot and evaluate the scheme. The alcohol monitoring requirement would give courts the power to require that an offender should abstain from alcohol and be regularly tested to ensure compliance as part of any community or custodial sentence. If the test is breached, there is a quick and coherent process of possible apprehension, which may mean a night in a police cell and reappearance in the magistrates'
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I shall try to explain why it is needed, how it will work, and how its introduction in pilots will allow the cost-efficacy models to be tested in practice. Alcohol-related anti-social behaviour and violence plagues our towns and cities, and London has disproportionate levels of these. It threatens the safety and well-being of citizens and is burning a hole in police and NHS budgets. Indeed, the Home Office recently identified that 46 per cent of police authorities find that the night-time economy now accounts for the main cause of overtime payments. In 2008-09, 8.6 crimes per 1,000 population were alcohol related, but in London the figure is 12.4 crimes, which is staggeringly high. Despite under-reporting, last year in London alcohol was flagged against 18,403 crimes of violence against the person, 3,612 incidents of criminal damage and 2,136 theft and handling offences. London has the highest rate of alcohol-related violent crimes and sexual offences in England.
Alcohol also plagues our homes, as much domestic violence is alcohol-linked. In England and Wales, almost half of all violent crime each year-almost 1 million crimes-is alcohol fuelled, costing about £8 billion to £13 billion per year overall. However, the total cost to the nation is nearer to £22 billion when all aspects are considered.
Last year, alcohol misuse cost the NHS £2.7 billion, with 70 per cent of the cost borne by the hospital sector. One in five calls to the London Ambulance Service last year were alcohol related-a total of 60,686 calls, or one every 8.5 minutes. This is a 25 per cent rise since the new licensing laws were introduced. Forty per cent of all A&E attendances are associated with alcohol misuse, but, after 10 o'clock at night, this proportion rises to more than 70 per cent and, in some parts of London, to more than 80 per cent. Many of these attendances involve people who are drunk, abuse staff, are difficult to manage and make disproportionate demands on medical, nursing and security staff at high-cost times, with care of seriously ill patients who are not alcohol fuelled being potentially compromised in the process.
In England and Wales, 319 people were treated in A&E for injuries in violence, of whom 130,000 were intoxicated at the time of injury. That was last year alone. Overall, there were 1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions in England and 54,000 in Wales. If the current trajectory is maintained, there will be 1.5 million such admissions annually by the end of the current Parliament. This is an escalating problem. On top of this, children in homes where alcohol-fuelled violence and aggression occur are at risk of ending up in care and underperform academically. They also learn the behaviours they witness. They are at greater risk of alcohol-related disorders, both medical and social, later in life.
The amendment would allow for the alcohol monitoring requirement as an additional recourse in the courts. The requirement combines rehabilitation for the individual, the potential for reductions in repeat offending and custodial sanctions. More importantly,
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A number of key principles are drawn from the original South Dakota scheme. First, the offender must undergo daily testing. Secondly, the offender must pay for their testing in some form, ideally daily or weekly as opposed to a one-off fine. Thirdly, there must be a formal process for apprehension of the offender, or something else if the terms of the programme are breached. Unlike the current system, the new and innovative rules are simple and transparent, and punishment is certain, proportionate and swift. They employ behavioural triage to reserve prison for appropriate offenders, mandate abstinence and offer treatment. In South Dakota over the past six years, 99.6 per cent of tests collected have been negative, showing a remarkable compliance with the scheme.
The three main objectives of the alcohol monitoring requirement are: first, to reduce the number of alcohol-related incidents, particularly those which are violence related, and to improve public safety, perception of safety and public well-being; secondly, to reduce the cost of alcohol-related crime to statutory services; and, thirdly, to support a long-term shift in public attitudes towards the use of alcohol by making a clear statement about the acceptability of behaviour surrounding alcohol consumption supported with clear consequences.
This is how it might work. The person is convicted of an offence that is shown to be alcohol related. In sentencing, the court will have the additional option of the compulsory sobriety scheme. At regular intervals, decided by the court-usually daily or twice daily-the offender goes to a testing point, pays for the test and is breathalysed. If there is doubt, a further test can ensue. If the person is over the limit, the suspended element of their sentence could come into play. The cost of the test could be set at an appropriate level for the individual; it will be substantially less than they would have spent on alcohol anyway and will offset the cost of testing. By each test being paid for, the financial blow to others in the home, such as children, which occurs with a one-off fine is avoided. The offender stays at home with the family and remains sober, remains in work if employed and the children in the family do not bear the cost of the offence.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am extremely interested in the noble Baroness's amendment but it addresses only half the issues. In my experience, the crimes that come about from abuse of alcohol start because there has been an abuse of drugs first. That mixture is
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In response to the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, without doubt there is a frequent link between drug taking, drinking, nicotine and a range of other addictions, including gambling. However, alcohol is on a quite different scale to drug taking. Even though drug taking is a big problem, we are talking about a scourge which afflicts many city centres throughout the whole of the country. I shall not repeat all the points that I made at Second Reading but, in addition to London, there are significant problems elsewhere. London is probably the worst of the lot but, in Brighton, in the order of 70 per cent of all admissions to A&E on Friday and Saturday nights are alcohol related. Some cases relate to substances, too, but primarily they are alcohol related. The chief medical officer down there, to whom I spoke last week, said that they were spending in the order of £100 million a year in the Brighton area in dealing with the problems which arise. We have to give careful consideration to the views put before us in these amendments.
Alcohol leads to problems with public disorder, drinking and driving-on which there will be amendments later-and, in particular, domestic violence. I recall particularly the Home Secretary's statement last summer when she made it clear in a speech to the Women's Aid conference that the Government's ambition is nothing less than ending all forms of violence against women and girls. I see an opportunity in the amendment to address issues involving other related topics, particularly violence against women.
I declare an interest as a patron of the Everyman Trust, which endeavours to provide counselling for men-it is mainly men but there are one or two women-who are involved with violence within their families. They come to us because they want to stop being violent. They have a self-awareness of their problem but they do not how to resolve it. In debates in the House, the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, has been involved in encouraging us to try to expand the activities of the organisation.
If we can get these amendments through I can see a further opportunity arising. If the Government were to cast their eyes over wider fronts they would see chances-particularly given their concept of the big society-to pull in a range of people to assist with those going through this monitoring scheme.
I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, is not with us today, and I hope we can all wish him a speedy recovery so that he is back with us quickly. He knows a lot about the police work undertaken in the Thames Valley and I want to mention a model developed
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AA, for those who do not know anything about it, has existed for over 60 years. It has a very strong record in helping people to recover from alcoholism and other related addictions. It has 2.5 million members in 160 countries and a reasonably high level of sobriety achieved among the participants. Most importantly, it is an organisation that provides a free service. It is entirely self-supporting and does not take a penny from any Government in any country in the world. However, along with many other voluntary organisations that I can name-like the Everyman Trust, which I just mentioned, Respect, which assists women who have problems with violence within their families and which also assists the males in those families, and also MARAC, a very well known organisation assisting women with violence-it can be linked in to these kinds of experiments if they are set up within the London area. There is a very significant opportunity here for the Government to think on a broader frame rather than simply seeing it in criminal terms.
The experiment in the Thames Valley, regrettably, has ground to a halt and has not been rolled out in other parts of NOMS or in other parts of the country. It managed to secure an award for one of the best new initiatives taken to deal with people with criminal offences linked to alcohol, but, for funding reasons, it has not been taken any further forward. I can understand in the present circumstances why there is a disinclination to start embracing other changes that may incur additional expenditure, but, balanced against that, we have to look at the costs that are incurred through abuse of alcohol over such a wide front and see whether we cannot perhaps utilise the willingness of volunteers in other organisations to help us to try to find the solution.
I suggest to the Minister, and in turn to the Home Secretary, that they give some very favourable consideration to the proposals that have been laid before the House today and that they look at some of the other activities that have been undertaken by NOMS-starting in High Wycombe and then partially rolled out-to see whether we cannot bring a number of these initiatives together. Perhaps by the time we come to Report, if the Government are willing to give favourable consideration to it, we might even look for one or two additional amendments that would pull in
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One thing that any of us who have been involved with drink and drugs knows is that to maintain recovery and sobriety, there has to be an ongoing process. If you put people in prison, get them sober in prison and then let them out through the door, the next thing is they are back on the circuit again if they are on their own. They need support and assistance on an ongoing basis. This provides an opportunity to get different solutions to the problem on the statute book and then in turn to link in to various elements within the third sector which would jump at the chance to be working with Government in providing long-term solutions for people with these problems.
Among the reasons why the High Wycombe model did not work was that it was run entirely voluntarily within that area but such a model is not in the Bill. Getting this into the Bill is very important not just for London but for those other areas that might want to pick up and run with it. It might set a model that the Government can then utilise-a new initiative for the rest of the country.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, in welcoming this initiative, both as tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and as supported and encouraged by the Mayor of London, I look forward, if this is successful, to the Boris bins where people will go for their regular breathalyser. The initiative could be one that runs. I particularly support this initiative because, as my noble friend Lord Brooke has mentioned, of its recognition of the role that alcohol plays in crime and, especially, in domestic violence.
As an Alcohol Concern report has shown, there is already clear evidence of the link between alcohol and domestic abuse and, indeed, with child protection issues. Alcohol Concern has documented how often the criminal behaviour is repeated if the alcohol abuse is not tackled. It has many examples of its clients saying, "He only hits me when he's been drinking"-and I am afraid it is mostly a he. The response of advisers such as the alcohol support workers is, "If you knew you were going to hit the person you most loved once you have drunk, do you think you'd have that first drink?". That is the problem-the fact that so many men continue to take that first drink shows how valuable an intervention aimed at offenders could be. The sobriety scheme could play an important role in this, although it is not enough on its own.
As my noble friend has just mentioned, alcohol referral schemes need to work alongside the sobriety scheme because people who have failed to tackle their misuse of alcohol are likely to need some assistance to work in parallel with this breath-testing. This may involve just a fairly brief intervention by experienced staff but I hope that the scheme would be allied to the provision of such help. Such help will depend on the provision of resources both by the Greater London Authority, if it happens there, and by the Government. It is deeply discouraging that the Department of Health has just cut by 100 per cent the funding of Alcohol Concern, the national agency on alcohol misuse which not only does the bulk of preventive work in this area
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Without Alcohol Concern and other national agencies working to ensure that help is available across London and elsewhere for such people who would enter this scheme, we risk this excellent initiative being undermined by dealing only with short-term sobriety rather than longer-term drinking problems. Nevertheless, I warmly welcome this initiative and congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, on introducing it. I look forward to seeing such a pilot, albeit one that I hope is supported with treatment for those who have failed to manage their alcohol abuse.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I, too, support this initiative introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff-so much so that I have put my name to Amendments 242 and 243. I will not detain the House for long in explaining why but, briefly, I, like everyone else, also have concerns about antisocial behaviour and crimes. They are the sorts of crimes that are often fuelled by alcohol. My interest is in how the people and communities affected by those crimes are impacted in terms of their own morale and their ambitions for themselves and their families. So when I first heard about this initiative proposed by the Mayor of London's office, it struck me as something which made sense and was worth a go. For that reason, I thought that this proposal was seriously worth considering and I wanted to support it today, not just because of what it is trying to achieve in reducing the kinds of crime that affect people's lives in a penetrating and long-term way but because the simplicity of the way it operates. As has been described in detail by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, if alcohol is found to have been the primary reason behind a crime, the offender commits to staying sober, is required to take a test twice a day for which he has to pay, and if he fails that test or does not turn up for it, then straightforward consequences occur.
The initiative has a clear aim and is simple in practice. It is inexpensive once the initial set-up costs are covered-it appears, from the information I have received, to be cost-neutral. The evidence shows that it can work; we have seen it work in the places in America where it has been in operation. For those reasons, I support and commend the amendment.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I support the amendment too, but I do not wish to repeat what has already been said in considerable detail about the effects of alcohol on the National Health Service, social services, prisons, police and the general population. I was chairman of the alcohol education centre many years ago at the Maudsley Hospital in south-east London. The problem of alcohol has not changed in its results since the 1970s; however, because of its increased availability in terms of price and outlets, it is now a much greater problem, and we see it on our streets. What I like about Amendment 242 in particular, as well as the other amendments, is that such a scheme can be piloted and evaluated. There have been many attempts to deal with the street problem of alcohol and of other
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I know that the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, is right about the drugs problem. We should not ignore that, but alcohol is different in one very important respect. It is a very powerful drug-as powerful as many others-but it is socially accepted and expected. That means that people use it without drugs; some use it with drugs but a large number of people use it without drugs and to excess.
My noble friends Lord Brooke and Lady Hayter made the point that it is a question of resources. That is the sort of thing we should build up over a period of time and why I have directed my remarks primarily to Amendment 242. When we see young people on television who are drunk in the street, you know that everyone sitting in front of their television sets is saying, "What do their parents think? What do those kids look like?". At times like that I make myself think back to how I behaved in my adolescence. I would not like to go into this in too much detail, but-and this is relevant to what the noble Viscount said-I am afraid it is recognised that it is not just a mark of masculinity for men but for women too it is a mark of femininity, in a rather unusual way. That troubles me considerably, because although we all sit in front of our televisions and ask what their parents will say, the reality is that in many cases the parents will not say anything.
That, in a sense, is the problem. If a kid comes home drunk, one would like to think that most parents will wait until they recover but the next day, or in the future, will talk long and hard to that young person about the impact of alcohol. That often does not happen. Some parents do it, which is great; that is good parenting. However, a large number do not know what to do. It does not necessarily mean that they are bad parents, but they do not know how to deal with it. Adolescence is probably the most difficult period of parenting for both parents and adolescents alike. It is a challenge beyond belief at times and it is difficult for many parents to know what to do.
Then there is the more extreme side, where the parenting is of very poor quality or virtually non-existent. In which case, you have to ask who is helping that young person to understand what is happening to them. One of the reasons I like this amendment is the piloting, the evaluating and, as my two noble friends said, the ability to lock it into other support systems. There is a very simple analogy here with speeding, believe it or not. The previous Government introduced a system whereby, below a certain speed-if you were exceeding the speed limit but were not much above it-you could be referred to a speed awareness course instead of having points put on your licence and being fined. You simply went on the speed awareness course and, rather as implied by Amendments 242 and 243, had to pay the cost of that course, which was similar to the fine itself.
The interesting thing is that many people who go on those courses are unaware that speed kills, particularly in urban areas, and is responsible for the deaths and
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I make one other point in this respect. We have learnt over the years something that we did not know in the 1970s. Some people are profoundly predisposed to becoming alcoholics and find it incredibly difficult to give up, precisely because alcohol is such a hard drug. In many ways it is more difficult to give up a drug such as alcohol, if you are totally dependent on it, than it is to give up heroin. There are parallels in that area. There is also a parallel with giving up smoking. Some people can give up smoking fairly easily. Others, because of their brain's predisposition to accept the drug nicotine, find it much harder. Precisely the same applies to alcohol. Therefore, one of the things that could happen if we did this well over a period would be the building up of expertise in recognising those people early. If you recognise a person who has a predisposition to becoming addicted to alcohol fairly early in their career, your chances of getting them off it are much better than they would be otherwise. It is very difficult to get a person who has become a dependent alcoholic off alcohol in anything like a reasonable time, and very often you will fail.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and your Lordships' House for being late. Having waited all day for licensing, it is very embarrassing to be late. I shall therefore be extremely brief.
I speak primarily to the proposed new clauses in Amendments 242 and 243. I was approached by the mayor's office. I am not entirely clear why, but I am a veteran of the passage of the Licensing Act 2003 through your Lordships' House, in which I participated heavily because for 24 years I had represented the swathe of the West End which ran from W2 in Bayswater to the far end of the EC postal district, an area in which a great deal of alcohol is consumed. I listened closely to the mayor's representatives. I agreed my support. It would be wrong, given that I did not hear the start of the debate-although I came in on the speech of my noble namesake-for me to speak at length. However, on the basis of what the mayor's
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I realise, rather bleakly, that this idea runs up against the risk of those initials, NIH: "Not invented here". However, I hope that the Government will be sufficiently open-minded to think that it is worth an experiment. I hope very much that that takes place.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: While I am on my feet, I will make one or two points before the Minister responds. The noble Viscount, Lord Astor, made an interesting point. As a number of speakers have said, we will have to come back to this from time to time during debates on this portion of the Bill. I sense around the House an acceptance that, as a society, we have not really grasped the evidence before us that there is a need now for an overarching policy on all psychoactive substances, including drugs, tobacco and alcohol. If we do not grasp that opportunity now, we will all suffer. I accept what the noble Viscount said-that in this case there will be an element of drugs-but the greater problem is that we are not dealing with this in a holistic way.
Secondly, the figures that we have heard today about how alcohol influences our society are really terrible. They are growing and getting worse, and we must do something about it. The frustration I have also heard around the Chamber is that there has not been a scheme-or schemes-that we could get behind which would really have an impact. In that sense, the sobriety scheme seems an appropriate and attractive way to go forward. We will be supportive of that if the Minister is minded to take it further. It seems to give a triple win: it reduces alcohol-related crime and disease; it reduces the costs to our public services, particularly to those of the police and health; and, most importantly, it will help to shift our culture. For those reasons, taken together, one would want to support it.
Having said that, one of the arguments used to persuade your Lordships' House was that the Mayor of London wants to introduce this as a pilot and would be giving his full support to it. Of course, that name, attached to any project, does not commend itself to this side of the House, but we will be gracious and not oppose it on this occasion.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I also support this group of amendments. When Kit Malthouse, the deputy mayor of London-for those who are not aware, he is the putative deputy MOPC for London, so clearly a person of great relevance to these discussions-first raised this matter with me, I admit to being rather cynical about it; first, for the reasons
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Given the cynicism that sometimes surrounds mayoral initiatives in London, it was interesting to note that when the measure was presented to a cross-party grouping of colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Authority, after people had got over their initial cynicism they said, "This is an idea that is worth trying. Let's see how it goes. It would certainly be worth supporting and we hope that the Government will support it as well". Therefore, we have an entirely unanimous debate in this House.
Lord Shipley: My Lords, I wish to put on record the support of my noble friend Lord Palmer for this amendment as he is not able to be here. We agree that this would be a very useful trial to undertake.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, this has been a helpful and interesting debate. I fully acknowledge the picture that was painted by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, when she explained what happens in the NHS as a result of this problem. From the Home Office perspective, we are particularly concerned about crime associated with alcohol consumption and the cost to public services overall. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Soley, will not mind when I say that I suspect that he and I are of a generation who might be described as baby boomers. Things are very different from when we were younger. That does not mean to say that I did not try alcohol. Like most people, I did and I still enjoy a drink. However, a change has occurred. There is a culture now in this country that it is acceptable to be drunk in public places. For several people to be drunk at one time is no longer regarded as shocking.
Under my new portfolio I have personal ministerial responsibility for both drug and alcohol policy. I want to try to bear down not just on what is seen as an adolescent problem but on a situation that is very different from that which pertained when I was young. Some people who hold down responsible jobs by day do not think that they have had a good time unless they get absolutely bladdered on a Friday and Saturday night. That is causing damage right across the piece. The noble Baroness mentioned the effect of that particularly on the NHS and it certainly affects crime figures as far as the Home Office is concerned. I had an emergency admittance to an A&E department at one o'clock in the morning on a Saturday and observed the chaos that was going on around me. A nurse told me that I was the only sober patient in that department. These are not unique occurrences; they happen regularly up and down the country on a Friday and Saturday night.
Baroness Browning: I hope that the noble Lord will forgive me, but I wish to make some progress. I support the underlying principles of this amendment, but I am going to have to resist its inclusion in this legislation. However, I do not rule out its possible inclusion in future legislation for the following reason. I believe that many elements of the scheme that has been suggested, which the mayor's office wants to bring forward-the so-called sobriety scheme-can be achieved without primary legislation. The Home Office will want to work with the mayor's office to trial a scheme, possibly using conditional cautions, for example, before bringing forward primary legislation. We could test the risks and costs of such a scheme while piloting something quite quickly. The difficulty with just transposing the South Dakota scheme to the UK is that we would run into a lot of difficulties, not least with the European Court of Human Rights, because the South Dakota scheme requires somebody to attend a prison when they are breathalysed; if they do not pass the breathalyser test, they are immediately imprisoned. I think that habeas corpus might come into that somewhere along the line. Imprisoning somebody without trial is not something that we tend to do in this country.
Having said that, we are clear that this measure is worth while and is something in which we want to be engaged. If, as has been mentioned around the Chamber, the trial in London can be taken forward-we can work out all the problems with it and try to overcome them-it will need primary legislation. I assure the House that the Home Office will work primarily with the Department of Health, which is taking the lead on an alcohol strategy that is due out later this year. We will work quickly and closely with that department to ensure that we gain experience from the trial. If it is successful, we will see how we can mainstream it around the country.
I should point out, because several noble Lords mentioned this-particularly the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe-that sobriety in itself does not tackle alcohol-related problems. We know that. Many offenders will require clinical treatment and support to aid their recovery. Therefore, in tandem with the pilot in London, I hope that we will look at what back-up services are needed to address the problem. It is not always the case that alcohol abuse on our streets creates crime. As has been mentioned, domestic violence can be the result of alcohol abuse behind closed doors. It is sometimes much more difficult to find the causes and solutions to that.
Therefore, we should approach this in a holistic way. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, will accept from me-she and I have worked together on mental health issues, particularly in past years-that I have a genuine interest in this issue. As a Member of Parliament for 18 years, I took a particular interest in alcohol abuse and in programmes to address it. It has often been the poor relation in terms of getting the right support. I take the point that NGOs and charities have a real role to play.
On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment. I am genuinely
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I am most grateful to the Minister, whose sincerity I believe in. I have enjoyed working with her in the past and I hope that we can work on this together. I am also grateful to all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment and the other amendments in the group. I completely recognise the need for other strategies in conjunction with this. If we look just at the evidence from South Dakota, it is worth noting that it has an 80 per cent long-term sobriety rate. There is therefore something about using the unique teachable moments, which is what Professor Touquet at St Mary's has been piloting and developing over the years in his A&E department, whereby you use the fact that the person has presented to get them to address all the problems that underlie alcohol-seeking behaviours.
I also completely agree that the culture change is shocking. I was recently in a student's room, because she was ill. A bottle of vodka was on her window sill, as was the case in the rooms of all her housemates. The birthday card by her bed from her best friend said, "Looking forward to getting drunk together". That is a complete change from the days when the Minister and I were students.
I regret that the Minister feels that this amendment cannot be made to the Bill, because I would have dearly loved to have piloted this measure in Wales. Given that I have not discussed the amendment with the Welsh Assembly Government and Ministers, I did not feel that it was appropriate to raise it earlier in the debate, but I hope that we will be able to work on this. I have a glimmer of hope that we may be able to come back to something later during the passage of the Bill. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment at this stage.
"(aa) after paragraph (a) insert-
"(aa) the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police Force, for any premises situated in the area in which that Force has jurisdiction,","
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Bradshaw, who is recovering from an operation. The noble Lord, Lord Faulkner,
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Lord De Mauley: The amendments would, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, put the British Transport Police on a par, in certain key respects, with the 43 territorial police forces in England and Wales for the purposes of the Licensing Act 2003.
On Amendment 237ZA, which would add the BTP as a responsible authority, the Licensing Act is administered by local licensing authorities, which adopt licensing strategies and take decisions that are appropriate for their respective local areas. The law requires that the responsible authorities listed in the Act are notified automatically of licensing applications, reviews and other licensing decisions that licensing authorities have to make, to enable them to make representations in relation to particular premises on the promotion of the statutory licensing objectives in the local area.
For that reason, the chief officer of police for the geographic area is a responsible authority under the Act and can make representations to the licensing authorities in respect of any licence application, variation or review. Licence applicants and holders are required to submit their applications to all responsible authorities. The Government are unwilling to add to the bureaucratic burden on businesses by adding responsible authorities unnecessarily.
The BTP is a non-geographic force with a specific, non-regional jurisdiction. It covers the transport network as a whole. It certainly has expert knowledge on alcohol-related late-night crime and disorder around transport hubs and on transport, but we believe that alcohol-related problems around transport hubs and on public transport are part of the overall picture of alcohol-related crime in an area and it is important that the response to them is properly co-ordinated.
We believe that the chief officer of police for the geographic area is the appropriate person to take an overview of the situation in that area and to channel any concerns about licensed premises, including those from the BTP, to the local authority. We are confident that the BTP has effective lines of communication with the geographic constabularies and will continue to use them to raise any issues that it has relating to licensing.
I point out that one of the important consequences of the removal of the test of vicinity from the Licensing Act 2003, which the Bill proposes and which we will debate shortly, is that it will be open for anyone, including the BTP, to make representations to the licensing authority in their own right, regardless of where they live or operate, about licence applications and variations, provided that those representations are about the likely effect of the grant or variation of the licence on the promotion of licensing objectives.
Amendment 240BA would make the BTP a relevant person for the purposes of allowing it to object to temporary events notices. Residents' associations told us that, after crime, noise was their greatest concern in relation to temporary events. We believe that extending the right to object to the environmental health authority, and allowing it and the police to object on grounds of all four licensing objectives, should provide adequate protection for residents while minimising unnecessary bureaucracy. Again, I am confident that, if the BTP has concerns about late-night crime and disorder concerning temporary events, the mechanisms already exist to channel them through established liaison procedures with territorial constabularies.
On Amendment 241MA, the main purpose of the levy is that licensed premises that sell alcohol late at night can contribute towards the resulting costs to the police. Although I recognise that the BTP must deal with late-night crime and disorder, which is often fuelled by alcohol consumption, the fact is that the geographic constabularies bear the overwhelming burden of these costs.
However, the levy clauses will allow licensing authorities to retain up to 30 per cent of the net revenue to fund services late at night, such as taxi marshals. Licensing authorities could decide, at their discretion, to give some of their retained funds to the BTP. Furthermore, we have retained the power to amend the proportions and beneficiaries of the levy in regulations, should it be effective to hand some of the funds to bodies such as the BTP. The Government have the greatest respect for the British Transport Police, which carries out a difficult task tackling crime on our transport network. However, for the reasons that I have given, I ask the noble Lord not to press his amendment.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that detailed reply, which has given us a great deal to think about. Having been asked to take up the cause of the British Transport Police, I very much hope that before Report stage it may be possible for those of us who are interested in the BTP to have a discussion about these matters to decide whether they are worth bringing forward again on Report. In that anticipation, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(e) protecting and improving public health"."
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: This amendment seeks to go back to the general duties of licensing authorities to ask why we do not add, to the specific responsibilities, the improvement of public health. Given what we have heard so far, that might be narrowed down further to
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We have already heard from many noble Lords about the problems caused by alcohol. Alcohol has been part of our culture for centuries and many people use it sensibly, although its misuse has become a serious and worsening public health problem in the United Kingdom. Misuse of alcohol, whether as chronically heavy drinking, binge drinking or even moderate drinking in inappropriate circumstances, not only poses a threat to the health and well-being of the drinker but also to family, friends, communities and wider society, through such problems as crime, anti-social behaviour and loss of productivity. It is also directly linked to a range of health issues such as high blood pressure, mental ill health, accidental injury, violence, liver disease and sexually transmitted infections. Alcohol is potentially an addictive, psycho-active substance; it is rapidly absorbed into the blood-stream and its effects on brain function, such as slow reaction times and loss of inhibition, are felt very quickly.
Alcohol misuse can widen health inequalities and worsen problems of crime, anti-social behaviour and poverty, yet youth culture-through music, fashion and the media-often links alcohol with having a good time. The alcohol industry continues to find ways of promoting alcohol as a glamorous, exciting product to the youth market. Despite codes of practice prohibiting its association with social or sexual success, the industry frequently sponsors events that will appeal to young people, such as sports and live music.
A considerable body of evidence shows that the most effective alcohol policies are those that combine measures addressed at the whole population, such as increasing prices or decreasing availability, as well as targeting groups who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, where the risk of harm may be greatest. A reduction in alcohol consumption at population level is needed, together with focused programmes aimed at specific risk groups such as young binge drinkers and older baby boomers, as we have already heard.
National policies need to support local strategies which will develop and implement a multisectoral approach to both preventing alcohol misuse and dealing with its consequences. This amendment underpins what I have said, as by adding,
with particular reference to alcohol, we would allow local agencies, local authorities and local licensing bodies to bring into play, in a much more focused way, their concern about the impact of any decisions that they take in respect of public health, which would have an impact on costs to the authority. For that reason I beg to move the amendment.
However, I end by saying that we support Amendment 244, as that is a very good example of the way in which a focus on public health might help the
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I shall speak to Amendment 244, which unashamedly originates in Wales. Its aim is to make sure that "Licensed Premises Cumulative Impact (saturation) Policies" for local authorities have teeth and apply to off-licence premises, because at the moment they do not. The problem is the rise in alcohol consumption, in particular in our city centres, to which supermarkets have greatly contributed, with cheap alcohol often being a loss leader with price promotions. Young people buy alcohol to preload before going out, so they get intoxicated even before the beginning of the evening. They then tank up again on more alcohol from these outlets, because it is far cheaper than buying it on licensed premises. The problem is what to do in our city centres. The cumulative impact saturation policies do not have statutory status; they are only guidelines, so they are not enforceable and they are easily overturned by a legal challenge from retailers. I spoke about this at Second Reading and will not go through the argument again. However, the size of the problem in city centres warrants being addressed briefly.
We know that 60 per cent of liver disease is caused by alcohol abuse. Thirty years ago, that was seen in chronic alcoholics. Now it is seen in young drinkers who kill themselves with acute pancreatitis and liver failure. Individual human tragedies are known to everyone in the NHS: the student deformed for life, the student who falls under a train, the child burnt because somebody has got intoxicated and set fire to their home, or the 14 year-old who gets drunk and pregnant at a party. We have seen them all, and there is an increasing catalogue of these disasters. The other problem is the litter and environmental damage caused by alcohol misuse. Let us not forget that Damilola Taylor was killed not with a knife but with a supermarket lager bottle that had been left in the street.
In the UK, average consumption is now a staggering 9.7 litres of neat ethanol for every man aged 45 to 64. Sadly, women are rapidly catching up, with a 30 per cent rise in the incidence of heavy drinking in the past decade. In Cardiff city centre recently, a study asked people to be voluntarily breathalysed. One in three of the men and one in six of the women had damaging blood alcohol levels. The high-risk drinking patterns are concentrated particularly in ex-industrial heartlands such as the north-east, Humber and Yorkshire, and my own home, south Wales. Alcohol misuse accounted for 1,000 deaths in Wales in 2009, and the harm costs £1 billion annually-equivalent to £770 per Welsh household. Our trends in the UK are going in the opposite direction to those of many other countries. We have a rising incidence of liver disease deaths, but in France and Italy it is falling. Consumption by teenagers in England has overtaken that of teenagers in Spain and Italy.
The amendment would introduce a provision that "Licensed Premises Cumulative Impact (saturation) Policies" should include supermarkets and other off-licence premises. It will make it clear that they are included, with the result that managers of supermarkets and other off-licence premises will not be able to argue, as they have to date, that they are not included. It will also remove the current discrimination against licensed premises such as pubs produced by the current lack of clarity. Giving the impact policy statutory status would also allow revision and monitoring of the decisions taken.
The final part of the amendment includes a provision to ban the sale of alcohol in petrol station outlets. I have had representations about this and I recognise that in these outlets, drink is often purchased to consume later, and there is no evidence of a direct link between alcohol bought on those premises and drink-driving-although it appears to give a slightly inconsistent public message in relation to driving and alcohol. However, selling alcohol sometimes makes these outlets viable. I accept that this amendment is not perfect, and it may well be that it warrants refining in relation to that last part.
However, the other parts are important because it will finally allow local authorities to take decisions, empower the voice of people at a local level and make sure that those decisions are not challenged, as happened with Sainsbury's in Cardiff by very highly paid barristers coming down from London with their managers and effectively driving a coach and horses through the guidance because it could not be enforced as it did not have statutory standing. It would also demonstrate consistency in those areas that are particularly bad hot spots of alcohol consumption, violence and crime, which are known to the local authorities in that area and would avoid inappropriately penalising rural areas where the sale of alcohol has to be managed in a different way. I commend the amendment to the House.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, my noble friend will speak to the substance of the amendments, but noble Lords may have noticed a minor flurry on these Benches when I went out to check whether there had been a reissue of the groupings and to see if I could find out just what was happening. We were not aware of the degrouping-that became clear before-nor of the grouping of the amendment to which the noble Baroness has just spoken with this amendment. I simply make a plea that if there are any further changes to the groupings in the list we are working to, noble Lords will use the informal arrangements of the House to make sure that we all end up speaking to the same group. That was in no way directed at the noble Baroness, who may have thought that this had all been sorted.
Lord Shipley: I shall speak first to Amendment 237A. It is an extremely important amendment because it defines not just the responsibility of a local council-here I declare an interest as a member of Newcastle City
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I referred to regional advisory groups on public health. One of the consequences of the abolition of government offices in England is that a range of regional structures are no longer in existence or are about to go out of existence. One of the things we are having to address at the moment is how issues of public health can be discussed and how research evaluation and good practice can be spread in a context bigger than a single local authority.
I hope that the Government might look at ways in which we can develop this general duty to protect and improve public health so that local authorities are required to work together more closely on that agenda. Reducing the consumption of alcohol, reducing the incidence of smoking, improving road safety figures and so on all apply to more than just one local authority in a given part of the country. However, this is a very important amendment and its impact should not be underestimated.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, in commenting on the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, I should perhaps explain to your Lordships my interest in this matter. In 1997, when an electorate sent me from this side of the House to the other side of the House, I founded a late-night bars business. I do not have to declare an interest any more because we sold it two years ago. It was floated on the Stock Exchange. It was a very responsible operator and I gained a certain knowledge of the industry. On the last Saturday night we operated, we had over 30,000 patrons in our various bars round the country, in Wales and Scotland as well as England. So I had a little interest in the business. We saw ourselves as encouraging drinking, but not to excess, and we did not encourage drunkenness. Indeed, the Prime Minister was on our board, so, as you can see, we were enormously respectable.
However, our biggest problem was not what happened inside our bars but what happened outside, for numerous reasons. First, supermarkets were selling tins of lager for 50p when we were selling a pint of lager for up to £5. The problem was that people arrived having had too much to drink before going out. The Government
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The other problem, I have to say, was drugs. Someone would take drugs before they came in, with the result that one or two drinks magnified the effect to the extent that they could have been drinking all night. That was the issue. The ones that ended up on the street might have looked drunk but the reason behind it was a combination of drink and drugs. That is important, and that is why in the interest of public health you must bring in the whole thing; you cannot lose one and not the other. That is why I think the amendment is extremely interesting.
I would say in defence of bars that in the cities we operated in we had a very good relationship with the local authorities and with the police. We found that if there were no facilities for young people in cities, the problems were even worse because they had nowhere to go. They would go to the supermarket or the garage, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, would say, buy alcohol and end up being on the street, or wherever, causing a much greater problem than if it was properly regulated.
I do hope that your Lordships will think that drinking is not bad if it is properly regulated and properly organised. I recognise that my grandmother, who was the first woman to sit in another place, campaigned for 30 years against drink being sold. However, on her 80th birthday we persuaded her that Dubonnet was non-alcoholic and she drank away. I hope in that spirit your Lordships will see that drink in moderation can be quite a good thing.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I, too, share the view that alcohol is not a bad thing and that done responsibly it is good. I also do not take the view, although I know the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, did not touch on it, that advertising is not the major problem it is sometimes made out to be. It is more complex than that.
I support these amendments particularly because of proposed subsection (2) in Amendment 244, which is quite an interesting idea as it would enable a local authority to focus on a growing problem in that area. I obviously do not want to rehearse the previous debate. I simply say to the Minister, who has become even more of a friend of mine now that she thinks I am a baby boomer, that in fact I am so pre-baby boomer that I am pre-war. But I like the idea, so I am with her on that.
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