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Clause 127(4) currently prohibits the licensing authority from applying the levy as it is currently stated in only parts of its area. Removing that provision and inserting the words of the amendment into subsection (2) would allow licensing authorities to designate a particular town or city centre within its control as being liable for the late-night levy rather than being totally broad brush in its approach.
A large number of trade organisations are particularly concerned about the untargeted nature of the proposed late-night levy. Community pubs in particular will be affected by a requirement which is really designed to address the cost of policing in towns and city centres. The power can be applied across a licensing authority district only as a whole, rather than to a specific area. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee said in Committee,
"There is a problem about the scale and extent to which in any authority it would be sufficiently worth while for the licensing authority to introduce a local levy of this type ... Is it really fair for a village shopkeeper to pay for reducing disorder that they could not possibly have caused?".-[Official Report, 16/6/11; col. 940-1.]
The Government justify this measure on the basis that the easiest and most effective way in which to deal with the issue is to go for the whole council route, because it is viewed as less bureaucratic, and the levy must not only raise sufficient amounts but must be attractive to the licensing authority by being simple to introduce. I disagree. Unless amended in the way I suggest, the levy will be seen as manifestly unfair by those licensees who are not trading in city centres. I hope that the Government will reconsider.
As for the exemptions to the late-night levy, I dealt with this to some degree in the discussion on exemptions to early morning alcohol restriction orders. I seek very similar assurances from the Government so that well-run businesses can qualify for an exemption according to premises type and are not penalised by the provisions of the late-night levy. I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, mentioned the example of a small jazz club that could be unduly penalised in these circumstances. I would not wish to see other venues, particularly those that host live music, being penalised in the same way. I hope that the Minister can give me similar assurances about the nature of the consultation, the types of exemption that will be available from the late-night levy and the premises that will be eligible for discounts under it.
Amendment 306ZB is really designed to probe the Government's reasons for giving discretion to licensing authorities under Clause 127 as to whether to grant exemptions or discounts for the late-night levy, but not for the early morning alcohol restriction orders. Why are the Government making a distinction between the two? I beg to move.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I intervene extremely briefly. On the strength of my own experience in the two cities, where there is of course an enormous amount of late-night activity and in other parts of the constituency there is absolutely nothing happening at all, I would like my noble friend, to whom I was not very helpful on the last occasion, to know that on this occasion I am sympathetic to what he is saying.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I have Amendment 306ZZA in this group. On the issue of the division of the levy between the police and the local authority, at the previous stage I attempted to reverse the proportions, as provided by the Bill. This time I am suggesting a 50-50 split. I am sure that my noble friend will understand how completely reasonable that must be.
I do not doubt the costs borne by the police, but to some extent they are already taken into account in the way that their funding operates. I am concerned that the costs to local authorities, particularly as regards environmental health and some of the organisation involved in dealing with late-night activity, are not acknowledged.
I have brought this back not only to change the proportion but because of a thought that occurred to me after the previous stage. If an authority is to receive little financial benefit from the levy, it may take a decision not to impose it at all. I wonder whether the Government have considered that risk, if I may put it that way.
Lord Rosser: I will be brief. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, referred to what my noble friend Lord Stevenson of Balmacara said in Committee in respect
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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, there continues to be concern about the levy's geographic coverage emanating from a belief that the levy should be a targeted tool. We are confident that we have provided tools such as early morning alcohol restriction orders to allow licensing authorities to target specific areas with alcohol problems. Businesses profit from supplying alcohol in a safe, late-night environment, so they should contribute to the very substantial police costs incurred. If we gave a licensing authority the power to target the levy, fewer businesses would contribute.
My noble friend Lord Clement-Jones's Amendment 305B and my noble friend Lady Hamwee's Amendment 305C risk the levy failing in its objective of raising a meaningful contribution towards policing. To retain the focus on policing, I must also resist my noble friend Lady Hamwee's Amendment 306ZZA, which would reduce the proportion of the levy money after administrative expenses are deducted that goes to the police.
I hope that my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones will also agree not to press his Amendment 306ZA, with my firm reassurance that we will make regulations on exemptions and reductions. He asked specifically about rural pubs and also jazz clubs. We are currently considering the categories ahead of the consultation. Let me also reassure my noble friend that we wish to use the levy to promote participation in best practice schemes, and we will explore that further in consultation.
As regards Amendment 306ZB, we still wish to retain elements of local discretion, so we cannot accept an amendment that constrains this element of localism. Authorities should be trusted to select the right categories for their area. Many schemes are actively encouraged by licensing authorities. They are best placed to grant exemptions or reductions to those schemes that they feel are effective. On that basis, I ask that the amendment is not pressed.
Lord Clement-Jones: I thank the Minister for that reply. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, for his support. It is interesting that even in a borough such as Westminster there are cold and hot spots. By analogy, therefore, that is true of most boroughs in the country. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for his support on this matter.
I understand the rationale behind the measure-that it is essentially fundraising designed to defray the costs to the police-but the exemptions will be extremely important in these circumstances. If there is no geographical exemption, there must be a category exemption in many cases so that country pubs can be exempted and not have to pay. If this measure is going to get acceptance, it manifestly must be fairly applied. This is essentially a local tax designed to pay for policing in relation to those establishments that are open late at night. I welcome the Minister's comments
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Finally, the question that the Minister did not quite address was: why is the regime different for early morning alcohol restriction orders? It seems that while local authorities will not have so much discretion over them, they will have discretion about the late-night levy. I assume the answer to be that each is designed to achieve a particular balance in the circumstances. I take from the Minister's nods that that is indeed the essence of the matter. I also take it that as the restriction orders are more discretionary, you need less discretion about the imposition of exemptions, and that as the late-night levy is for the local authority, those exemptions will not necessarily be applied so rigorously in those circumstances. However, there is considerable concern about the imposition of the late-night levy and I very much hope that there will be strong guidance to local authorities to exempt in appropriate circumstances-we shall return to the word "appropriate" at the end of Part 2-where the merits of the case demand it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
That this House regrets that the draft Modifications to the Standard Conditions of Electricity Supply Licences disappoint the legitimate expectations of businesses who placed reliance on Government announcements as to the availability and amount of subsidy, and favours the least efficient forms of solar electricity generation.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have no interest to declare in solar energy. Indeed, I am something of a sceptic and regard the subsidies we are discussing today as
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Before the election, we, the Conservative Party, were talking in terms of extending the limits of the feed-in tariff for solar to 10 megawatts-that is, if you are to believe Friends of the Earth. Personally, I do not often do so, but I suspect that the Government are more favourable towards them. However, on 1 February 2010, the Government said that adjustments would be made to the feed-in tariff,
subject to degression in the level of feed-in tariff from 31 March 2012. The meaning of that seems plain to me: anything that you get under way before 1 April 2012 will be at the stated tariff. Fine, that was said by a previous Government, but new Governments cannot just tear up what has been said before, which is what we appear to be doing.
The result of people relying on that government statement was that serious investors who were committed to supporting the development of alternative energy throughout the UK spent money on sites, on the design of kit, on planning, on organising grid connections and in some cases on building factories to make the kit. I do not have an exact figure but the closest I can get to the amount that was invested on this basis is in the order of £50 million. That has all been burnt to a crisp by the way that this Government have decided to change the feed-in tariff. The Government ought to reflect on the effect of that on their reputation. This is something that you expect to happen in the dodgier parts of the third world, not here. It makes the Government seem frivolous and unreliable.
I understand the underlying motivation but things could have been done in a different way. The tariff could have been lowered more generally. People running little schemes, operating at household level, must be pinching themselves at the level of feed-in tariff that they have been left with. I think that they find it hard to believe how profitable they are going to be over the next few years, which is why they are keeping so silent on the subject of the order.
If we had taken the general industry advice and lowered feed-in tariffs by 25 per cent to 30 per cent overall to achieve a general lowering of the market, we would have put investors in a position where, although they were not earning the returns that they had once expected from their investments, their money would none the less have been worth something and they would have gone ahead in one way or another with their schemes. Indeed, we could have offered some transitional arrangements, looked at the people who had invested a lot of money and said, "Right, you may
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We have also missed a trick in support for the solar industry. If noble Lords look at the current statistics, they might reasonably say, "What industry?". Solar costs about 25p per kilowatt hour and the sun does not shine very much in this country, so it seems a basket case when looking at alternative technologies. DECC's levelised cost estimates for solar say that, while in 2007 its estimate was that solar would cost 51p per kilowatt hour in 2015, in 2011 it is estimating that the cost in 2015 will be 23p. The cost of solar is falling extremely fast. Partly this is due to economies of scale as other countries, such as in the Far East and Germany, go in for large-scale solar development, and partly because it is an electronic technology. In common with many such technologies, given a decent market and the application of research and development, which is happening worldwide and indeed in the UK, its costs are coming down-predictably, to my mind. If the department is as wrong now as it was four years ago, the cost of solar electricity in 2015 will actually be 10p per kilowatt hour and at that point it will have achieved grid parity, or close to it.
Solar electricity is unlike a lot of other forms of electricity generation. It is local. It replaces electricity at a retail price rather than a wholesale price. There is no requirement to build extra grid for it. There will be no equivalents of the campaigns in east Wales and other places against the vast new lines of pylons marching across the countryside to bring us our wind power because we do not need them; in fact, solar saves on grid capacity. It is much more acceptable than wind in many ways, and that surely must have a value. There is generally no difficulty in getting planning permission for solar installations and none of the opposition that you get to wind power, and one can see why: it is a much less visually and aurally offensive technology. It produces daytime electricity and so is replacing the most inefficient forms of power generation, the peak generators that are turned on only in the daytime when we hit peaks. Its profile is generally complementary with wind; we tend to have sun when the wind is not blowing and vice versa. It irons out some of the peaks that we will have in electricity generation as a result of having a substantial amount of onshore and offshore wind.
The solar electricity industry has suffered because nowhere in government does anyone have a responsibility for looking after it. You can see this from the EMR White Paper that was published a couple of days ago. There seems to be very little understanding in that document of the benefits of local generation. It seems to be written entirely from the point of view of suppliers who think in terms of large centralised electricity generation and then distribution through a grid. The interests of solar energy do not appear to have been taken into account. The potential for solar being an
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There is a lot of development going on. If we look at all the prospects and sources for renewable energy, solar is the only one where we are seeing large and consistent cost reductions. It is the only one where we are looking at an end to subsidy rather than a continuous imposition on people's electricity bills.
I get the impression that the Government have decided that our future is to be an installer of Chinese-made kit rather than to have a presence in this industry ourselves. One of the little things which convinces me of that is that they seem to be talking about a pot of money which will be available under the feed-in tariff scheme rather than continuous; in other words, at some point it will come to an end. This is fine for general builders who would be putting up these things one day and then doing something else the next, but if you are trying to build an industry, something that will add real value and jobs to the UK economy, having an episodic form of subsidy which will go through periods of unavailability is completely hopeless. All you can run on that basis is a business based on imports. We have this concentration on mini-installations-on the vanities of individual householders thinking that they are doing something for the climate by installing these vastly uneconomic things on their own roofs-rather than looking at how we can make a serious dent in our need for electricity generation by looking at things on the scale of factories or office buildings, all of which have been wiped out by the route that the Government have chosen to take.
I regret that the route that this Government have taken to achieve a laudable objective has so abused the trust that people have placed in the Government's word. They have missed the opportunities to create a new industry and instead put an imposition on the consumer which is much higher than it needs to be to achieve the level of electricity generation that we would have from solar as a result of the subsidies. I do not think that there is any going back; Governments rarely back-track on this sort of thing. I am not urging the Government to spend more money on solar. However, they should sit down with the industry and make a proper assessment, first and most urgently, of how distributed generation should work under the EMR-they have got that wrong and have an opportunity to set it right. Secondly, they should make a proper assessment of their response to the real prospect that solar will achieve grid parity within the lifetime of this Government and the next; and how, under those circumstances, we are to have in this country our share of a great new industry rather than just being importers. I beg to move.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, one of the great fallacies of this debate about the changes that the Government intend to make to the feed-in tariff scheme is how it has been characterised as being
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It has not been fully understood that feed-in tariffs are designed as a pump-primer for the industry, to get it going. They would not add significant capacity in the early years but are really a building block to get a much faster-growing industry, as we have for example seen in Germany. For the same reasons, feed-in tariffs should not be seen as a permanent subsidy. The speed, the scale and the way in which the changes have been made is hugely damaging to investor confidence across the renewables sector, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, also outlined.
The purpose of the tariffs when they were brought in by the previous Labour Government was to encourage solar as part of the energy mix that is needed in this country to help achieve energy security, to help meet our renewables targets and to open up green energy generation to businesses, communities and householders. The consultation that the Government undertook on their proposed changes could have been a real opportunity for them to work with the industry to address its concerns. However, the consultation was only six weeks long, whereas the Government code of practice states that consultations should normally last 12 weeks or longer. Furthermore, 81 per cent of respondents opposed the Government's plans and made alternative suggestions, but not a single change was made.
The consultation divided the market as being above or below 50 kilowatts, thus not only making the large-scale solar farms to which the Minister will no doubt refer unviable, but also community schemes and business and industry projects. The scheme was originally designed to incentivise projects up to 5 megawatts. The Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, has expressed his view that we do not leave our energy future to the exclusive preserve of the big six energy companies. Given the recent price hikes, I am sure that many of your Lordships would agree with that assessment. However, is the Minister aware that capping the scheme at 50 kilowatts is exactly what the energy companies lobbied for in the first place?
On the purpose of the Government's changes, when the Government announced their consultation it was clear that this was a financial decision. The Government saw that there was increased interest in large-scale solar farms, particularly at the rate at which the tariff was set and with the significant fall of around 30 per cent in capital costs. That had not been anticipated by the department's modelling, as undertaken prior to their introduction. Therefore, the Government consulted on proposals to reduce tariffs for solar developments of more than 50 kilowatts by 38 per cent to 42 per cent; for projects of more than 150 kilowatts by 50 per cent; and for projects of more than 250 kilowatts or
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I understand that the Government want to avoid oversubsidising solar power. Capital costs have fallen so that is not an unreasonable objective. It is one that the industry fully understands. However, it would be helpful if the Minister could tell us what other options were considered to address the issue. Did the noble Lord consider any other tariff rates that would have reduced the costs but not choked off investment? Given that the costs are met not by government tax and spend but by the consumer-we are mindful of the need to keep prices down for the consumer-what estimate has the Minister made of the costs to an individual household over the next 10 or 20 years? I do not mean an estimate of the costs as though there were no changes at all. Most of us agree that some change was required and any analysis must take that into account. I see him frowning at me at this point. It is quite a tall order, so I am happy for him to write to me about this. However, those answers may go some way towards understanding the Government's approach to this issue.
I have to tell the Minister that these cuts do not affect only solar farms, even by the Government's definition. They go all the way down to projects such as installations on school roofs and community projects. The impact on community energy schemes must be addressed. The Government claim that they are supportive of community energy schemes. Is the Minister aware that the Government's action, by setting the bar at 50 kilowatts, has also impacted on these schemes? For those who live in a development of flats, one where their roof is not appropriately placed, or one that is in a preservation area, the only option open to them is a community-scale solar scheme. These are much more cost-effective. I hope that this is an unintended-rather than intended-consequence, but the impact is the same.
For a typical UK small street or hamlet of, say, 60 houses, a community installation scheme would need to be of at least 150 kilowatts in scale, meaning that it would accrue support of 15p for each kilowatt hour under the proposed new tariffs. A community installation for a village of more than 90 houses would receive even less-only 8.5p per kilowatt hour-under the proposed new tariff. Solar installations of this scale do not access lowest-cost equipment. They do not benefit from economies of scale because fixed costs-development costs, connection costs, operating costs and administration costs associated with community schemes-are spread over a limited capacity. I shall read to your Lordships' House from a letter about the impact that these proposals would have had on a development that is, fortunately, already in place. The South Yorkshire Housing Association installed a 54 kilowatt photovoltaic array at a scheme providing temporary accommodation for homeless families. The letter says:
"However, under the proposed changes to the Feed-In Tariffs none of that work would have been possible ... This type of installation is not the kind of 'Solar Farm' the changes are intended to be targeting".
There is also the issue of the impact on energy supply. Small-scale renewables covered by the feed-in tariff-that is, those under 5 megawatts, as defined in the 2008 Act, although the Minister and his colleagues argued at the time for that to be increased to 10 megawatts, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, indicated-have the potential to deliver one-third of our energy use. If the scheme had not been decimated, it could have generated roughly the same amount of electricity as a nuclear power plant by 2020. Now we plan to install less solar power this decade than Germany did last year. The impact on the industry has been massive. One issue is the impact on the growth of jobs. Before the feed-in tariffs, there were 3,000 jobs in the industry. By end of last year, there were 10,000 jobs, which was anticipated to increase to 20,000 by the end of this year. A fortnight ago, the Secretary of State, Chris Huhne, said to the corporate leaders group:
There is also-the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, made this point very clearly-the issue of investor confidence. The Government's credibility on this issue has been severely damaged. As the Government's energy White Paper highlighted this week, £200 billion of investment is needed in our energy system to make it fit for the 21st century. Will the Minister address the issue of such a dramatic change on such a tight timescale, with minimal consultation, having such a destructive impact on potential future investment? Ernst & Young has set out the effects, stating that the whole investor market has been ripped up by the feed-in tariff review. Ernst & Young goes on to say:
In other words, in a mad rush to save money on this scheme we may have made every other policy designed to reach a low-carbon future a more expensive instrument. I am sorry that the noble Lord is smiling at me quite so intensely; there are many people who do not find this subject particularly amusing and are very concerned.
As regards the next steps and the lessons to be learnt from this, the full review of feed-in tariffs is an opportunity for the Government-I am trying to assist the noble Lord-to engage properly and fully with the industry as a partner and friend, not as an enemy. First, the Government need to show ambition. Instead of confining the solar industry to a cottage industry, there must be a vision of how local and decentralised energy can play a major role in creating a more open and competitive energy market and allowing these industries to grow. Both the comprehensive review of feed-in tariffs and the Government's electricity market reform plans are opportunities to do this.
Secondly, there is an opportunity to look at examples from other countries and learn from these. For example, Germany has a degression mechanism which controls volume as well as returns. These mechanisms are set to
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Thirdly, as an interim measure there is an opportunity now to ensure that this industry is not brought to a halt. Will the Minister consider the very simple measure of taking advantage of the ROC budget being underspent at present by combining the two to assist the solar and renewables industries? This situation could be turned round and provide an opportunity for the Government to create jobs and transform towns. Communities across the country could generate their own green energy and discover the joy of their meters going backwards rather than constantly forwards.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the only interest I declare is that I was a member of the campaign that persuaded the previous Government to adopt feed-in tariffs in the face of some reluctance in Whitehall. I think it was in November 2008 that my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath-a most enlightened Energy Minister-reacted positively to a Motion which had been tabled by no less a person than the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, then the Conservative spokesperson on DECC, to whose Motion was added no less a person's name than my own.
The original amendment had no limit but led to the Government proposing the 5 megawatt limit, which dealt with the majority of schemes that we had in mind to benefit from that. The terrible thing is that that policy has worked. The decision, which was welcomed at the time by the parties which became the coalition, was also welcomed by and large by the industry. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, has said, it led to plans being brought forward, investment funds being found, schemes being established and many more schemes being proposed. However, the new Government decided that they would have a review just as the policy was getting off the ground. The review took a bit of time. They then got round to announcing the new rates. The initial rates were perhaps not entirely susceptible to rational justification but provoked the desired result. As noble Lords have said, investment has been stopped in its tracks by the 70 per cent cut in the feed-in tariff subsidy provided for schemes of between 50 kilowatts and 5 megawatts.
Other noble Lords will no doubt also have received representations from firms and organisations saying that this decision stopped well advanced plans in several parts of the country. Certainly, firms in Somerset, Cornwall, Yorkshire, the West Midlands and Scotland have approached me, and all say that plans which would otherwise have come forward have been stopped in their tracks. The whole point of this policy was to bring forward such investment. It was pump-priming in the sense that it drove down the price of solar energy. According to the Government's own impact assessment, the price of solar energy came down by
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The reason why we wanted to move beyond 50 kilowatts was precisely because we were looking to semi-commercial or larger activities. For once, I cite myself, seconding the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox. We were talking about single-site operators; we were talking about farmers; we were talking about all-district heating schemes; we were talking about individual large buildings, schools, university campuses, community projects and small industrial estates. Those were exactly the sites on both the public and community side and the commercial side which we were attempting to encourage to adopt solar energy by extending the limit to 5 megawatts. The idea that it has been a distortion that the benefit has gone to farmers and industrial operators is quite wrong.
One reason we proposed that was that most such schemes would involve single-site operators who would not be that interested in the ROCs market, that ROCs were an inadequate incentive for them and that feed-in tariffs would be a much better way of mobilising that market. So it proved, as it has in other countries. Two or three days ago, I had an e-mail from one of my friends, who has no particular interest in the field, who was driving through Germany, remarking on the farms that he was visiting and passing, many of which ran on solar energy, and the solar panels on public buildings, flats and so forth. Germany has made a major investment in solar energy and, as a result, there are about 100,000 jobs in Germany in the solar and related installation industries. It was working elsewhere; it was beginning to work here; but the Government stopped it in its tracks.
I must address one other issue which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Other noble Lords will have received a representation from Which?. I have often acted as consumer champion in this House, as has the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, who proposed the policy. We have to counter that argument. It is true that the cost eventually falls on the consumer, but that is true of every proposition to try to change the energy mix. The cost of ROCs eventually falls on the consumer. The cost of CERTs eventually falls on the consumer. The cost of various other schemes has all fallen on the consumer. That is an argument not for changing one bit of the green energy incentive plan but for looking at it in its totality.
I would have understood if the Government said: "We are looking at this in the light of trying to get a more rational system whereby, instead of different forms of subsidy employing dramatically different implied prices of carbon, we get something more consistent". I would have understood if this had been part of a policy to ensure that the burden on the consumer was more fairly distributed than under the present system, which is almost a poll tax on energy consumers. That is not what is being said. The Government are not even saying that they are looking
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The Minister's colleague, Greg Barker, has spoken movingly and convincingly about his commitment to decentralised energy. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said, this is the ultimate in decentralised energy in that it is very local, does not require a huge amount of connections and can operate without a huge burden on the grid. I do not understand why the Government have done this-or perhaps I do. Within the Minister's department-which, generally speaking, I think is one of the better Whitehall departments-there was resistance even when the previous Government were trying to change the position. It took a lot of overturning. I was very grateful to my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who was able to face out that opposition. More importantly, it faced opposition from the Treasury.
I recognise that the Government are not likely to go into reverse again on a one-off, but I hope that in their assessment of the incentives for a decarbonising energy system they will seriously look at it realistically and provide for those industries where the cost can genuinely come down. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was quite right that there is a lot more scope for reducing solar energy per unit. The Government should look at a rational system for subsidising, via either the tariff or government expenditure, the acceleration of the move away from fossil fuels and carbon usage, and instead come up with a system that has the effect of what this part of their incentivisation plan was about to do-to bring forward investment that otherwise would not have happened, speed up plans and, in the solar sector, engage in very rapid installation as it is probably one of the easier and quicker forms of investment in technology in greener energy. I hope that the noble Lord and his colleagues will be able to resist any recalcitrant elements in their own department and, more particularly, the Treasury when they come to look at this again, and I strongly urge them to look at it again.
The Earl of Liverpool: My Lords, I rise briefly to register my strong support for the two Motions. I declare an interest as a director of a company that has already received planning permission to build a substantial solar farm in the south of England, but whose whole future has now been put in doubt because of the Government's decision to reduce the feed-in tariff so drastically. I simply wish to say that I agree with everything that has been said so far today on this subject, and I am very keen to hear what my noble friend the Minister will have to say by way of, I hope, reassuring me, my noble friend Lord Lucas, and the House that he will get together with the industry and try to resolve this serious difficulty. It is basically a nascent industry that has been snuffed out at birth. Having said those few words, I look forward to the Minister's response.
Lord Spicer: My Lords, I had not meant to intervene in this debate. In fact, I am breaking the habit of the past 25 years, since I was the Minister responsible for
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I just want to enter two notes of caution about what has been said. Of course, renewables and solar are a good thing-nobody doubts that-but they are also expensive, as has been admitted by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. They also require, certainly when talking about wind power, heavy extra capacity. Therefore, on capacity grounds and on price grounds above all, whatever we say about renewables-I hope that we will say positive things-we have to be realistic. One thing that worries me about the present situation is that we set targets that turn out to be unrealistic. Oil power and carbon-related fuels will be necessary. We will have to have either carbon-free coal or oil-fired power stations to a very great extent in the future. We had better recognise that, otherwise we will be another £200 billion behind in investment.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, as I have said on other occasions, I am pleased about the way in which DECC has managed to negotiate very positively with the Treasury over its budget, even in the areas of private taxation that are reflected in private energy Bills, and how the overall programme for renewables has started to move ahead. I also sympathise in many ways with the Government's priority to make sure that as many people as possible are involved in the renewables industry so that households that want to fit solar PV to their houses, or SMEs solar PV to their business premises, can do that. Both those things are positive.
Having said that, the difficulties caused to the industry by this major change in policy over a short period of time have been very great. I understand and agree with my noble friend Lord Lucas on this. As many Members of the House will know, I come from Cornwall. I represent an electoral division there that as we speak is constructing a 5 megawatt facility to make sure that it can throw the switch before midnight on 31 July. I do not know whether any electricity will flow then: presumably it will, in order to come in before the tariff changes. In Cornwall, about half a dozen sites will hit the grid before the deadline arrives.
It is clear that a very large number of investors wanted to come into this field. Some were opportunists-which is not necessarily a bad thing, because we are trying to work with the market-but there was a basis to enable a number of new renewable energy companies that genuinely held the values of decarbonising our economy to start, work and gain ground in order to be part of that decentralised electricity-generating system that so many of us in the House want to see. Those business starts and the growth of micro-businesses into medium-sized businesses can no longer happen. The amount of investment, for example to secure planning permissions, was very great.
I accept that not all the schemes should have gone ahead. Planning permissions were extremely easy to obtain because people did not object to them as they do to a number of other renewable technologies. However, now the momentum has stopped in its tracks. I very much regret that. The particular practical difficulty is that even where too many of the larger schemes
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Two days ago, as well as receiving the electrical market review, we saw the UK Renewable Energy Roadmap, which I very much welcome. On the whole it is an excellent document. However, perhaps it is illustrative that chapter 3, "Actions", names the technologies of onshore wind, offshore wind, marine energy, biomass electricity, biomass heat, ground source heat pumps and air source heat pumps-I am very pleased to see those there-and renewable energy in transport, which we sometimes forget about but which is of equal importance.
That is a very iffy assessment of solar PV. I am very aware, as we have seen today and during part of this week, that the UK is not the best country in the world for solar PV. However, there is no doubt that the technology is potentially useful. The costs are expected to come down very significantly in future. The initial FIT rate was too high and provided too great a return, but it has come down so much that it has acted as a veto on the industry. As a result, the green jobs that all of us want to see have been postponed or might not happen as they might have done.
The document goes on to say that the Government encourage solar PV on a large scale as part of the ROCs regime. Will the Minister say whether there is a way forward there for large-scale PV? The renewable obligations review is due in the next few weeks. The Government have cut out the higher FIT rates. Could they over a temporary period fix a higher ROC rate for solar PV so that we could again encourage investment in this industry? When the costs come down we can reduce the ROC rate, as we would do with any other technology.
Will the Minister tell us how many ROC schemes there are on solar PV at the moment? I do not know whether there are many. I would be interested to know what the scale of demand is at the minute. I think there is a good future for solar PV in this country. We want to encourage it for jobs and growth, and I would like it to be a larger part of the jigsaw of the renewable road map for the future.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): My Lords, I welcome this debate. It is important that we discuss these issues and get clarity on them. I hope I am going to do that in response. I have received a very good letter from the chairman of the British Photovoltaic Association in conjunction with the director of the Combined Heat and Power Association, the chief executive of the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association and the chief executive of the building council for sustainable energy. They say a number of things, including: "Those highly dependent on the previous tariff of photovoltaic levels are now few in number in comparison with the sizeable and growing industry for other parts
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The noble Baroness said that it was a very short consultation. Of course it was a short consultation because the industry wants certainty. In government, we unfortunately have to make choices. We are in a situation of rising electricity and energy prices, and we have to make choices in order to prevent that. These are the questions we asked ourselves when getting to the point of making this decision. Do we consider that at a time of rising bills we should encourage the spending of £7 billion on solar PV? Does this represent value for money? Does it have a real impact on our demand for electricity, given that it produces under 0.1 per cent of our electricity supply? Even if everything worked as planned, by 2020 it would be only as much as 0.3 per cent of our energy supply. Like the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who is so sound on all these subjects-even though I do not think he is in complete agreement with me, for a change, on this one-we asked ourselves whether we are best suited as a country, given that we need electricity in winter when we have narrow daylight hours, and whether this is the most effective way of creating electricity. Therefore, is this a core activity for the Government?
We also looked at some of the schemes that were being offered. I am sure this does not apply to my noble friend Lord Liverpool, but schemes were offering a 21.4 per cent return on investment guaranteed by government-backed FITs and were being sold to people as the greatest investment opportunity for a long time. There are many examples of that. The Government are concerned that people could be taken advantage of.
Similarly, did we think the support that we gave the schemes was fair? If you were putting up onshore wind you would get one ROC, if you were putting up offshore wind you would get two ROCs, and this feed-in tariff is the equivalent of over five ROCs. Is that fair and reasonable for the rest of the industry?
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, criticised us for frivolous and unreliable decisions worthy of a third-world country. I emphasise that this is not retrospective. It does not apply to people who have installed this. I absolutely repudiate his suggestion that this is frivolous and unreliable. To suggest that we should push on with this regardless is frivolous and unreliable, which is why we have stopped it.
What was the purpose of this particular form of electricity generation? It was for microgeneration, and microgeneration stays as is. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to covering this green and pleasant land with pylons. I totally agree that that would be an unattractive sight. However, this could have covered
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Those were the questions we asked ourselves when coming to this difficult decision, which I am absolutely convinced is the right one. This is nothing to do with the Treasury because it was the Treasury that passed the FITs in the first place. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who said that this would pump-prime the industry. The industry has been pump-primed to such an extent that it was probably getting overheated and it was time that we adjusted it. I hope that allays fears about why we are doing this.
I will deal with a few specific points before I wind up because we are running out of time. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to £50 million invested. In the overall scheme, we are saving £3 billion. That is a pretty modest figure to throw back at us. In the overall scheme of things, it is very small. I think the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, is broadly supportive of this. She may be frowning now or smiling in a minute, I am not entirely sure. Either way, she is quite right to point out that communities are very relevant to this. We do not want to have a huge impact on communities, but it has to be balanced. Of course, communities can benefit from this by adjusting their aspirations accordingly.
That probably covers most of the ground covered by the debate, apart from the question asked by my noble friend Lord Teverson about whether a review of ROCs could be considered. Obviously I am not going to prejudge the review on ROCs that we are having, but of course at any time convenient to him I am prepared to listen to him and discuss this. We are only too aware of the impact on jobs, but in focusing on the jobs we want to create by putting our shoulder behind a number of the other industries, we feel that we can achieve our very substantial aspiration on jobs.
Baroness Smith of Basildon: I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation. I can assure him that I do not agree with what he is doing, which is why I tabled the Motion today. I asked him another specific question about what options were being considered other than the two all or nothing questions that he has spoken about today. He has not answered that or my other questions. If he cannot answer today, I would be very grateful if he could write to me.
Lord Marland: My Lords, I can answer that straightaway. Let me make it clear that we considered every option. A whole magnitude of options are put forward in reviews and consultations with industry, so of course we considered other options. However, the option that was actually put to us, largely by industry, suggested that the contribution of FITs was going to be even more expensive than it is now, and I am afraid that that was an option that we were not going to embark upon.
In closing, I see no real sense in the feed-in tariff at the level that it was. We have made the right and brave decision. It is a decision to support the consumer, which is obviously a priority for the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. It saves consumers from a vast increase in bills on a form of electricity generation that is not really going to impact on the importance and size of the problem ahead of us.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his reply, except that he did not actually reply to the last questions I asked him. I would very much appreciate the opportunity to come and see him to ask them again. They are: how are we going to deal with distributed generation in the energy market review, and what plans are we making for the day when solar becomes a competitive source?
Lord Marland: I can respond to that. I do not intend to respond to questions on the broad scope of electricity generation in this debate. If the noble Lord had attended the debate on our electricity market reform Statement, or if he wishes to read the paper that was published this week, he would see how we are attempting to deal with the supply and demand side. It is a very big subject that unfortunately I do not feel I can cover now.
Lord Lucas: I am not trying to tempt my noble friend to do so. I am merely trying to tempt him to spend some of his time subsequently discussing it with me. I agree that the EMR review is an interesting paper, and I have read it with great interest. However, I think it misses the point about solar.
I will argue with my noble friend about his use of the term "not retrospective", and I suspect that my noble friend Lord Liverpool would too. If you put a lot of money into a project and the Government then produce a cut-off that makes it impossible to realise that project, while there may be a few lucky people in Cornwall, there are a lot of unlucky people elsewhere who are losing what for them is a lot of money, even if it is not for the Government. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
That this House regrets that the implementation of the draft Modifications to the Standard Conditions of Electricity Supply Licences will have a significant negative impact on the United Kingdom solar industry; further regrets that this could have a devastating impact on community energy schemes and has created uncertainty about the Government's commitment to a green energy policy; and calls on the Government to reconsider their approach to the Feed-in Tariffs, to consider a gradual taper for any changes that it
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(b) for the purpose of ascertaining whether there is alcohol in the offender's body, provide samples of such description as may be determined, at such times or in such circumstances as may (subject to the provisions of the order) be determined by the responsible officer or by the person specified as the person to whom the samples are to be provided, and
(3) A youth rehabilitation order imposing an alcohol monitoring requirement must provide that the results of any tests carried out on any samples provided by the offender to the monitoring officer in pursuance of the requirement are to be communicated to the responsible officer.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, the amendments in this group have been improved since Committee to address all the Government's criticisms. I thank the Minister for her interest in tackling the problems of alcohol in society and for discussing this scheme with me.
The amendments would allow magistrates an additional sentencing arm, that of an alcohol monitoring requirement, where offenders whose crime had been alcohol-fuelled could be referred to a compulsory alcohol sobriety scheme. Such schemes cannot happen, and therefore cannot be piloted and evaluated effectively, without primary legislation. This new sentencing power would allow courts to require an offender to abstain from alcohol and be regularly tested twice a day to demonstrate compliance as part of any sentence, with provision for how breaches should be dealt with. Alcohol recovery support would also be offered.
In Committee, the Government expressed concerns that I shall specifically address. First, they said that primary legislation was not necessary for there to be successful implementation of a pilot scheme in interested areas, such as parts of London. Primary legislation is essential. Without it, piloting such a scheme in a voluntary capacity would dilute its efficacy, not be cost effective and fail to tackle the recidivist alcohol offender. The main principles of the scheme-testing an offender regularly; making them pay for the tests, probably £1; and imposing sanctions if a test is breached-all require primary legislation.
Since Committee, the Government have proposed using a sobriety scheme in a penalty notice for disorder and conditional caution. Such a scheme might at first sight appear tougher than existing arrangements, could start immediately and might capture a few harmful drinkers into recovery, but it would not tackle the root problem. First, the offender would need to admit
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Secondly, the attendance at the scheme would be voluntary. Can we honestly expect offenders to volunteer for a scheme which is an imposition on their lives? I doubt it. The only ones who will are those who already realise they need to put time and effort into attending support and recovery schemes such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Others will chance their arm in the courts, especially where harm to another has occurred. Thirdly, a voluntary scheme will not ease bureaucratic pressures on front-line policing-quite the reverse-because the police will have to decide.
Even if a voluntary scheme worked, even if it did not increase paperwork, even if it did not lengthen custody and court procedures, primary legislation would still be needed to extend it to a full-blown compulsory scheme. Why not put in place the framework now to allow such a scheme to be piloted and, if it is successful, developed?
The alcohol monitoring scheme in the amendments is modelled on the one developed in South Dakota. The UK is not the US, but we must be open to evidence of efficacy when it comes from outside our shores because its success does not depend on administrative systems but on the way human nature responds in punishment. Those who have established similar schemes in North America have found sobriety schemes are cost effective in the long term because of their success in lowering rates of reoffending.
The second area of concern highlighted in Committee was the possibility of habeas corpus in the language used in the original amendment. This has been rectified by the clause now stating that a police constable "may arrest" rather than "must arrest" in the event of a breach. If an offender fails a breathalyser test, they will have the option to repeat it after about 20 minutes. If they have a clear and valid reason for failure, such as a family bereavement the preceding day, then no action is likely to be taken but the breach would be recorded. However, normally the person would be referred back to the magistrate for a breach of their conditions. Nathalie Lieven QC has confirmed that the wording is now completely compatible with human rights law, in particular Articles 5 and 8, and, importantly, does not breach the principle of habeas corpus.
A third concern is that the Government felt that sobriety alone will not solve the issue of crime. I am not claiming that this is a magic bullet, but the evidence from six years' experience of the schemes in the US is impressive. Since 2005, 99.6 per cent of tests collected have been negative-that is, alcohol free; 60 per cent of offenders comply fully; 30 per cent fail one test over their period of sentencing, which is, on average, four months; and the remaining 10 per cent fail two or more tests. After three years, reoffending was less than half the rate of those who were not alcohol monitored. That is a dramatic reduction in reoffending rates in the long term. If that success was replicated in a potential cancer treatment, we would be clamouring to implement it tomorrow.
Of course there are some very impressive and expensive schemes being developed to treat people with alcohol disorder, but the beauty of the sobriety scheme is that it could enhance the efficacy of such schemes and would also push those whose alcohol habit is not severe enough to be taken into a programme to address it. Treatment is effective only if the person has already recognised and taken ownership of their need to change, which is why compulsory treatment schemes have repeatedly failed. The clients are often in a pre-contemplative stage and not ready to address change.
It is also worth noting from the US that the combination of a sobriety scheme and an alcohol recovery plan had a higher success rate than treatment alone. As part of any scheme here, alcohol addiction support would be offered.
Another concern expressed in Committee was the possibility that testing for the scheme would take place in a prison environment. In the UK this would not happen. Testing points would be away from police stations and prisons. They would be set up in community buildings at transport hubs so that those on the scheme could be tested on their way to and from work more easily, enabling them to remain fully in work and living with their families. Testing would not tie up police time because lay people can be trained to do it. The testing stations do not need police officers present.
Apart from social disorder in public places, there is the horror of domestic violence and other alcohol-related crimes that take place behind close doors. Children are direct or indirect victims of that. Here, the scheme has achieved unparalleled results. In cases where children are affected, it could be a requirement for the offender to be on a 24/7 sobriety scheme and, where this is breached, the relative authority informed and the children's safety immediately reviewed-in addition to the ongoing safeguarding surveillance in place. The scheme is good for victims. We must always remember that victims have human rights, too. A scheme that decreases the number of future victims must be good for the population as a whole.
I hope noble Lords can now see that the amendments address the concerns raised in Committee. If the results here were only half as good in the Dakotas-where alcohol-related road fatalities have been cut by half-we would still be preventing 80 road deaths a year, quite apart from all the other harms in domestic violence and fights on our streets. If the sobriety scheme is a success, there is also the possibility of rolling it out into other areas of concern such as drug misuse. That has been done successfully in Hawaii.
The public are exasperated at the rising toll of people harmed by those who are inebriated. We cannot be so arrogant as to ignore evidence from an evaluated scheme in the US or so partisan that minor politics get in the way of a real way forward. Can we really tolerate a million alcohol-related arrests a year? Drinking is out of control in this country. Doing nothing about alcohol-fuelled crimes is not an option. Successive Governments have rejected minimum pricing, seem persuaded to spend millions on treatment schemes and continue with a touchingly blind faith in the alcohol deal with industry. These amendments allow a firm handling of a problem that is out of control with clear, transparent rules for the offender. I beg to move.
Lord Soley: My Lords, I strongly support this group of amendments. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and fully support her in what she said. We know how serious alcohol abuse is. We have known that for many years. At the end of the day, the difference between now and previous years is availability-in price and outlets. Clearly, it is difficult for any Government to increase price or reduce outlets dramatically. If we are not going to do that, we have to find another way of dealing with that. This amendment has real possibilities.
One thing that we ought to focus on here is the young person's side. Indeed, the only uncertainty I have about the noble Baroness's amendment is that with young people as opposed to older people there may be some desirability in giving the court an option on whether to make it subject to the agreement of the young person or compulsory. You might want to consider it being compulsory for young people if the parents are doing a fairly good job in parenting but struggle to manage the alcohol abuse of a young person who may have a predisposition to alcohol abuse because of the known genetic aspect of alcohol addiction. It may then be beneficial to have a back-up for the family if they are working with the young person. There may be a case for leaving it to the court as to whether it should be with the agreement of the young person or not.
That becomes much more difficult with adults, who tend to deny the problem much more emphatically. A young person will often admit that they got into trouble because of drinking. They will know that they have a problem. How severe that becomes depends on the support system that they have around them in terms of family and friends. We need not worry too much about the US example. I am sure it is very good but these things change culturally. The principles underlying it are what should apply.
We know that young people go out and drink heavily and consistently, over a period of time; that is the big difference from years ago, because they have the money to do it and the outlets are there and it becomes an ongoing problem. That is the time when we need to intervene and to take some action to address it. When I see very young people-and sometimes the same person on several occasions during the course of a week or two-you know that that person is already getting into deep difficulties, and you would like to intervene at that stage. Having an ability to put them on this sort of regime would be very good.
Other systems of conditional treatment have been tested and tried over many years; it is applied on mental aspects and on other issues relating to probation orders and other orders of the court. So it should not be beyond our ability to devise something specifically on alcohol abuse in cases like this. I also like very much the idea of doing it as a pilot scheme, because I would be the first to acknowledge that over the decades we have tried many things, not just with alcoholics but with other groups. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, mentioned the drug groups. We have tried many things that we thought were good ideas but which have not turned out to work as we thought they would. So I do not mind if we do this on a piloted basis, setting it up for a certain period of time.
The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, is absolutely right-and we all know it in this House-that the alcohol abuse problem is profoundly serious. The number of cases of young people, and increasingly young women at a very young age, with cirrhosis of the liver, which is one of the defining symptoms of alcohol abuse, is deeply disturbing. It is this issue of availability. If we are not going to stand up and say that we will reduce the outlet or increase the price, frankly we have to find something else. I cannot think of anything that is more effective than what is being proposed to the House today.
I have sat through sittings on this police Bill with various degrees of enthusiasm, but I have very great enthusiasm for this proposal. The House would be missing a very great opportunity if it did not back this amendment and if the Government did not give it a really good run for its money. It is a good idea and it is very likely to work. There are no guarantees in this game-we have thought that too often before-but there is a very good chance that it would work. It would be a missed opportunity if we did not put it in the Bill and give it a run. We owe it particularly to the young people in this country.
In the comments that I have just made, I do not want to include the older group of people. Of the current young group, many of them will not be able to stop drinking on their own in years to come; they will not just stop. Having in a distant past dealt with many people with severe alcohol problems, I think it is in many respects harder to get a person off alcohol abuse than it is from quite a few of the drugs available. The damage that is done to society is enormous. So I ask the Government to be generous and adventurous on this and to grab it and run.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I am very pleased to add my support to the excellent response that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has prepared to the points that arose in Committee. I was one of those who met Professor Keith Humphreys, who is the senior adviser to President Obama on drug and alcohol abuse, who gave us a very helpful presentation indeed on what they are doing in the States. They have made very good progress and are intending to roll out the programme over a much wider front, given the success that they have encountered.
On the point of different cultures, the one thing that those involved in drink and drug issues know is that they are widespread throughout countries in varying degrees. Some places have bigger problems than others, but those who have problems with drink and drugs have a common problem of approach. It behoves us that wherever we see people trying a new approach, if it is producing success and the kind of results that we have heard that this scheme is running, we should spend some time looking to see whether it can be applied in our home country.
The Americans are very progressive in many areas. They try schemes; yes, some of them fail, but they abandon those and move on. The problem I find from my experience of dealing with these issues in this country is that when we get an idea, we believe that it
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I hope that the Government will be prepared to think again on this and to be bold. The major issues which were troubling them have, I think, been answered by the noble Baroness in her response but I would underline the two points that I made previously. First, this will not work on a voluntary basis. It will work successfully on that basis in one or two areas, but then you will find that the probation officers move on and the police change. A different culture then occurs in the area where it has been successful, so it is not maintained and it disappears. This is all that we find happens when it is run purely voluntarily on an experimental basis. It needs instead to be in the Bill and to be a compulsory operation-again, on an experimental basis.
Secondly, there is a concern expressed that we might end up with more people going into jail at the end of the day. Well, some of those people will be going to jail in any event and will be costing the taxpayer an awful lot of money in the first instance. If this alternative runs, there is a chance that there will be significantly less cost to the taxpayer and to the public at large. I suggest to the Minister one way around this difficulty. Civil servants hate sunset clauses because they are seen as a mark of failure. We should be much more flexible in our approach to sunset clauses. If they are right that this will end up with more people going to jail-I do not believe that it will, and I think that most people around the House who attended these briefings do not think that-why do the Government not consider making these amendments subject to a sunset clause and bring that back at Third Reading? We can then find a way forward which would answer that problem.
I am sorry to think that my Front Bench is not going to give its full support to this venture. The Labour Party ought to be backing this. From a number of standpoints, it is a very helpful development indeed and even though our Front Bench may not be exalting my colleagues to join us in the Division Lobbies, I personally appeal very strongly indeed to the people on the Labour Benches to vote for this amendment, if we are pushed to a vote. However, I hope that is avoided and that we get a more positive response from the Minister than we have had before.
Lord Imbert: My Lords, I must declare an interest before I begin in that 50 years ago, when on night duty as a new constable on the streets of London, I found that the following morning, for weeks on end, one was standing in court with a defendant who was accused of a crime that turned out to be alcohol-related. As the Committee would expect, I have conferred with my former colleagues and, yesterday morning, I spoke to the territorial operations department of the Metropolitan Police to seek its view on this amendment. It is supportive, with one caveat: that this must be a magistrate's decision. Police must not be expected to say, "This individual committed the crime because
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Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, who is a great deal more experienced in these matters than I am. I am also at one remove in following my namesake, who spoke earlier, and who alluded to the presentation which a number of us received on Monday morning. Reference has been made to the experience of the American professor from Stanford who gave a presentation to us about his White House experience. I would add the footnote that he also holds an honorary degree from King's College London, so he is not without form on this side of the Atlantic.
Brevity is at a premium, so I shall not cover the ground that other speakers have covered. When the Minister spoke on the previous occasion in Committee, she indicated familiarity with the South Dakota experiment. I have a brief addition to make to that. Monday's presentation emphasised the experience of the three states where the problem was most severe-North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana-and did so graphically with a parallel line high on the page representing North Dakota. A line at the bottom of the page indicated the average experience in the individual states in the US. A diagonal line from the top of the left-hand corner to the bottom right showed the way that South Dakota's experience had so dramatically improved.
At the end of the presentation, I asked the professor what had been happening in the states that lay between the average figure at the bottom of the page and the experience in the Dakotas and Montana. He said that a series of them which fell in their own performance between the top and bottom lines had already also adopted the South Dakota experience, North Dakota and Montana having already done so. The most notable example of a state that had, as a result of the South Dakota experience, advanced to putting it on the statute book was California.
Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My name is attached to the amendment and I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, for tabling it. I, too, attended Monday's seminar. Also present was the Deputy Mayor of London, who was most appreciative of the scheme in that it would add to the ammunition which the authorities have in dealing with drunkenness.
I do not think that any other speaker has yet said that the issue is not about anti-drinking but is about anti-drunkenness. That is what sobriety means in this instance. I am still a councillor in the London Borough of Barnet where there is a lot of drunkenness on the streets. Not all of it is youth drunkenness, but it is drunkenness. We have tried various ways of stopping it. For instance, in the ward of Cricklewood that I represent, there is an anti-street-drinking order. That helps the police to enforce measures against drunkenness. We tried to apply the order in another area of my ward. The local authority has not supported that but the police have done so.
Although that is not specifically to do with the amendment in front of us, I mention it because I believe that those who enforce the law, whether magistrates or the police, must have as many armaments as possible to use with caution to ensure that our streets are safe and pleasant for society to live in. Too often, in the urban environment in which I live many people-not all of them young-are drunk on the streets and throw down their beer cans and bottles. Perhaps with this amendment we can help in some way. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has done us a great service because whether or not the amendment is adopted, the Government have highlighted the fact that they are aware of the problem and have said that tests will be carried out. I thank the noble Baroness for bringing the matter before us.
Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town: My Lords, I add a few words in welcoming the amendment and urging the Government to respond positively to it. When I was a magistrate, I would have loved the possibility of this rehabilitation order to monitor ongoing alcohol consumption. As the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, suggested, it is one of a range of possibilities, but to have had this in one's toolbox, as I gather the phrase is, would have been an enormous advantage.
As has been made clear, the amendment allows the magistrate this power only if alcohol caused or contributed to the offence-in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Imbert, I say that it is the magistrate who will take that decision-and if the offender has a propensity to misuse alcohol and is willing to comply with the requirement. As I argued in Committee, help with alcohol misuse should also be available but, as the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has said, we must consider the victims in assessing this possibility.
Most of what we now call domestic abuse, but when I was growing up we used to call wife-battering, is alcohol-fuelled. Violence on the streets, whether against property or against people, would undoubtedly be less without the addition of drunkenness. When are we going to do what the ordinary decent people who walk around our streets want us to do, which is to reduce alcohol-related disruption that affects their lives? That is the question that we have to answer.
As the previous speaker said, this is not anti-alcohol. Indeed, I should declare an interest that last night I was at the parliamentary beer dinner. I was very grateful that we had not reached this amendment by then. I am not against the consumption of alcohol but I am very much against the consumption of excessive amounts of it that then damages the people concerned or, in the light of this amendment, damages the life and well-being of others.
This is an enabling measure and does not require the courts to impose it. It is an opportunity for someone with the propensity to misuse alcohol in a way that damages others to have a period of sobriety-with help available, I hope-thus improving their own family lives as well as the well-being of others. I urge support for this.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, I live in the middle of one of our cities so I see the typical culture late on a Friday or Saturday night, or indeed on other
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Sometimes it is necessary for the law to take a clear stance to change culture. Drinking and driving is a prime example of that, where the law has changed the culture of how people approach the consumption of alcohol and driving to a much more responsible one. This is quite apart from the health benefits, which will be important to the noble Baroness who has moved the amendment. There is a clear case for sending a strong signal, with this or something like it, that I hope will lead to a change of culture on our streets.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I support the principal objectives of this measure. I will not repeat everything that I said in Committee, but when I first heard about the new proposal-I was also at the briefing on Monday that has been referred to-I found that the most powerful and compelling thing about it was its simplicity. It is clear in its aim and simple in its practice, and it encourages responsibility. I know that the Minister feels strongly about alcohol-related crime and takes the issue seriously, so I will want to listen carefully to her response today. The only thing that I want to highlight is that, as with any new measure put in place to tackle the issue of alcohol-related crime, the aspects of simplicity and responsibility in this proposal should be taken account of.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, this has been a useful and good discussion, repeating to some extent what we discussed in Committee but taking the debate a step further. The interesting thing about how the amendment now looks is that it has picked up a lot of the points that were made when we discussed this the first time around and tried to come up with a fresh look at some of the issues causing concern. To a greater or lesser extent, those aims have been achieved for the amendment. We should therefore consider it carefully.
At the heart of all this is a feeling that has not yet got through to some of those responsible for drafting and supporting the Bill, which is that alcohol is a drug and falls to be considered alongside cigarettes and hard drugs, and is not to be treated as a distinctive social phenomenon that we tolerate but are not concerned about unless it gets to a certain level. This came up time and again in our earlier debates, and is at the heart of what has been said today.
We know from the experience of trying to deal with this over the years and across many countries, and the number of reports that have come out, that you cannot treat any of the problems that alcohol causes in isolation from the three main strands. You have to deal with price; you have to deal with availability, in terms of the times that it is available to be purchased and used; and you have to have treatment. You cannot satisfactorily come up with a policy in this area unless you deal with all three. I think that the debates have again shown
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Availability is indeed the subject of much of the discussion of some sections of the Bill. One hopes, although it is a bit of an experiment in some cases, that questions of availability will be dealt with. We may have to come back to that in the future.
Treatment is the big black hole into which we seem to pour all our aspirations, but from which we do not receive any real solutions. I said in Committee that, looking at how society deals with alcohol-and drugs more generally-we are moving far too quickly to a penal approach. We do not think about the impact that other possible solutions might have. We do not seem to be bringing forward alternatives for consideration at a time when there are worrying consumption trends and concerns about the fact that our young people seem to be drinking stronger and stronger drinks and causing problems. Although I understood what the noble Lord, Lord Palmer, was saying about drunkenness, it plays to my concern about the effects of the pursuit, use and abuse of alcohol, which come before that rather sympathetic view of drunkenness: "He's just drunk; sorry about that". Actually, it is much worse than that because that leads on to violence, as we have heard, both in the home and outside. It leads on to car crashes, traffic incidents and other problems-and, of course, the impact on children, which we have heard about.
The figures cited initially by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, were astonishing. If that is the effect of these schemes, admittedly in different cultures and places, we are bonkers if we do not try to take account of those and get some schemes going on this. On whether this scheme is the one that we should get behind, we have our doubts. We are not necessarily going to support this in the Lobbies if it goes to a vote because we are strongly of the view that the Government's role in this matter is to remove the barriers to those who would wish to undertake pilots in this area, but not necessarily to support this particular scheme in this particular location. I will be interested to hear the Minister's response to that. Governments should not stand in the way of those who have the interest, the capacity, the funding and the structure to introduce such a plan, and we wish them well with it, if they wish to go ahead with that. It seems completely wrong for the Government to be obstructing that at this time.
The consequence of our position-and this will probably be true of the government Front Bench-is that it seems to be only the Front Benches who are against the scheme. Speeches from all around the Chamber have been supportive of it. We were discussing that on the Front Bench before I stood; we seemed to think that we were probably in the wrong on this matter. I am afraid that I do not quite see the solution to it, but we will have a further discussion after I have sat down to see if I can persuade us to move gently towards any Lobby that might be opening up before us. We will certainly encourage people to move through that Lobby, even if we cannot do so ourselves. That may feel a little strange.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: I am just trying to be honest. I shall also be honest about the Home Office. The problem here is less that this is a bad scheme, or that these schemes on the whole will not help, but that the idea that the Home Office should sponsor this is a bit silly. At heart this is a public health issue. The idea that the Home Office, which is the home of repression and locking people up-as I characterised it, although perhaps I overstated the case-should be responsible is a little like asking cats to be responsible for the welfare of the mice in their house. You cannot do it. I challenge the Minister, if the Home Office cannot get behind this, at least to remove the obstructions to this scheme getting off the ground. We would support that. The Home Office should give up responsibility for this area and pass it to the Department of Health.
Baroness Browning: The noble Lord poses many challenges to me. It might be appropriate for me to remind the House that responsibility for drug and alcohol abuse is within my ministerial brief at the Home Office. I am conscious that, in addressing this part of the Bill, I have already spoken-perhaps extensively-in Committee about my commitment. While I hear what the noble Lord says about the Department of Health, which is very important and takes the lead on alcohol, this is none the less a matter that will have to be addressed by joined-up government. As has been said by several people, not least the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, who moved this amendment, we need to look at a holistic approach.
I put on record that the Ministers in both the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice would like to see a sobriety scheme. Since we met to discuss this scheme in Committee, there have been extensive discussions at ministerial and official level with Members of this House and the office of the deputy mayor. We have tried very hard to come to some accommodation to find a scheme that works. The principle of the scheme is not in dispute.
I shall outline to the House why I must reject the amendment of-I am tempted to say "my noble friend" because we have worked closely together on so many issues in the past-the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. She made her case very strongly. She will know that I have great respect for her expertise in this area and her dedication to resolving these problems, particularly that of crime resulting from alcohol. However, I must reject these amendments.
Perhaps it will be helpful if I first reiterate what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, and others. Sobriety, in itself, will not always tackle alcohol-related offending. Many offenders will require clinical treatment and support to aid their recovery. I choose those words carefully. Mention has been made of treatment but it is the Government's intention, on both drugs and alcohol-there is often a combination of the two-that we should move on from treatment into recovery, which has to be the end goal. A lot of valuable work has gone into treatment. Nobody in any way suggests that treatment programmes are not an essential part of the journey. However, the end of the journey must now focus, for both alcohol
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Lord Soley: Surely the purpose of provisions such as these is preventive and educational, particularly for young people. I accept what the Minister is saying but treatment is rather a different ball game.
Baroness Browning: I accept what the noble Lord says on that and do not dispute it at all. I support the principle of a sobriety scheme that seeks to tackle the problems caused by alcohol-related offending-particularly by binge drinking, which can blight communities-but I must still resist these amendments. Contrary to what the noble Baroness has said, an effective and robust sobriety scheme can be implemented using existing powers. Piloting this approach will provide us with firmer evidence on which to consider the need for legislative changes such as those proposed. I believe that a scheme could be started almost immediately.
My noble friend raised a number of concerns about piloting a sobriety scheme using conditional cautions. I wish to take a moment to focus on those. A scheme based on conditional cautions which is already on the statute book is favoured by the Government. Indeed, there is already interest in some parts of the country in looking at a scheme based on conditional cautions. However, I understand that London supports the scheme put forward by the noble Baroness.
It has been suggested that conditional cautions would not allow repeat offenders to be targeted by a sobriety scheme. While serious and persistent offenders should obviously be prosecuted at court, conditional cautions can be considered where an offender has committed previous offences. For example, a pattern of alcohol-related offending which has previously resulted in an offender receiving a penalty notice for disorder, a simple caution or perhaps even being prosecuted for a low-level offence may well be appropriate for a sobriety condition as part of a conditional caution.
It has also been suggested that offenders are unlikely to consent to a sobriety condition, but I believe that many will consent when they are informed by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service that the alternative is to be prosecuted for their conduct and to face the prospect of the prosecution applying for a drinking banning order on conviction. In these circumstances I believe that very many offenders will consider that accepting a sobriety condition-which can include requirements to undergo testing, and to pay for those tests, and which has clear consequences for non-compliance-is by far the preferable option. The noble Lord, Lord Soley, talked about the educational aspect and the right reverend Prelate talked about a change of culture. As I hope I have already reassured the House, I am adamant that we will pursue a change of culture. I will not go into too much detail because I have probably said this two or three times now, but I find it unacceptable that we have a culture in this country whereby it is acceptable for people to be
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I note the changes that the noble Baroness has made to her amendments since they were previously discussed. I also note that she and the Deputy Mayor of London have received legal advice on the amendments. There were question marks over the differing legal advice that the Home Office and the Deputy Mayor of London had received, particularly around matters to do with offenders' convention rights. Although I agree that a sobriety scheme as the noble Baroness envisages it could be compatible with an offender's convention rights, I believe that any primary legislation in this area would require careful consideration about when such a scheme would be proportionate and what safeguards might be needed to ensure that a court does not impose an alcohol monitoring requirement that risks breaching an individual's human rights. This is a difficult area and one which the results of piloting conditional cautions would help to illuminate, as well as providing us with evidence of the scheme's effectiveness.
I have touched on the issue of treatment leading to recovery, which is the Government's aim. As has been mentioned, extremely serious criminal consequences can arise from alcohol abuse. It is important to distinguish between what we might euphemistically describe as binge drinking and those very serious crimes, in which I of course include domestic violence, where the way forward may well be a conviction. Whether it is associated with a conviction or not, it will require a most extensive package to address what are often the complex needs of the offender.
Two pilots are beginning in October and another four in April that will seek to address some of the more complex conditions for both drugs and alcohol. We have identified a way forward. I have already had interesting meetings with those running the two pilots beginning in October to see how they will address that. I find it extremely reassuring that the pilot schemes will address not just the addiction-whether it is drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two-but will look holistically at moving people from treatment to recovery, with all the complex needs that must be addressed. Sometimes it is not just a question of the dependency on alcohol-or alcoholism, as we might describe it, which is perhaps very different from binge drinkers who would not be clinically defined as alcoholic. When we start to look at serious crime associated with alcohol, we are dealing with alcoholism as we would understand it. That requires a lot more than just treatment. People need to be able to keep a roof over their head and to manage their relationships. It is often associated with anger management. If there is to be a movement from treatment to recovery, those aspects of the complex problem must be addressed in a structured way which will produce outcomes, not persistent reoffending.
I am not suggesting for one minute that we have got there yet. These are new schemes just being put in place and. If we were to pilot conditional cautioning, we may well learn lessons from that which result in a sobriety scheme of one kind or another being associated with this package. I am convinced that we will not address serious crime associated with alcohol or drug abuse unless we take a holistic look at what we do to move people from treatment to recovery. That requires many agencies working together with clear and practical plans to ensure that that holistic approach is taken.
Although I realise that that is not part of the noble Baroness's amendment, I wanted to reassure the House that I am sighted of the need for a package that addresses those complex cases. I have to say to her that there is very little detail in her amendments about how such cases will be dealt with in resources, cost and application to move people with those serious, complex conditions from treatment to recovery. I am not being deliberately negative about them, but if such a scheme is to work, we need to be clear in which direction we are taking it.
The Government are fully committed to finding new ways to tackle the offending caused by excess drinking and ensuring that it is dealt with effectively. Although I recognise that my noble friend and the Deputy Mayor of London seek to achieve that by the amendments before us today, I am keen that we test that proposition using existing powers available to the police and the CPS. That will provide us with a helpful means of testing and developing the principles of the approach and monitoring its impact, effectiveness and potential risks before proceeding with legislative changes. To do that, we would like to identify two or three suitable areas where there is a problem with high-volume, less serious alcohol offending. That is the type of offending that blights many town centres, as has been mentioned in the debate. That is a pragmatic way forward that allows us to put into practice the principles of the noble Baroness's amendment and begin to test the effect of a sobriety scheme to tackle alcohol-related offending.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Are the Government contemplating putting into legislation the package that the noble Baroness is talking about, or will it be run on a voluntary basis? If it is the latter, why is it not attached to what is before us now?
Baroness Browning: The sobriety scheme based on conditional cautions has all the legislative power that it needs now. I do not need to put it into this statute; there is sufficient statute to run it now. If we were to move on later to something as described by the noble Baroness, we would, as I indicated, need to pick up the results of those pilots in future legislation.
If we take forward these pilots on the basis that I have outlined to the House, it will allow us to test locally some of the more challenging elements of such a scheme, including its funding, proportionality, enforcement and impact on reoffending. Although I recognise the problem that the amendments seek to tackle and am sympathetic to their objectives, I hope that the noble Baroness will understand why I am
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: I thank the Minister for her reply. I must preface my remarks by thanking her for her sincere commitment to tackling the alcohol abuse that we see in this country. None of us who have spoken today are anti-alcohol per se; it is the problem of the outcomes of harms.
I am a clinician, and if I am to evaluate any scheme of any sort, I compare one scheme with another scheme. The conditional caution scheme that the Minister outlined will require police constables to decide whether it is an alcohol-fuelled offence and whether to offer the scheme. That is the problem and is why, as my noble friend Lord Imbert outlined, the matter should be left with the magistrates. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayter, a magistrate herself, pointed out that it does not change the status quo; it does not stop something happening but simply provides an additional arm. If there is to be a sincere comparison of the different schemes in different parts of the country, I say hooray to that-let us do proper pilots and monitor them properly.
A sunset clause was suggested in the debate but the Minister did not mention it in her reply. She has seen the amount of support around the House today for including a scheme so that it can be piloted. These are people who have committed an offence who will be sentenced anyway; they will be either incarcerated or fined, probably in addition to losing their driving licence and other things. However, if there is a massive fine it will harm the children in the family much more than the offender because of all the things they will not be able to do when the money suddenly goes out of the household. With the proposed scheme the offender will pay directly-financially and, more importantly, with their time and commitment. Recovery is crucial. As I pointed out, recovery would be attached to this. It would be offered to people and they would be supported. We have evidence-I know it is from the US, which is why I am suggesting that the scheme should be piloted here-that long-term recovery is improved when people are put through a court-directed alcohol-monitoring scheme.
Before making a final decision, will the Minister say whether, in the light of today's debate, she will consider coming back at Third Reading with a sunset clause? That would allow us to do a proper scientific study in the areas which want to use the scheme as outlined in the amendments, which requires primary legislation, in addition to the schemes which use police cautions as the Minister outlined. I need to know her response on inserting a sunset clause before we really decide where we are going.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I am sorry that I did not pick up on the point about the sunset clause. I am not able to offer the noble Baroness a change in my view on such a clause. The amendments need substantial work to make them workable from a technical and legal point of view.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for clarifying that. I have taken extensive legal advice on this. I have files of costings advice in my office. Report stage is not the appropriate time to go through this. However, we have a chance to do something different and imaginative that might provide us with a fantastic tool to help people into long-term recovery. If we close the door on it now, so be it: but I want to keep the door open. Therefore, I feel obliged to test the opinion of the House.
(a) all of the bodies which own or have responsibility for the controlled area of Parliament Square, and
(b) the metropolitan police force.
Lord Marlesford: My Lords, we now move to the Parliament Square elements of this Bill. In moving Amendment 306A and speaking to Amendment 306B, which are very much interlinked, I am trying to save the Government from themselves. We are all agreed on the need for something to be done about Parliament Square and I think we are agreed on what should be done. Parliament Square is an appropriate place to have protests but at the moment it is completely out of control as a result of the encampments. In recent weeks and months, the encampments have grown greatly. A few months ago there were only eight tents; now there are over 30. In fact, a lot of Parliament Square has been taken over not so much by protesters but by rough sleepers. Obviously something has to be done. I am not producing the final word on this but I am producing what I believe to be a much more sensible and workable solution than the one in the Government's own Bill.
We are all agreed on the need to end encampments, but I am seeking to remove Clause 147 and to replace it, in Amendment 306B, with my own clause. First, we have to look at Clause 145, which I am not in any way interfering with. It sets out provisions making the encampments illegal and sets out very clearly and in great detail how the tents and sleeping equipment should be classified. It says,
That is a perfectly sensible and very wide definition, and of course cardboard boxes could be added because people sometimes adapt them to sleep in. But in a moment we will come to what I do not like in the Bill and noble Lords will see why it is rather inappropriate, not as a definition, but because of Clause 147.
Clause 147 spells out the terms and conditions for the seizure by the police of all the items listed in Clause 145. One of the problems of Parliament Square is that it has always been the responsibility of lots of different bodies: the Greater London Authority, Westminster City Council, the Metropolitan Police, and to some extent the Highways Agency. We want one committee-I do not mind terribly how it is organised-with representatives from all the bodies so that together they can run the thing in a sensible manner. That is set out in Amendment 306A.
Amendment 306B has been tabled because I really do not think that Clause 147 is an appropriate way of doing this. The police are to be asked to seize all these things. Clause 147(4) authorises the police to,
Normally the word "seizure" is used for drugs, weapons, documents relating to serious organised crime and so forth. Are the police really to be used to seize blankets? Is there not a better way? And then what are the police to do with the things they seize? It is all laid out in Clause 147, which I wish to replace. Clause 147(5) states:
"If it is not possible to return an item under subsection (5) because the name or address of the person from whom it was seized is not known ... the item may be returned to any other person appearing to have rights in the property who has come forward to claim it, or ... if there is no such person, the item may be disposed of or destroyed at any time after the end of the period of 90 days beginning with the day on which the item was seized".
We are aware of a shortage of police. Are they really to be given the role of maintaining tents, sleeping bags, mattresses and cardboard boxes until the appropriate time and seeking, no doubt diligently, to find out who they originally belonged to and returning them to their rightful owners? I am all in favour of the laws and rights of property, but this is a rather expensive way of doing it. Is it surprising that Councillor Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster City Council, wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours explaining why the proposals in the Bill simply will not work?
I fear that the Home Office is displaying a deep angst about this matter. I can see why that has been generated because when we had the democracy village on the green bit of Parliament Square, it took almost £1 million in legal fees to remove it. It was a tremendous performance. However, once the courts had ruled, it was eventually removed with remarkably little aggravation because in general people obey the law, provided that the law is in place.
We come now to my proposal, which is much simpler. The proposed committee will run Parliament Square, helping to decide what is appropriate in terms of demonstrations and all that, and of course we all start from the presumption that demonstrations are a good thing. The committee will have the power to authorise the removal of the items set out by the Government, but that will not be done by the police. Subsection (3) of my proposed clause simply states:
I do not intend for this material to be removed by the police, but probably by Westminster City Council's refuse removal people. That is a simple, unprovocative and unconfrontational method, and in general, people do not confront those who are kind enough to remove rubbish. Although I admit that it may be necessary in the first few days for the police to be present, I believe that it will quite quickly settle down given how quickly the democracy village came to an end. If people wish to bring their tents, they will have 18 hours out of 24 in which they can have them, but, on the whole, you have a tent because you want to sleep in it. If it is going to be removed at midnight and you then have six hours without it, the chances are that you will make your sleeping arrangements in a different manner.
Lord Campbell-Savours: This is the third time that I have risen on these issues in the past month. Perhaps I may repeat a couple of sentences from the letter of the Conservative leader of Westminster City Council, so that those in the House who do not know what he said in it are quite clear in their minds when they are drawn into the Division Lobby. He states:
"The council has concerns over the current wording of the bill. Our chief concern is that protesters would simply move to other parts of the square, requiring further prolonged and costly legal action. Fundamentally, we do not believe that the bill as it currently stands would deliver a solution to the problem once and for all, and we are concerned that it will be a further example of poor legislation in this sensitive area".
Lord Tyler: My Lords, I can contribute to this debate with unaccustomed brevity, because I agree with both the contributions that have already been made. I hope that an additional reason for us all to be brief is that our noble friends on the government Front Bench have already read a great deal of the contributions that have been made, not least on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill of my noble friend Lord Marlesford but also on 10 June, when I, too, had the opportunity to put before your Lordships' House a Bill to try to deal with this particular point.
We must have a positive contribution to finding the solution to this problem. It is just not good enough to remove what is there. We need to move on; we need to move into a more positive situation where the square again becomes a genuine public space in the centre of our parliamentary democracy, with the abbey, the Supreme Court, the Treasury and Parliament all around. Our fellow citizens have a right to expect a proper, well planned solution for the future of Parliament Square.
"Our overall objective must surely be that the heart of our parliamentary democracy should be seen as such, with clear guidelines on what should be permitted and even encouraged to
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I share the view of my noble friend that we must not impose on the police another set of defective regulations which are virtually unworkable. It is improper for us as legislators to impose a responsibility on them in that respect.
I am sure that my noble friends have also seen that there is real public interest in this issue, as was evidenced by an article in the Evening Standard yesterday-although that was a classic case of picking a good day to bury good news. Even so, there is real concern among all those who visit London, whether it be fellow citizens of the United Kingdom or people from abroad, about the unfortunate mess that is currently at the heart of our democracy.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I said at its Second Reading that I commend the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, for its simplicity, its clarity and, above all, its good sense. As the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has said, Parliament Square is not an item on its own; it is part of a whole. If you see something looking like that, it reflects on the whole, and it reflects on all of us that, for years, the Houses between them have proved completely incapable of solving something apparently simple. Therefore, the public will ask, "What hope have they got of solving anything more complicated?". This House and the surrounds of Parliament are cleaned and prepared every day for the following day. The beauty of the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is that it enables the whole area, including the square, to be cleaned and prepared for every day and does not allow it to be traduced for purposes for which it is neither designed nor suitable.
Lord Cormack: My Lords, I strongly support what my noble friend Lord Marlesford has said. I took part in the Second Reading of the Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and briefly intervened on my noble friend Lord Marlesford, but I have been speaking on this issue for many years. I raised it first in the other place when the squalid encampment first appeared in Parliament Square. All noble Lords, I am sure, believe in freedom of speech and freedom for peaceful demonstration, but that is not what we are discussing; we are discussing the defacement of a world heritage site that is the centre of our parliamentary democracy. It should not be beyond the wit of the Government to come up with a solution but, sadly, the last time a Government tried-a Government from another party-they failed. They produced draconian regulations and the squalid encampment remained.
I fear that my noble friend Lord Marlesford is only too correct in pointing to the deficiencies in the Bill as it is currently before your Lordships' House: placing the duties of lost property custodians upon the Metropolitan Police is not the best way of using its all-too-depleted manpower. When my noble friend the Minister replies, I hope she will acknowledge the
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I have absolutely no desire to go into the Lobby against my noble friend the Minister, but unless she can either accept the amendment or promise to come back on Third Reading, after consultation with my noble friend Lord Marlesford and others, with a sensible and workable solution, the House will have no alternative but to express its concern in the only way that it can.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I spent a great part of my working life protecting the freedom of speech, which is one of the most important things that anyone can do in a democracy. I also vigorously resisted the thought police. I now find that I have to consider the blanket police, the cardboard box police, the sleeping bag police, and a vision of shaking people out of sleeping bags in the middle of the night and wondering whether you log them as lost or found property.
I support the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford. It is very much in the public interest that we should do something-if not what the noble Lord suggests then something closely akin to it. As has already been alluded to, we are in the cradle of democracy. I find it difficult to walk into your Lordships' House-as do many noble Lords-because of the mass of tourists who are here at the moment. Tourists flock from all parts of the world to look at us and the buildings around us, and they have to step over 20, 30 or more tents and placards. This is not only repugnant but quite unacceptable.
We should not overcomplicate matters, as the Government's Bill suggests at the moment. I am a great believer in keeping things simple. The amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is a solution which goes a long way towards the simplicity we are looking for and we should support it. As the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said, I hope the Minister will take this away and come back at Third Reading with something workable which is closely akin to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford.
My complaint is not that these demonstrations are visually offensive. People who demonstrate against the established order are not likely to be immaculate in their appearance or even, with all respect, in their conception. My problem is that these demonstrations offend the right to demonstrate. It is a very precious venue for demonstrations to occur. The imperishable rights of free speech, for which people have given their lives over the centuries in this country, should be preserved. The problem is that these demonstrations take root. They took root in the most obvious, physical
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I am all in favour of large numbers of demonstrations taking place in Parliament Square. There are lots of things in our country to demonstrate about and lots of evils to complain about. We should cherish the right to protest but I am against monopoly. This is a self-centred, self-indulgent form of monopoly that is harmful to the rights of free speech. For that reason particularly, I support the excellent amendment.
Lord Desai: My Lords, I have spoken every time that Parliament Square has come up in your Lordships' House. I rise once again, as sort of the sole defender of the unlimited right of people to demonstrate, despite all the ugliness that they might display. What I like about the proposed new clause in the noble Lord's Amendment 306B is subsection (1), which asserts that the committee will,
As I have said before in your Lordships' House, one reason why people stay overnight is that they are not quite sure that they will be allowed to come the next morning to demonstrate. Once a committee has been established and lays down the rules under which people can lawfully demonstrate-that is, between 6 am and midnight-that situation will be clarified. Then the rest of Amendment 306B will ensure what everyone else wants-tidiness in Parliament Square. I have never been a great fan of tidiness. I have seen far too many tidy parliamentary squares in various eastern European and other regimes. I much prefer untidiness. It is characteristic of democracy.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I hope that what I am about to say does not damage the reputation of the noble Lord, Lord Desai. I, too, have argued throughout for the repeal of the SOCPA provisions and for not putting anything else in their place. I have said several times that aesthetic considerations-in other words, tidying up the square-should not be given more weight than considerations based on democracy.
I have a question for the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in his response to the debate. His amendments call for a committee consisting of representatives of the various bodies. The Metropolitan Police force is mentioned and clearly Westminster City Council and the Greater London Authority would be other candidates. I do not know if there are any more. In putting these amendments forward, what response has he had from those organisations-I assume he has consulted them at some stage during all of this-to the proposals that he now puts forward for a committee that will have some powers and obviously functions?
Lord Judd: My Lords, like others I find this amendment very helpful and sensible. I make only one observation. I think perhaps that some of the language being used in support of the amendment could be interpreted in a way that is not intended. We must not inadvertently move into a culture in which we see demonstrations as a sort of tokenism, whereby people have their ration of time for demonstrating. From time to time, there will be issues on which people feel so deeply and profoundly that they will want to continue their vigil through the night and perhaps through several days. I hope that in accepting and endorsing this amendment we will not in any way associate ourselves with a view that people can have their ration of time, and that is it. But we cannot have this physical obstruction and complete spoiling of one of the richest heritages in the country.
Lord Hylton: In response to the noble Lord, Lord Judd, I say that it may be foreseen that there may be occasions on which people wish to have an all-night vigil, but that does not mean to say that they have a right to bring tents and to sleep in them.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I was approached only last night by my noble friend Lord Marlesford to ask what my views were and whether I would vote for him. I cautiously-because caution is my watchword-promised that I would come and listen to him. That is why I am here and, indeed, on my feet. I have not been approached by Westminster City Council, but all politics are local and I once represented that council in the other place, and am therefore sympathetic to it.
I have one personal footnote to make to this debate, a prior example to the body that my noble friend seeks to establish-the Paving Commission in Regent's Park, which was set up during the period of Nash to look after good order in Regent's Park. I realise that the Government might say that that is not an exact analogy, but the fact remains that the Royal Parks are another of the places in this great city where free speech is demonstrated, Hyde Park being a particular of that. The Paving Commission consisted entirely of those with a local interest, under an early-19th century statute, with two exceptions-the bailiff of the Royal Parks, who is a civil servant at the assistant secretary level; and a Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty's Treasury, which effectively means a senior government whip in the House of Commons.
I served as a commissioner for a couple of years and made a small contribution to the work of the Paving Commission by saying that it was all very well for the debates that we had in our regular monthly meetings for those who actually lived in the park, because they recognised absolutely everything that was being talked about. The bailiff of the Royal Parks to some degree and myself to a larger degree, because much of Regent's Park lay outside my constituency, were not so familiar. I made the suggestion to the head of the commission that we should have a picnic every year and that the whole commission should make a tour of the whole park. I am glad to say that that
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Therefore, having said to my noble friend last night that I would certainly listen to him, it would be churlish of me not to say that I would not listen to my noble friend the Minister. But I have to say on the basis of the debate that we have had so far that I am minded to vote with my noble friend and with Westminster City Council.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster: My Lords, I sympathise with the objectives and purposes of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, in tabling these amendments and with those who have spoken in favour of it. There are two points on the practicability of the scheme that I would like to query, which both relate to this Parliament Square committee. First, would the authorities of the Palace of Westminster be represented on it? That is just a query; I do not know what is intended. Secondly, it seems that this committee would be in almost permanent session. I wonder if that is really practicable and I would welcome comments on that before I make up my mind on how to respond in a Division.
Lord Stevenson of Balmacara: My Lords, we have had a number of opportunities to discuss the issues that have been raised this afternoon. Indeed, there will be more because while we are still waiting for Committee stages on both Private Members' Bills to come through, we have the debate today and one more opportunity on this Bill to try and resolve this. The issue itself is not difficult to encapsulate. As many people have suggested, we need some imaginative thinking about the relationship between Parliament, the abbey, the church, the public buildings and the public spaces around them that goes across the various dimensions that have been mentioned in this debate-security, access, traffic, tourism, history, heritage and, of course, the absolute requirement to ensure that demonstrations can take place.
The good thing about the amendment-indeed, it was in the Bill that we discussed last week-is that there is a laser-like focus on the two issues that we have been focusing on today. They are that we want to have a clear space within which the buildings that I mentioned can exist and the activities that we have been talking about can happen, but we also want to encourage demonstration-a very important aspect of this amendment. That far, we agree with everybody who has spoken that that is what we are trying to do but, as has been said already, the problem is that we do not seem able to solve it.
It seems to me and to our side that, as again has been mentioned, we have to be a bit careful that we do not rush into action here. That may seem odd given the number of years we have been working on it but I detect a sense of-what shall we call it?-tentism springing up. We should not do that without thinking very carefully what we are doing. As was said earlier,
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It is also rather sad, in some senses, that the extraordinary contribution to public life which Brian Haw made before his untimely death has been swept away as something that we are against, even though it is in some ways a peculiarly British way of trying to express a view by a sort of silent protest in the face of all possible opposition. With the whole establishment and everybody against it, he continued to make his point. It may not have been to everybody's liking or as effective as he might have wanted it to be but it was there, it was different and it was distinctive. We should worry if we were to squeeze it out by a rush to some form of arrangement.
We also have to be a bit careful about what is happening here. I have never been of the view that a committee is the answer to the problem that we have, and I am a bit surprised to hear other people saying it. Committees do not really solve many things. We had a rather strange intervention last week from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who said that the military would have recommended a committee in this situation. I thought that was a contradiction in terms. The other thing that we have to be careful about is that the evening round of the vehicles under Westminster City Council's jurisdiction will be picking up the tents and other materials, if the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is to be believed. That is really a form of theft, is it not? Again, we should be careful before Parliament legislates in that way. There are people who own those things and we cannot act completely without the rights involved in that.
Noble Lords will detect from what I say that I am sympathetic to what is proposed and would like to support it. The problem is that the amendment in its present form has not been subject to sufficient scrutiny. We had a little of that during Second Reading; in particular, the noble Lord, Lord Shipley, raised a number of points which he felt would improve that Bill. An important way to take forward the aims and objectives of the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is to have the Committee stage at the right time, to try to go through that Bill and improve it. Unfortunately, the timing would not fit with the present Bill. I do not know how we resolve that but I will come back to it in a minute.
However, it seems to me that there are ways in which the elements that the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, is putting forward do fit with the intentions of the Government. It would be sensible to try and bolt together the two impulses so that at Third Reading, before the Bill leaves this House, the Minister can bring forward proposals. I note that when she responded to the debate last week, she said of discussions and meetings that:
"Those are ongoing and I do not rule out the possibility of bringing forward further measures before the Bill completes its passage through this House. I do not think I can give more detail at the moment".
We on this side would like to support the intention behind the Bill. In summary, we think that provision would be better incorporated within this Bill and taken forward as one piece of legislation. However, it will need-
Lord Morgan: The noble Lord constantly says, "We on this side believe". I do not recognise his views as at all representative of me. I have been a member of the Labour Party since 1955 and I see no relation between my long-held opinions and what are supposed to be the views of our Front Bench. I think that our Front Bench should cover itself with a fig leaf of modesty.
Baroness Browning: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his amendment. Indeed, it was just two weeks ago that we had a more extensive debate on his Private Member's Bill on this subject. The Government are committed to restoring rights to non-violent protest. They are also committed to ensuring that everyone can enjoy public spaces and do not consider it acceptable for people to camp on Parliament Square. Therefore, we are taking a new approach to the square. Instead of trying to deal with the problem of encampment by criminalising and targeting protests and protestors, what we have brought forward seeks to prevent the disruptive activities that have caused concern-namely, erecting tents and staying overnight with sleeping equipment. We hope that we have done this in a targeted, proportionate and enforceable way that applies to all, not just to protestors.
I stress that the Government wholly appreciate my noble friend's intentions behind his amendments. We are in complete agreement with the need for a Parliament Square, clear of tents, that can be enjoyed by all. That of course includes those who wish to come to make their views known and to protest. We believe that that should also open up the possibility for those who may want to demonstrate in a peaceful way through all-night vigils-something that is precluded at the moment.
We wholly agree that we need the different enforcement agencies to work closely together to achieve this. We also agree that the square should be a thriving space that accommodates protests by all groups, not just a few. However, I am afraid that my noble friend's amendments will not achieve that. They risk leading to a significant escalation in confrontation and disorder, which our proposals are crafted to avoid. I cannot see how my noble friend's proposals will result in anything other than nightly stand-offs between police and council workers on the one side and on the other groups that will disregard the views of the committee that he proposes to put in place.
This is not just government hysteria or hyperbole; this is based on the experience recorded by the courts of wilful disregard for the law by groups such as Democracy Village and a determination by the present encampment to challenge both legally and confrontationally on the ground any attempt to move them or their equipment. Furthermore, even assuming that they could be moved, the net effect for those who use Parliament Square will be no different. After a nightly battle, the tents and other structures would simply be re-erected at 6 am the next day. The square would be clear only when no one was around to witness it. As I understand my noble friend's amendments, he suggests-and he repeated it in his opening remarks-that council refuse collectors should simply sweep the square at midnight and clear it of detritus. I would like to put it to my noble friend that there may be people attached to that detritus, and there would almost certainly be people inside the tents.
The Government had originally proposed that the powers to use reasonable force in enforcing our provisions should be available to authorised and trained officers of Westminster Council and the GLA. There was widespread Cross-Bench concern in the House at those enforcement powers. The Government listened and have removed those powers from the Bill. My noble friend's amendments envisage refuse collectors seizing tents and other structures. We do not think that that is appropriate, proportionate or desirable. If that were indeed their responsibility, it would certainly contribute to the nightly scuffles and punch-ups that I have alluded to.
My noble friend wants to ensure that the square becomes a thriving place for protest. The Government support these intentions and are committed to restoring rights to protest. That is why our proposals do not try to deal with the problem of encampments by restricting protest, and apply to everyone. However, my noble friend's amendments try to reintroduce the concept of authorised demonstrations, which are unique to the SOCPA provisions that we are repealing. This risks doing the opposite of my noble friend's intention; it would criminalise peaceful non-disruptive protest, and in doing so would create further cause for confrontation on the ground.
The Government are also concerned about vesting in a committee powers to authorise demonstrations and the clearance of the square without considering to whom it is answerable or accountable. There is no indication from the amendments what that process would be. As has been raised, would that committee be available 24/7 to deal with crises? Where would the funding come from? Presumably it would need a secretariat and all the other paraphernalia of an organised committee.
My noble friend has argued that it is for the Government to achieve that, but there are no powers or directions to do so under my noble friend's amendments. They do not deal with the constitution of the committee nor its accountability, policy, process, financing, appeals, complaints, reports, decision-making or, importantly, enforcement. Activity to try to manage the square has proved difficult enough when dealt with by properly
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I understand that the intention behind my noble friend's amendment is to take a more sympathetic approach than the Government's proposals. We have strived to come up with a targeted, proportionate and enforceable package of measures. I think that we have achieved that balance, and I fear that the practical consequences of these amendments would be to significantly increase confrontation. I am sure that no one in this House wants to witness nightly battles on the square, nor to be responsible for putting council workers and police where they have to engage in nightly battles, only for the structures to be resurrected the next morning.
This will require Westminster City Council, the parks authorities and the GLA to work together. I am aware of the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, read and of Westminster City Council's concerns. I have to inform him that, since he shared the letter from the city council with the House a fortnight ago, I have met the leader of the council and we take its concerns seriously.
No one thinks for one minute that this is easy-no one has found it easy before-but we believe that we have the balance right in allowing, maybe for the first time for some time, peaceful protest from a wide range of organisations so that they can go on to the square and make their views known outside the Houses of Parliament. At the same time, we are focusing on the core of the problem that has faced us for many years-the material, the tents and the sleeping bags that have caused the problem-to address them through legislation. This will be a move forward in trying to achieve the balance that we need.
Lord Campbell-Savours: I understand that the ministry has met the council leader, but in his letter he says that the Government's proposal will not work. He says that it will not fulfil the objectives set by the Government. I cannot imagine what has happened in the conversation with committees and officers of the council meeting to come to that conclusion. What happens if the Bill is enacted as the noble Baroness would want and it turns out as time passes that Westminster City Council is right and the Government are wrong?
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