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This issue has grown in modern society over the past 10 or 20 years. I do not offer any suggestion as to why that has happened. Perhaps we have, paradoxically, an anonymous society on the one hand and a society with a plethora of information in it on the other. There is certainly a growth in technology and perhaps a celebrity culture. Whether celebrity is real or imagined hardly matters; the fact that it is now possible to become the focus of someone's attention is clearly at the root of what is proposed. I believe that we need to do something to alter this very tight definition of violence. The question of whether the wording of the amendment is too prescriptive I leave for a later debate. Personally, I think that much of the legislation coming through your Lordships' House is far too prescriptive, and that in itself presents a trap. I hope that the Minister can take away the comments of this House, including my own, to examine what has been said, and perhaps we can return to this matter for further consideration on Report. I support the amendment.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I may raise two small points. They seem almost trivial in the context but they are important and, as the noble Baroness said earlier, the opportunities for this sort of discussion are limited to Committee. I appreciate that this is existing legislation in Scotland. My first point relates to proposed new subsection (4) in the amendment, which states,
My second point relates to new subsection (2) of the proposal, where it would be necessary for the course of conduct to cause "fear or alarm". Again, I wonder whether that is strong enough. What if the victim is a particularly resilient person? Should the person engaging in the conduct be able to do so because of the toughness of the victim?
Lord Sharkey: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, for tabling this amendment, whose objectives I strongly support. As noble Lords have already noted, the situation relating to stalking in England and Wales is entirely unsatisfactory. It is clear that the offence of harassment is not an effective way of dealing with the problem of stalking. It is not effective for the protection of possible victims; it is not effective for the successful prosecution of offenders; and it is not effective in the delivery of appropriate punishment for those who are found guilty.
A recent survey conducted by the members of the National Association of Probation Officers showed that the overwhelming majority of victims were in constant fear and many were physically injured. Most victims claim that there are a number of incidents before they feel they can go to the police. Often their complaints are not properly investigated, and the perpetrator's behaviour escalates over time if there is no criminal justice intervention or treatment.
It appears that stalking behaviour is simply not recognised by the majority of professionals who have to deal with the cases. Probation staff are concerned that when sentences are handed down they are often too short for rehabilitation or treatment to occur, or even to match the gravity of the offence and its effect on the lives of victims. We should not allow things to continue as they are. The suffering caused to victims is often harrowing and sometimes life-destroying.
The current methods for dealing with the problem are clearly inadequate. However, as noble Lords have pointed out, there is an obvious way forward, which is to learn from the experience in Scotland. As noble Lords have indicated, Scotland chose not to introduce a version of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997-currently the law in England and Wales-on the grounds that the Act did not transfer powers into practice. Instead, a new law, on which this amendment is based, was passed in December 2010 creating a specific offence of stalking and offences of threatening and abusive behaviour. This legislation has the support of the police, who have themselves adopted new operational guidelines to ensure proper awareness of stalking and harassment. There are clear signs of the success of this Act, even at this very early stage.
I acknowledge that the Government take this matter extremely seriously, and I know that the consultation on the issue runs until 5 February. It is important that we learn from it. Nevertheless, I urge the Minister to take account of the strong views expressed today and
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Lord Henley: My Lords, I note what my noble friend Lord Sharkey and all other noble Lords said. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Dear, who said that we should take away all the comments. My noble friend said we should look at this and not delay legislation. As he reminded us, we have a consultation that runs to 5 February. Obviously, we want to see the result of that consultation before we move much further, but I am grateful to the noble Baroness for explaining how her clause works and allowing us the opportunity to debate these matters.
As the noble Baroness will know, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary's ambition, and the Government's ambition, is nothing less than ending all forms of violence against women, including stalking. I am again grateful to my noble friend Lady Brinton for reminding us that stalking is not committed just against women and that some 20 per cent is against men. It is an offence that affects and can be devastating to many lives, and that is why we included stalking as a priority in our Call to End Violence against Women and Girls strategy published last November and why we followed it up with specific actions to tackle stalking in our action plan published this spring. It is why my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in response to a Question said:
"It is important that we take forward the work that the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice have done in looking at a proper, separate offence for stalking and recognising that there is a gap in the current law that we should fill, because there are people who are not getting the protection and help from the police that they need".-[Official Report, Commons, 23/11/11; col. 292.]
The noble Baroness is seeking to strengthen the law on stalking and, as I said, there may be a case for that, but we should remember that we have that consultation and we want to look at it in some detail. There might be a degree of unanimity about what we can do and that at a later stage of the Bill-I do not know-something might be possible. That is a matter for the future, but before I go into some of the detail about what we have at the moment and what the noble Baroness's amendment does, I think it is important to get that on the record.
I would like to make one comment that I think is relevant and to deal with the question of police training and training for others that was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and my noble friend Lady Brinton. It is important that the right attitude exists within the police and those who have to deal with these things. We recognise that in the past that was not always the case. The Home Office has been working very hard with ACPO, the Crown Prosecution Service-which is important in this-the Ministry of Justice and, equally importantly, various stalking charities to ensure that best practice guidance has been disseminated. We are trying to do that through a series of regional events to make sure that how they must deal with these matters gets down to the police at the grass roots. ACPO now thinks that 65 per cent of forces currently have officers trained in risk assessment in this area, and it hopes to get that up to all forces by the end of
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I shall go back to some detail because I would like to get this on the record so that the noble Baroness can understand where we are with the existing Act-it was possibly the first Act that the previous Government passed, with the exception of that rather pernicious Act, which I was involved with, that abolished grant-maintained schools, but we will not deal with that at the moment. Probably one of the earliest Acts they passed was the Protection from Harassment Act. That was brought into force primarily to tackle stalking, but extends to any other persistent conduct that causes another person alarm or distress.
that is punishable by a maximum of six months' imprisonment, or a fine, or both. The first limb of the amendment seeks to increase that maximum penalty to a term of imprisonment "not exceeding five years" or an unlimited fine. As my noble friend Lady Brinton made clear, imprisonment is not always necessarily the way in which these matters need to be dealt with. Again, that is something that we need to consider because a knee-jerk feeling that we just up the ante in this way is not necessarily the right way to go about it.
The Section 2 offence in the 1997 Act is designed to deal with all forms of lower-level harassment, including stalking, that do not result in the victim fearing that violence will be used against them. Because it is for that lower level, we think that the current maximum penalty is probably appropriate. The Section 2 offence needs to be viewed alongside the more serious offences of harassment, including stalking-although the word "stalking" does not come into the 1997 Act-where the victim fears violence, dealt with under Section 4 of the Act. The Section 4 offence is committed when the offender pursues a course of conduct that,
This offence is triable either way and therefore carries a significantly higher maximum sentence of up to five years' imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine. Where there is that fear of violence, a much higher penalty is available to the courts.
The amendment also seeks to replace Section 4 of the 1997 Act with a new "offence of stalking" that mirrors that in Section 39 of the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010. Although the legislation in Scotland is framed slightly differently from the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, the same stalking behaviours are criminalised. Therefore, this amendment creates an offence that is already covered by the Section 2 offence in England and Wales but which has a higher maximum sentence. As I have already said, we do not consider that to be proportionate where the conduct does not cause a person to fear that violence will be used against them on each occasion.
While the 1997 Act does not explicitly refer to stalking, it is potentially a very versatile piece of legislation and captures a wide variety of tactics employed by stalkers. It also, quite intentionally, captures other forms of harassment that have the potential to be every bit as destructive as stalking. Critically, the 1997 Act covers instances of behaviour that, taken separately, might not constitute an offence in themselves but when taken collectively form a course of conduct that can cause the victim alarm or distress. For example, a person who causes a victim to suffer harassment by loitering outside their house on one occasion but then follows them to work on another occasion could be prosecuted under the 1997 Act. They are two separate actions, neither of which is criminal, but they can be taken together. It is also possible under the existing legislation to prosecute an individual who sends e-mails or is involved in incidents on a social network site that amount to harassment of another on two or more occasions. In other words, it is possible under the 1997 Act to prosecute an individual for what is now commonly referred to as cyberstalking.
I appreciate that some campaigners believe that, simply because stalking is not specifically mentioned in the 1997 Act, practitioners do not always realise that the Act can be used to tackle stalking and fail to take the appropriate action to deal with it. This amendment would undoubtedly help to put a definition of stalking into statute. I can see that it has that advantage, and arguably that might assist in raising the profile of the legislation in relation to this very serious criminal behaviour. That is obviously a factor that we should take into account. However, I reassure the House that legislation does currently exist to cover this criminal behaviour and that, as I made clear earlier, the work that we are doing with the police and the CPS means that they have guidance on the 1997 Act, which sets out that stalking and cyberstalking are covered by the Act.
Baroness Brinton: Would my noble friend not accept that the increase in reported cases and convictions in Scotland since the introduction of the 2010 Act shows that the present guidance under the Protection from Harassment Act is insufficient?
Lord Henley: My noble friend makes a very good point and this is something we should look at. It is obviously early days for the Scottish legislation and we would obviously want to examine that. The point I am making is that it is covered by the 1997 Act; the question is whether there is sufficient awareness. Whether one should legislate just to increase awareness is another matter.
That said, as I hope I indicated in my opening remarks, the Government are committed to ensuring that we do all we can to protect victims of stalking and bring perpetrators to justice. I repeat that we introduced the consultation that has been referred to by myself and other noble Lords on 14 November to ask for views on how we can protect victims of stalking more effectively. The consultation includes a question on whether there should be a specific offence of stalking. We are keen to hear from anyone who has views or evidence in relation to this issue and will consider all submissions carefully before deciding on the next steps.
However, I hope that in light of that consultation and the work we are doing, in light of the commitment that I am making on my own behalf but also on the behalf of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, and in light of the remarks that I repeated from the Prime Minister, the noble Baroness will agree that it might be premature to go down the route of immediately bringing in her amendments, and I respectfully ask her to consider not doing so in advance of the conclusion of the consultation, which ends in early February next year. I hope that I can assure the noble Baroness that this is something that my right honourable friend is keen to act on as quickly as is appropriate.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords for this excellent if rather short debate on stalking. It is a very important debate and I pay particular tribute to the courage and honesty of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. The evidence that she gave today is deeply shocking, both in the treatment that she and her colleagues received but also the lack of support and advocacy over this whole issue. Of course, I also pay tribute to Ann Moulds in Scotland, who was mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe.
We have received mixed messages from the Minister today. He sort of expressed sympathy-indeed, he quoted the Prime Minister himself, who said that there is a gap to be filled-and in some ways he recognised that the current law is inadequate. However, when he went on to talk about the law as currently constituted, I think he was somewhat sceptical of the need for a new law. He said that the Section 4 offence-putting a person in fear of violence-was adequate. However, this is very rarely used by the police, and it is very difficult to prove it and to charge people. Sentences currently tend to be very few and far between and for a very short amount of time. In 2008, 839 people were found guilty under Section 4, but only 170 were given custodial sentences. It is clear from everything we have heard this afternoon that there is a gap in the law that needs to be filled.
I hear from all the comments around the Chamber-from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Dear-that there may be questions
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I ask the Minister to consider two options. The first is delaying the start of the Report stage, or this part of the Report stage, until we have had the responses to the consultation. The Government might then agree to do a swift turn-around of that consultation so that by the end of February, we could debate an amendment which took into consideration the results of that consultation. If the Minister is not prepared to give that assurance, I will work with noble Lords from all around the House to craft a suitable amendment to bring back on Report, which would at least take into account the evidence of the people's inquiry, which I understand will report at the beginning of January. I would then seek to bring forward an amendment on the basis of the evidence brought forward by that inquiry.
Lord Henley: I cannot give the total assurance that the noble Baroness would like to have from me, but obviously we will work in the way we normally do-with great speed, as she knows full well-to do whatever we can. All I can say is that I cannot bring forward the end of the consultation beyond 5 February. How quickly we can work after that will be another matter, but we will do what we can.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I well understand that, but I will be seeking an assurance in writing from the Minister. If we are going to have Report stage in January, I will bring forward an amendment then-
Lord Henley: The noble Baroness knows full well that Report is unlikely to be reached in January. We still have not completed the Committee stage; we are not going to complete it this side of Christmas. We still have two days of this Bill after Christmas. We then have to have a two-week gap between those two days in Committee before Report. The noble Baroness can do her maths and work out that the Report stage will not be with us for a few weeks.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I struggled with O-level maths, as is apparent. In that case, I hope that when we reach the Report stage in February, the Minister will have had an opportunity to respond to the consultation. If that is not the case, then on the basis of the other evidence which we will have had before us, I will bring forward an amendment and will certainly
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Section 9(3) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 is amended as follows-
(a) in paragraph (a) omit "or to another person at the express request of the rehabilitated person", and
(b) in paragraph (b) omit from "or to another person" to "the rehabilitated person""
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, we have just heard one of the most remarkable statements that has been made in your Lordships' House that I can remember since being here. Now it is time to move to much more ordinary amendments.
The amendments in this group are concerned with rehabilitation of offenders. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was enacted back in 1974. I have had an interest in this subject because I am, and was in 1974, a member of JUSTICE, the law reform and human rights organisation. JUSTICE supported the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, particularly through the work of Paul Sieghart, who was then its executive chairman. It managed, after a great deal of effort, to get the Act through the Houses of Parliament.
The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act gives a new chance to people who have been convicted of minor or moderate offences and have not repeated other offences during a reasonable period after their release. This gives them a better chance of getting a decent working job than if they were required to admit their offences to their prospective employers. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act has been a very obvious success in the 37 years since it was enacted. It can benefit not only potential employers but also other people as well, because ex-prisoners who are unable to obtain a decent job are more likely to revert to crime than those who can get such a job.
Unfortunately, some employers have found a way of getting access to the past record of a rehabilitated person which is technically legal but plainly contrary to the purposes of the Act. The main way in which this happens is through Section 9(3) of the Act, which allows official documents containing full records of the offence to be provided to rehabilitated criminals and also to anyone else at the specific request of the
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This was plainly not what was intended when the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act was introduced, nor was it intended at any time since. The correction of this defect is the purpose of my Amendment 71A. In the course of drafting this amendment, I have consulted the Information Commissioner's office; I have had a good deal of assistance from that office both in relation to Amendment 71A and to the other amendments in this group. I believe that an amendment to the Protection of Freedoms Bill with the aim of my Amendment 71A would help the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act to continue its work which has, as I said, been very successful.
Turning to the other amendments in my name, I can quickly get away from Amendment 76B, which turns out to be out of date. I believe its objective has already been dealt with and it would not, in any event, have furthered my objective. My aim in Amendment 84, as in Amendment 71A, is to protect rehabilitated offenders from other circumstances in which their criminal record might be disclosed in circumstances which do not require disclosure. The legislation involved in Amendment 84 involves not only this Bill and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act but also significant amendments to the Police Act 1997 and the Data Protection Act 1998.
Clause 84, which accidentally has the same number as my Amendment 84, changes the numbering but not the operation of the Data Protection Act. It is fair to say that Chapter 2 of Part 5, which will improve Clause 84, improves the situation of rehabilitated persons. However, there is one matter in which further improvement should be made, which concerns Section 112 of the Police Act 1997. The Police Act contains provisions that might make possible delay in the commencement of Section 112 of that Act. This possibility continues under Clause 84 as it now stands. It would however be for the benefit of rehabilitation to bring Section 112 of the Police Act into action. This is made clear in a document published by the Information Commissioner's Office on the same subject as that of Clause 84, which was circulated since the Bill has come to the House of Lords.
"The commencement of section 112 of the Police Act 1997 would be welcome. The Commissioner would also continue to stress the importance of introducing an offence of Enforced Subject Access under section 56 of the Data Protection Act as a matter of urgency. The opportunity to introduce these important and long over due measures should not be missed".
The form of Amendment 84 may need alteration. Certainly, it would require reconsideration because I had to deal with my amendments extremely quickly and they may not yet be correctly worded. But it is
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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Goodhart for providing the context and thinking behind his amendments. First, I will focus on Amendment 84, which would require that Section 56 of the Data Protection Act 1998 be commenced at most six months after this Bill becomes law, rather than, as now, no earlier than the commencement of various sections of the Police Act 1997.
As my noble friend has indicated, Section 56 of the Data Protection Act makes illegal what is referred to as "enforced subject access"; that is, when someone, in connection with employment or the provision of goods and services, requires a person or a third party to provide them with information about that person's convictions, which they will have obtained through a subject access request. This means that if the subject of the request has convictions, they are able to obtain all the information that is held by the police themselves, thus making them the subject of the request. This would be made most likely to the police under Section 7 of the Data Protection Act. This loophole allows employers to circumvent the safeguards in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and in the criminal records regime to find out details of somebody's spent convictions.
I agree with my noble friend that enforced subject access is wrong because it allows employers potentially to coerce employees and hinders the rehabilitation of offenders. Section 75 of the Data Protection Act provides that Section 56 of that Act is commenced only once certain sections of the Police Act, including Section 112, are in force. Section 112 of the Police Act makes provision for "basic" criminal record checks which provide details of any unspent convictions. If the section in the Data Protection Act, if it was commenced, would make it illegal for an employer to make an enforced subject access request, Section 112 of the Police Act makes provision for a basic criminal record check. An employer has another legal and legitimate route to find out information about unspent convictions only. He would be provided with information of unspent convictions and not full access to information which may not be relevant.
While Section 112 is in force in Scotland and Northern Ireland, it has not been commenced in England and Wales. The issue is when we introduce basic checks. Noble Lords may have seen the Written Ministerial Statement published this morning in relation to the Government's response to Mrs Sunita Mason's review of the criminal records regime. Mrs Mason recommended the introduction of basic checks by the Criminal Records Bureau in England and Wales. As our response to her makes clear, we accept the principle that basic checks should be introduced in England and Wales, but we do not plan to do so through the Criminal Records Bureau at the present time. We are, however, minded to introduce basic certificates in step with the establishment of the Disclosure and Barring Service, but further work is needed on the implications of doing so.
Meanwhile, some individuals already approach Disclosure Scotland for basic certificates and we are discussing the provision of a full service for all those working in England and Wales through Disclosure Scotland while the long-term position is considered. For these reasons it would not be feasible to introduce basic checks through the Criminal Records Bureau to the timetable set out in Amendment 84 in the name of my noble friend. That said, the question of enforced subject access and the commencement of Section 56 is one to which we will return in the context of our discussions with Disclosure Scotland flowing from Sunita Mason's review. I hope that what I have said provides some reassurance to my noble friend and encourages him not to press his Amendment 84.
As my noble friend has explained, Amendment 71A would amend Section 9 of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Section 9 makes it an offence for a public official to disclose information on spent convictions other than in the course of their public duties. They may do so only to the rehabilitated person or someone whom they reasonably believe to be the rehabilitated person, or to a third party to whom that person expressly requests them to make that disclosure. The noble Lord's amendments would remove the capacity to disclose the information to a third party. From his explanation today, I understand that the intention behind the amendment is further to safeguard against enforced subject access. However, there are likely to be situations where a person may, quite legitimately and consensually, ask that details of their spent convictions be passed to a third party; for example, a minor requesting disclosure to their parent or guardian or an elderly person requesting disclosure to their carer. We therefore believe that the better approach is simply to commence Section 56 of the Data Protection Act at the appropriate time.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, what the noble Baroness has said is certainly a move in the right direction and that pleases me considerably. I hope that developments of the kind she has suggested will be brought about and that that will be done without undue delay. This is a serious problem, as the statement made by the Information Commission has shown, so I hope that things will go forward. I will withdraw the amendment but I will bring it back again at the Report stage if there is any reason to believe that there is undue delay or a backward movement in what is proposed.
(1) The Secretary of State must, in response to a request from a person who is acting as the registered person in relation to an application under section 113A or 113B, inform that person whether or not a certificate has been issued in response to the application.
(3) In the case of a certificate under section 113A, if it was a certificate stating that there is no relevant matter recorded in central records, the Secretary of State may inform the person who made the request that the certificate was such a certificate.
(a) stating that there is no relevant matter recorded in central records and no information provided in accordance with subsection (4) of that section, and
(b) if section 113BA(1) or 113BB(1) applies to the certificate, containing no suitability information indicating that the person to whom the certificate is issued-
(i) is barred from regulated activity relating to children or to vulnerable adults, or
(ii) is subject to a direction under section 128 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 or section 167A of the Education Act 2002,
the Secretary of State may inform the person who made the request that the certificate was such a certificate.
(5) If no certificate has been issued, the Secretary of State must inform the person who made the request of such other matters relating to the processing of the application as the Secretary of State considers appropriate.
(6) Subject to subsections (2) to (4), nothing in this section permits the Secretary of State to inform a person who is acting as the registered person in relation to an application under section 113A or 113B of the content of any certificate issued in response to the application.
Lord Henley: My Lords, in moving Amendment 73 I shall speak also to Amendment 82. Within this group we shall also consider Amendment 75, tabled by my noble friend Lord Addington, and Amendment 75A, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, and others. It might assist the Committee if I first set out what Clause 79 intends to do before speaking to the government amendments in this group, as this is the first amendment in Chapter 2 of Part 5 of the Bill.
At present, a criminal record certificate is simultaneously sent to the individual applicant and to the registered body that countersigned the application, for example an employer or sports governing body. This means that the employer or voluntary organisation gets to see any conviction or other information included on a certificate before the individual applicant has an opportunity to contest the accuracy of any conviction information or the accuracy or relevance of any non-conviction information. The Government's independent
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Some sports governing bodies and voluntary organisations, such as Girlguiding UK, have expressed concern about the impact of this change on their recruitment processes. I was able to hear about these concerns at first hand when I met a delegation of bodies referred to in the first amendment led by my noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint, and I know that yesterday she had further meetings of a constructive nature with officials in my department. I can assure your Lordships that in implementing this change, we want to minimise any disruptive effect it may have on current recruitment processes. Having listened to the representations from the England and Wales Cricket Board, the Football Association, Girlguiding UK and others, we recognise that Clause 79 as originally conceived did not get that all-important balance right, which I have referred to on a number of occasions.
We believe that the government amendments in this group address the concerns that have been raised. Amendment 73 provides a clear legislative basis to enable a registered body to track the progress of an application online and be informed about its status. This tracking facility would also enable the registered body to ascertain whenever a certificate is clear: that is, that it contains no convictions or other police information. This is a significant point, as currently some 92 per cent of criminal record certificates are clear, so such a facility will ensure that in the overwhelming majority of cases the recruitment process can proceed with confidence, even if there is some small delay in the certificate being sent by the applicant to the registered body. Government Amendment 82 ensures that the same arrangements will apply to the up-to-date arrangements.
For the one in 10 cases where a criminal record certificate is not clear, the registered body will know the date on which the certificate was issued and, as such, will be able to take appropriate follow-up action if the applicant does not provide a copy of the certificate within a few days of that date. I should stress that there is no reason why sports governing bodies and others should not continue to run their recruitment processes from a central team. It follows that there is similarly no reason why these changes should require the local football coach or scout leader to become involved in individual recruitment decisions.
I also want to allay concerns that this change will put children at greater risk. That is absolutely not the case. Where a position falls within the scope of regulated activity the employer or voluntary organisation will be
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Having spoken to the two government amendments, the first of which I will move formally in a moment, I will wait to hear what my noble friend Lord Addington and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, or perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, have to say about their amendments before I respond to them. I beg to move.
Lord Addington: My Lords, the amendment tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint addresses a concern that has been raised by the major sporting bodies. As the Minister said when speaking to his own amendment, there is a concern that the central recruitment process, which they are happy with and reasonably confident about, would in effect be reduced in power by the fact that there will now be an individual process.
By bringing forward Amendment 73, it is clear that the Government have been listening to an extent, but the major sporting bodies are still worried. They are concerned that the process being proposed by the Government, even with the tracking facility described by the noble Lord, will allow the way in for certain types of fraud and pose problems of individual disclosure that will affect the volunteering process. There is also a fear that the individual presentation of a certificate will get in the way of a centralised system that has become used to and confident about dealing with situations where, if there is a disclosure on a criminal record certificate that does not affect an individual's ability to conduct a voluntary activity, it will actually not be disclosed. Such a disclosure might involve long expired convictions of a criminal nature that have no effect on the individual's voluntary coaching activity. Offences such as those acquired after Saturday night boisterousness or other minor offences against property that go back a long way might become relevant. That is one of the problems the sporting bodies have with this. For instance, some 15 per cent of applicants into football have these types of convictions, or perhaps even more serious ones, but they are certainly not regarded as being that relevant to the safeguarding of individuals.
Also, although the Minister thinks that he has dealt with this, there are still concerns about there being a built-in process of delay-potential stalling. Stalling might come down to the volunteering. One example is the volunteer who has only just applied for this because they have increased their position in an organisation, they have been associated with the club for a long time, or they are an ex-player who has come back in a coaching role. That person makes a presentation to that club, goes to the central body and starts to stall. This is a person who is intent on doing something bad. How does one chase them up? When do you know that you should do something? When does a central authority
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That gives a timeframe, which addresses one of the major concerns about inaccuracy on those applications. It is said that only 0.06 per cent of all applications are wrong, so we have something here that involves a very small number. A two-week delay before having to make this announcement would give you a chance to look at this and say that there was a mistake. It would give you a finite period during which you can find out what is going on. It would remove from someone the responsibility to have to stall so that the person does not have access to the positions of authority that we discussed earlier. This is what the application process is for.
Sports governing bodies are very concerned to have a system that works and that they are confident about. That system is being undermined and interfered with, maybe not as much as the Government's amendment initially proposed, but they are still concerned. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.
I sincerely thank the Minister for meeting me and sports colleagues and Girlguiding UK and for such a constructive discussion. However, while I am sure that the new amended clause will produce a system that works quickly and efficiently for the vast majority of people-92 per cent was mentioned-there remains, particularly on the sporting side, a concern about governing bodies' ability to deal effectively with the remaining 8 per cent.
Amendment 75, moved by my noble friend Lord Addington, recognises that organisations that take on the responsibility for providing safe environments for children need information about those individuals who may pose a risk. The amendment does not challenge the Government's very sensible aim, which I share, of allowing individuals to dispute inaccurate information. I believe that that period, whether it is 10 days or two weeks, might be appropriate.
There are two very sensible reasons to continue sending copies of disclosures to the registered body. The first is that organisations can handle individual cases more effectively if they know whom they are dealing with. The Government's amended system highlights content but does not reveal the details. At present the governing bodies of sport are able to take appropriate action based on an assessment of the individual's unique criminal record. Where the criminal record poses no threat to children, the individual will be approved. Where further information is required to make that judgment, the governing body can make discreet inquiries until it is able to make an assessment. Where information clearly gives cause for concern, measures will be put in place to remove that individual from the sport, but only once the information is confirmed as accurate.
Currently governing bodies of sport receive the disclosure directly from the Government, which is an extremely important aspect of the system. I urge the
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There is another good reason to continue sharing disclosures with the registered bodies, and that is that they will be better equipped to deal with the minority of devious individuals who pose a real danger to vulnerable people. One governing body of sport recently had a case in which an individual presented only the first page of their criminal record check, thereby concealing the serious sexual offences on pages two and three of that check. It was only because the governing body was able to compare it with its own copy of the disclosure that it could take the appropriate action without delay.
My fear is that by withholding disclosures from bodies that have a duty to protect against such dangerous individuals, we are asking them to engage in an unnecessary game of cat and mouse with people who may seek to use the organisation's blind spot to their advantage. I therefore welcome the Government's ongoing engagement with the voluntary sector on this issue. Amendment 73 goes some way to recognising the sector's requirements, but there are still grave concerns, as my noble friend Lord Addington said, and I would welcome the Minister's assurances that the Government will take into account the circumstances in which national bodies operate and take on board the compromise solution offered by this amendment, with due consideration of the timeframe delay.
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, I, too, wish to register some anxieties about the proposals, and support some of the comments made by the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint. As we know, under the Bill only one CRB certificate will be produced and provided to the individual concerned. That is a significant change to the current well established practice whereby a replica certificate is provided to the appointing body. The report that made the recommendation was based largely on the difficulties caused when inaccurate information has been disclosed. However, the Criminal Records Bureau, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, reports that inaccurate information has been disclosed in just 0.07 per cent of cases. I do not believe that such a small number of admittedly distressing cases could justify such a significant change. The CRB also says that many more certificates are returned marked "undeliverable" when addressed to the applicant than when they are addressed to the registered body. If only one copy is to be sent to the applicant it risks, at the very least, further delay in any appointment process. Are we as registered bodies to be totally dependent on the individual-volunteer, in our case-concerned?
I am anxious that the Bill might miss the opportunity to set up a safe and workable system. I speak for safety in our churches, and my belief is that appointing authorities need to have access to enhanced CRB
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Lord Rosser: My Lords, we also have an amendment in this group, Amendment 75A, the thrust of which is very much in line with the amendment in the names of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint. The effect of our amendment, too, is to delete the Bill provisions to remove the requirement for the CRB and enhanced CRB certificates to be sent directly to the employer as well as the employee, and instead to provide for certificates to be sent to employers two weeks after being sent to the individual applicant, unless that applicant has lodged an appeal.
As has been said, currently organisations and companies providing work with children or vulnerable adults receive a copy of the regular or enhanced CRB check when it is sent to the individual applicant. The Government propose to scrap these existing provisions on the grounds that they do not leave individuals with a chance to appeal or query information on the record. Our view is that the Government's proposed changes would place unnecessary burdens on organisations, would damage the voluntary sector-as has been said, by potentially deterring volunteers with irrelevant criminal convictions from applying-and would also put children and vulnerable adults at greater risk by creating loopholes in the system that would be open to exploitation, to which reference has already been made.
Currently of course, many larger organisations process their CRB checks centrally through qualified professionals. The CRB checks are sent directly to the central departments at the same time as being sent to the applicant, which enables swift processing of applications and minimises delays in employment. However, there are now concerns about the additional resources and time that will be spent chasing CRB checks with the individual under the provisions of this Bill. Perhaps more importantly, by requiring the individual applicant to submit their CRB certificate to the organisation, there is major concern within the voluntary sector that the Government's proposed changes could deter volunteers with minor and irrelevant criminal records from coming forward.
The Minister has stated that the Government envisage that the applicant would simply be informed of the central address to which they should send their certificate and would pass it directly to them. However, that will not be the case in all organisations and will only add to the delay in processing applications. On top of that, it still does not address the point that, if the CRB check is revealed to the individual before being submitted to a central bureau in the organisation, it may prompt
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Finally, we believe that changes to the CRB disclosure process will create a system that is more open to exploitation from the small minority of individuals who should not be seeking access to children and vulnerable adults. Organisations such as Fair Play for Children and sports associations all point to examples of the extent to which predatory individuals will go to manipulate and exploit procedures in place. I will not repeat any of those, since the one I have is the same as the one referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Heyhoe Flint.
The Government's amendments today propose to address the problem by sending an electronic notification to the employer, once the certificate has been issued to the applicant, where the certificate is clear of any previous convictions or police information-as is the case, as has already been said, in 92 per cent of cases. However, we do not believe this goes far enough in addressing the problems that have been identified. Organisations will still have to chase certificates and delays will still occur in the 8 per cent of disclosures that are not clear. Applicants will still be required to submit certificates themselves, and therefore the potential to deter volunteers remains, for the reasons I have mentioned. In the minority of cases that are not clear of offences, the requirement for the individual to submit the check still leaves open the possibility of fraud and abuse by individuals.
Our proposed amendment would simplify the system while still allowing reasonable opportunity for the applicant to appeal any information. Our proposal is almost identical, as I understand it, to the one proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Addington, in that it would provide for a delay between the time that the certificate is sent to the applicant and the time it would be sent to the organisation and the employer. The only difference is that we have proposed a delay of two weeks, whereas the noble Lord, Lord Addington, has proposed a delay of, I think, 10 working days, so we are talking about the same period of time in reality. Our amendment also ensures that, should the applicant lodge an appeal within that period, the CRB would suspend disclosure to the organisation for the duration of that appeal.
The line of argument running through the Government's changes to existing safeguarding arrangements in this Bill is one of what they describe as proportionality and common sense-or, to use the Minister's favourite word, balance. However, the Government's approach to CRB check disclosures is wildly disproportionate. According to the Criminal Records Bureau-and this point has already been made on more than one occasion-just 0.06 per cent of disclosures have inaccuracies in them and some of these are simply a case of a misspelled name rather than a serious matter for appeal. The reality is that the Government are proposing changes that will increase bureaucracy for organisations, deter volunteers and create a potential loophole to be exploited by highly manipulative individuals; all apparently for the sake of 0.06 per cent of CRB checks. Our amendment addresses these issues.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the first point I had better make clear-as I sensed a degree of doubt in my noble friend Lord Addington's amendment-is that the centralised system will still be there. I hope we made that clear to the various bodies that he and various other noble Lords brought to the Home Office to discuss these matters. I started off finding it rather difficult to understand precisely what his and my noble friend Lady Heyhoe Flint's concerns really were. He talked about the possibility of individuals stalling. I suppose he was trying to make a "the cheque's in the post" type of argument, which is probably one of the commonest lies we come across-the constant delay of one particular individual. I honestly do not think that concern is there, because of the various safeguards that I want to get built in.
I also want to make clear the problem with the two amendments-which are broadly similar but slightly different-and why they are not necessary and are possibly too absolutist in insisting that something should happen after precisely 10 days or after precisely 14 days. I am concerned that it undermines the core principle that underpins this clause. I agree that there should be an expectation on the recipient of a criminal record certificate to decide quickly whether to dispute any information on that certificate. However, that may not always be feasible, for perfectly valid reasons such as that the person concerned is on holiday or unwell. There could be other reasons behind it. These amendments make absolutely no allowance for such situations. As soon as the clock has elapsed, a copy of the certificate has to be issued to the registered body.
Amendment 75 also seems to assume that any disputes would be resolved quickly. I know noble Lords all say this involves only a very small number of people-nought point whatever the figure is-but it is a number of individuals and it concerns their individual liberties. That is something that we should be aware of. Although almost 98 per cent of disputes, I understand, are resolved within 21 days, some inevitably take longer and Amendment 75-and, I imagine, Amendment 74 -makes no allowance for this. I also add that the changes we are bringing in with the new system of portable criminal record certificates will substantially reduce the number of new certificates in the system, perhaps by as much as 50 per cent once the new system matures. The whole aim of these changes is to enable, for example, a teacher, classroom assistant or whoever has obtained a criminal record certificate for employment purposes to take that certificate along to the local football club, Scout group or wherever he wants to work. In such circumstances, all that the voluntary organisation would need to do is to check the existing certificate against the online system. There it will be told immediately whether that certificate is the most recent and whether there is any new information; if there is none, a decision could be taken there and then to decide whether to accept the person as a volunteer. I believe that that will significantly speed up the process for voluntary organisations in the great majority of cases. Given this new way of working, it would simply no longer be appropriate or necessary to issue a fresh certificate if someone takes up a secondary role working with children or vulnerable adults.
I hope that I have indicated that we are sympathetic to concerns raised and keen to find a workable solution. We believe that what we have put forward in our Amendments 73 and 82 offers just such a solution, which flows with the grain of what we are trying to achieve with that clause. Having said that, I and my officials will continue to discuss these matters with my noble friends, the Sport and Recreation Alliance and others. We remain ready to explore how we can further improve the remodelled criminal records system as we move towards implementation. I also undertake to write to the noble Lord and set out in rather more detail how the new system will operate, which I hope will provide further clarity on how the new arrangements will improve the efficiency of the process, including for those registered bodies-sporting bodies in the main-while maintaining and indeed strengthening the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults.
Lord Rosser: I notice that the Minister said that he would continue discussions with his noble friend and sporting organisations. Does that mean that he does not intend to discuss it with ourselves on this side, even though we have tabled a very similar amendment?
Lord Henley: The noble Lord has taken offence because I accidently used the words "noble friends" and did not include the entire House. I said that I would write to everyone-I will certainly include the noble Lord in these discussions if he feels he is being left out. I made the point purely because it was my noble friend who brought the sporting organisations to see me, having made a request. I am not aware that the noble Lord came along with any sporting organisations-or, if he did, I did not notice them. But anyway, I will include him in this offer. I would be more than happy to see him.
Lord Rosser: The Minister knows that I was not there with any sporting organisations, but I have an amendment down, which I take it that the Minister is not terribly enthusiastic about, which is very similar to the one tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Addington. The Minister has made it clear that he is prepared to discuss the amendment with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, so I am not quite sure why he originally intended to exclude ourselves.
Lord Henley: I was not trying to exclude the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. I just thought that he was taking offence unnaturally, and in a manner that surprised me, because it was by a slip of the tongue that I referred to "my noble friends". I could have included everyone; I included the sporting bodies. I look forward to seeing the noble Lord.
(a) taxi drivers to be licensed in London under section 8 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 and paragraph 25 of the London Cab Order 1934;
(b) private hire vehicle drivers to be licensed in London under section 13(2)(a) of the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998;
(c) taxi drivers to be licensed outside London under section 47 of the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 and section 59(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976; and
(d) private hire vehicle drivers to be licensed outside London under section 51(1) of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.""
Baroness Doocey:My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that licensing authorities have access to information disclosed in enhanced criminal records checks, for the purpose of licensing the drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles. I declare an interest as a Member of the London Assembly.
Local licensing authorities must determine whether an applicant is a fit and proper person to hold a licence or whether public safety would be compromised by issuing a licence to a particular individual. Licensed taxis and minicabs provide a vital service in many parts of the country. Both are crucial to the vibrancy and sustainability of the night-time economy. They are particularly important late at night, as other services wind down or become less frequent, but there can be risks. This is why Transport for London, which is responsible for licensing in London, has launched a "Safer Travel at Night" campaign, which stresses the importance of using a licensed taxi or minicab and warns that using an unlicensed car is the same as getting into a stranger's car.
Anyone who uses a taxi or minicab is effectively putting their faith in the checks that the licensing authority has made into the background of their drivers. Department for Transport figures suggest that women aged 16 to 20 undertake the greatest number of trips in taxis and private hire vehicles. These women would not fall into the legal definition of a vulnerable adult, but they are vulnerable when they get into a taxi or a licensed minicab late at night, particularly if they have been drinking. To ensure the public's confidence in licensing, authorities rely heavily on the information disclosed in an enhanced criminal records check. This provides the authority with valuable information relating to offences and so-called soft intelligence on the interaction between applicants and the police or the judicial system that is not available under a lower level of disclosure. It allows the authority to consider information on the balance of probabilities and to look for patterns of behaviour, which is very important. In some instances, there may never have been any convictions or cautions. However, the additional information provided through an enhanced disclosure can often show a pattern of behaviour that raises alarm bells with the police force and/or the licensing authority.
Earlier this year, licensing authorities were informed by the Criminal Records Bureau that enhanced criminal records checks should no longer be sought for taxi and private hire drivers unless they transported children or vulnerable adults under a contract. That move by the Criminal Records Bureau would end a system that has operated well for the past 10 years in which authorities have been able to base their decisions on information from an enhanced disclosure. In London, approximately 10 per cent of applications for a licence were turned down in that period on the basis of something picked up from the enhanced disclosure. In London alone, that amounted to at least 240 licences annually that were not issued on the grounds of public safety.
The bodies representing the taxi trade recognise the importance of the information provided by an enhanced disclosure to the reputation of their members. The Suzy Lamplugh Trust and London TravelWatch both agree with licensing authorities that the information in enhanced disclosures is crucial to ensuring public safety. This amendment would address their concerns by amending Clause 79 to add at the end a subsection inserting in the Police Act 1997, as amended, a clarification that the prescribed purposes for which an enhanced criminal record check can be sought include the licensing of taxi and private hire vehicles in London and by other licensing authorities in England and Wales. I beg to move.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I support the noble Baroness in her amendment. It seems extraordinary that taxi companies are going to have to desist from requiring enhanced disclosures. I completely agree with her point that it is not just children and vulnerable adults at risk; many young women, especially when they have had a drink, are extremely vulnerable. I fully support the noble Baroness.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, has put forward an extremely helpful amendment. The reason for thinking that is because, tragically, there have been too many instances when minicab drivers, and indeed licensed taxi drivers, have turned out to be a danger to those whom they ferry. Those instances are comparatively rare, and of course it is much safer to use a licensed vehicle than otherwise, but the danger remains.
My only regret is that the noble Baroness, in her normal ingenious way, has not found a way to encompass what I consider to be the increasingly dangerous fraternity of rickshaw drivers in London. I am sure that a few extra words would have enabled us to have a licensing regime for rickshaw drivers on top of all this, with the added protections of enhanced record checks. I appreciate that I have now caused a flurry on the Front Bench while the correct answer as to why that is incredibly difficult is explained to the Minister. However, as I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, is about to speak, I am sure that he will have a chance to mug up on the subject.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, perhaps I will give the Minister thinking time, but I was going to say that rickshaw drivers present more dangers than those which are the subject of this Bill-the noble Lord has referred to the small number of very horrific examples.
I support my noble friend. There have been important steps in licensing over the past few years, certainly in London, but legislation cannot remove every risk. A perpetrator may not previously have been caught or may just be starting on a course of action. However, the more tools that are given to employers and to the organisers of different activities, the better-within the overall objective of a sensible regime that is not overbureaucratised.
Perhaps I might make one comment, which I wondered whether I should come in with in a previous discussion when I think the Minister was accused of being unimaginative about the amendments. I can tell the Committee that at the meeting which I attended with the various sporting groups, which has been referred to, both our Minister and Lynne Featherstone made it absolutely clear that an employer or an organiser cannot abdicate responsibility to an unthinking bureaucratic process. I, for one, was very impressed at that meeting by the common-sense attitude being displayed. We were being reminded that we cannot do everything through legislation. We will do as much as we can, but we cannot do everything.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, should the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, need additional support, I worked with the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, on extending the checks and the licensing to the minicabs. For some time, some of the other cab drivers resisted licensing minicab drivers. I am quite sure that the Minister will agree that, should the noble Baroness, Lady Doocey, who has presented her case strongly and got all-round support, need additional support, then I can recommend the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes.
Lord Henley: My Lords, such is the benign nature of my speaking note-I am not even sure that "Resist" appears on it, as sometimes is the case-that I thought I might be able to get through the whole of this debate without an intervention from the noble Lord, Lord Harris. This was going to be a little test to see whether I could manage that. Unfortunately, he then mentioned rickshaw drivers and associated problems. I had a quick word with my noble friend Lord Attlee, who assures me that this matter was hotly debated during the Localism Bill. I am sorry that I was not there for that, but I will remember the occasion and make a point of looking up those debates. I have a picture in my mind of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, setting off home this evening to Haringey with the long-suffering rickshaw driver.
Lord Henley: Anyway, my Lords, I express my gratitude to my noble friend for moving this amendment. She is seeking to amend the Police Act 1997 to make taxi and private hire vehicle drivers eligible for the enhanced criminal record checks. The legislation currently provides that, in the majority of cases, they are eligible for only standard criminal record checks. I assure my noble friend that we have had representations on this
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I also offer an assurance on one small technical point. Were we to conclude that it was appropriate that all taxi drivers and private hire vehicle drivers should be eligible for that enhanced criminal record check, we could effect that approach through secondary legislation. On this occasion, primary legislation would not be needed as we could do that under the Police Act 1997. Briefly, I say to my noble friend that we are alive to this issue and intend to come to a very early decision that will certainly be before Report, which we have worked out is not likely to be before the beginning of February. I hope, therefore, that on this occasion my noble friend can withdraw her amendment and await that sympathetic letter, which she will get in due course.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that sympathetic response and I look forward to receiving the letter. I hope that this can be sorted out because it is a very serious matter. Most parents, in my experience, say to their young children, "Whatever you do, make sure that you get into a licensed taxi or a licensed minicab so that you will be safe". I am sure we all want to make sure that it is kept that way. With that assurance from the Minister, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
After subsection (2A) of section 112 of the Police Act 1997 (criminal conviction certificates) insert-
"(2B) In carrying out the duty specified in subsection (2A), the Secretary of State must wait ten working days after sending a copy of the certificate to the applicant before sending a copy of that certificate to the registered person.""
Lord Addington: My Lords, I will make a speech consisting merely of two questions that I did not get a chance to ask. The grouping session occasionally catches us out, no matter how long we have been here.
Both my Amendment 75 and Amendment 75A, which were considered earlier, have limitations in them. Mine has 10 working days and the noble Lord's amendment has two weeks. If that was made more flexible, would some of the objections to these amendments be removed? There might be something there, as 10 working days probably is more flexible, but
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Also, can we have a little more consideration of the idea of the disclosure process? As proposed in the noble Lord's amendment, if you have something which is irrelevant to the person, there may still be the concern of safety with your CRB check. Can the noble Lord give a bit more consideration about that process of disclosure? At the moment, one would be told that there was something on the check but not what it is. I wonder if the noble Lord could give a little consideration to that. I beg to move.
Lord Henley: My Lords, on the first point I would certainly be more than happy to consider a greater degree of flexibility. I am not sure whether I would accept that what my noble friend was offering-10 working days, rather than 10 days-actually adds much in the way of flexibility, but if he comes forward with some ideas, we would look at them. I can say no more than that, but it is flexibility we are looking at, rather than the precise duration.
On the second question, disclosure would be, again, a matter that we could discuss at the useful meeting I am hoping to have with my noble friend, at which we are very much looking forward to seeing the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, as well.
After subsection (3) of section 120AA of the Police Act 1997 (refusal, etc. of registration on grounds not related to disclosure) insert-
(a) has previously been a registered person; and
(b) has been removed from the register (otherwise than at that individual's own request).
(a) has previously been a registered person; and
(b) has been removed from the register (otherwise than at its own request).
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, government Amendment 76 inserts a new clause into the Bill that will strengthen the current powers of the Criminal Records Bureau to refuse to register an individual or
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None the less, beyond the minimum requirements for a body currently to be registered by the Criminal Records Bureau, as set out at Sections 120 and 120ZA of the Police Act 1997, the bureau has the power to refuse registration only if it has concerns about an organisation's ability to properly protect sensitive information that would be disclosed on a criminal record certificate.
Some 4,000 bodies are registered with the Criminal Records Bureau and all must adhere to their conditions of registration, which provide for a framework to ensure that registered bodies operate in a fit and proper manner. These conditions include requirements that application fees are paid within 15 days of invoice; that the organisation can demonstrate that it makes every effort to check that the position being applied for by an individual is eligible for a criminal record check; and that the registered body has verified the identity of the applicant before submitting the application.
The most common reason for the Criminal Records Bureau to be forced to cancel a registered body's CRB registration is the non-payment of fees. This is usually where the organisation has continually failed to make the necessary payments to the bureau for the submission of applications to it and has repeatedly failed to pay its arrears or made any substantive offer to do so.
Of course, the Criminal Records Bureau will always seek to work with registered bodies as far as possible to address any short-term difficulties where there is an apparent breach of the conditions of registration and before considering any suspension or cancellation action. However, there is a gap in the powers available to the bureau. In practice, this means that an organisation that has previously failed to meet the conditions of registration, such as the non-payment of fees, and has had its registration cancelled can simply re-register, provided that it meets the basic criteria required under Sections 120 and 120ZA of the Police Act. Quite simply, this amendment will close that gap by extending the current powers to allow the Criminal Records Bureau to refuse to register a body that has previously been registered and subsequently removed-for example, due to a breach of the conditions of registration.
For any noble Lords who may be concerned that such organisations will therefore no longer be able to carry out criminal record checks, I assure them that the new clause will not impact on an organisation's ability to apply for criminal record checks-that is, the original organisation that might use a registered body as an agent by which to apply for a check against it. In such circumstances, the organisation will be able to continue to access the Criminal Records Bureau service through another organisation that is registered satisfactorily with the bureau, typically referred to as an umbrella body. I beg to move.
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, government Amendments 77, 78, 79, 80 and 81 make two technical changes to the provisions in Clauses 81 and 82. First, Amendments 79 and 80 provide that a request by the subject of a criminal record certificate, or a person on their behalf, to the Secretary of State or the independent monitor to challenge the accuracy of the information on such a certificate should be made in writing. This is to bring these processes in line with other provisions in Part 5 of the Police Act 1997.
Secondly, Amendments 79 to 81 will ensure that the updating service, which is being introduced by Clause 82, will continue to operate in a given case where a new criminal record certificate is issued following a successful challenge to the accuracy of the information contained on the original certificate. The updating service can be triggered by an application for a criminal record certificate. These amendments will ensure that the service is not unintentionally terminated following the issue of a fresh certificate. I beg to move.
(a) the certificate was issued under section 117(2) or 117A(5)(b), and
(b) the certificate which it superseded-
(i) was subject to up-date arrangements immediately before it was superseded, and
(ii) would still be subject to those arrangements had it not been superseded."
"(7A) If up-date information is given under subsection (7)(a)(i), (7)(b)(i) or (7)(c)(i) and the certificate to which that information relates is one to which subsection (7B) applies, the up-date information must include that fact.
(a) in the case of a criminal conviction certificate, states that there are no convictions or conditional cautions of the applicant recorded in central records,
(b) in the case of a criminal record certificate, is as described in section 120AC(3), and
(c) in the case of an enhanced criminal record certificate, is as described in section 120AC(4)."
After subsection (4) of section 27 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (recordable offences) insert-
(a) a caution within the meaning of Part 5 of the Police Act 1997; and
(b) a reprimand or warning given under section 65 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.""
Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, Amendment 83 will provide parity with convictions for the recording of cautions, reprimands and warnings on the police national computer. The names database on the PNC contains the national police record of all convictions for recordable offences. It also contains details of cautions, warnings and reprimands. It is this database which is searched by the Criminal Records Bureau when it receives an application for a criminal record certificate. In the case of an application for an enhanced criminal record certificate, a separate search is also run against the police national database, which contains non-conviction information held by local forces.
Clearly, it is essential that the police national computer holds all relevant records. The current position is that cautions, reprimands and warnings are entered on to the PNC by the police using their common-law power to do so, whereas the recording of convictions is expressly provided for in Section 27 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. The amendment will simply put the recording of cautions on the same statutory footing as that which applies to convictions.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place yesterday by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health.
"Mr Speaker, the life sciences industry is one of the most promising areas for growth in the UK economy. It has consistently shown stronger growth than the UK as a whole. It accounts for 165,000 UK jobs and totals more than £50 billion in turnover. Pharmaceuticals alone account for more than a quarter of our total industrial research and development spend. Global pharmaceutical sales are predicted to grow by up to 6 per cent a year in the coming years, and in emerging economies medical technology is achieving growth rates of more than 12 per cent. A flourishing life sciences sector is essential if we want to build a more outward-looking, export-driven economy. The partnership between industry, the NHS and our outstanding universities is not just essential to economic growth-it will benefit millions of future and current NHS patients, fuelling more rapid development of cutting-edge treatments and earlier access to those treatments for NHS patients.
Like many industries, the life sciences industry is undergoing rapid change. The old big pharma model of having thousands of highly paid researchers working on a pipeline of blockbuster drugs is declining. A new model has emerged, one that is more about collaboration, the outsourcing of research and early clinical trials on patients. Excessive regulation can mean that the uptake of new treatments and technology is slow. That is a challenge felt acutely by an industry that sometimes feels that the return is not there quickly enough to satisfy investors. It is felt even more acutely by patients, who understandably expect that they should be able to access the latest and most effective treatments and that new innovations in care should be adopted rapidly by the NHS.
We have a leading science base, four of the world's top 10 universities and a National Health Service that is uniquely capable of understanding population health characteristics. However, those strengths alone are not enough to keep pace with what is happening. We must radically change the way we innovate and the way we collaborate. The life sciences strategy that we launched yesterday, alongside the NHS chief executive's review
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Among other key measures, we will set up a new programme between the Medical Research Council and the Technology Strategy Board to bring medical discoveries closer to commercialisation and use in the NHS. There are many medical products being developed to treat patients. The cost of developing them is high because they take a long time to develop and test. Investors want to see at least some evidence that the products might work in people and robust validation of the quality of the research and development work being undertaken, as well as of the capability of the company to bring the product to market, before they will finance the development of the products. That means that some of the best medical innovations are not making it through to patients. We are already providing investment to address that but we believe that we can do more to support the development of these products across funding organisations and the successive stages of product development, which will support the development of promising innovations and help to increase the number of treatments being made available to patients. We are therefore introducing a £180 million catalyst fund for the most promising medical treatments.
It can take more than 20 years from the first discovery of a drug until patients can be prescribed it by their doctor. We have already taken steps to address that. Through the National Institute for Health Research, we are investing £800 million in new research centres and two major translational research partnerships that will help to cut the time between the development of new treatments and their application in the NHS-from the bench to the bedside.
Now we are going further. As part of a major drive to improve innovation and access to medicines in the NHS, we are announcing proposals on a new early access scheme, which could allow thousands of the most seriously ill patients to access new cutting-edge drugs up to a year earlier than they can now. Through the early access scheme, the medicines regulator-the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency-will provide a scientific opinion on the emerging benefits and risks of very promising new drugs to treat patients with life-threatening or debilitating conditions for whom there are no satisfactory treatment options. That will mean that seriously ill patients of any age, who have no other hope of being treated or having their life extended, could benefit from drugs more quickly-around a year before they are licensed.
We must also ensure that we make better use of our unique NHS data capability. It is often said that the NHS is data-rich but information-poor. As a national health service, it contains more data about health than any other comparable health system in the world. However, neither the NHS itself nor scientists developing new drugs and treatments have always been able consistently to make good use of these data, or to use them to drive further scientific breakthroughs. We have seen how powerful the release of data can be. For
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We need powerful data-handling capacity and the skills to write the software to mine them. That is why we are investing in e-infrastructure, which will provide secure data services to researchers. The Clinical Practice Research Datalink is being introduced by the MHRA in partnership with NIHR and will provide a specialised service to the research and life sciences communities. Let me reassure the House that we will take all necessary steps to ensure safeguards for patient confidentiality.
We will also make sure that more UK patients get the opportunity to take part in national and international clinical trials and play a much greater role in the development of cutting-edge treatments. We believe that patients should have the right to access new treatments and be involved in research to develop new medicines. We have responded to calls from research charities and clinicians for the Government to get patients more involved in supporting research. A recent Ipsos MORI poll in June found that 97 per cent of people believe it is important that the NHS should support research into new treatments. In addition, 72 per cent would like to be offered opportunities to be involved in research trials.
We will therefore consult on changing the NHS constitution so that there is an assumption, with the ability to opt out, that data collected during a patient's care by the NHS may be used for approved research. That would make it clear that researchers and companies with new and potentially life-saving medicines could access the data of patients and could approach patients whom they feel could benefit in order to discuss their involvement in research studies. This would encourage growth in the life sciences industry as more people and more detailed data would be available for the important trials and research needed to get breakthrough treatments used more widely.
Additionally, we have set out actions to improve incentives for investment in innovation and reduce regulatory bureaucracy. With the creation of the Health Research Agency, we will streamline regulation and improve the cost-effectiveness of clinical trials. As the NHS chief executive's review of innovation has shown, the NHS needs to be quicker and smarter in adopting new technologies and approaches to care that can both save more lives and cut costs. Sometimes, it is a question of evidence. Until recently, we could not say with certainty that telehealth could keep people out of hospital and save lives. There was understandable reluctance among parts of the NHS and councils to invest in untried technology. However, as early results from the Whole System Demonstrator pilots show, the potential of telehealth is nothing short of remarkable, with dramatic reductions in mortality, hospital admissions, emergency visits and the number of hospital bed days. To make the most of this, we will support the NHS and work in partnership with industry and councils dramatically to spread the use of telehealth over the
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In March 2011, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence published guidance recommending that this technology should be used for patients undergoing major or high-risk surgery. Currently, it is used for fewer than 5 per cent of applicable patients despite evidence showing that it could benefit 800,000 patients and save the NHS £400 million. We will launch a national drive to make sure that fluid management technology is used in appropriate settings across the NHS. That is one example of many.
The innovation review sets out how we will address all the barriers to innovation in the NHS, whether they involve culture, leadership, training, use of information or lack of incentives and investment. We will also introduce a NICE compliance regime that will mean that medicines approved by NICE will be available on the NHS much more quickly. The plans set out in today's strategies will help to drive the development of new technologies to diagnose and treat the most complex diseases in this country for the benefit of NHS patients. This is a strong package of measures that will support economic growth and innovation in the NHS and will drive significant improvements in patient care. I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. I, for one, certainly believed it was important that we took this Statement in the House, even if it is a day later than we might normally have done, because our great panoply of scientists, doctors and experts should have an opportunity to respond to it. It is likely that we can see the Minister's hand in this initiative as research is one of his responsibilities and, indeed, one of his passions.
I share the Minister's pride in Britain's strength in life sciences. We all agree in the House that the industry needs government support and focus if its potential to contribute to the country's industrial future and to its people is to be maximised. I also think the whole House will agree that there are huge potential benefits to British patients from closer collaboration between the NHS and the industry. We all want patients to have the quickest possible access to the latest life-saving and life-enhancing treatments. Indeed, it was for those two principal reasons that when we were in government we prioritised the life sciences sector and established the Office for Life Sciences to support an industry that employs more than 100,000 people. Indeed, we created a Life Sciences Minister-a contact point for the industry and someone of huge experience and real personal commitment to it. It has to be said that one of our criticisms of this Government is we believe that
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Although the Minister is concerned about the need to lift a regulatory burden from industry, I think we all agree that proper regulation on the use of patient data is most certainly not a burden that we want to lift. We want that properly addressed. My questions are around those issues. Some patient groups have already expressed concern about the media-briefed statement from the Government and the lack of accompanying detail, so I hope that the Government will be able to give some reassurance here. Will all patients have the ability to opt out of sharing their data, even in anonymised form? Will the fundamental principle of consent form the bedrock of any new system as control of data should be possible in today's information age? I understand that the patients' representatives walked away from the Department of Health working group on these important matters. If that is the case, why did they do so? Does the Minister accept that he needs to work harder to uphold public confidence in this process or risk undermining trust in the whole principle? Therefore, the safeguards are very important. What safeguards will there be to ensure that patient data are stored securely? What precisely are the changes that the RHG plans to make to the NHS constitution?
Is it the case that the anonymity of data cannot always be guaranteed? If that is the case, what are these circumstances, and why not? The Minister is very familiar with this issue, as, indeed, is his noble friend Lady Northover, because in May 2002 both of them were involved in a debate on precisely this issue. It was a debate on the safeguarding of patient data. It was said in the debate:
"For example, the Gulf War-related research and the research relating to leukaemia in the area of Sellafield could not have been carried out with purely anonymised data. There has also been recognition of new variant CJD and its relation to the BSE epidemic".
"Apart from the medical profession, who else will be subject to the contractual duty of confidentiality? What type of contract does the Minister envisage will be entered into by, for example, civil servants and those who act with the various agencies which may process that information? What review process for the regulations will be followed by the Secretary of State in 12 months' time? Will it be an open and transparent process? Will there be an opportunity for debate? There is also the very important issue of informing patients that their information has been processed. I believe that the Minister should spend some moments explaining how patients-or, at least, doctors-will be able to tag their medical notes in some shape or form so that it is clear that their information has been processed by researchers".-[Official Report, 21/5/02; col. 750.]
Who will judge which companies will receive this information when they are in competition with each other? The Statement assumes a very prettily organised
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I wish to ask the Minister a specific question about one of our great institutions which is involved in this research-Cambridge University. It seems to me that the Government need to manage these sorts of challenges, and this is a very serious one. I have given the Minister notice that I was going to raise this question. In October 2011, the European Court of Justice, responding to a reference from a German court about the interpretation of the European directive on the legal protection of biotechnological inventions, made a judgment which will have the effect of banning the issuing of patents for embryonic stem cell research. The ruling means that existing patents involving the use of embryonic stem cells are no longer valid and that future patent applications will not be considered. Many researchers at Cambridge are concerned that the ruling could damage the entire field of research and drive much of it abroad. The ruling could act as a huge disincentive for investment as patents are important if pharmaceutical companies are to recoup their investment in clinical trials and turn a profit. It could therefore set back possible new treatments for a range of disorders from heart disease and diabetes to blindness and Parkinson's. The ruling also leaves scientists in the contradictory position where they are funded to do research for the public good yet prevented from taking discoveries to the marketplace where they could be developed into new medicines. It would be a tragedy if our great institution of Cambridge University had to take this research abroad because of a ruling of the European Court of Justice. I would like to know what the Government intend to do about that.
I am afraid that I cannot resist making this final point. It is a great irony that while Ministers are happy to offer up other people's data, they continue to withhold the risk register on their own reforms despite a clear ruling from the Information Commissioner to publish.
Earl Howe: My Lords, if I may I shall pass over that final remark. I am not sure that it is strictly relevant to the Statement. I was happy to hear from the noble Baroness of her support for the initiatives that we have taken and of her welcome for the measures. She said that the coalition Government had lost momentum in this area. From my perspective as a Research Minister, that is not the case. The Office for Life Sciences was an initiative of the previous Government that we eagerly continued. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Drayson, for his work in establishing the bridge between BIS and my own Department of Health. That relationship remains very active.
We recognised from the outset that a strong research base was vital for our future as a global knowledge economy. I refer both to basic research-curiosity-driven research-and research applied to the challenges that face business and public services. Despite enormous
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The noble Baroness asked several questions. The first concerned the use of patient data. There are very clear information governance rules that will protect the confidentiality of patients. We are not changing the rules. They will apply to whatever sector a researcher may come from: the public sector, a charity or the private sector. The rules are the same. All approved research is conducted to strict ethical standards. It is subject to robust regulation. Before any data are given out about a patient, the following conditions must be met. There must be confirmation that the data requested will support the health question being researched. There must be approval from an ethics committee to ensure that the research is ethically valid, including a check on the data requested. There must be information governance checks and approvals to ensure that the recipient can receive and process the data legally to conduct their research. There must be confirmation that the data are anonymised. No data will be disclosed to a researcher unless all the conditions are met.
The NHS gives out data in anonymised form. Before they are given out, they will be checked to ensure that reidentification is not possible. The main exception is where a patient gives consent for identifiable data to be disclosed. Except in that instance, companies or other researchers who receive data in anonymised form will not be able to identify the patient. The data will be checked before they are disclosed to any company, and legal contracts for the use of the data will require all recipients to comply with strict controls on using data lawfully. The companies will be subject to spot checks.
The noble Baroness asked whether patients would be able to opt out. The answer is yes. Patients will be able to opt out of their personal electronic health record being used for research purposes in an identifiable form. Patients should tell the NHS that that is their wish. The GP will record this in the patient's record. We have tested technical ways of delivering this and of enabling researchers to identify patients who might be able to contribute to a research project without physically searching through records. Our pilot projects have been very successful.
The noble Baroness asked how all of us can be sure that our patient data are secure. Both the clinical practice research datalink and the NHS Information Centre will hold data securely. They are governed by strict access protocols to ensure that the data are processed lawfully, including when information is disclosed to researchers. Services are subject to the highest levels of independent audit and to regular checks. The data are held in a secure data centre not connected to the internet and are managed to the highest standards of information governance. I hope that that reassures the noble Baroness.
She also mentioned the European Court of Justice ruling on human embryonic stem cell patenting. As she knows, the UK is a world leader in the research
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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, I congratulate the Government on this excellent and far-sighted Statement. It was anticipated to a degree by the article in yesterday's Times by Mr David Willetts and by the Times's first leader today that highlighted the importance of these developments. I was very glad to see that it was stressed that excellence in health service research is not entirely in the south-east of England. The leader picked out Newcastle University Medical School as another centre of excellence in this programme of research.
Some 15 years ago I chaired the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into international investment in UK science. We found that 40 per cent of all American overseas investment in science came to the UK and 42 per cent of all Japanese investment came to the UK because of the perceived strength of the UK science base. The science base remains strong and powerful, as the Statement makes clear. However, at the time we recognised that translation of the results of the research into effective changes in patient care was inadequate. The Statement makes it clear that the Government intend to support translational research to the benefit of our community.
I will ask the Minister one or two questions. We live in an era in which genomic medicine and the results of molecular biology are being translated into new developments that may benefit patients with many severe crippling diseases and long-term conditions, not least some that are genetically determined. Genomic medicine is identifying the gene defects and medicines are beginning to be introduced that may overcome these genetic defects.
The catalyst fund is crucial. I would rather not call it a valley of death fund but a postponement of death fund, because if the drugs that are introduced as a result of this major research come to market, it is very important to recognise that in many instances the number of patients likely to benefit, particularly those suffering from rare diseases, will be small, and therefore commercial exploitation will be extremely difficult. The drugs that are now emerging are known as orphan and super-orphan drugs. The previous Government
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The previous Government produced the Technology Strategy Board as a major halfway house between universities and science institutes on the one hand and commercial exploitation by companies on the other. The Statement takes that one step further with the catalyst fund. Will the Government consider funding orphan drugs for the treatment of these rare diseases?
Earl Howe: The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. He will know that the Government have already established a cancer drugs fund which is designed to enable patients to access drugs that their doctors feel they should receive but which the NHS will not otherwise fund. We are putting £200 million a year for the next three years-totalling £600 million, in other words-towards this fund. That fund is there for orphan medicines and for the treatment of rarer cancers as much as it is for more common cancer treatments. So, as a temporary device, that fund exists.
We have taken the view that the development of a value-based pricing structure for medicines should enable us to move to a situation where drugs are assessed for value in their broadest sense and priced accordingly. In that way, if the value is computed as being high for patients, the NHS will pay the corresponding price and the patient will be able to access that drug. I would, however, say that in the case of orphan medicines the work is at an early stage. It is clear that some orphan drugs are likely to be priced very high, and it is of course necessary to ensure that the value of those drugs as reflected in the price is one that the NHS is prepared to pay. As I say, we have work to do. I can update the noble Lord as time goes on in that area. However, I can tell him that this is very much within our sights.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I should like to thank my noble friend for repeating the Statement and say how much I, like other noble Lords, welcome it. In so far as the new strategy being adopted gives earlier access to new drugs and new technologies for patients, it can only be a very good thing. I have a number of questions for the Minister.
Quite a few NHS hospital data are already available to researchers. One example is the link-up between Yale University and University College, London, where data on cardiac medicine are being mined and exchanged. With the NHS we have cohorts that can be followed through, which is not available in the United States. Am I right in thinking that the difference is that GP data as well as hospital data can now be mined in the same way, enabling cohorts to be followed? If so, and if we are developing these huge computerised databases, how confident can we be that they will not go the way of Connecting for Health, the £13 billion project that hit the ground well over six years behind schedule and which the coalition decided was no longer worth pursuing?
Finally, how confident can we be that these new proposals will change the trend in clinical trials? There has been a dramatic decrease in clinical trials in the UK, from something like 6 per cent of trials done in 2000 to only 1.4 per cent today. Part of the idea behind these new developments is to bring some clinical trials back to the UK. Can the Minister explain precisely how this is expected to be done, and how confident can we be that it will reverse this trend despite the advantage of the growing markets in the Far East, in particular, in attracting clinical trials?
Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend has asked some extremely pertinent questions. In answer to her first one, data from GP practices as well as data from hospitals are available today. However, the clinical practice research datalink, which is the new service for researchers being established under the umbrella of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, will for the first time enable researchers to access very much larger banks of information on a population basis and to target their questions appropriately at the database. I do not see that there is any risk to the technological aspects of that system. The CPRD is using existing data structures in the NHS. It is not changing systems as Connecting for Health attempted to do and has done.
Will this make a difference to clinical trials in the UK? I believe that it is one ingredient of a package that will make the UK more attractive. On its own, perhaps it is not enough. When I recently visited Japan and spoke to pharmaceutical companies there they were extremely interested in this, but of course they take into account the wider picture. That has to include the fiscal environment, where we are introducing a patent box which will protect patents, at a very advantageous rate of tax, on intellectual property invented in this country. There are various incentives aside from that including the corporation tax rate, with ours being the lowest in the G7 in a few years' time. Also, the establishment of the Health Research Authority is designed to streamline the ethical approvals for clinical trials. The establishment of the National Institute for Health Research also is designed to streamline the all-too-slow process that we have been used to over the past few years. We are determined that, across the piece, we must make this country and the NHS, in particular, the platform of choice for clinical trials in the world. I believe that this can be done, but of course it will not happen overnight.
Lord Patel: My Lords, of course I am extremely biased but I absolutely commend the Government for bringing about this strategy. It was necessary to highlight our leadership in all these areas of stem cell therapy, regenerative medicine and other areas of drug development. Those who are concerned about the development of a clinical, practice-based research data bank need not be concerned. We have developed and used such a bank for many years and it works. The unfortunate thing about it is that it has been local. We now need a nationally based clinical-practice research data bank. Such a bank helps not only with clinical research but to improve patient care. Diabetes is an example where such a bank has been used, and where
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I am biased because I am a member of the Medical Research Council. I am also a chairman of Cancer Research UK's Dundee cancer research centre, which co-ordinates clinical research, basic research and clinical practice to deliver better research. For five years I was also chair of the Stem Cell Oversight Committee and developed the stem cell bank, which is the world's biggest stem cell bank. Other countries are envious and want access to our stem cell bank. We are the only country that has clinical-grade stem cells lodged in our bank. No other country has them. It is the clinical-grade stem cells that we will need to use for therapy, and next year we will be the first country to carry out clinical trials for age-related macular degeneration using embryonic stem cells. I do not worry about the patients ruling, either. I know that as scientists we do worry-but somehow we will overcome.
One strategy that the noble Earl did not mention was that of synthetic biology-I am also excited about that, because there was a risk that we would fall behind. The strategy states that an independent panel will be established to produce a road map for technological development in synthetic biology, which is a means of sequencing the effective things that occur in plants and other areas from which drugs can be developed. There are already examples of these in the United States, which have been used there to produce drugs. We will fall behind if we do not develop our research.
The idea of developing an independent road map for synthetic biology is commendable. I therefore ask the Minister, what is the timeline for developing that road map because, otherwise, others will leapfrog over us?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am pleased that the noble Lord mentioned that part of our initiative. As he rightly said, we have undertaken to develop a strategic road map that will set out the timeframe and actions required to establish a world-leading synthetic biology sector. That will be published in spring 2012. To oversee the delivery of the road map, we will establish a synthetic biology leadership council, co-chaired by my ministerial colleague David Willetts, the Minister for Science and Innovation, and Dr Clarke of Shell Global Solutions. I am told that the total timeline for this is 12 months. We therefore intend to move forward on this with some speed. I share the noble Lord's enthusiasm for its potential.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend on having omitted a reference in his Statement to a valley of death fund.
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Earl Howe: The planning horizon for research, as my noble friend will know, has always been a long one. With the increasing cost of research, particularly in later stage clinical trials, companies end up making an extremely significant investment in order to bring one molecule to the market. What we seek to achieve for big pharma in this package of measures is a sense that we in the UK have, as it were, an unrivalled ecosystem that brings together business, researchers, clinicians and patients to translate discovery into clinical use for medical innovation within the NHS. What we want them to appreciate is that the UK provides an environment and infrastructure that supports pioneering researchers and clinicians to bring innovation to the market earlier and more easily so that this country becomes the location of choice for investment. I am thinking here particularly of our proposals for setting up academic health science networks that will span the NHS. That is our ambition. I am thinking of the early access scheme for medicines, which was mentioned in the Statement. We want to break down the regulatory barriers to speeding up clinical trials that have beset the industry. For all those reasons, I should like the industry to see this as facilitating a shorter time horizon. However, we cannot do anything to get around the essential safety and quality standards that the patient and the citizen rightly insist upon.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: My Lords, I welcome the Statement from my noble friend. I realise that other noble Lords want to get in. I should like to ask a few brief questions. First, we have to recruit patients on to trials. It is interesting that there is a proposal automatically to opt patients in to trials-or at least have access to them. How will that be achieved? Will it be achieved through this Bill? Secondly, will the £180 million catalyst fund for the valley of death replace the Health Innovation Challenge Fund that currently operates between the Department of Health and the Wellcome Trust? If not, where will the £180 million come from?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall answer the second question first. The £180 million biomedical catalyst fund is a completely new fund for industry. Its object is to nurture innovative technologies from the academic or commercial sector through to companies with products or technology platforms in order to attract private equity. I shall probably need to write to my noble friend with further details of where the money is coming from. It is coming from the budget of BIS, rather than my own department, and it is therefore
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The proposal to which he referred is only a proposal. We are suggesting that the public should be asked whether the NHS constitution should be changed so that patients are aware that their data, as now, can be used in anonymised form for research. Our intention is to ask more patients whether they wish to be approached for research if that research is relevant to them. As the Statement made clear, we know that more than 70 per cent of the public wish to be informed if a piece of medical research is relevant to them. Patients are keen to be involved in this. It is important to have a public dialogue about the extent to which patients may be approached so that they may know in advance that there is a possibility of a project being relevant to them. We are formulating these proposals now and it will be some time before we issue the consultation. I shall make sure that I let my noble friend know as our proposals crystallise in this area.
Baroness Jenkin of Kennington: My Lords, I should like to start by thanking noble Lords for joining me in this debate. There are many competing events this evening and I am most grateful to your Lordships for your interest in this subject.
Nine thousand years ago, humans domesticated pigs and chickens in order to recycle waste back into food. This eliminated the problem of waste disposal and increased the total amount of food available. More recently, feeding food waste to livestock has been mired in difficulties, particularly after the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease and classical swine fever, both of which were traced to badly managed swill-feeding systems, causing billions of pounds worth of damage to the UK economy and huge distress to farmers and citizens here and abroad. In 2001, the UK Government and the EU banned the feeding of catering and domestic food waste to livestock. Coming on top of the previous controls on feeding animal by-products to livestock that followed the BSE scandal, this put an end to an age-old practice.
Those measures may have been justified in the short term but there is now a compelling case for reassessment. At a time when increasing demand for food is putting a strain on natural resources and food security, and contributing to a global food system that leaves 1 billion people malnourished, we have an obligation to produce
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It was obviously always a bad idea to feed animal by-products to herbivorous ruminants such as cows and sheep, but pigs and chickens are monogastric species like ourselves and are naturally omnivorous, thriving on the leftovers of our own food supply system. Sterilising food waste simply by heating it has been shown to be a guaranteed way of killing pathogens such as foot and mouth and classical swine fever, rendering it a safe source of livestock feed. There is peer-reviewed evidence that feeding food waste, including processed animal protein, to pigs has measurable benefits for their health and well-being, and there is an absence of evidence that feeding PAP and/or catering waste to pigs and chickens under appropriate rigorous controls creates an undue risk. Defra officials confirm that at the time of introducing the ban the British Government did not undertake research into the environmental or economic impacts of banning the feeding of food waste to livestock. This was an extraordinary omission, and we welcome the fact that Defra has now commissioned FERA to look into this issue.
The Governments of other countries such as Japan, South Korea and China and many states in the USA take the view that this is the best way of turning food waste into a valuable resource. Instead of banning the practice, the Japanese Government assist pig farmers who wish to convert to use feed derived from food waste. Supermarkets, manufacturers and catering establishments divert their food waste for this purpose, and the resulting pork is sold at a premium as eco-pork on the same supermarket shelves from which the waste originated.
This process must obviously be conducted strictly in accordance with robust controls to prevent the outbreak of animal diseases. Collecting food waste in centralised processing plants, many of which have been established in Asia, ensures that the heat-treatment process can be electronically monitored to ensure that all food waste is properly sterilised. This gets over the fear that individual rogue farmers will bypass the heat-treatment stage, as is believed to have occurred with the outbreak of foot and mouth in 2001. Japanese farmers are thereby able to save up to 50 per cent of their feed costs, putting them at a competitive advantage over British and European producers, who must purchase commercial feedstuffs on an increasingly volatile and unaffordable world market. The vulnerability from livestock feed imports is reflected in the fluctuation in the price of soy, which has increased by almost 200 per cent in 10 years.
British pig farmers are an endangered breed. Thousands have gone out of business in recent years and more are expected to lose their farms in the future. One of the main reasons for this has been the price of wheat, maize and soy-the principal ingredients of pig and chicken food-on the global marketplace. This is largely because farmers are competing with the growing global livestock industry, as well as with people who buy these grains for their own consumption.
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Anaerobic digestion is rightly promoted as an alternative to landfill that can convert food waste into energy and digestate that can be used as fertiliser. However, where food waste is fit for animal consumption, research published by Tristram Stuart in his book Waste indicates that feeding it to livestock can save up to 500 times more carbon dioxide emissions than are saved by sending food waste for anaerobic digestion. Producing pork from food waste is also several times more profitable, economically speaking.
Some types of unwanted food-namely, bread, dairy, fruit and vegetable waste-can still be legally fed to livestock as long as it has not come into contact with meat. Whereas waste producers pay in the region of £80 per tonne to dispose of food waste in anaerobic digestion, if the food waste can be separated from animal products it can be sold to farmers for roughly £20 per tonne. I understand that one food manufacturer which introduced this system recently has saved in the region of £100,000 per year.
The Food and Drink Federation has successfully promoted the diversion of food co-products and by-products for animal feed, announcing in 2008 that its members had diverted to livestock feed over half a million tonnes of food that would otherwise have been wasted. Research shows that in the UK and across Europe millions more tonnes could be salvaged in this way. Defra is now working with some supermarket chains and local authorities to ensure that more legally permissible foodstuffs can be used in this way. Sainsbury's confirmed last week that it now collects all its bread waste from stores across Britain and diverts this for animal feed. That is much to be welcomed. Wholesale markets such as the New Covent Garden Market in London also have their unwanted fruit and vegetables collected for pig feed. Further encouragements to food companies, local authorities and farmers themselves are needed to ensure that this is replicated across the whole retail sector and beyond.
One significant advantage of this is that there is currently insufficient anaerobic digestion capacity in this country, and new plants are expensive and take time to commission. By contrast, there already exists abundant capacity for diverting food waste to livestock feed; namely, Britain's cash-strapped livestock farmers. To aid this process, it would be helpful to have clearer data on the quantities of different types of food that are currently wasted in Britain's food supply chain. Supermarkets do not currently make these data publicly available, and that hinders the ability of businesses and Governments to invest in the infrastructure required to divert unwanted food for livestock feed.
Under the current legal framework, it is clearly essential that foodstuffs being diverted for animal feed should be kept absolutely separate from banned animal products. The NFU and the National Pig Association rightly raise concerns that retail outlets and manufacturers
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We should consider a three-pronged action programme. First, the Government, local authorities and the food industry should work together to promote the diversion of legally permissible foodstuffs such as bread, dairy, fruit and vegetables for livestock feed. This does not require any changes to existing regulations; it merely requires a rigorously practised safe method of separation and distribution. Secondly, there should be further much-needed research into the environmental and economic benefits of lifting the ban on feeding catering waste to livestock. Lifting the ban would require agreement from the majority of EU member states and the EC. This process will take time, but it should begin now. In a world of finite resources, maintaining the ban is not a sustainable option. Thirdly, the Government should support the proposed revision to existing animal by-products legislation to allow non-ruminant PAP from pigs and chickens to be used for pig and chicken feed.
I do not underestimate consumer concern but I do believe that the British public are able to understand that pigs and chickens are naturally omnivorous and that there is a pressing environmental and economic case for reintroducing the recycling of unwanted foodstuffs back into food in this traditional fashion. I very much welcome the Government's interest in this issue and encourage a wholesale review of processes that could be used to enhance the environmental and economic performance of the British livestock sector.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Jenkin of Kennington, for securing this short debate on an important issue and congratulate her on the parliamentary campaign that she is waging on this issue. I am sure that we will hear a great deal more from her on this topic before too long. I also congratulate her on her very comprehensive survey of the issue and the measured way in which she has put forward proposals for change. By and large, I associate myself and the Liberal Democrats with what she said.
I shall make a few more peripheral comments as I do not want to repeat everything she said about this issue. The background is that many millions of tonnes of edible food are sent to landfill in this country as well as a lot more inedible food. It is estimated by the community interest company Food AWARE that perhaps 18 million tonnes of edible food ends up in landfill. Other people have different estimates of the amount of food that is thrown away and where it ends up, but what is common to all of them is that it is many millions in all cases. Again according to Food AWARE, we are in effect throwing away £23 billion a year, a figure that is rapidly rising as food prices are going up at the moment.
The environmental damage that this creates is obvious. Landfill costs and the landfill taxes that local authorities have to pay are equally obvious. Perhaps a little less obvious is the effect on people. Many people, particularly those on low incomes, are unable to afford what is described as, and is, healthy food and end up buying cheap junk food, although the price of that may be going up too. The effect of this food policy is ironically increasing malnutrition among such social groups and at the same time there is an increasing problem of obesity in the country. People are eating the wrong food, and they are eating too much of it. They are getting fatter, but they are not getting healthier. Disposal costs are passed on to consumers in higher prices and the landfill taxes that local authorities have to pay.
The NFU, quoting research at the University of Sussex, suggests that 20 million tonnes goes in the bin from domestic use alone. I do not know where it all goes. A lot of it perhaps does not go to landfill, but many million tonnes of food are still being thrown away. The statistics across the world are fairly well known. In Europe, on average 90 kilograms-200 pounds -of food is thrown away per person per year. In North America, it is even worse. Other parts of the world are similar. In industrialised Asia, it is 180 pounds. In much poorer parts of the world it is less. In south and south-east Asia it is 33 pounds, in Latin America it is 55 pounds and in sub-Saharan Africa it is only 11 pounds.
The fact that the richer parts of the world are throwing away so much edible food is a global disgrace. There is enough food produced in the world to feed the entire global population and, in fact, the projected global population for many years. The fact is that those of us in countries such as ours are depriving people in other parts of the world of that food because of the amount that we throw away. Looking at the famous waste hierarchy, the first thing we have to do is not to talk about what we do with the waste food that we throw out but to cut down the amount of waste food that we have in the first place. Efforts are being made by supermarkets, caterers, commercial producers of meals and some households, but it is nothing like enough. Until we tackle that basic problem, all the other things are really irrelevant.
The NFU is not against what is being proposed, but quite rightly advocates caution. It points out that feeding waste from catering establishments, including home kitchens and restaurants, has been banned, even if it is only vegetable waste, ever since the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, which some of us remember with horror in our own areas.
The noble Baroness went back 9,000 years, which is a long time even for the House of Lords. Those of us who go back to the years just after the war remember when we all had pig bins in our streets in which we put our food-thoroughly smelly things they were-in order for it to be taken away and made into pig swill. We do not want to go back to that kind of thoroughly unsanitary situation, but it appears that a cautious but determined approach to using much more waste food for feeding animals, particularly pigs, which are capable of eating animal and vegetable waste food, is a sensible way forward. The NFU is not against that. It says:
"This coupled with the obvious environmental benefits of reducing the tonnage of waste disposed in landfill each year, will lead to mounting pressure on the UK Government and within the EU to re-instate food waste into livestock diets. Yet due to historical precedents, the issue must be approached with an air of caution".
In order to do anything with domestic food waste, anaerobic digestion has an important part to play. I understand the point made by the noble Baroness that ultimately anaerobic digestion puts a great deal of the CO2 back in the atmosphere, whereas if you feed it to animals it just recycles it within the system.
Whether food waste is used for anaerobic digestion, feed to animals, generating energy or whatever, it has to be collected. There are great concerns at the moment about whether local authorities will be able to collect food waste separately in ways that allow it to be reused and recycled under the proposals being put forward by the Government and being promoted particularly by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, even though it seems essentially to be a Defra matter. His obsession is weekly collections of food waste. They are an excellent idea if the food waste is collected separately from everything else. If it is simply put into the grey bins with the residual waste and mixed up, and given the state of the technology that most local authorities have access to at the moment for the separation of the waste that has been collected, that food waste will simply end up in landfill. That would be a highly undesirable side effect of what Mr Pickles is proposing. Of course, where local authorities at the moment are not collecting food waste, it will make no difference because it simply goes in the fortnightly collections, but where local authorities are already collecting food waste separately, would like to do so or would be willing to do so, the fundamental question is whether the amount of money that Mr Pickles is offering to local authorities-£250 million in total-will be able to be put towards separate weekly food waste collection as opposed to food waste going in the grey bin.
I asked a Written Question about this recently and got a brush-off, really, which was, "We are still thinking about it". I do not blame my noble friend the Minister here because it was not he who gave the Answer; the DCLG replied to the Question, even though it is a Defra matter. There is real confusion here and it really would help if the Minister could either answer the question or, if not, go back to his colleagues in the DCLG and say that lots of local authorities want to collect food waste separately and want to collect it weekly, but if Mr Pickles is providing all this beneficence to local authorities can he please provide it in a sensible way and not in a very old-fashioned way that just results in the stuff going to landfill?
Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lady Jenkin of Kennington for introducing this short debate. It is actually very timely. She asked us to consider the environmental and economic impacts of the proposed changes, at a time when we have so much
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As my noble friend has indicated, the pig industry already uses over 1 million tonnes per annum of co- and by-products from food manufacturing, mainly in the form of wheat feed, biscuit meal, cake, bread and cereals products, starch extract products, and whey products. However, it is a highly regulated industry. I cannot stress this enough. All the products have to be FEMAS-assured and do not come from manufacturing plants that have any meat products, in order to minimise the risk of cross-contamination.
I was shadow Minister at the time of the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001, and I cannot stress enough the huge impact it had across the country, not just closing farms but movements of markets, countryside access, and rural concerns put out of business in the long term as a result of it. The ban on pigswill also, sadly, put 60 of those swill feeders out of business. What has come through from the NPA and NFU briefings is a note of real caution, and I hope my noble friend will reflect that caution when he responds-that it is not totally dismissed-as there have to be very strong rigours to ensure there is no question of cross-contamination.
From the briefings that we have had, the other big issue that has been raised is-as at the time of the foot and mouth outbreak-public concern and public confidence. Certainly the one thing the farming industry does not wish to see is another shake of that confidence, which has been restored over the years so that people trust the food they eat. Whatever the European Commission or our Government decide to do, very strong systems should be built in to make sure that there is no contamination.
Obviously these are also useful forms of energy. Taken with the briefing from the National Farmers' Union that has been quoted by others already, it is important to recognise that here are two organisations that you think would be very much in favour of it, which say, "Yes, we will consider it but there are indeed questions attached to it".
As I mentioned earlier, we are in an era where we have waste on one hand and increasing costs on the other. This debate gives me an opportunity to raise a couple of questions with the Minister. As the briefing from the NFU says:
"This waste utilisation issue coincides with a severe shortage of availability of GM free animal feed protein, particularly soya, which is grown predominantly in South America, and used by the pig and poultry sectors. Whilst EU GM feed restrictions continue, the price of GM-free soya is rocketing"-
So my question to the Minister is: should this aspect not be looked at again? Should the EU not be reconsidering its stance on GM? If it wants to maintain that stance, surely it should be looking at ways to protect UK pig and poultry producers from having to compete unfairly with products that are allowed to be brought into this country. It is an important part of the debate we are having tonight.
I have also looked up the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, sent on behalf of the Food Standards Agency. While I do not always agree with the Food Standards Agency, it too recognises the need for caution. The letter to my honourable friend Jim Paice on 15 September, discussing the current feed ban, also says that,
This is a very important discussion and I am really grateful to my noble friend for raising it. For me, it raises some very basic issues. We have waste; we need to deal with it. It would be better not to have it in the first place, to be perfectly honest, but there are ways in which we can use that waste without necessarily feeding it to pigs and poultry. We can use it in biofuels, anaerobic digesters and pet foods. We have the cost of purchasing and getting non-GM food for our producers here. The EU has to look at both sides of the equation.
I am very grateful for this short debate tonight to give us a chance to think about the ways in which we produce food in this country and where we would aim to go in the future. At the end of it all, the main goal should be to reduce food waste. Something like a third of the food that we produce here in this country is wasted. My noble friend Lord Greaves mentioned countries overseas. Their problem is different. Their waste is not what is actually put on the plate, but is a result of a lack of infrastructure to get it from the field where it is grown into the shops or markets-wherever people buy their food. Internationally, it is a slightly different challenge that they face.
I say to my noble friend Lady Jenkin that, while I support her thoughts behind her debate tonight, I cannot emphasise enough the degree to which we must be very careful, whichever way we go in the future. We could look back at the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001; if one accepts that it came from pigswill, it would mean that there was a system in place which should have made that not happen, but sadly it did happen. Therefore, whatever system goes on in the future, those controls and inspections need to be in place and reviewed regularly. I thank the noble Baroness for giving us this opportunity to speak tonight.
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