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House of Lords

Monday, 25 November 2013.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.

Introduction: Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd

2.38 pm

The Right Honourable Sir Roger John Laugharne Thomas, Knight, having been created Baron Thomas of Cwmgiedd, of Cwmgiedd in the County of Powys, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Morris of Aberavon and Lord Judge, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Death of a Member: Lord Kingsdown


2.44 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of the noble Lord, Lord Kingsdown, on 24 November. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.

Crime: Clare’s Law


2.44 pm

Asked by Baroness Gale

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they will report on the pilot schemes relating to “Clare’s Law” in Greater Manchester, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Wiltshire; and when a decision will be taken on the results of the evaluation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, my right honourable friend Mrs Theresa May this morning announced the rollout of the domestic violence disclosure scheme, also known as Clare’s law, across England and Wales from March 2014. This follows the successful conclusion of the pilot in September, which found that it encouraged effective local multi-agency working around domestic violence and abuse. The Home Secretary also announced her intention to roll out domestic violence protection orders.

Baroness Gale (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister very much and I am pleased to hear that Clare’s law will be rolled out nationally. Will he join me in congratulating Michael Brown—the father of Clare Wood, who was killed by her partner—who has campaigned relentlessly for Clare’s law? Can the Minister confirm that resources will be put in place so that women will know that they have the right to ask and the right to know under Clare’s law? Does he agree that there should be a national campaign to publicise this? Furthermore, does he agree with the hope that

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the number of women who die at the hands of their partner or former partner—which is estimated at about 100 a year, in addition to the 1.2 million it is estimated will suffer domestic abuse at some time in their lives—will be reduced by this additional aid?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I am aware of the figures that the noble Baroness has produced. They are indeed horrendous. I willingly pay tribute to Michael Brown. I hope that the actions the Home Secretary has taken today are a worthy tribute to the suffering that Clare Wood endured. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s commitment to this issue and share her interest in ensuring that these projects are a success. The Government have ring-fenced £40 million of funding over the lifetime of this Parliament to help front-line organisations tackle violence against women and girls. We see this resource being available to fund both these initiatives and I hope that we all join in wishing them great success.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware that we are taking part in a study, which this morning had a meeting in the House of Commons and heard from many witnesses? In particular, I mention Professor Liz Kelly, who has written a paper on this very important subject. It brought out that one of the worst situations is coercive control, which is the type of thing we have had with the slavery issue recently. Apparently the most dangerous point with coercive control is when the person who has been intimidated or brainwashed—all sorts of possible things have been used—says that she is going to go. That is apparently when the police record quite a number of deaths. Will my noble friend ensure that Professor Liz Kelly’s paper is taken into consideration in any further studies?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I happily give my noble friend that assurance. Indeed, I look forward to hearing more from her on this issue. Violence against women is often a matter of revenge. I believe in a society where people should be free to enter into emotional commitments to others and equally free to leave them. Violence should never be used to enforce a relationship.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal (Lab): My Lords, will the noble Lord tell us what plans have been put in place for training to help the police, prosecutors, the judiciary and others so that they better understand the nature of domestic violence and how Clare’s law can best be implemented?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble and learned Baroness will probably know that there are multi-agency risk assessment conferences at which these matters are discussed at grassroots implementation level. We are well aware that a broad spread of people has an interest in making sure that these policies are effectively delivered on the ground. The Government are ensuring that all those involved are properly informed of the most effective way of dealing with this. So much of this has lain undercover—almost under the carpet. What we in this Government—and indeed, I think, in this House—are seeking to do is bring it out into the open.

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The Earl of Listowel (CB): My Lords, does the Minister appreciate the particular harm caused by domestic violence to children living in families? My understanding is that children’s centres are not included in those agencies which are informed about domestic violence in the family. In order that they can target those families for support, will he check to see that they are kept informed in this area?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I shall certainly attempt to do so. We work with the Department for Education on this issue. The policy is designed to look at the family as a holistic unit and find out ways in which by intervening in early stages of violence we can stop it developing into a situation where children, too, can be affected.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, the Minister acknowledged that there has been a call for a much wider look at the issue, particularly at how the police and state agencies respond, coming both from Refuge and Women’s Aid—organisations which know a lot about the subject. I have heard today comments in response to the announcement that welcome the putting of responsibility on to the abused person. That is a very dangerous attitude. I am sure that the Minister will agree that it is unrealistic to create the expectation that somebody should check on a partner’s background. Control and abuse may grow very gradually.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: On the other hand, my noble friend will recognise that much of Clare’s law is about authorities being open with a perpetrator’s possible history of abuse. Alongside this, HMIC also has a role in setting up a special group to check on capacity at police level to make sure that the police, who are key to a lot of this, operate effectively in this area.

Business Rates


2.52 pm

Asked by Lord Naseby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they will take in response to calls from the Confederation of British Industry, the British Chambers of Commerce and the British Retail Consortium for a reduction in and reform of business rates, particularly in relation to high street retailers.

Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I give notice that a member of my family works in the retail trade.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, the Government keep all taxes, including business rates, under review and in doing so take account of all views expressed by representative bodies and the retail industry. While I am not privy to any measures that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer might be considering ahead of the Autumn Statement, noble Lords might wish to be reminded that this Government have taken significant steps to support business, including, for example, doubling small business rate relief.

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Lord Naseby: My noble friend is right to remind the House of what the Government have done so far. Nevertheless, is she not aware that the broader high street, often owned by individuals or families, has faced the most difficult four years certainly in this century and probably since the last war? Is she further aware that the one element that does not seem to change is the business rates, which each year go up and up and are now well above rentals, which is the first time in history that that has happened? Will she therefore look at some short-term action, perhaps freezing the business rate for the year 2014-15, otherwise I fear that shops, particularly in the north and the Midlands, will shut up shop? If action is taken, that will probably mean more investment, more recruitment into the retail trade and will probably be cost-neutral.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this important matter. Of course I recognise the difficulties faced by retailers around the country. I regret that I am not able to announce any new tax cuts today—my right honourable friend the Chancellor might have something to say if I did. He has a proven record in supporting business. It is worth reminding noble Lords that by 2015 corporation tax will have fallen eight percentage points to 20%. I also know that he is listening hard and considering all options before deciding what steps to take next towards reducing the deficit and stimulating growth.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, we know that small businesses are the driving force behind future jobs and growth. As the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, said, we know that many small business owners face a cost of living crisis as high streets struggle, and that many are under the pressures of rising business rates and energy bills. There are some 40,000 empty shops in the UK and more than one in 10 small businesses say they spend the same or more on business rates as on rents. While it is right that the UK has a competitive corporation tax rate, does the Minister not accept that the priority now is to direct more help to small and medium-sized businesses, as Ed Miliband proposed, by cutting the 2015 business rate on 1.5 million properties below the value of £50,000 and freezing it for 2016? This would be paid for by not cutting further in 2015 corporation tax for 80,000 larger companies and multinationals.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I think the Institute of Directors has already disagreed with that approach. We consider that it would be robbing Peter to pay Paul because all businesses benefit from a reduction in corporation tax. It is also worth reminding the noble Lord that this Government have given local authorities powers to grant their own business rate discounts. The local government sector now retains 50% of the business rates that are collected. If local authorities decide to reduce business rates further in their area, since April of this year the Government have been funding 50% of those costs.

Baroness Hanham (Con): Does the Minister agree that while business rates may be one factor in the decline of the high streets, there are a number of others? Does she further agree that this Government

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have already frozen the revaluation of rates, which was a help? Finally, does she agree that other factors in the high street include rents, the mix of shops, the support of local people and, perhaps most importantly, online shopping, which it is now estimated will account for 30% of all business transacted over the Christmas period?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: This Government have done a lot to support local communities in adapting their high streets to the changing behaviour of consumers. My noble friend is right to highlight the increase in online trade. The other point worth making about things we are doing differently is that we changed some of the previous Government’s planning guidance which pushed up parking charges and had quite a negative effect on town centres. We are looking to do more in this area and will consult on that soon.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister confirm that rates in Scotland are devolved to the Scottish Parliament and will be included in a document produced tomorrow, which the Scottish Government mistakenly call a White Paper? Will she take the opportunity—along with all Ministers, including, particularly, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness—to remind the Scottish Government that the title “White Paper” should only be used for proposals which the Government are able to bring in, and that the proposals included in this document can only be brought in with the agreement of the whole of the United Kingdom?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I can only imagine that the noble Lord has chosen to ask a question about process because the substance of my replies have disappointed him. This Government have done an awful lot to support businesses and, for me, today is not the moment to start talking about the way in which different Parliaments operate.

Lord Wrigglesworth (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest in UK Land Estates. Is my noble friend aware that the burden of rates on businesses is three times that of corporation tax? Will she consider approaching the Chancellor to seek to alleviate the burden on some businesses through a one-year rebate for empty premises that would give an incentive to firms to move in, and thereby fill some of the empty shops on our high streets?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: We have already introduced some changes on empty premises to support local authorities. New builds which remain empty have a reduction in business rate for up to 18 months; and that is having a positive effect.

Economy: Women’s Incomes


3 pm

Asked by Baroness Thornton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have carried out an economic impact assessment of the effects on women’s incomes and standard of living of their economic policy since May 2010.

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Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, departments take full account of the impact of their policies on women. In spending round 2013, the Government published an analysis of how their decisions impacted on different groups, including by gender. This was a first for any UK Government. The economy is growing, the deficit is falling and jobs are being created. The only sustainable way to raise living standards for both men and women is to stick to our current economic plans.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. I have to say that it does not coincide with the information that I have, which was produced by the House of Commons Library. Its analysis tells us that, of the £14.4 billion George Osborne has raised through additional net direct tax and benefit changes, about £11.4 billion—79%—is coming from women. This includes low-paid new mums, who have lost nearly £3,000 in support during their pregnancy and their baby’s first year; couples with children, who have lost 9.7% of their disposable income; and single mothers, who have lost the most—15.6%? Does the noble Lord think that that is fair, and how does it reflect, “We are all in this together”?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I think that those figures are in some respects significantly misleading. For example, 98% of all child benefit goes to women, but it is the whole household that benefits. The single biggest improvement in the position of women under this Government has come from the fact that there are 450,000 women now in work who were not in work in 2010. This is as a result of the Government’s economic policies, which have kept interest rates down so that we have not seen the high unemployment peak that we had in the previous recession.

Baroness Tyler of Enfield (LD): My Lords, with women three times more likely than men to be in part-time work, does the Minister agree that a gender divide still exists in the labour market that forces many women to compromise their careers in order to care for children, and that this inequality can best be addressed by further increasing the provision of affordable childcare?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. The Government are increasing the amount of free childcare that they are providing, most noticeably from the age of two, for 15 weeks a year, in addition to the existing provision for three and four year-olds. I agree with my noble friend’s comments about pay. It is noticeable, however, that, on most measures, the pay gap between men and women has fallen by between 0.5% and 1% in the past year.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton (Lab): My Lords, the Government are using the question of women’s employment rather incorrectly. They must stop hiding behind that. Rather, I should like an explanation of why the figures cited by my noble friend are misleading and why the House of Commons Library has got them wrong.

Lord Newby: My Lords, as I said, one of the big elements in that overall figure is child benefit, which goes to women. It is paid to women in 98% of cases,

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but child benefit affects the whole family. Therefore, to include child benefit as a benefit for women, as it were, is completely misleading; it is a benefit for the whole household.

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that members of the minority community who are also British citizens are tending to do worse in the pay structure? Is he also aware that about 75% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi women are not a factor at all in the economic circumstances of Britain? How does that square with the so well supported and so beloved economic strategy of this Government?

Lord Newby: My Lords, we would like to see—as no doubt the noble Baroness would—a higher proportion of women from those communities being economically active. We are seeing that a much higher proportion of young women in those communities are economically active than their parents were. However, one of the positive things about the rise in the number of women in employment, which I mentioned earlier, is that there is now a higher proportion of women in the labour market than ever before. That is very much to the benefit of women overall.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, does the Minister realise that proposals regarding economic policy are to be included in the paper to be produced by the Scottish Government tomorrow? Since the Minister’s noble friend was unable to answer my supplementary question, could he take some advice from the Advocate-General and answer it? A Government can call something a White Paper only if they have the power to implement what is included—and, if the Scottish people were, unfortunately, to vote yes, the Scottish Government’s proposals could be implemented only with the full agreement of the rest of the United Kingdom.

Lord Newby: My Lords, perhaps I could refer the noble Lord to the speech made by my noble and learned friend at Aberdeen University last Friday, which very adequately answers his question.

Violence against Women and Girls


3.06 pm

Asked by Baroness Gould of Potternewton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to prevent rape and violence against women and girls.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, as we have already said, this Government are committed to preventing these appalling crimes. Earlier this year we published, and we continue to deliver, a cross-government strategy called Ending Violence Against Women and Girls, and a supporting action plan that goes with it. This includes our successful national campaigns particularly targeted at teenagers to prevent rapes and abuse, which we will be rebuilding with a relaunch early next month.

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Baroness Gould of Potternewton (Lab): I thank the Minister for that reply. I refer specifically to the rape crisis centres that I know the Government have given some support and funding to, which of course is appreciated. However, the money which has been given is short-term money. What plans do the Government have, and what is in their strategy, to guarantee that they will give the funding to ensure that these rape crisis centres can continue—not least because local commissioning has changed, which has put them in jeopardy? The Government really have to take some responsibility for ensuring that these rape crisis centres can stay open. Alongside that, are they giving any support for the training of the specialists who provide support services within the rape crisis centres?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Again I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s interests and to the way in which she is pursuing these matters. It is true to say that the Government want to improve victims’ experience of the criminal justice system wherever they interface with it, and to assure victims of these terrible crimes that they will get the support that they need. That is why the Government are currently providing £4 million for 77 rape crisis centres across England and Wales. We hope that we are helping to build the support which the noble Baroness seeks for the victims of sexual assault and rape.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): My Lords, as millions of people seem very reluctant to believe that millions of women are being brutalised in this country, have the Government considered adopting the policy of the Spanish Government, who have distributed notices throughout Spain which simply state, “If you’ve hit a woman, you’re not a man”?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I concur with the message that my noble friend suggests, although I have to say that we have not considered that particular campaign. None the less, it will be interesting to see how it works in Spain.

Baroness Kingsmill (Lab): My Lords, would the Minister agree that perhaps what we really ought to focus on is prevention? By prevention, I mean that we should educate young men and boys not to use violence against women and to learn how to honour and respect women. Could not our national curriculum possibly be improved by having such lessons?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: A lot can be done in schools and, of course, a lot can be done outside schools by those people fortunate to live in parental custody, and by parents themselves treating each other with mutual respect. The Home Office has had—and I alluded to it earlier—a very successful national teenage rape prevention campaign, which was extended into a teenage relationship abuse campaign, because it was recognised that rape was only one aspect of the abuse that young females might suffer from young men. The figures and responses show that these campaigns have struck home and have had a real impact on young people’s relationships. That is why we are intending to relaunch the campaign on, I think, 5 December. We feel that that is the right way in which to go about it.

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Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): Would the Minister not acknowledge that, while we have campaigns, they are not a replacement for education? This is a cultural problem. We hear on the radio that women cyclists are being harassed by men, not only for being cyclists but for being women. We know that young men brought up in difficult households are more likely to see domestic abuse, and that those who see domestic abuse are, according to the research programme from Arnon Bentovim, more likely to be engaged in rape and the harm of women. Surely it goes back to the noble Baroness’s point that, unless we tackle this in the school curriculum at the educational level, no amount of campaigns will make any difference.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Again, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness’s commitment to making sure that professionals are properly oriented towards dealing with this. She rightly draws attention to an answer which I think that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, earlier, and I hope that she agrees that I recognise the important role of schools.

Baroness Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville (LD): Would the Minister agree that creating a safe atmosphere whereby women are encouraged to report to the police violence and rape within the home in the knowledge that they will be taken seriously and treated sympathetically is key to tackling the problem and reducing the incidence?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Yes, indeed. One feature of the current scene post-Savile is that women are much more confident now about going to the police and knowing that these things will be taken seriously. So I could not agree more with my noble friend.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, following a debate that I was able to secure on a related issue back in March, more than 60 bishops around the country are today supporting the campaign to end gender-based violence, and are visiting on this day a large number of projects up and down the country to support the cause. I apologise that, in the rush to get here, I have no white ribbon. Could the Minister inform the House what additional action the Government are taking to implement the agreed conclusion from this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women, which focused on the ending of violence against women?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I congratulate my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on his role in ensuring that 135 countries have signed up to the agreement on the use of rape as a weapon of war. This is a significant development, and shows that these arguments are not just confined to this country. Discussions that we are having here have raised awareness throughout the world.

Health and Social Care (Amendment) (Food Standards) Bill [HL]

Order of Commitment Discharged

3.14 pm

Moved by Baroness Cumberlege

That the order of commitment be discharged.

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Baroness Cumberlege (Con): My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been tabled to the Bill, and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Committee (4th Day)

3.15 pm

Relevant documents: 12th Report from the Delegated Powers Committee, 4th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

Clause 44: Remedial action by local authority

Amendment 22QG had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 44 agreed.

Clause 45: Offence of failing to comply with notice

Amendment 22QH not moved.

Clause 45 agreed.

Clause 46 agreed.

Clause 47: Forfeiture of item used in commission of offence

Amendment 22QJ not moved.

Amendments 22QK to 22QS had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 47 agreed.

Clause 48 agreed.

Clause 49: Fixed penalty notices

Amendment 22QT

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

22QT: Clause 49, page 28, line 30, leave out “14” insert “28”

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, this will make me popular, as noble Lords are now able to leave the Chamber.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, I ask all noble Lords to leave the Chamber quietly out of respect for my noble friend Lady Hamwee.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I hope that my amendments live up to that. I speak also to Amendments 22QU and 22QV, and Amendments 56ZBA and 56ZBB. These amendments are all about fixed-penalty notices for failure to comply, in the case of the first pair of amendments with a community protection order, and in the second pair of amendments with a public spaces protection order. The Bill allows 14 days to pay the fixed penalty, which may be reduced in amount it if is paid within a shorter period; I imagine that it is anticipated that that would be seven days. It seems to me that 14 days is a very short period. I am not in this amendment seeking to argue the merits or

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otherwise of either of the orders but we do not want them to come into disrepute through there being difficulties in their application. Some people go away on holidays, not realising that a notice may have become payable, because they might not actually have been handed it. There are a number of reasons why 14 days for payment is in many areas regarded as on the short side.

My amendments would provide in both cases a period of 28 days with a discount if payment is made, say, within 14 days—or, at any rate, an earlier period—which is comparable with penalties under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Amendment 22QV, also to Clause 49, would replace a certificate being one that,

“purports to be signed by or on behalf of the chief finance officer of the local authority”,

with one that is simply “signed on behalf of”. I will probably be told that this is language used in many other Acts of Parliament, but it seemed to me a curious provision. More importantly, however, there would be no scope for challenge to it if the local authority got its procedures wrong. I have therefore tabled the amendment not as a frivolous matter but as a serious one. I beg to move.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I thank my noble friend for explaining the purpose of these amendments. I suppose I could say that I had a vested interest in asking other noble Lords to leave quietly, as I had to respond to this amendment.

This amendment relates to the amount of time that an individual issued with a fixed penalty notice should be given to pay. Where breach of a community protection notice or of a condition of a public spaces protection order has occurred, the offender could be issued with a fixed penalty notice. Payment of this penalty notice discharges the perpetrator from any other proceedings for that breach and so they are, quite rightly, given a period of grace in which to pay the amount specified. Different fixed penalty notice schemes have different periods during which recipients are expected to pay the penalty; for example, littering is set at 14 days whereas others have a longer time. In this case we believe that 14 days is sufficient time for a perpetrator to pay that amount and that it provides the right balance between giving the offender enough time to pay the fine and ensuring that the process for collecting such money is both timely and efficient.

In terms of Amendment 22QV, I have listened to the case made by my noble friend, who highlighted certain instances of concern. However, the language used in the Bill is, of course, commonly used elsewhere on the statute book. For example, this terminology is also used in the Environmental Protection Act 1990 in relation to fixed penalty notices under that Act. In effect it avoids the chief finance officer having to come to court to give evidence personally that he or she had signed the certificate. Despite that provision, it remains a matter for the court to decide what weight to place upon the document as evidence, although in practice it is highly unlikely that whether the document is genuine will ever be an issue. I have heard the case that my noble friend has made, but the Government feel that on balance the 14 days and, as has been stated, the signature of the chief finance officer as stands in what

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the Government have tabled is the right way forward. For those reasons, I hope that my noble friend is minded to withdraw her amendments.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, of course I will withdraw them, given that this is Committee stage. The last of my amendments would not impose any requirement to give evidence any more than would the words in the Bill, but I can see that I will not get anywhere with that. On the 14 days, is it just a question of the Government saying, “We think this is right”, or is it something more detailed than that? We have different views. I have said that I am concerned that the timing may too easily be missed, and that it could bring the penalties regime into disrepute. If the noble Lord has any more to say in support, I would be glad to hear it. Will he tell the Committee whether the shorter period envisaged is indeed seven days, which I rather guessed at? I do not know whether his notes give him that information.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: It would be appropriate if I wrote to the noble Baroness; I will come back to her specifically on whether it is seven or 10 days. However, on the 14 days, that is the Government’s position as it stands.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 22QT withdrawn.

Amendments 22QU and 22QV not moved.

Clause 49 agreed.

Clause 50: Authorised persons

Amendment 22QW

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

22QW: Clause 50, page 29, line 21, leave out paragraph (c)

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I will speak also to Amendments 22QYB, 22QYC and 22QYD.

Clause 50 states who may issue a community protection notice or a fixed penalty notice. Amendment 22QW queries whether paragraph (c) of Clause 50(1) is necessary. It provides that a community protection notice or fixed penalty notice may be issued by,

“a person designated by the relevant local authority”.

Paragraph (b) refers to the notices being issued by, “the relevant local authority”. The authority will have to designate a signatory because whatever it does must be done by someone acting in its name. Therefore, I am puzzled as to what paragraph (c) adds.

I have added my name to Amendment 22QY standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Greaves—he got there first—because my real objection concerns subsection (4) of Clause 50, which provides that only someone in a post,

“specified in an order made by the Secretary of State”,

can be designated. Surely, designation must be a matter for the local authority. Does the Secretary of State have to intervene at this level?

Amendments 22QYB and 22QYC probe whether all police community support officers have the relevant technical knowledge to deal with community protection notices. On previous Committee days we discussed

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some of the difficulties that may arise in using the existing statutory powers that environmental health officers have, for example, as opposed to using the new mechanisms provided in the Bill. A lot of technical knowledge needs to be applied in deciding whether an infringement has occurred, especially in respect of noise.

My last amendment in this group concerns serving a notice. A fixed penalty notice can be handed over to the individual or be delivered to that person’s address either by hand or by post. If it is to be delivered by post, I am concerned to know when it is deemed to have been issued. If it is issued when the notice is put in the post, it will reduce, by at least a day and possibly more, the time that the recipient of the notice has to pay. I have already said that I am concerned about how short that time is. I beg to move Amendment 22QW.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, the point I am about to make has been made in connection with a great deal of other legislation and concerns the abilities of those with learning difficulties and disabilities to understand the content and implications of notices such as those we are discussing. It is important to ensure that the legislation includes reference to the provision of appropriate adults or advocates or whatever sources are used to make certain that the full implications are explained to those who may have such difficulties to avoid them getting into yet further trouble, completely inappropriately.

3.30 pm

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, I have three amendments in this group, which have to some extent been covered already by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. Clause 50 states that authorised persons who may issue a community protection notice or a fixed penalty notice are “a constable” or “the relevant local authority”—a lower-tier district or unitary authority in this case—or,

“a person designated by the relevant local authority”.

These amendments largely probe the intentions of the Government as to which persons might be designated by the relevant authority.

Subsection (4) states:

“Only a person of a description specified in an order made by the Secretary of State … may be designated”.

Along with my noble friend, I wonder why the Secretary of State requires this power in this instance. By and large, all the anti-social behaviour parts of the Bill are remarkably free of powers under which the Secretary of State can issue orders and regulations. Those of us who ploughed through Bills such as the Localism Bill and the Growth and Infrastructure Bill, now Acts of Parliament, felt that they were plagued with powers under which the Secretary of State could tell local authorities in great detail what to do through statutory instruments. This Bill is mercifully free of such provisions, except here and there. Yet here, for some reason, one such provision crops up, and it is not clear why it should be required in this instance.

I therefore tabled Amendment 22QY only to probe the Government’s intention regarding what class of people ought to be involved. However, we want to take

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out the ability of the Government to instruct local authorities. Specifically, Amendment 22QX probes the question of whether a parish council—or perhaps a larger parish or town council—could be designated by the relevant local authority, the district council, to carry out some of these functions. I should make it clear that if the amendment were agreed it would be entirely permissive and would require the agreement of both the district and the town or parish council. However, town councils and some parish councils already do a huge amount of work on tackling local issues such as litter. It seems sensible, at least in a restricted way when dealing with appropriate issues, for those councils to have powers to serve community protection notices.

My question is: as the Bill stands, would parish councils, or perhaps a specified person on or employed by a parish council, be eligible for designation? Is it the Government’s intention that if they are going to designate such people, parish councils would be available to be designated if they wished to do this work? Clearly, there would be no question of compulsion.

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, as this is the first occasion on which I have spoken at this stage of the Bill, I ought to reiterate my declaration of interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and president of the National Association of Local Councils, the parent body of parish and town councils.

I will direct my attention to Amendment 22QX in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Greaves. I am extremely grateful to him for raising this point because it is perfectly true that many parish and town councils across England and Wales have aspirations to take on addition roles. He will be aware from a note that I sent him and copied to the Minister that I was a bit doubtful as to whether a generic provision for parish councils to be designated in this way was necessarily wise or appropriate, because it will be clear to Members of this Committee that parish councils, by their very nature, come in all shapes and sizes and with all manner of abilities and resources available to them—from next to nothing to those that would put some principal authorities in the shade. Therefore, it is very important to understand the criteria whereby such a designation could be made. Otherwise, were a parish or town council to be so designated in a situation where ultimately it could not manage this particular obligation, it would potentially be a hostage to the fortunes of circumstance.

I should add that I inquired of a number of other bodies, such as the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society, what they felt about the business of parish and town councils having this sort of power. I did not refer specifically to this type of power but to more general powers, but they were doubtful that it would be appropriate. They may have had their own reasons for being doubtful, and of course noble Lords will have their own take on this; none the less, it should be clear—and I hope that the Minister will clarify—that what is intended here is that designation will occur when there is clearly the desire and the capacity—in other words, a two-way street of designation, as the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, outlined. I hope that this is essentially understood on all sides of the Committee that that is a necessary ingredient.

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Lord Greaves: Does the noble Earl agree that the concerns about the Bill from the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers and such organisations really refer to the next chapter of the Bill on public spaces protection orders rather than CPNs? He may be interested to know that only this morning I discussed this matter in some detail with the National Association of Local Councils. On the basis that it will be a two-way voluntary agreement, the association can see a great deal of justification for parish and town councils taking part in this.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, the noble Lord is well ahead of the curve on this. I tried to contact the National Association of Local Councils without success earlier today, so he has stolen a march on me. I am extremely glad about that, because one of the great merits of this House is the collaborative way in which these things are dealt with. I am particularly glad that he has made contact with the association and that he has that very common-sense steer on the matter.

With regard to the Open Spaces Society, the Ramblers and such organisations, I entirely take his point that the issue is probably more specific to the next chapter of the Bill. However, their concerns underline that there will be doubts about the capacity of parish and town councils to undertake certain things and about whether that is an appropriate level at which to deal with the issue. Whether the Minister feels that it is appropriate to accept this amendment or whether he will suggest that there is another way in which the Government’s thinking caters for it, I will leave to his response.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, these amendments raise a number of interesting points. Amendments 22QW and 22QY relate to the provisions in the Bill which would allow local authorities to designate others with the ability to use the new community protection notice. The aim behind this provision is to ensure that the burden of dealing with certain types of anti-social behaviour does not fall on just one agency.

However, it is important that we strike a balance between the new flexibility and the fact that this new notice incurs a criminal sanction on breach. While subsection (1)(c) allows for the local authority to designate the power, as a safeguard subsection (4) allows the Secretary of State to say who this may include. As we have made clear over the past few years, we believe that social landlords should have a role in dealing with this type of anti-social behaviour. At present, they are the only group that would be included in the order. With regard to who else is going to be on the Home Secretary’s list, at present social landlords are the only category of person but, over time, other groups or bodies may express an interest and we will consider them on a case-by-case basis.

The draft guidance makes clear the importance of partnership working, and ultimately the local authority will be able to set the ground rules if it decides to give a social landlord access to the new power. However, as many of those landlords are already dealing with these issues and making judgment calls daily on what is

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reasonable or not, it seems sensible to give them a formal role in their own communities. I hope that I have explained the need for other bodies to have access to the new notice and for the safeguards and reasoning behind those safeguards to have been included. I hope that my noble friend will not press the amendments.

Amendment 22QX would add parish councils and Welsh community councils to the list of bodies that can be designated by the relevant local authority to issue CPNs. CPNs are a powerful tool and, as such, there needs to be some control over the number of organisations that can issue them in order to maintain consistency. As I said, a breach of a CPN is a criminal offence and one needs experienced practitioners in their use. We believe that local authorities, as defined in Clause 53, are the right bodies to undertake this role. As with public spaces protection orders, we do not believe that parish councils should be able to hear them. However, I have been interested in the debate that has gone on between the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and my noble friend Lord Greaves on this issue. If we are to extend the role to include parish councils, we need evidence to effect such a change, and we would need to be absolutely certain that it was in the best interests of making effective use of these new powers.

Amendment 22QYA would allow the local authority to restrict the use of community protection notices where it designates the power to another person or body. I am happy to reassure my noble friend that this is already possible as the provisions are drafted, and we shall seek further to clarify that in the guidance. We would expect that, in designating the power to social landlords, local authorities would use a memorandum of understanding to agree boundaries on the use of the notice and local guidelines on matters such as the enforcement of notices and the recording of data on their use.

I understand the point raised by my noble friend on Amendments 22QYB and 22QYC relating to the level of training that those issuing the notice will receive, including police community support officers. I have made it clear that this is a highly responsible activity and that training is important. I assure my noble friend that the kind of judgment calls being made here, and being made daily by social landlords, PCSOs, council staff and police officers, are a feature of current implementation of anti-social behaviour measures. What is unreasonable is how behaviour affects victims and communities and when it is right to go down the formal intervention route. However, we would expect there to be training on the new powers and the impact assessments that we have published include the cost of training. That covers the police, including all PCSOs, social landlords and local authority staff. It is not for Ministers in Whitehall—this is a theme going through the whole Bill—to mandate what levels of training are required to deal with local issues. As such I cannot guarantee exactly what training officers will receive, but I expect that police forces, social landlords and local authorities will see the benefits of the effective use of this new power and train their staff accordingly. I hope that I have given my noble friend the assurances she needs to withdraw her amendment.

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I was interested in the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who asked to be reassured that learning disabilities would be considered in the enforcement of this part of the Bill and indeed other parts, too, We can make that absolutely clear in guidance. It is good practice in any event, but I will look at ways of trying to make it clear in the guidance that we issue.

I turn now to the service of documents by post. This is governed by Section 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978. Under this, service is deemed to have been effected when the letter is posted but actually effected at the time the letter would have been received in the ordinary course of post unless the contrary is proven. There is allowance for the time of delivery under normal events but, should that notice not be received within a reasonable time to enable the person to effect the action that is required, they are required to put forward evidence of not having received the notice. As my noble friend will know, many notices of this type are sent by tracker post or recorded delivery of some description so that the service of the notice can be noted by the issuing authority.

I hope that I have given assurances on these matters and that, on that basis, my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

3.45 pm

Lord Swinfen (Con): Did I hear my noble friend correctly? Did he say that people have to produce evidence of not having received documents? I do not see how they could do so.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am quoting from the information I have received, which is the interpretation of Section 7 of the Interpretation Act 1978. When I received it, it sounded slightly topsy-turvy, but nevertheless this has been in use for some time and I expect that there are precedents for the use of this Act. As I say, my noble friend can be reassured that the majority of notices of this type are served either by a visit or by recorded delivery. I shall seek to elaborate further on this and write to my noble friend.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, on behalf of parish and town councils I thank the Minister for his slightly helpful comments at the end of his remarks. Perhaps, before the Bill is implemented, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and I and the NALC might get together to see whether we can put forward a clear, evidence-based proposal to the Government which they might consider seriously.

I thank the Minister for his helpful reply to my Amendment 22QYA, which I had forgotten to speak to.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, last week I, too, had a long reply to an amendment to which I had not spoken. Perhaps that is the way to go.

On the last of my amendments on the power to issue CPOs, I asked whether everyone falling within the description of what will be the new paragraph 1ZB in the schedule to the Police Reform Act would have the power. I think that the Minister is saying that everyone who falls within that description will have

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the power and not only particular individuals who have received training. Am I right in understanding that?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: There may be certain circumstances in which people are specifically trained for this function; there may be others where the work they undertake would include training in this function; and there may be others who operate under the guidance of other individuals who have been trained as to how it should be effectively done. It will depend on the circumstances.

No authority acting under this provision will wish to make a mistake. They will want to do it properly because it is in their interests that the CPN should be enforceable.

Baroness Hamwee: It shows how naive I am, but I have to say that it simply had not occurred to me that the designation under subsection (1)(c) would be of an organisation which is not a public body in the way that we would normally understand it, such as a local authority. As the Minister says, the notice is very powerful and there are criminal consequences. I would certainly like to think about that a little more but of course, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 22QW withdrawn.

Amendments 22QX to 22QYC not moved.

Clause 50 agreed.

Clause 51 agreed.

Clause 52: Issuing of notices

Amendment 22QYD not moved.

Clause 52 agreed.

Clauses 53 and 54 agreed.

House resumed.



3.52 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat a Statement which my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made to the Commons.

“Two weeks ago, I reported to the House on the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Geneva between 8 and 10 November. I explained that our aim was to produce an interim first-step agreement with Iran that could then create the confidence and time to negotiate a comprehensive and final settlement addressing all concerns about its nuclear programme. We have always been clear that because Iran’s programme is so extensive, and because crucial aspects of it have been concealed in the past, any agreement would have to be detailed and give assurance to the whole world that the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iran would be properly

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addressed. I said that we believed that such a deal was on the table and that we would do our utmost to bridge the narrow gaps between the parties and conclude a strong agreement.

On Wednesday last week, the E3+3 and Iranian negotiators resumed their work in Geneva, and on Saturday morning I and the other E3+3 Foreign Ministers joined the talks. At 4 am yesterday we concluded the negotiations successfully, agreeing a thorough and detailed first-stage agreement with Iran, which is a significant step towards enhancing the security of the Middle East and preventing nuclear proliferation worldwide. In this Statement I will cover the extensive commitments that Iran has made, the sanctions relief that it has been offered in return and the steps we will now take to implement and build on what was agreed.

First, we have agreed a joint plan of action with Iran, with the end goal of a comprehensive settlement that ensures its nuclear programme will be for exclusively peaceful purposes. The agreement has a duration of six months, renewable by mutual consent, and it sets out actions to be taken by both sides as a first step, as well as the elements to be negotiated in a final comprehensive settlement. I have placed a copy of the agreement in the Library of the House, but I wish now to highlight its most important aspects.

Iran has made a number of very significant commitments. Over the next six months, Iran will cease enriching uranium above 5%, the level beyond which it becomes much easier to produce weapons-grade uranium. Furthermore, it has undertaken to eradicate its stockpile of the most concerning form of uranium enriched above 5%, by diluting half of it to a level of less than 5% and converting the other half to oxide. Iran will not install further centrifuges in its nuclear facilities or start operating installed centrifuges that have not yet been switched on. It will replace existing centrifuges only with centrifuges of the same type, and produce centrifuges only to replace damaged existing machines on a like-for-like basis. In other words, Iran will not install or bring into operation advanced centrifuges that could enable it to produce a dangerous level of enriched uranium more quickly. Iran will cap its stockpile of up to 5% enriched uranium in the highest risk UF6 form by converting any newly enriched uranium into oxide. It will not set up any new locations for enrichment or establish a reprocessing or reconversion facility.

Iran has agreed to enhanced monitoring of its nuclear programme going beyond existing IAEA inspections in Iran, including access to centrifuge assembly workshops and to uranium mines and mills. Iran will also provide the IAEA with additional information, including about its plans for nuclear facilities. At the heavy water research reactor at Arak, which offers Iran a potential route to a nuclear weapon through the production of plutonium rather than uranium, Iran will not commission the reactor, or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site, or test additional fuel, or produce more fuel for the reactor, or install any remaining components.

This agreement means that the elements of Iran’s nuclear programme that are thought to present the greatest risk cannot make progress during the six-month

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period of the interim agreement. In other words, if Iran implements the deal in good faith, as it has undertaken to do, it cannot use these routes to move closer to obtaining a nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, some of the most dangerous elements of Iran’s programme are not only frozen but actually rolled back; for instance, the agreement involves the eradication of around 200 kilograms of 20% enriched uranium in UF6 form that Iran has been building up and stockpiling for several years.

Secondly, in return for these commitments Iran will receive proportionate, limited sanctions relief from the United States and the European Union. For its part, the United States will pause efforts to reduce crude oil sales to Iran’s oil customers, repatriate to Iran some of its oil revenue held abroad, suspend sanctions on the Iranian auto industry, allow the licensing of safety-related repairs and inspections for certain Iranian airlines, and establish a financial channel to facilitate humanitarian and legitimate trade, including for payments to international organisations and for Iranians studying abroad.

It is proposed that the EU and US together will suspend sanctions on oil-related insurance and transport costs, which will allow the provision of such services to third states for the import of Iranian oil. We will also suspend the prohibition of the import, purchase or transport of Iranian petrochemical products, and suspend sanctions on Iranian imports of gold and precious metals. But core sanctions on Iranian oil and gas will remain in place. It is intended that the EU will also increase by an agreed amount the authorisation thresholds for financial transactions for humanitarian and non-sanctioned trade with Iran. The Council of Ministers of the European Union will be asked to adopt legislation necessary to amend these sanctions, and the new provisions would then apply to all EU member states.

The total value of the sanctions relief is estimated at $7 billion over the six-month period. There will be no new nuclear-related sanctions adopted by the UN, EU and US during this six-month period. However, the bulk of international sanctions on Iran will remain in place. This includes the EU and US oil embargo which restricts globally oil purchases from Iran, and sanctions on nuclear, military or ballistic missile-related goods and technology. It includes all frozen revenue and foreign exchange reserves held in accounts outside Iran and sanctions on many Iranian banks, such as the Central Bank of Iran, which means that all Iranian assets in the US and EU remain frozen apart from the limited repatriation of revenue under this agreement. Iranian leaders and key individuals and entities will still have their assets in the EU and US frozen and be banned from travelling to the EU and US, and tough financial measures, including a ban from using financial messaging services and transactions with European and US banks, also remain in place. These sanctions will not be lifted until a comprehensive settlement is reached, and we will enforce them robustly. This ensures that Iran still has a powerful incentive to continue to negotiate to reach a comprehensive settlement—which is the third aspect of the agreement on which I wish to update the House today.

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The agreement sets out the elements of a comprehensive solution which we would aim to conclude within one year. These elements include Iran’s rights and obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and IAEA safeguards; the full resolution of concerns related to the heavy water research reactor at Arak; agreed transparency and monitoring including the additional protocol; and co-operation on Iran’s civilian nuclear programme. In return for full confidence on the part of the international community that Iran’s programme is solely peaceful, the plan of action envisages a mutually defined enrichment programme with agreed parameters and limits, but only as part of a comprehensive agreement where nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. This comprehensive solution, if and when agreed, would lead to the lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions as well as multilateral and national sanctions related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

Reaching this interim agreement was a difficult and painstaking process, and there is a huge amount of work to be done to implement it. Implementation will begin following technical discussions with Iran and the IAEA and EU preparations to suspend the relevant sanctions, which we hope will all be concluded by the end of January 2014. A joint commission of the E3+3 and Iran will be established to monitor the implementation of these first-step measures, and it will work with the IAEA to resolve outstanding issues of concern.

However, the fact that we have achieved for the first time in nearly a decade an agreement that halts and rolls back Iran’s nuclear programme should give us heart that this work can be done and that a comprehensive agreement can be attained. On an issue of such complexity, and given the fact that to make any diplomatic agreement worth while to both sides has to involve compromises, such an agreement is bound to have its critics and opponents. But we are right to test to the full Iran’s readiness to act in good faith to work with the rest of the international community and to enter into international agreements. If it does not abide by its commitments, it will bear a heavy responsibility, but if we did not take the opportunity to attempt such an agreement, then we ourselves would have been guilty of a grave error. It is true that if we did not have this agreement, the pressure of sanctions on Iran would not be alleviated at all. But it is also true that there would be no restraint on advances to its programme, no check on its enrichment activity and stockpiles, no block on its addition of centrifuges, no barrier to prevent it bringing into operation its heavy water research reactor at Arak and no limitation on the many actions which could take it closer to a nuclear weapons capability.

The bringing together of this agreement with all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council united behind it in itself sends a powerful signal. While it is only a beginning, there is no doubt that this is an important, necessary and completely justified step which, through its restrictions on Iran’s nuclear programme, gives us the time to negotiate a comprehensive settlement. I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, to my Foreign Ministerial colleagues and to our Foreign Office staff, who have played an indispensable role. We will apply the same rigour and determination we have shown in these

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negotiations to the implementation of the agreement and to the search for a comprehensive settlement. At the same time we will continue to be open to improvements in our bilateral relationship on a step-by-step and reciprocal basis, and our new chargé d’affaires will visit Iran shortly. This agreement has shown that the combination of pressure expressed through sanctions coupled with a readiness to negotiate is the right policy.

For a long time that has been the united approach of this country, from the efforts of the right honourable Member for Blackburn to pursue negotiations a decade ago to the cross-party support in this House for the wide-ranging sanctions we have adopted in recent years. We have been steadfast in pursuing this twin-track policy and seeking a peaceful solution. This agreement is true to that approach and the sheer persistence of the United Kingdom and our allies. This will remain our policy over the coming months as we build on and implement the first step on the long journey to making the Middle East and the whole world safer from nuclear proliferation”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.05 pm

Lord Triesman (Lab): My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, for repeating the Statement made earlier in another place. I believe that the agreement between Iran and the western powers, increasing the likelihood that Iran will not build a nuclear weapon in the near future, is of genuine significance. The next six months are, then, of the utmost importance.

We congratulate those who have been closely involved, especially Secretary of State John Kerry, on what appear to have been months of discreet diplomacy even before the events of this last few days, and my noble friend Lady Ashton on her remarkable lead role in negotiations. She is entitled to the warm thanks of this Parliament and this nation. Her Majesty’s Government have plainly played a substantive part—a part which I straightforwardly acknowledge, including the role of the Foreign Secretary. I also join him in congratulating officials in the FCO, of whom I have great memories, and my right honourable friend Jack Straw, whose role in initiating some of these steps was so important.

It is clear that what we have here are steps along a road. The whole journey is very far from complete, and there is no guarantee that the journey will be completed. None the less, the political momentum to secure this interim deal is extremely important. I echo the Foreign Secretary’s words about how we should approach the next part of the process—that,

“nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”.

The agreement has manifest limits. It results from a co-ordinated approach, including the use of sanctions if real progress is not made for any reason. Should we find that progress is not made, we must conclude that those arrangements should continue—co-ordination, sustained negotiation and sanctions would have to be deployed again.

The agreement places constraints on Iran’s nuclear programme, in return for which we ease financial sanctions. It sets limits on nuclear aspirations and

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makes provision for serious inspections. It does not halt the nuclear programme, and although the inspectors are obviously to be more intrusive, their rights to intrusion are not exhaustive. It does not dismantle Iran’s nuclear capability. It cannot therefore guarantee to bridle all future developments. I know that many will argue that it should not, but I can see the basis of the anxieties in Israel and the Gulf about this. It is important for us to encourage them to give this process a chance, whatever those anxieties might be.

To give it a chance, it is essential to keep up pressure for a full, comprehensive agreement. John Kerry’s sense of urgency in the last couple of days is well placed: momentum in this is vital. Next, the ground rules for the next steps need to be expressed. The Iranian nuclear ambitions must be capped. The international community must have total, unrestricted confidence in verification. No part of the programme can remain hidden. There can be no “inalienable rights” to enrich. These issues must form the bedrock of the work to come. To achieve these bases, it would be helpful if Her Majesty’s Government could answer some questions that I think may be of genuine significance.

Although the agreement concedes daily access for the IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordo, there is no clarity about access to the heavy water research reactor or other facilities at Arak. How often will inspectors be allowed to see Arak? I note the Foreign Secretary’s statement of reservation, which was quite rightly included in his Statement. What steps will be taken to dismantle Fordo? That is not specifically covered by the agreement, but is likely to prove vital if the world, and in particular the region, is to feel confident about the most deeply buried facility and the one that potentially offers the most unrestrained danger. Does the agreement achieve IAEA inspector access to Parchin, where it is generally thought that tests have been conducted on the detonation mechanisms of a nuclear weapon?

How will Iran be required to meet the full obligations of the IAEA under the non-proliferation treaty? After all, these go far further than the interim agreement. Is there a real understanding between the P5+1 and Iran on what is meant by those words “right to enrich”?

What steps will the United Kingdom take—as I believe we can—to engage regional allies and friends, including Israel and the Gulf states, to provide the confidence which I suspect they genuinely seek as we go through the process of the remaining talks?

What measures will we and others take to sustain pressure? I note what the Foreign Secretary said. The relief of $7 billion with immediate effect is obviously very important, but are the measures set out in the Statement really likely to be adequate if the process does not go forward as we wish it to? It needs continuous progress, not least because of the issues of Syria and Geneva II. The engagement of Iran in the process of sorting out the appalling problems of Syria seems to us of the highest importance, as we have shared in this House many a time.

This has been a setback in nuclear terms for Iran, but it is not the end of the task. What are the benchmarks that we should expect for progress in reaching the comprehensive agreement? How should we make an

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assessment? I know that talks are often private and confidential, but those around the world will ask that question.

I do not say any of that to be churlish; I have a fair measure of optimism in my heart today. However, we need urgent and sustained progress. We have made what is a very good start, but it needs to be drawn to a great conclusion. I conclude by saying that, in this process, we have had a bipartisan approach and the Government have our support.

4.13 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord very warmly for his very constructive and bipartisan comments. I think it is extremely important that this is seen as something to which the entire political community within Britain is committed, that we take it forward together and that we make sure that we are all well informed as we go forward together on the dangers, but also the possibilities.

I am also grateful to the noble Lord for his compliments to the Foreign Office team and the Foreign Secretary himself. There have been occasions in the past few months when I have felt like saying to the Foreign Secretary, when I meet him, “Is this a short visit to Britain or are you here for two days?”. As we all know, he has been travelling a great deal in pursuing this issue. The noble Lord is also absolutely right to give strong compliments to the American Secretary of State and the State Department team—and, of course, the other European diplomats, not least at all our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, who have also worked flat out on all this.

I stress that this is only an interim agreement for six months. There is a lot more still to be done. On the question of how often inspectors will be allowed to visit, the agreement as signed provides some details on enhanced monitoring including,

“Daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present for the purpose of Design Information Verification”,

et cetera, with relevance to Fordo and Natanz. However, the details on the exact degree of access are part of what needs to be sorted out between now and January, when we hope the six-month clock will start ticking.

As the noble Lord will know, there is not yet agreement between the two sides on the right to enrich. We are clear that every signatory of the non-proliferation treaty has the right to develop nuclear power for peaceful nuclear purposes, but we have not yet reached a full agreement with Iran on how that fits in with the full and detailed IAEA obligations.

Lastly, the noble Lord talked about the potential overlap with the Syrian conflict and the Geneva II talks. Let me stress that this is a negotiation with Iran about the nuclear issue; it does not have a direct overlap into other issues. Of course we may hope, however, that if we are successful in achieving a comprehensive settlement, it will have wider impacts on relations across the Middle East as a whole.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I understand about the daily inspections in two sites, but I was very particular in asking what the inspection regime for Arak will be.

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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I see here that the agreement also refers to a,

“Submission of an updated … design information questionnaire … for the reactor at Arak”.

However, the exact details of the inspection regime on an interim basis are part of the detail that has to be negotiated and agreed between the parties between now and when the interim agreement comes into implementation in, we hope, late January.

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, I remind the House of the benefit of short questions for my noble friend the Minister in order that all noble Lords who wish to contribute may have a decent chance of doing so.

4.16 pm

Lord Lloyd of Berwick (CB): My Lords, perhaps I might briefly ask the noble Lord to say a bit more, if he can, about the part played by our colleague, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, in brokering this very welcome agreement.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, my understanding is that under a UN Security Council resolution, the noble Baroness was designated as the co-ordinator for these negotiations. This has been an EU exercise with the three largest Governments within the European Union, in effect, representing the EU. The noble Baroness has to some extent represented the interests of the other 25 member states and I know that she has put an enormous amount of effort into this as well.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD): My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister for repeating the Statement and, if I may say so, for his own contribution to the work of the Foreign Office team, for the outstanding work of the Foreign Secretary and Mr Kerry and, not least, for the really great steps taken—one has to add this—by the Iranian Foreign Secretary in trying to bring about an agreement, with what was perhaps the significant support of the supreme ruler in Iran. It is the outbreak of common-sense discussion, real wisdom and a real desire to avoid war which has driven this remarkable agreement. I say to my noble friend that this is a remarkable moment in history. Of course, it is not the end but the beginning of a crucial set of steps towards bringing Iran back into the comity of nations and enabling us to produce a new structure that will give both the IAEA and the protection from nuclear proliferation an extremely important new impetus.

Perhaps I may say one other word, which is that I hope that the naysayers of this world—those who are likely to oppose this agreement—will recognise that the alternatives are terrible ones. They are in either military action or going back to absolute chaos in the Middle East. At a time when many of us are grieving over the terrible cost of the invasion of Iraq and, for that matter, the long war in Afghanistan, this is a moment when we should recognise the achievement of diplomacy and sensible discussion, as distinct from attempts to threaten other countries.

I have two questions. First, I do not in any way disagree with the questions asked so powerfully by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, but it is crucial to recognise as well that we need to build on the elements coming

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out of this agreement that would so massively strengthen the battle against proliferation of nuclear weapons. I ask my noble friend whether the addition of the concept of enhanced monitoring that has come out of this agreement is one that, in his own view, could be extended more readily throughout the whole nuclear proliferation issue, along with the remarkable steps taken by the IAEA towards a much more powerful regime, including in effect the additional protocol, which up till now Iran has not been willing to sign.

My second question is whether the creation of the so-called committee of the E3 plus 3 with Iran might enable us to begin to build the first of new relationships with this isolated but intensely important country, which will enable it to make a serious contribution to the Syrian civil war. In that context, there are cultural, religious and economic links that could be made with Iran that would help to bring it in from the cold and build on the hopeful measures towards a more open and democratic Iran, as we have seen in the past few months.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Baroness for her compliments to the Foreign Secretary and others. We hope that this will prove to have been a remarkable moment in history, but we do not yet know; the test will be in the negotiations that take place over the next year. There is no doubt that sanctions and the extent to which they were biting in Iran have played a major part in shifting opinions in the Iranian regime in all its complexity, and certainly among the Iranian public.

In response to the noble Baroness’s questions, of course we would like to see a tougher, enhanced IAEA regime that spreads to others. I suspect that the noble Baroness knows a great deal more about this than I do, since I know that she has been involved in a lot of international discussions on this matter. That is one of the things that could grow out of these negotiations. The joint commission will, of course, be concerned with implementing the agreement. The first visit of the chargé already appointed is likely to take place in the next few weeks, and we may hope that, from that, other relationships may grow—but that will be something that we all have to work for as we work through these still complex and delicate negotiations.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick (CB): I add my congratulations to the Government on the conclusion of this interim agreement and to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I hope that the Minister will find some way of conveying to her the views that have been warmly expressed in this House this afternoon. She has put in a huge effort.

This is the first step, as the Minister says, away from this conflict and others in the Middle East. Does he agree that, while it is clearly right that Israel’s concerns over Iran’s nuclear program should be treated seriously, attempts by the Prime Minister of Israel to prevent or perhaps now to wreck this agreement would be counterproductive and, in fact, against Israel’s long-term interests? Does he also agree that Saudi Arabia and our other friends in the Gulf ought to be brought to understand that a non-nuclear weapon state Iran could and should be a genuine regional player in the Gulf

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region? Finally, does he agree that the British Government should urge those points and use their influence in Washington with those who are most critical of the agreement to explain why the British Government believe that this is the right way forward?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are all conscious of nervousness in a number of other states in the Middle East about this agreement. We are persuaded that this enhances the security of Israel. The alternative, which might have led to a military attack on Iran, would have jeopardised a whole range of issues about the long-term security of the Middle East. We have said that to our Israeli friends. The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Netanyahu in the middle of the previous round of negotiations on 9 November and will no doubt be talking to him again. We have been saying the same to our friends in Saudi Arabia and the various Gulf states. We have many active diplomats and friends in Washington who will be saying the same to the American Congress; but the noble Lord knows that American politics are even more complex than those of most other states.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, I add my congratulations to everyone involved and echo the sentiments that have been expressed about the role played by my noble friend Lady Ashton. She has been subjected to what I consider to be much unwarranted criticism despite the fact that she has, unheralded and unsung, had some singular successes, not least in Kosovo. This is an occasion on which the feelings of this House should be sent to our colleague.

I have two questions. First, while we approach this with a degree of elation—it is only a step, but it is a significant first step—we can nevertheless understand why such an apparently sudden turn of events should have perhaps caused some confusion and worry among some of our traditional allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia. What steps are being taken to reassure and persuade them, if necessary, that the normalisation of relationships with Iran is in everyone’s interest, not least that of the region itself?

Secondly, while we are right to temper our feelings of elation with a degree of caution, will the Minister bear in mind that each step that is taken, however singular it might be, opens up other opportunities? I am persuaded that some of the decisions to proceed as we did on Syria, rather than taking the alternative route, opened—as some in this House including the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, predicted—a gateway to further compromise and discussion with Iran. Similarly, although there is a long way to go on this, I urge the Minister to seek to use this gateway for further exploration of work in the area, including in Syria, involving Iran as the great nation it has been historically. It will surely return to the realms of the United Nations and international influence if it proceeds along the path it is taking at present.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I will be happy to convey the thoughts of this House to the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton; I may be able to do so to her husband in the next few days. While compliments are going around, I remark that I have been immensely

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impressed, as a Liberal Democrat, in working with William Hague over the past three years. He works exceptionally hard and has travelled extensively on this. His relationship with his Russian counterpart has been quite a significant factor in building trust and co-operation across the P5. It is also worth marking that this is a triumph of European co-operation: the British working with our German and French counterparts. Perhaps even the

Daily Mail

might like to note that.

On the wider region, with this deeply unstable region, with jihadists of different hues threatening even more brutal civil conflict spilling over different borders, anything which perhaps begins to reverse that potential spiral downhill is immensely worth while. We very much hope that this will help to turn that corner. We are also of course conscious that Iran is a great country with a long history, and that it has a complicated history with the United Kingdom which it has not forgotten quite as easily as we have. That is one of the many things which we need to overcome.

4.30 pm

Lord Deben (Con): Will my noble friend continue to make the point that this is a real contribution by the European Union and by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton? There has been a good deal of misstatement by the British press over these arrangements. This shows just what Europe can do, is doing and ought to do at a time when people sometimes try to suggest otherwise. Will the Minister say to the nay-sayers that to refuse to make this step would mean that there would be no steps? You have to make a first step. If you always say, “Well, it might go wrong”, nothing will ever go right. To hear some people, they are condemning us to a situation in which no one will ever try to do anything. That has to be the message to Mr Netanyahu and to the Saudis—that if they maintain their position, they are saying to the rest of the world that this will be an area of conflict for ever. That is not something that any of us should accept.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: I thank the noble Lord for his comments and agree entirely with them. We recognise that diplomats spend an awful lot of their time working on negotiations that do not lead anywhere and trying to support compromises that are attacked on all sides. This is one happy example—we hope—of when diplomacy will have succeeded.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, I, too, add my congratulations to all who have been involved in this development. I will ask two short questions. First, is there a mismatch between the time at which sanctions may be partially released on the one hand and the nuclear inspections on the other? Is there a problem with starting this programme only in January, which would give time for the Iranians perhaps to do more mischief in the interim period? On the question of the percentage at which enrichment is to be allowed, I have heard figures of 5% and 20%. Can the noble Lord clarify which of these is correct?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the timing of sanctions release is very carefully calibrated. The sanctions that will be lifted are extremely limited—the majority

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of them will remain in place. Incidentally, I asked the briefing team how far humanitarian sanctions would include some relief of the controls on medicines and medical supplies for Iran. I know that that is one of the things that has hit Iran particularly hard. I, personally, welcome the provision of repairs and spare parts for Iranian airlines, because it has become increasingly unsafe to fly within Iran, as the noble Lord will know. On the gap between now and January, we cannot put that immediately into operation. However, the sanctions relief does not go into immediate operation either. We need to work through the details. On 5% and 20%, the latter is the point at which it becomes dangerous and relatively easy to carry through the further enrichment to weapons-grade uranium. Therefore the Iranians have agreed to dilute half of their current, rather large stockpile of 20% uranium back down to 5%, which is the point at which it is useful for civil nuclear power but not for very much else, and to convert the other half into uranium oxide, which also makes it useful for civil nuclear power but not for weapons.

Lord Tugendhat (Con): My Lords, I associate myself very strongly with the words of my noble friend Lord Deben about the contribution made by the European Union and by the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton. I also associate myself with the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who praised the Iranian negotiators. It is often forgotten, when one looks at the position of Iran on these matters, that it is one of the countries that have been on the receiving end of weapons of mass destruction, namely from Iraq. When a country has been on the receiving end of such weapons, that makes it very sensitive to its own ability to protect itself against all eventualities. When one looks at the Iranian nuclear programme, it is important to bear that in mind. Therefore, the concessions that the Iranians have made and the apparent good will with which they have entered into these negotiations must have required a very considerable effort on their part. We should certainly pay tribute to them and we hope very much that they, with the West, will be able to bring this to a conclusion.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his comments. We have negotiated this agreement with the Government of Iran. As all noble Lords will know, Iran is an extremely complex country with an extremely complex political system. We hope that the Government of Iran will make this stick. Nevertheless, we know that there are elements within the political system of Iran who may not be quite as happy with it as the Government are. That is part of what we will test out in the coming months.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords, I associate myself with all the congratulations that have been offered to those who we can name because of their pre-eminent role in what has happened but also to those many diplomats whose names we do not know. One of the facilities that has caused most concern is the underground nuclear facility where uranium enrichment has not been carried out at a nuclear level but has certainly been produced in quantities that have given great cause for concern. Will the noble Lord

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assure the House that the underground facilities will be inspected by the IAEA, as my noble friend Lord Triesman asked?

In asking my next question, I declare an unremunerated interest as the chairman of the British side of the Saudi-British Business Council. I returned from Saudi Arabia early this morning. A considerable job will obviously have to be done to convince many of our friends in the Gulf states of the wisdom of the agreement that has been made. Will the Minister tell the House a little more about what is intended to be done now—not what has been done in the past because that has still left a lot of questions in the minds of colleagues, particularly in Saudi Arabia—to give assurance to the Gulf states about the agreement that has been reached?

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, a great many officials have worked long hours and have spent a long time on planes going back and forth. It so happens that the State Department official I know best has led the State Department delegation at official level. According to everything I have heard, she has done extremely well. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. On the underground facilities at Fordo, the exact details of the inspection regime remain to be negotiated and agreed, and then enforced, between now and the end of January. However, it is clear that we expect to have access to all these facilities. Of course, there are Saudi and Gulf state concerns, as there are concerns in Israel, and we are in active dialogue with the Saudis and others about them. It would be disastrous for the Middle East if this were to descend into a sectarian Sunni/Shia conflict. Let us hope that one of the outcomes of the agreement will be to reverse what some of us feared might be taking us in that direction.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill

Committee (4th Day) (Continued)

4.38 pm

Amendment 22R

Moved by Lord Deben

22R: Before Clause 55, insert the following new Clause—

“Extension of “the controlled area of Parliament Square” to the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster

(1) Section 142 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) after subsection (1)(b) insert—

“(c) the footways of Bridge Street, St Margaret’s Street, Abingdon Street, and so much of the footway of Great College Street as immediately adjoins Abingdon Green,

(d) Old Palace Yard,

(e) Abingdon Green, and

(f) the northern end of Victoria Tower Gardens.”

(3) In subsection (2)—

(a) before the definition of “the central garden of Parliament Square” insert—

““Abingdon Green” means the garden constructed on the sites of properties formerly known as 17-28 (both inclusive) Abingdon Street, London SW1, and the garden surrounding the adjoining Jewel Tower;”

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(b) after the definition of “footway” insert—

““the northern end of Victoria Tower Gardens” means that part of Victoria Tower Gardens which lies within 100 metres of the metal railings which mark is northern boundary;

“Old Palace Yard” includes the King George V Memorial and the surrounding lawns and paving.””

Lord Deben (Con): I beg to move the amendment standing in my name and those of the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours.

This is a simple and, I hope, uncontroversial concept. The other House introduced legislation to deal with the twin issues of enabling access for those who wish to protest or state their case to the Houses of Parliament, but in a way that does not inconvenience unduly the work of the Houses of Parliament and, indeed, other people who wish to use Parliament Square. Parliament took some time to get the right balance. I think it would be true to say that to start with we did not have proper protection; we then moved to a position in which many felt that there was not enough freedom for people to demonstrate; and then to the present arrangement, which I think now has all-party support, which states that people can properly demonstrate but that they must have permission to use equipment that amplifies the words they say. That is a not unreasonable request, and that is the balance that has been reached. Unfortunately, the present rule refers only to Parliament Square itself and the part closest to the House of Commons.

It was always thought that if there were movement in any other direction, the police would be happy to take action. However, without blaming anyone, it seems that that is not the case. The police would prefer not to intervene. The problem that arises is that this means that on an increasing number of occasions, part of this House is almost impossible to work in. I came to terms with this when I was trying to have a detailed discussion with one of the officers of the House and we had to move out of his office into the corridor because we could not have a conversation, so loud was the noise from outside. It also did not help that one could not hear what the noise outside was about, because the trouble with much of the amplification used is that it obscures the sense while increasing the noise. I fear that this is one aspect of human life today in any case, but it is particularly notable in this case.

The difficulty is merely geographical. The law at the moment stops before you get to the House of Lords—and those who protest have discovered that. They feel that it is perfectly reasonable, therefore, to do within the curtilage of the House of Lords precisely what they used to do, to the concern of the public, in the area immediately in front of the House of Commons. All my amendment therefore does is increase the geographical area by the minimum necessary to provide the House of Lords with the same protection and opening that the House of Commons already has, without the intervention of the police.

There is an additional reason about which the House should know. On Sunday, for example, when the House of Lords was not sitting, a large collection of people gathered outside the House of Lords to address us. Of course, the only people whom they addressed were those attempting to worship in

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Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s, Westminster. I received no direct complaint about that, but there is no doubt that the noise made the worshippers’ activities, which were perfectly proper for a Sunday, almost impossible if one was close enough to the noise.

I hope that no one in this House would accuse me of being anything other than usually entirely on the side of freedom. I have a long history of doing that and I do not want to restrict anyone from protesting. Indeed, I can think of few happier occasions than when many of us went out to join those who had come to celebrate the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. It was a happy and cheerful activity, and not something that one would have wanted in any way to stop. However, what has to be stopped is the kind of behaviour that made it impossible for the House of Commons to continue and that caused it to pass legislation that protected it and—I am sure by some oversight—failed to move just far enough to protect this House.

I therefore very much hope that we will be able to have this protection. The convenience of the Bill is that such a provision is clearly within the remit of the Long Title, and therefore that we can pop in the new clause to no one’s detriment. We will still ensure that Her Majesty’s subjects who wish to complain to us about any subject under the sun will continue to be able to do so but, we hope, with a voice that is clear but not so loud as to be impossible. I beg to move.

4.45 pm

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord Deben, in his amendment. I have no objection to people who wish to exercise their democratic right by demonstrating. However, while they have that right, I believe that those of us who work in the Palace of Westminster, and particularly those who work in offices on the West Front, have an equal right to work in an environment that is not polluted by electronically enhanced voices and music at volumes which, at times, become unbearable.

On one occasion during the passage of the Welfare Reform Bill, my noble friend Lady Finlay and I were trying to write speeches on behalf of those who were bellowing through a loudspeaker outside our window. We put on our coats and went to ask, politely, the young lady who was making the noise if she would kindly modulate it. Her response was to ask why we could not wear ear-plugs. After we had spent some time trying to explain to those involved that they were defeating their objective, they finally conceded and stood or sat quietly for the rest of the afternoon. I have no objection to that sort of demonstration.

Without doubt, those demonstrating for several days while we were debating the same-sex marriage Bill excelled themselves. I will never again hear “I’m Getting Married in the Morning”, or the rival “Amazing Grace”, without cringing. After several days of torment, I tried the noise pollution officer at Westminster City Council. He said that it was not his responsibility but was a police matter. I was told to dial 111. The police said that they could do nothing as the demonstrators were acting within their rights. Unfortunately, noble Lords and officials who work in the West Front offices

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cannot simply pick up a pen and pad and move to a quieter location; we are somewhat tied to our desks by computers, phones and files—a captive audience, in other words.

The amendment does not stop those who wish to demonstrate, nor would I wish that to happen. Members of another place, as the noble Lord, Lord Deben, told us, successfully moved the noise from their environs. We have only this amendment between us and our sanity.

Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab): My Lords, I intervene briefly to strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Deben. I refer back to two previous contributions that I made on this subject over recent years and, in particular, to correspondence from Councillor Colin Barrow of Westminster City Council. When the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill was going through Parliament, he wrote to the department expressing concern about how it would operate. This was at a time when, as the noble Lord may recall, the square was inhabited—if I may use that term—by a lot of protesters who were setting up tents and making a lot of noise. At that time, I did not make the proposal that I want to make today. I am using this amendment as a peg on which to promote a principle.

We all believe in the right to demonstrate but we are concerned about noise. We know that people on the West Front—particularly officials of the political parties who work in offices there—have a lot of problems when demonstrations take place, especially during the summer months when they wish to open their windows and, of course, the noise becomes even more prevalent. As Colin Barrow proposed in his correspondence of some years ago, it may be possible to manage the whole square or the green areas in front of Parliament in a better way.

I propose that we establish a centre on one of those pieces of land where people can apply to put up their stands on behalf of various campaigns, perhaps on a rotational basis, months in advance. It would be a lobbying building for Parliament and it would give people the opportunity to recognise that we want to help them protest, but in an organised way. In doing so, we would support the principles set out by Councillor Colin Barrow of Westminster City Council when he asked for a more properly managed square-control arrangement.

I know that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Deben, is more tightly defined—he is dealing with a narrower area—but I believe that we should think in terms of something more organised whereby organisations throughout the country can apply to demonstrate. At the moment, in the Upper Committee Corridor we effectively have a more organised arrangement which people can apply to use, but they cannot demonstrate. I want something a little more aggressive than what is available with the displays there, so that people can put their case. Instead of MPs simply driving past and not being able to read the signs or hear what is being said because the noise is overwhelming, there would be a place where MPs or Peers could stroll over, walk through the centre, see who had their stands there, talk to the lobbyists and then leave. That would

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be a far more sensible operation. I am not asking for it to be set up tomorrow, but in the longer term, it would be wise if we were to set off down that road. I support the noble Lord’s amendment.

Lord Martin of Springburn (CB): My Lords, the loud-hailing which took place in Parliament Square was a disgrace. Most of us who have fought elections at council and parliamentary level have used loud-hailing equipment. When that equipment goes above a certain noise level, it becomes a breach of the peace. It is not the first time. When we have been out on the hustings, we have been reminded of that.

That strange character sat in Parliament Square for 10 years, and all sorts of organisations tried to help: the Greater London Council, Westminster Council, the police, Parliament and even the Home Office. Legislation went through both Houses, but it was not strong enough, and the judges said, “No. The chap who is there”—I forget his name—“can use the pavement because it is not really a pavement in the proper sense of the word”. All I can say is that if somebody were sitting outside their house, they would find good legal cause to get rid of him after 10 years.

The other place found arrangements to prevent loud-hailing at that end, but it cannot speak for this autonomous body. That is why the demonstrators have moved up. However, if anyone uses a loud-hailer that gets above a certain level, they are being a nuisance. Even the media agreed with that. The people who had been aggravated most by the person who was on the loud-hailer all day and every day, the character who stood there for 10 years, were those in the Press Gallery. When Parliament went into Recess, people from the Press Gallery went out and told the person concerned in no uncertain terms, “Please stop”.

I support the amendment. An overall body should get control of this situation because the difficulty that Westminster Council had was that its only way of stopping the noise was if the sound level went above a certain decibel level. It had to come along with its testing equipment, and it could have been that the wind was in a different direction or whatever. I know that this amendment is tight. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, suggested we should have a stall where people could come and demonstrate. No one is stopping demonstrations, but this is my understanding of a demonstration: the first time I had a demonstration at Parliament, I was a young trade unionist; I had a day off work; we travelled down in the morning by train; and at night we went back on the train and were away. It was not permanent.

Parliament Square is like a park. It is a lovely place where people should be able to take their family. There should not be a stall there. The place should be enjoyed by everyone. Millions have been spent on Westminster Abbey; millions have been spent on St Margaret’s Church, with which we have a close connection; and, of course, millions have been spent on both Houses, Portcullis House and the other extensions. If it is not already the case, the whole area should be a world heritage site. We should not have someone coming along with a loud-hailer that is so loud that people cannot get on with their proper business in the offices.

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Lord Marlesford (Con): There was a campaign for a long time—much too long—to remove the most unsatisfactory arrangement under which certain individual protestors hogged the space in Parliament Square, to which the noble Lord, Lord Martin, has just referred. It was eventually ended and the square is infinitely better from every point of view. We were all strongly in favour of having protests, but not permanent protests. I am not absolutely clear where the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is suggesting his hut should be. I believe that the area, as the noble Lord, Lord Martin, said, is very much a world heritage site, and it would be difficult to accommodate a permanent building in any of those spaces without intruding on the area. I strongly support the amendment of my noble friend Lord Deben.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): I support the notion, if not necessarily the detail of finding a way of using what is at the heart of our democracy and an area that has Parliament, Westminster Abbey and the Supreme Court, around it, and which is indeed a world heritage site—I shall not get into the issue of whether traffic should be using it—to provide a means of public expression. I mean expression by the public, not those of us who are in the buildings. That is something in which the Hansard Society is interested as well.

My noble friend’s speech was about the amplification of noise and his amendment would extend the prohibitions to the other prohibited activities, which are about putting up tents, having what is called sleeping equipment, and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Martin, may have referred to this, but other noble Lords have focused on noise. If there is to be an extension—I agree that the fewest extensions or prohibitions the better—I wonder whether it is necessary to deal with both aspects.

Lord Deben: Yes, it parallels exactly what is already enacted for Parliament Square. The reason for that is: when people look at the present situation they could easily duplicate what was the major problem in Parliament Square, which was people living there week in, week out. It excludes that, but it does not exclude the normal arrival to speak or to put forward views, or indeed to ask permission for loudspeakers, which is also possible. It would merely put us in the same position as the House of Commons, which seems to be a not unreasonable proposition.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I accept that, of course, and the possibility of seeking permission. But we have not experienced the problem of people moving into Abingdon Green, and so on. I think that my noble friend will understand my slight caution about that part of the amendment.

Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab): My Lords, I realise that when the House is in a mood of almost unanimity the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, can be relied on to inject a notion of something or other into the discussion. It is therefore very dangerous to say that perhaps this amendment is not quite right, but I do so as somebody with an office in Millbank House. I notice that the boundaries that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, has created would effectively mean that Millbank House

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could be completely surrounded by demonstrators, which would be entirely consistent with what has been said.

I am not sure that if they were to use loud-hailing equipment it would make a substantial difference. I wonder whether the boundaries are set quite right to cover the full extremities of the parliamentary estate, bearing in mind the way in which sound carries. If the Government are going to take away this amendment—as I hope they are—and think about it carefully and positively, I suggest that they look at precisely those boundaries to make sure that the whole of the parliamentary estate is covered.

5 pm

Baroness Knight of Collingtree (Con): My Lords, I also have been campaigning on this issue for a long time, not least because the gentleman to whom we have referred was there for so long; he seemed to live in a tent and would hang out his washing from time to time. We should remember that people from all over the world come to see this site and that that vista was ruined for a long time because it was so dirty and untidy.

What is now before us is perhaps not understood by Members who do not have offices in the front row, as it were, of this House. If your office is in the middle or towards the back of the House of Lords, you will not hear anything. Indeed, during the previous campaign we fought on this matter, I found that this was very much so; people did not understand always if their office was a fair distance from the front. Reference to this has been made by the mover of the amendment, which I strongly support, and by others: if you live in that particular part of the building, all the papers you should read, all the briefings you should attempt to gain, and all the speeches you might plan to make are deeply affected, to say nothing of the letters you are expected to write to those who write to you telling you of a problem that they have or of a problem that exists elsewhere.

There was a campaign last week which went on for a long time. It was for the Ghurkhas—for whom I have great sympathy and normally would support very strongly—but by the time they had finished I wanted to go out and tell them that I would never support them again after what they had done to my work programme for hours and hours on end. Those of us who live in these offices—and we do live in them for the time we are here—have not only a job to do but a duty to fulfil. It always worries me that one person’s human rights seem to be contrary to another person’s human rights.

Of course I acknowledge completely that everyone should have a right to campaign if they feel strongly about an issue. That is not what we are arguing about. I cannot go along with my long-term colleague and friend, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, because Members of Parliament would not go to another building across the road to hear what people were thinking. Nor would many members of the public go in because they are not the people the demonstrators are trying to reach anyway—they are trying to reach us. The fact of the matter is that they are annoying us

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all too often. A recent campaign, which involved raucous and entirely unmelodic singing, went on and on and I defy anyone to have done their work during that time.

We do not want to stop anyone trying to put their views across to us and asking for a change. We are saying that we have rights too. We have a right and a duty to fulfil all the things that we have to do here and at the moment we are not enabled to. I support the amendment and I hope it will go through in the spirit that so many people displayed when they made their speeches.

Baroness Trumpington (Con): My Lords, I listened to the debate on my old boss’s amendment with great interest and pleasure. This is what could be called “Bella Figura”. The Italians, Germans and French would never put up with these parades we have had in front of us or the noise we have endured—they would have been gone in no time at all. Much as I sympathise with many of their objectives, I very much deplore the way they try to attain them.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, this has been a very good small debate on what I consider to be a very important subject. My noble friend has done the House a great favour by raising this important matter for us to debate. I will not mention all those who have spoken but, without exception, all noble Lords have recognised the issue that we have to deal with. I hope I can demonstrate that the Government are looking for a positive way forward on this.

I am sure that many other noble Lords besides those who have spoken will have strong views on the noise generated by the demonstrations that take place in the vicinity of the Palace of Westminster. We have, of course, been here before. As noble Lords have pointed out, legislation to deal with such demonstrations was first passed in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. We should not forget just how contentious that legislation was, which is why it was repealed and replaced with more proportionate measures in the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, to which my noble friend referred.

My noble friend and the Committee will be sensitive to the need, before passing further legislation, to be very careful about taking any action that may impact disproportionately on people’s right to protest and their freedom of speech. However, I recognise the gross disturbance which amplified sound is now bringing to otherwise legitimate demonstrations. The proximity to the working offices of the House of Lords makes it difficult for Peers, officers of the House and staff to conduct their parliamentary duties. A number of noble Lords have referred to that.

With the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 having addressed the problems in Parliament Square, noble Lords may feel that some of those problems have been displaced, particularly to the small area around the George V Memorial and the surrounding lawns and paving, as referred to in the amendment. Perhaps it would help noble Lords if I describe the law as it applies for areas away from Parliament Square.

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The 2011 Act strengthened local authorities’ by-law-making powers, in particular by including a power to seize items used in connection with the contravention of a by-law. Westminster City Council and the Royal Parks authority updated their by-laws immediately after the relevant provisions of the 2011 Act were brought into force. The by-laws include measures to deal with tents, structures and excess noise.

These by-laws, in many ways, already have the effect intended by this amendment. Westminster City Council by-laws and the Royal Parks by-laws contain strict noise control provisions covering Old Palace Yard and surrounding areas such as Abingdon Green. The by-laws state that a person should not make or allow to be caused any noise which is so loud or so continuous as to give reasonable cause for annoyance to others in the area. But here is the rub: the enforcement of by-laws is a matter for Westminster City Council and, ultimately, the police. Suspected breach of a by-law could lead to arrest and prosecution. In taking any enforcement decisions, the authorised officers or the police would take into account the need to allow a right to protest outside Parliament. Achieving a balance seems to be part of the difficulty. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has suggested an idea that recognises this to try to avoid the gross disruption experienced currently. I do not know. Some noble Lords have questioned what he has proposed, but I thank him for giving us a possible solution.

Lord Campbell-Savours: There is a precedent for building on sensitive land within the area of Westminster; that is, the proposal being made by both Houses to build an educational centre of 6,000 square feet on Victoria Tower Gardens, which is the subject of a lot of debate at the moment. The proposal I am making is not that it would be one exhibitor; there might be a dozen exhibitors on rotation, drawing on different organisations, coming in nationally. Members of Parliament and Peers would visit in those circumstances because it would be a lobbying centre, and it would set a precedent that I think might be mirrored by other parliaments.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank the noble Lord for elaborating on what he is thinking. I thank him, genuinely, for trying to think positively about how to handle the rightful expression and the disruption to which Members, staff and officers of this House are currently subject because of the excessive noise.

Of course, there are further provisions. The Public Order Act 1986 allows the police to place conditions on static protests or demonstrations. The Environmental Protection Act 1990 allows the police to deal with noise issues. But enforcement lies at the bottom of all these measures at present, and the police need to balance the management of disruption caused by any protest against people’s right to protest—I think we would all accept that.

The police have sufficient powers under the Public Order Act, and the police and Westminster City Council can enforce by-laws that cater for noise issues around the Palace of Westminster. The issue, therefore, is how the existing by-laws are enforced. One would have to say that this is an operational matter for the police and

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Westminster City Council. That said, I fully recognise the degree of distress caused by the repeated use of musical instruments, loud-hailers and amplifiers in the areas adjoining your Lordships’ House and the disruptive effect that can have. I have been told—and we have heard today—of Peers evacuating their offices to work elsewhere, and of another who has been made to feel physically ill as a result of the noise. This cannot be tolerated.

I propose to my noble friend that he and I meet the Metropolitan Police and Westminster City Council to discuss this issue ahead of Report to examine a way forward in dealing with this problem. I suggest that we also include the Dean of Westminster Abbey. As my noble friend has pointed out, the abbey is also subject to the gross disturbance that amplified sound is now bringing to some demonstrations.

Lord Marlesford: Before my noble friend leaves this point, I remind him—the trouble is, he was not particularly involved in it—of when we were campaigning against what was happening in Parliament Square, which brought such discredit to the whole area and did not add to the credit of Parliament. I had a Private Member’s Bill on this and the argument that was always used was, “Oh, there are lots of powers”, and they quoted quite a number of the Acts of Parliament that my noble friend has just been quoting. It did not work. It was much too complicated for the individual authorities—whether it was the Met, Westminster City Council or the health and safety people—to do anything about it. The Act which was introduced to deal with Parliament Square appears to have been very successful. I suggest to the Minister that, much better than trying to play around with existing legislation which might be relevant to dealing with the problem, let us build on what has dealt with the problem in Parliament Square.

5.15 pm

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, I explained that I had been in touch with Westminster City Council and the police. I know what the law is and I spent a whole afternoon trying to point it out to them, but they said, “No, it’s not us. Not me, guv”, so I was left frustrated. I hope that the Minister will therefore take notice of what the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, has said.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I do absolutely. I need to satisfy myself, before we move on, that the existing provisions are not being enforced by Westminster City Council and the police, because they are both involved in enforcing them. I want a meeting to make sure that we have thoroughly thought through any provisions before we put them in legislation; I think that the House would expect that. We of course have an interest: we work here; we live here; we suffer the noise and disruption ourselves. We need to be able to justify in the wider Parliament other than this Chamber and even in the big parliament of the people outside any action that we choose to take. I am very mindful of what my noble friend says. Enforcement has not been successful.

Baroness Trumpington: Has the Minister left out Marble Arch, the obvious place being Speakers’ Corner, to go on existing?

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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: There are certain places where there has been a tradition of people being able to assemble to speak. The last time I went to Speakers’ Corner, I cannot remember loud-hailers or blast-master amplification being used as part and parcel of that process. It is the amplification of the message, seeking almost to penetrate this very Chamber, which I think is causing the difficulty.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: Perhaps I may ask one further short question. In the many cases up and down the country where raucous parties have taken place, all it seems to need to get the police in action, on the spot and stopping the trouble, is for one or two people to complain. If one or two Members of Parliament, be they Peers or from another place, had the courage to go and complain to the police about the noise, does the Minister think that, under present rules, that might stop it?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have to hold out that possibility but, on the other hand, it might not. If the latter is the case, it is perfectly proper for this House to seek a remedy which enables it to perform its function and for its Members to carry out their duties without the gross disturbance which they have otherwise been subject to.

We need to progress with a certain amount of caution here. We have to justify anything that we do by way of legislation with our friends in another place and with the greater public opinion outside. I advocate that as a matter of caution. However, we need to seek a way forward. I am looking to work with others to find a solution. We need to make sure that it is a sensitive and effective solution. I hope that with that and all that I have said my noble friend will be ready to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Deben: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the consideration with which he approached my amendment. The truth is that the laws and by-laws to which he referred exist but are not enforced. He made that point. That was precisely what happened in Parliament Square. Parliament and the House of Commons decided that the square would need a special arrangement because that was the only way to make sure it was enforced. It has now been enforced in the new, much more elegant form brought in by the 2011 Act, about which I have heard no complaints, even from the most extreme of campaigners. They see that the balance is roughly there. It seems odd that what is sauce for the elected goose should not be sauce for the unelected, but happily continuing, gander. I have difficulty in understanding why there should be a difficulty, if I may put it as elegantly as that.

I am very happy to meet my noble friend and all the other people he spoke of, but I suspect that the House will want to come back to this at a later stage. However much conversation we have with the same people who failed to regulate the matters in Parliament Square before the law was changed, I suspect that we will want to come back to this House and propose again the simple concept of moving what is now limited to Parliament Square further along the road. Of course, I undertake that, in those discussions, the actual boundaries will be looked at again in case we have not quite got

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them right. I do not want to go further than is absolutely necessary because I do not want this to be different from, or impinge upon, other jurisdictions. This is about the Houses of Parliament. At the moment, it is about one House of Parliament—all I want to do is make sure that it is about both Houses. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw the amendment but hope that our discussions will end up with an amendment that is acceptable to the Government when we come to Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 22R withdrawn.

Clause 55: Power to make orders

Amendment 23

Moved by Lord Greaves

23: Clause 55, page 32, line 8, leave out “two” and insert “three”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, your Lordships may be satisfied that we are moving back to stuff that is in the Bill as opposed to perfectly legitimate discussions about things that noble Lords have taken the opportunity to raise. In moving Amendment 23, I will speak also to the other 12 amendments in the group. In fact, I will speak to the first eight or nine amendments on the basis that my noble friend the Minister has kindly agreed to write to me about the others—unless other noble Lords raise them.

We move on to Part 4, Chapter 2 of the Bill, which is about public spaces protection orders—a new form of order that district or unitary councils will be able to make to tackle anti-social behaviour in their area. Rather than speaking in detail to each of these amendments, it would help at this stage if I made a few general comments to introduce public spaces protection orders.

Clause 55 is the defining clause. It says that the local authority—the district council—can make a public spaces protection order in response to circumstances in which,

“activities carried on in a public place … have had a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”.

“Public place” is defined quite widely. It does not have to be owned by the public sector. The test here, of a

“detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”,

is essentially the same test as for community protection notices.

There is one fundamental distinction between this order, the PSPO, and the other measures we have been discussing so far, such as IPNAs, criminal behaviour orders and community protection notices, which are all about the control of individuals, of people acting either individually or in a group. Public spaces protection orders are different because they are about public spaces and controls over those spaces—in other words, controls on land and what people can do on that land—so they affect everyone, or everyone in a category of persons. That has civil liberties implications, because clearly they will capture innocent people who may then be penalised and, if they breach the order, could end up facing criminal charges.

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I should say that I am not against public spaces protection orders. I think that they will be extremely useful devices for local authorities, as long as they are used sensibly and proportionately. The amendments in this group and some of my other amendments are not, therefore, against PSPOs; they are probing how they will work, what safeguards are already in the Bill and what further safeguards may be needed.

There are three main concerns about PSPOs. The first is the one that I have already raised: they may remove liberties of the citizen in public spaces from the vast majority of people who have done nothing wrong and do not intend to do anything wrong, or at least nothing significant. The Bill states that the orders can be levied for up to three years—the assumption is that that will be standard—and then prolonged for another three years ad infinitum. In effect, they could become permanent restrictions on what people can do in public places and, in extremis, whether they can go there or not.

The second concern relates to the possibility that public spaces protection orders could be used to keep people out of an area, not just to control what they can and cannot do within that area. For some types of land designated precisely for access and informal recreation, public spaces protection orders will in effect nullify and negate the very purpose of the designation of that land. That part of the proposals has caused considerable alarm among organisations such as the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society, to which the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, referred. The threat, as it is seen, is that some or all the rights under existing legislation specifically for those types of land could be removed, and that when proposals are made to remove them under the new legislation, all the existing safeguards to ensure that such rights are not removed unless absolutely necessary will be swept away in a pretty easy, arbitrary manner.

The third concern, which I think we can deal with now, is that as the Bill has gone through its parliamentary process, PSPOs have not been much scrutinised—certainly not adequately, in my view. The pre-legislative consideration of the Bill by the Home Affairs Committee dealt with PSPOs in a fairly cursory way; they got some discussion, but not a lot, as the Bill went through the House of Commons. We must scrutinise this part of the Bill carefully to see whether we can persuade the Government to make changes to prevent some local authorities taking the provision to the limit so that it goes further than is reasonable.

5.30 pm

To avoid having to go through all the amendments in detail, I submitted a list of the questions they cover to the Minister, who kindly agreed to look at them. The basic questions are, first: will the orders have to be based on evidence—in other words, past and present activities on the land—as well as a concern that they will happen or continue, or can they be based solely on a concern or belief that activities will occur in the future? Secondly, can a PSPO be made only on the area where evidence exists or could problems in one area be used as a reason for a much bigger area, or even a different area, being made subject to one?

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A further point has arisen since I had discussions with the Minister, which is whether the conditions that can be put on a PSPO can apply only to activities and the detrimental effect identified before people say, “Let’s have a PSPO”. Is it only those activities and the detrimental effect which have been identified and defined under the first condition, in Clause 55(2)(a), or could anything be put on once those are considered? Should the criteria for making an order not take account of the downsides of making it, rather than merely considering the benefits of doing so—in other words, should the legislation have a test of balance of judgment introduced into it? Should the prohibitions and requirements not be necessary rather than just reasonable? To what extent is discrimination acceptable between different types or groups of people, or differently aged people, in setting the prohibitions and requirements in the order? This is an important part of the Bill and I hope that we will scrutinise it carefully. I beg to move Amendment 23.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this is a large group of amendments which essentially comes down to the purpose of these orders. Perhaps I may take the last point first as that is often easier. The conditions that have to be considered include that the effect of the activities, in the second limb,

“justifies the restrictions imposed by the notice”.

I am looking at Clause 55(3)(c), so there is a requirement for balance in the creation of a public spaces protection order within the Bill. It is certainly not the case that, in introducing these public spaces protection orders, we are seeking to give local authorities an undiluted right to close off areas without proper consideration of the legal and proper activity being conducted in those areas.

The problem with my noble friend’s amendments is that he is suggesting that the lives of people in the locality would already have to have been affected for some time before the council could act. We are anticipating that there will be circumstances in which, because of other activities, the council may wish to create a public spaces protection order in advance of, let us say, a new development. For example, if a council wanted to open a new children’s play area, it may wish to place restrictions on that area either to prohibit dogs from entering or to allow them only if they are kept on a lead. If my noble friend’s amendments were accepted, the council would have to wait until irresponsible dog ownership turned up as a feature before it could address that. We dealt in a previous debate with the problems that can come through displaced activities, so I hope that my noble friend will understand that we see it as being for a council to exercise judgment on these matters.

Only those behaviours that are linked to a detrimental activity can be applied. Any additions to that list would be treated as a variation under Clause 57 and be subject to the same tests and consultation. Having got a public spaces protection order, it can be varied only by starting the consultative process again. I hope that my noble friend is reassured by that; if he is not, I can tell him that any variation of an order could be challenged in the High Court. Where orders are deemed

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to be unnecessary or disproportionate, there is still the ability for those affected to challenge it in court. The council will be mindful of this when judging whether the test has been met.

I fully understand why my noble friend is making these points. In the draft guidance published last month we have included guidelines on the aspects and impacts that should be considered before an order is used. We will, of course, continue to develop the guidance to try and cover the point raised by my noble friend, but I fear that including it in the Bill would make it hard for a council to act quickly and deal effectively with anti-social behaviour.

I think that I have covered the issue of the future impacts. Regarding Amendment 32, I would like to be clear that the aim behind this amendment is to allow councils to design solutions around local needs. Clause 55(6) will result in the closure of rights of way being less likely under a new regime. It will allow specific problems to be dealt with without the recourse to completely closing a public space, as I have said.

There is some flexibility in these orders that will suit both those who wish to go about exercising their legitimate rights and those who wish to make sure that anti-social behaviour can be tackled. I agree with my noble friend that these orders have to be used proportionately. The benefit to the community in tackling detrimental activities must be balanced against the impact of any prohibitions or requirements. I believe that local councils are capable of making such assessments and coming to the right decisions, having consulted the local community. If they get it wrong, or are perceived to have got it wrong, an order can be challenged in the courts. Given the safeguards that we have built into the legislation, which are reinforced by the draft guidance we have published, the Bill gets the balance right and I hope that my noble friend would be willing, on that basis, to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, that takes us into some very useful discussion and I am grateful to my noble friend for his careful response. What he said about play areas and the ability of councils to put a public spaces protection order on a new play area to keep dogs out, for example, or perhaps because they wish to have areas under a PSPO where dogs would have to be kept on a lead, indicates that what is being proposed is not a minor thing. It is a very powerful new proposal with a strong power. Some might think that it is far-reaching and draconian but, if councils behave properly, it may be valuable.

As a local councillor, I have to say that I am very attracted by the idea of being able to make public spaces protection orders. I can think of all sorts of places where suitable orders might be introduced—so I am not against them at all. What I am concerned about is whether there are sufficient safeguards. My noble friend refers to the right of appeal to the High Court but, in terms of closing footpaths, the right of appeal on closing a right of way is to the magistrates’ court. Most people concerned about such a matter can undertake an appeal to the magistrates’ court. They would not want to go to the High Court to appeal against an order. There is a real concern here that the powers being given to local authorities are very strong,

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potentially very beneficial but also powers that could be misused. Being able to go only to the High Court is a problem.

Finally, the Minister referred to the draft guidance that has been produced, which is very helpful and useful. Like my noble friend Lady Hamwee on guidance, earlier today I said that it was a good thing that in this Bill that there was not much provision for the Secretary of State to make orders and regulations. In practice, what is going to happen is that the Secretary of State will issue guidance, which in effect will be instructions to local authorities. It will be a very brave local authority that does not follow the guidance. I am not sure that non-statutory guidance in that sense is any better than statutory orders and regulations, which at least potentially can have some parliamentary scrutiny. However, I am very grateful for my noble friend’s comments. There are further things to discuss here before we get to Report but, in the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 23 withdrawn.

Amendments 24 to 29 not moved.

Amendments 30 and 31 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 32 to 34 not moved.

Amendment 34A

Moved by Lord Greaves

34A: Clause 55, page 32, line 36, at end insert—

“( ) A prohibition or requirement made under subsection (6) may not prevent the use of the public space by persons—

(a) bearing placards, offering to talk to people or providing literature or other material relating to political or other beliefs and campaigns;

(b) assembling or parading for the purpose of promoting political or other beliefs and campaigns;

(c) making speeches whether or not amplified in pursuit of such aims.”

Lord Greaves: My Lords, perhaps we should have discussed this amendment along with the last amendment but one about goings-on around this building. This amendment tests to what extent public spaces protection orders can remove rights of peaceful assembly in public places. In practice, public spaces protection orders are not a suitable way of limiting freedom of speech, assembly or campaigning. We have just discussed a very extreme example. There may be occasions when these rights have to be curtailed or regulated and controlled for the benefit of people in general, people in the locality and even people in your Lordships’ House. But in most cases, when public protest gets out of hand, it is possible to deal with it through existing public order legislation. In some cases, it requires local by-laws but, by and large, it is dealt with fairly well. People ask whether we should not be able to ban those such as the English Defence League from having a demonstration in the middle of Bradford, but there is legislation to deal with that. If existing legislation is insufficient, it is in the area of public order legislation or local legislation that people should look.

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It would be wrong for these orders, which can be made quickly and easily by a local authority, with a minimum degree of consultation—even with the welcome amendments that the Government will propose in a minute or two—to be used to limit basic rights of assembly, protest and debates in public places and freedom of speech. Specific problems should be dealt with in a one-off manner on the basis of existing law. If there are very special places, such as outside this building, where people think that there ought to be more control, it should be dealt with on that basis. If there is a need to improve the law, it should not be done on the basis of orders that are easy to make and can last for three years—and in practice, by extending them, can last for ever. The rights of assembly, free speech and peaceful campaigning are too important to be dealt with in this rather arbitrary manner. I beg to move.

5.45 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, I have some sympathy with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, although the words of his Amendment 34A may not find too much favour in the light of the previous debate, when it refers to,

“making speeches whether or not amplified”,

given the discussion that we have had about amplified speeches outside your Lordships’ House.

There is an important criterion on which, I believe, the noble Lord is seeking reassurance from the Government. People have a democratic and legitimate right to protest in public places, and we would really not want to see these powers misused, if people are campaigning or lobbying for a particular cause or issue, although I do not think that that is the Government’s intention. It would be helpful to have some comment from the Minister. Can he give reassurance that there are no circumstances in which this provision would be allowed to curtail legitimate debate, campaigning or protest? As the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, said, there are other ways in which such issues should be dealt with. We all know of cases where laws have been used for purposes other than those intended by Governments. As the Minister will appreciate, it creates huge suspicion when provisions seem open-ended. I hope that he can give reassurance and be very clear on that, perhaps stating specifically in guidance that the intention would not be to limit in any way the democratic responsibilities of the citizen.

Baroness Hamwee: I will not waste the Committee’s time by repeating the arguments, but this is an instance where guidance would not be enough. Unless we can have hard examples of where the provision might be properly used to restrict assembly where there is no other provision to deal with any of the problems, it would not be adequate for guidance to say something like, “The Government would not expect this to be used in such and such a situation”. This is a power that I would be very unhappy to give to anyone because of its misuse, unless there was a very good reason to allow it here and they have no other tools.