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14 Jan 2014 : Column 99

House of Lords

Tuesday, 14 January 2014.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Public Health Responsibility Deal


2.37 pm

Asked by Lord Sharkey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what progress they have made in persuading further fast food chains to sign up to the Public Health Responsibility Deal pledge on calorie reduction.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): We are working hard to persuade other fast food chains to join the wide range of food businesses which have already signed up to the public health responsibility deal calorie reduction pledge and to sign up to other food network pledges. Eleven fast food partners are signatories of the responsibility deal and are taking action in a range of areas including calorie reduction. These partners cover most of the food sold in the fast food sector.

Lord Sharkey (LD): I think the Minister will agree that these public health responsibility deal pledges are very useful. Given the dangers of excessive sugar in our diets, will the Minister consider adding a specific sugar-reduction pledge to the current list—with specific targets, as is already the case for salt—and will he help reduce sugar consumption by following the latest advice of Dr Susan Jebb, chair of the department’s public health responsibility deal food network, and removing fruit juice from the five-a-day recommendations?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall take my noble friend’s final question back with me. We will certainly look at it. However, I stress that our current emphasis is on overall calorie reduction, of which sugar can form a part. The scope for a reformulation to reduce sugar levels varies widely depending on the food and a reduction in sugar levels does not always mean that the overall calorie content is reduced—for example, when sugar is replaced by starch or other ingredients. The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition—SACN—is currently undertaking a review of carbo- hydrates and is looking at sugar as part of that. Its report will inform our future thinking.

Lord Palmer (CB): Is the Minister aware that one supermarket chain has announced today that it is going to remove all sweets from its checkout tills? Would it not be a good idea for the noble Earl to invite other supermarket chains to do exactly the same?

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Earl Howe: My Lords, we are talking to the supermarket chains about those very matters, and I welcome the action that has been taken. The noble Lord may like to know that, as part of the responsibility deal calorie reduction pledge, Coca-Cola has reduced calories in some of its soft-drink brands by at least 30%, Mars has reduced its single chocolate portions to no more than 250 calories and Tesco has reduced by more than 1 billion the number of calories sold in its own-brand soft drinks.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab): My Lords, will the Minister help the House by publishing a list of meetings which Ministers, special advisers and senior civil servants have had with fast food companies in the past year?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I shall take that request away and write to the noble Lord.

Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con): Does the Minister approve of the letter, which will shortly be sent to all Members of this House and of another place, asking them to measure their waist and to ensure that it is less than half their height? That would apply to quite a few Members opposite, who are clearly eating too much of the gross national product.

Earl Howe: My Lords, we should welcome any measure that encourages us all to improve our diet, to reduce physical inactivity and to be aware of what we need to do to keep our weight under control. I do welcome that letter.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I hope that the noble Earl will encourage his own noble colleagues to look at themselves in the mirror in the light of that unwarranted attack on my own Benches. Perhaps I can just refer the noble Earl to the report of the National Obesity Forum yesterday, which suggested that, on one of the worst-case scenarios, more than half of the population of this country will be obese by 2050. Does he not think that the volunteer approach may no longer be appropriate? Do the Government not have to take a greater lead on this?

Earl Howe: My Lords, there are certainly no grounds for complacency on obesity levels throughout the nation. However, the current data do not support the claim by the National Obesity Forum. In 2007, the Foresight team projected that, based on data from 1993-2004, more than half the population could be obese by 2050 if no action is taken. An analysis based on recent data suggests a flatter trend than the one projected by the Foresight team. I do not agree that we should belittle the responsibility deal. It has many worthwhile achievements to its credit and they are being added to month by month.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): Although appreciating this scurrilous attack on rotundity, does the noble Earl recollect the immortal words of Shakespeare in “Julius Caesar”:

“Let me have men about me that are fat; … Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look”.

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Earl Howe: I am sure my noble friend Lord McColl would agree that one can go too far in that direction.

Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords, do the Government not accept that people ought to know that if they stuff themselves silly with high-calorie rubbish foods they will get fat? It is their responsibility. All the forums and other nonsense are merely trying to divorce people from the consequences of their own stupid actions.

Earl Howe: My noble friend is absolutely right to place his finger on a central point that, in the end, it is up to individuals to take responsibility for their own state of health.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab): My Lords, if individuals are required to take responsibility but they do not know what they are consuming because the manufacturers or producers do not let them know, or indeed the Government are complicit in not pressing those manufacturers to let people know what they are consuming, should there not be a responsibility on the Government? For example, no one knows the calories in alcohol. There has been no change since this responsibility deal was introduced and there is no change in prospect.

Earl Howe: My Lords, under the responsibility deal, 92 producers and retailers have committed to having 80% of bottles and cans in the UK displaying unit and health information and a pregnancy warning by the end of last year. That is a worthwhile step forward. As regards the calorie labelling of alcoholic drinks, that, as the noble Lord will know, is an EU competence. It is subject to discussion at this time, but most large retailers include the calorie content of alcohol products on their websites, and that information is also available elsewhere.

National Savings and Investments


2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Naseby

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the impact of the introduction of a new computer system at National Savings and Investments.

Lord Newby (LD): My Lords, National Savings and Investments has been moving customer accounts and investments to a new banking system. That follows a major review which concluded that upgrades were necessary to modernise and simplify NS&I products. It will enable products to be managed online, by telephone or post and ensure long-term customer satisfaction. NS&I recognises that a small number of customers may be frustrated, as is often the case during any such period of change, and has taken measures to ensure that customers understand the reasons for its actions.

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Lord Naseby (Con): My Lords, will the Minister explain why the NS&I cannot be like every other investment house and send to investors, without asking, a half-yearly statement which lists their holdings and the value of those holdings, plus such transactions as have taken place in the previous six months, and eventually produce a total value of all their holdings?

Lord Newby: My Lords, I think the correct analogy with NS&I is with a bank or building society, where common practice—this is what NS&I is moving towards—is that people get a statement on the anniversary of when they took out savings and that customers are able to look online for a comprehensive statement of all their various policies and holdings.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con): My Lords, although we all appreciate that exceptionally low interest rates have been necessary to shore up the finances of borrowers, particularly mortgage holders, does my noble friend recognise that this has been an extremely difficult time for savers? It is a great pity that during a period in which, until today, inflation has been above the Bank of England’s target, National Savings has withdrawn the inflation-linked savings certificate. Will the spokesman encourage National Savings to help to end that misery for savers and, at least for small savers, introduce some new products with rather better rates of interest?

Lord Newby: My Lords, as the House is aware, when we have very low interest rates, which have been necessary in the economic circumstances in which we have found ourselves, that helps very many consumers, households, mortgage holders and businesses and is on balance, in our view, beneficial to the economy. The downside, as the noble Lord mentions, is that savers get a lower rate of interest. I think it is unrealistic to expect NS&I to promote products with a higher rate of interest than market rates, because its remit is to get best value for money for the Government, but I am sure that the noble Lord and the whole House will welcome the news that inflation is down to 2%, which is the target level.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, returning to the original Question, surely the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, is right: NS&I ought to be an exemplar of good practice in informing its investors rather than apparently seeking to catch up.

Lord Newby: My Lords, NS&I needs to be able to compete effectively with best practice across the financial services sector. The truth is that NS&I has been behind the curve. It is undertaking a major programme to get all its customers online. Bear in mind that NS&I has 25 million customers in this country. That is a massive operation. When it is finished, it will be able to give information to the standard that people expect from the best of the other high street brands.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con): Did my noble friend really say that it was the role of National Savings to get the best return for the Government? Surely its role is to provide a safe haven—as it advertises—

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for savers. Are not the savers getting a poor return because the Government are indulging in quantitative easing, which is a transfer of money from those who have done the right thing to those who have borrowed?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the Government are not doing quantitative easing, the Bank of England is. On the rate payable on National Savings, as the noble Lord will know, the role of National Savings is to contribute to the Government’s funding requirements. In doing that it has to operate in line with market rates because otherwise the Government are paying more for their money via National Savings than through the gilts market.

Lord Barnett (Lab): My Lords, does the noble Lord’s answer to the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, mean that the Chancellor is advising the Governor of the Bank of England that if he has early plans to increase interest rates the Chancellor will use the reserve powers given to him under the Bank of England Act to stop it?

Lord Newby: My Lords, the reserve powers in the Bank of England Act are to be used principally when inflation is outside the target level. That is not the case at the moment. The question of interest rates is very much a matter for the Bank of England. It has adopted a new policy that incorporates forward guidance, which was agreed with the Chancellor in the middle of last year, and that is the basis on which it is operating.

NHS: Essential Services


2.51 pm

Asked by Baroness Wheeler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2013, how NHS England is monitoring access to essential services and how it intends to address variations in access to and provision of services at clinical commissioning group level.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe) (Con): My Lords, to help reduce variations in access to health services, Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, is working with the medical royal colleges and others to ensure that the NHS is clear about the evidence base for common types of surgical interventions. For example, it will produce guidance for commissioners to help ensure that consistent eligibility criteria are used to access surgical services and so minimise the scope for variation at a local level.

Baroness Wheeler (Lab): I thank the Minister for his response. Dr Foster’s report shows that the number of knee and hip replacements and cataract removals has fallen to its lowest level in four years, meaning that more than 12 million people now live in areas where the number of these operations has substantially declined.

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This is despite our elderly population continuing to rise over the same period and these common surgical procedures being vital to ensuring that older people can regain their mobility, keep active and stay living in the community. Does the Minister agree that these are essential treatments? What pressures will be placed on NHS England to ensure that CCGs actually provide them and also that they fulfil their legal obligation to issue guidance to local communities, revealing what their policies are on providing medicines, surgeries and therapeutic interventions?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I should first tell the noble Baroness that we cannot reconcile our own figures with those of Dr Foster. We believe that there has in fact been a significant increase in the number of cataract and knee and hip replacement operations since 2009-10 and not a drop. Regardless of that, I suggest to her that the absolute numbers of operations taking place do not tell us anything about possible rationing or the absence of it. That question can be answered only with the benefit of fuller data. The key to consistent access to these treatments is a common understanding among commissioners of the evidence base in each case. That is exactly what Sir Bruce Keogh is working towards and will provide guidance on in due course.

Baroness Manzoor (LD): Can the Minister state which local NHS services NHS England has deemed to be essential? If an independent provider of these services gets into financial difficulty, who will provide and pay for those services—NHS England or the clinical commissioning groups?

Earl Howe: My Lords, from April this year, CCGs and NHS England will begin to identify formally those healthcare services that they consider essential to protect in the event of the financial failure of their providers. They will be required to designate such services as commissioner requested services. In doing so, they must have regard to Monitor’s published CRS guidance. Should an independent provider of CRS get into financial difficulty, then Monitor will work with the provider and relevant partners to determine the right solution.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, what safeguards are in place to make sure that CCGs do not have a conflict of interest when they contract for services in which they may have a direct involvement?

Earl Howe: The noble Lord will, I am sure, remember from our debates on the Health and Social Care Bill that NHS England has published guidance for CCGs on managing conflicts. There is also a duty placed on CCGs to have regard to such guidance and CCGs set out in their constitution their proposed arrangements for managing conflicts of interest.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): How are the Government able to monitor how CCGs are commissioning background diagnostic services and imaging services, which are essential for accurate

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diagnosis in surgical emergencies and will determine whether a patient should be taken to theatre, given that two-thirds of consultants have expressed concern about the level of care of patients at the weekend? I wonder what levers there are for the Government against those clinical commissioning groups which do not ensure that adequate diagnostic facilities are available.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the CCG assurance framework sets out how NHS England will ensure that CCGs are operating effectively to commission safe and high-quality sustainable services within their resources. Underpinning assurance are the developing relationships between CCGs and NHS England, which should not be overlooked. One key source of evidence is the national delivery dashboard, which provides a consistent set of national data on CCG performance. In addition, there is the CCG outcomes indicator set, which will be an important wider source of evidence from 2014-15 onwards.

Baroness Pitkeathley (Lab): My Lords, I know that the noble Earl has disputed the figures but if the volume of operations such as knee and hip replacements and cataract removals is declining, does he accept that this is likely to cause further problems in the social care sector? If older people do not receive timely treatment that will transform, as these operations do, their mobility and ability to manage at home alone, surely they will continue to need more support in the community, which we know is under pressure because of shortages in local authority funding. We may call these operations non-essential—we often do—but they are not non-essential if you are an older person with mobility problems.

Earl Howe: I fully agree with the noble Baroness and her point about mobility is very well made. However, NHS England has stated to me explicitly that the assumption that there should be a rising trend in the number of operations proportionate to the rise in the number of elderly people may not necessarily be right, so we have to be wary of using a statistic in isolation to prove one thing or the other.

Lord Walton of Detchant (CB): My Lords, can the Minister say whether it is still government policy that clinical commissioning groups should accept the recommendations of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in relation to the availability of expensive drugs in the NHS? What sanctions are available for those that do not comply with those recommendations?

Earl Howe: The noble Lord is right that when NICE gives a positive appraisal on a medicine, whether it is for a rare or a common disease, the funding for that medicine must be available through CCGs or NHS England. If a patient is denied the drug, contrary to the instructions or wishes of their clinician, then there is a route of appeal through either the clinical commissioning group or NHS England.

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Housing: Underoccupancy Charge


2.58 pm

Asked by Lord McKenzie of Luton

Lord McKenzie of Luton to ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of reports of anomalies in the operation of the underoccupancy charge, whether they have any plans to amend housing benefit regulations.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): The housing benefit regulations will be amended in March 2014 to ensure that all working-age social sector tenants who underoccupy their homes are subject to a reduction in their eligible rent, regardless of the length of their tenancy, unless they fall within one of the limited exceptions. The exceptions include certain excluded tenancies, shared ownership tenancies, mooring charges for houseboats, rent for caravan sites, temporary accommodation and supported exempt accommodation.

Lord McKenzie of Luton (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, but is not what has happened just another example of the incompetence that surrounds the Government’s welfare reforms, and their careless approach to people’s lives in introducing it? The upshot is that there are thousands of people who are being hit illegally with housing benefit reductions, and thousands of people who are unnecessarily caused undue stress because of the effect of this tax. I would like to ask the Minister how the Government are going to rectify matters for individuals who are denied their full benefit entitlement to date, whose rent arrears may have affected their credit rating, who have moved house in response to the tax and given up their security of tenure, or who have fallen into the clutches of private sector landlords who are now intent on evicting tenants claiming housing benefit? Is not this mess a further reason to scrap this wretched tax?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I can tell the noble Lord that the numbers involved in this anomaly are small and the amounts are modest. We have put guidance out to local authorities and we intend to regularise the matter through regulations in March.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, the legislation agreed by this House includes the requirement for a full review of the underoccupancy charge. Would my noble friend the Minister tell the House what progress has been made in putting this review in place, and will he confirm that this important process will include not only the impact of the policy but the methods of implementation?

Lord Freud: My Lords, we have an elaborate review, about which I have given full information to this House in the past, that is coming out in two stages. We have the interim report coming out later this year, and we have the final report coming out in 2015.

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Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, the numbers may be small, but it is people’s lives that have been affected, and I do not think the noble Lord the Minister actually answered my noble friend’s question about what will happen to them. Could he please answer it now? Also, it is quite likely that many of these people will have got into debt as a result of this. Will the Government pay compensation to cover the interest payments on that debt?

Lord Freud: The reductions in housing benefit will of course be repaid as we correct the anomaly for this period, so people will be made whole.

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, when the repayments have to be made by local authorities, will they be reimbursed by central government, since it is clearly not the fault of local authorities that this cock-up has occurred?

Lord Freud: Yes, my Lords, the payment will of course go through as housing payment in the normal way.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, what a catalogue of disasters: the bedroom tax applied illegally to thousands of people; refunds that will be demanded and quite rightly paid; thousands paid a discretionary housing allowance by mistake and not obliged to repay the cash; and people forced to move house from areas they have lived in all of their lives. The Minister boasted of his role in introducing this tax. Will he now admit his personal responsibility in this disaster, and admit that it is a financial and a social disaster?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I will not. The department is engaged in a massive programme of reform. We have successfully brought in a benefit cap, and we have launched PIP, the universal credit and housing benefit reform, to name just a few.

Lord Martin of Springburn (CB): My Lords, will the Minister acknowledge that in circumstances where couples are required to leave underoccupied houses, it is not necessarily the case that the house that is vacated will be easily re-let?

Lord Freud: My Lords, the position is that we have got a large number of overcrowded social homes; we have got a very long waiting list, stretching out to 2 million people; and the job of local authorities is to make sure that available homes are matched with the requirement of people who have larger families.

Lord Christopher (Lab): My Lords, what plans do the Government have to deal with the problem, before it gets widespread, of the growing number of private landlords who have decided not to let any properties to people on benefits?

Lord Freud: My Lords, there are always flows between private landlords coming into the market and coming out of it. The underlying statistics are that, since we

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introduced the local authority housing changes, the number of people in private rented accommodation has gone up.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, would the Minister undertake to read after this Question Time the questions that have been put to him and which he has not yet answered? For example, there was a question about people who have lost secure tenancies as a result of the Government’s errors. What are the Government going to do to help them?

Lord Freud: My Lords, as I made clear, the regulations that will come in in March will go back to the position that was intended, so people at that stage will have to make adjustments where they need to. So there is a timing issue, but not an underlying one.

Lord Grocott (Lab): My Lords, will the noble Lord acknowledge that this House is often not a bad barometer of whether a policy is going well or badly? Could he note, as I have certainly noted, that there has been quite an absence of enthusiasm on his Benches for this policy, and for asking him helpful or even supportive questions? Could he just report that back to the department?

Lord Freud: My Lords, I am pleased to remind the noble Lord that the survey conducted on this policy by Ipsos MORI a couple of months ago found that 78% of people thought that it was important to tackle this problem, and 54% thought it was fair to have this kind of reduction.

Lord Hughes of Woodside (Lab): My Lords, the Minister said that the regulations would be brought forward in March, which is two months from now. What will happen between now and then to the people who have suffered the difficulties that have been described, and how long after the amendments have been made will they take effect?

Lord Freud: I am not quite sure that I got that question. We have put out guidance to local authorities to make it clear that people in that position should not have a reduction in their benefits until the regulations have been introduced in a corrected form.

National Insurance Contributions Bill

Order of Consideration Motion

3.07 pm

Moved by Lord Newby

That it be an instruction to the Grand Committee to which the National Insurance Contributions Bill has been committed that they consider the bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 3, Schedule 1, Clauses 4 to 15, Schedule 2, Clauses 16 to 21.

Motion agreed.

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Ministry of Defence: IT Systems


3.08 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Astor of Hever) (Con): My Lords, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer given in the other place to an Urgent Question. The Statement is as follows:

“The Army entered into a partnering contract with Capita in March 2012 to manage recruitment of regular and reserve soldiers. This is an Army-led initiative designed to free up military personnel from recruitment-related administrative tasks and to improve the quantity and quality of Army recruits; it will play a key role as we transition the Army to the new Army 2020 structures.

I should make it clear to the House that the Army has not outsourced its recruitment; it remains in overall charge of recruitment and will continue to play a major role in attraction and mentoring of recruits. Capita’s role is to manage the supporting processes by which a would-be recruit becomes an enlisted regular or a fully-trained reservist.

As I have explained to the House previously, there have been initial difficulties with this recruiting process as we transition to the new recruiting arrangements with Capita and, in particular, we have encountered difficulties with the IT systems supporting the application and enlistment process. The decision to use the legacy Atlas IT platform was deemed at the time to be the quickest and most effective way of delivering the new recruitment programme. An option to revert to a Capita-hosted solution was included in the contracts as a back-up solution.

I was made aware last summer that the Army was encountering problems with the integration of the Capita system to the Atlas platform. Since then we have put in place a number of workarounds and mitigation measures to the old IT platform to simplify the application process, and we have reintroduced military personnel to provide manual intervention to support the process.

Having visited the Army’s recruitment centre in Upavon on 30 October, it was clear to me that, despite the Army putting in place measures to mitigate these problems in the near term, further long-term action was needed to fix the situation. It was agreed in principle at that point that the Atlas system was not capable of timely delivery of the Capita-run programme and that we would need to take up the option to revert to Capita to build a new IT platform specifically to run its system, which will be ready early next year.

In the short term, we have already taken action to bring in a new range of initiatives that will make it progressively easier and quicker for applicants, both regular and reserve, to enlist. As I informed the House in December, we have already taken a number of actions, including: the introduction this month of a new front-end web application for Army recruitment; a simplified online application form; more streamlined medical clearance processes; greater mentoring of recruits by local reserve units through the application, enlistment and training process; and the reintroduction of reserve

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unit recruitment targets and the provision of recruitment resource to reserve unit commanding officers. With an improved Army recruitment website, streamlined medicals and an increase in the number of recruiting staff, recruits should see a much improved experience by the end of this month.

As we move forward, we are looking at further ways of improving the management of the recruiting process in the intervening period before the introduction of the advanced IT system now being developed in partnership with Capita, which is expected to be deployed in February 2015. We have just launched a new recruitment drive for the Army, both regular and reserves, which will remind the House and the public that the Army is always recruiting and continues to offer exciting and rewarding careers in both the Regular and the Reserve Forces”.

3.12 pm

Lord Rosser (Lab): I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question asked in the other place earlier today. This is another example of things not working out as planned in the Ministry of Defence under this Government’s watch, following the Joint Strike Fighter U-turn, the defence procurement competition with a distinct lack of competitors and now this with the online IT recruitment scheme. The story has broken in today’s Times newspaper of a report by an IT research company on the costs and consequences of this flawed IT system. It is a pity the Secretary of State was not prepared to tell Parliament the details himself, bearing in mind the fact that he has been aware of the difficulty since early last summer.

What impact has this failure had on recruitment for both regulars and reserves, and how far behind schedule is the recruitment partnering project? What is the Government’s total figure for the additional costs that have been and will be incurred as a result of the flawed IT system, and how many Armed Forces personnel have had to return to or remain in recruitment posts as a result of this failure?

3.13 pm

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we acknowledge that there have been difficulties, and the Army is working with its partners to put things right. As the noble Lord knows, the previous Government had their share of IT problems, and we in the Ministry of Defence are gripping the problem.

In the short term, the Army is freeing up to 1,000 soldiers to help with recruiting on the front line. As the response to the Urgent Question said, we are improving the online experience. The application form is being simplified and there is a streamlined medical clearance process and greater mentoring of recruits by the local units. We want to make the whole process much more user friendly.

Much work has gone into addressing recruiting and a new campaign was launched last weekend. Noble Lords may have seen it. Given the target set out in the Written Ministerial Statement before Christmas, we are confident that this can be achieved. We are changing the shape of the British Army to reflect financial reality and the needs of the 21st century. We need to build up reserves with much more specialist roles.

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Regarding the noble Lord’s specific questions, on additional cost the £15.5 million mentioned is what we have spent so far getting the system to work on the Atlas platform. Of that £15.5 million, £6.7 million has been spent on doing work that is now of no utility—in other words, that £6.7 million will need to be written off. Another £4.4 million is needed to make the interim programme work in terms of extra manpower and so on. This means that the total of £6.7 million plus £4.4 million, which equals £11.1 million, is the extra cost of this announcement. The overall cost of the programme remains within the financial allocation of £1.36 billion covering the period from March 2012 to March 2022.

This is a long-term issue that deserves cross-party support. I will be going down to Upavon, where the recruiting group, including Capita, is based, and I would like to extend an invitation to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, my noble friend Lord Palmer and the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, or a representative from the defence group, to accompany me to see what the Army and Capita are doing to sort this problem out.

3.17 pm

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill (LD): My Lords, first, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that offer, which I am happy to accept. When the decision was made to recruit online, was it not premature to cease to use the well tried manual systems, which have been used successfully over the years? I understand the need to move into the next century, but in business you do not introduce a new IT system and throw away the old system until you have proved that the new system is working. Can we be reassured that that will be looked at in the future?

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, obviously, we will look at that very closely. It is very easy to be wise with the benefit of hindsight.

I failed to answer various questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. He asked me how many Armed Forces personnel will return. I think that I answered that—the Army will be sending in 1,000 regulars to help on the ground with recruiting both the regulars and the reserves. He asked what the effect would be on recruitment, which is a question that I myself asked; the answer is that it is too early to say. How late will the project be? There will be a two-year delay before the full operating capability of the new programme is reached. The IT is due to be up and running in February 2015.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): My Lords, surely the fundamental, terrible error was, as the noble Lord, Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, said, to stop using the old system. We took out the people who actually make young men and women want to join the Army. They want to see a bluff NCO with a chest full of medals talking about the Army, not some Capita or “Crapita” person talking to them from behind a computer. As I understand it, 800 regulars who were doing that job were removed and now we are putting 1,000 back in. Does the Minister agree that that was the fundamental error?

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Lord Astor of Hever: No, my Lords, it was not. The whole idea of this was to try to relieve manpower to enable soldiers to go back to the front line as well as reducing cost. However, I point out to the noble Lord that this is not the first IT project to go on. In 1998, Labour announced a programme to reform the way that the NHS used IT. It was originally intended to cost £6.2 billion, but costs later doubled to almost £13 billion. In 2011, the Government axed that project and replaced it with a cheaper, locally led system. The National Audit Office slammed the original scheme, saying that it did not represent value for money, so this is not the first time that there have been problems with IT.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, that is exactly the point that the Minister has made. This is not the first time that an IT system has gone wrong. As the noble Lord, Lord West, has said, this trial was going completely against the traditional methods of recruiting. Will the noble Lord tell the House whether it was adequately tried out before it was forced on what I understand was a very reluctant Army?

Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Lord is probably better informed on that than I am. We want to get the best of both worlds. The Army is not losing control of recruiting—it was always going to be in control of recruiting—but we want to use the very best software to help it do the job properly and get recruits into the reserves and into the regulars.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean (Lab): My Lords, does the noble Lord not accept that my noble friend Lord West made a very important point about soldiers inspiring young people to want to join the Armed Forces? In the same way, you could say that excellent doctors or lawyers have a role in inspiring young people to join the medical or legal profession. Surely it was a mistake to cut out that role from the Army and Armed Forces and simply give it to an organisation like Capita.

Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Baroness makes a very good point, but, as I said, the Army will not lose control of this whole process and there will be soldiers helping with recruiting. This concept was designed not only to cut costs but to enable soldiers to go back to the front line. The initial gateway business case was accepted back in July 2008 by the previous Government.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville (Con): My Lords, in addition to what my noble friend referred to in 1998, does he also recall that there was a massive reduction in the Territorial Army during that period? Some of us who were then sitting in the other place had to defend not one but two Territorial Army bases in our constituencies in order to prevent them from being closed. The situation that we are now dealing with would not be so acute if the Territorial Army had had a more stable period.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, my noble friend makes a very good point. When the previous Administration took office in 1997, the Territorial Army was more

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than 50,000 strong; by the time it left office in 2010, that figure had halved. That pattern of decline has now been arrested and the strength has been stabilised.

Lord Dannatt (CB): My Lords, the regular Army is losing 20% of its strength, which means 20,000 trained soldiers over the next few years over and above the normal annual outflow of trained soldiers. The initiative to increase the strength of the Territorial Army, as it was previously called, is—to be generous about it—struggling. Can the Minister assure the House that the IT system that is in place is good enough to track the regular Reserve—that is, the soldiers who have served and have been recently discharged—and that, in extremis, there is the IT capability there to recall them to the colours as ex-trained regular soldiers?

Lord Astor of Hever: The noble Lord makes a very good point about officers and soldiers who have left whom we might need at some point in the future. The best of my understanding is that we can track them. If that is not the case I will write to the noble Lord.

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime andPolicing Bill

Report (2nd Day)

3.24 pm

Clause 69: Power to issue closure notices

Amendment 61A

Moved by Baroness Smith of Basildon

61A: Clause 69, page 41, line 25, at end insert—

“( ) that the use of particular premises has resulted, or (if the notice is not issued) is likely soon to result, in a sexual offence against a child,”

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, our amendment adds a new ground for the issuing of a closure notice that would allow premises to be closed in cases of sexual offences against a child. It is largely a preventive measure but would be an important extra tool in tackling this problem. No one could have failed to be distressed and horrified by the reports late last year of groups and gangs of men who abused young and vulnerable girls. They did so by a cold, calculating and sinister grooming process, sometimes involving drink and drugs, which allowed them to sexually and physically abuse these children. So cleverly warped are these groomers’ tactics that the children—and vulnerable adults—may not even realise at the time that they are being abused and exploited.

We have an opportunity in the Bill to provide more ammunition for those trying to prevent this shocking and evil crime. I hope noble Lords will allow me to put on record my gratitude to those who brought this matter to my attention: Tony Lloyd, the police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester; Colin Lambert, leader of Rochdale Council; and Jeanette Stanley, Rochdale’s safety community manager. They

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have given me some hugely important and useful evidence. I know they have been in contact with Home Office Ministers as well. Their experience and knowledge of what works in tackling such crime and where the gaps are in legislation is invaluable. I know that the Minister shares my concerns on this issue and I hope that the Government will share my view of the suggestions that these people brought forward to try to tackle this problem.

They are seeking an immediate closure power where there is a safeguarding threat. Greater Manchester Police has evidence of properties that are unregulated and unlicensed being used in a variety of ways to prey on vulnerable adults and sexually exploit children “behind closed doors”. Yet the only powers the police have—and will have in legislation if the amendment is not passed—is to close premises on anti-social behaviour grounds. Now that the police have evidence of the shape and extent of this problem, that is no longer enough. In Rochdale, they have been able to use the current anti-social behaviour closure order power on a number of occasions to good effect because they also had sufficient evidence of recent and repetitive anti-social behaviour incidents. However, the main reason for obtaining a closure order was because of safeguarding concerns involving children and young adults. That power allows a short-term disruption to the abuse while the police can then take longer-term permanent action.

Norman Baker, as Home Office Minister in the other place, has responded to the suggestion outlined in our amendment that closure powers exist under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. He is absolutely right—they do—but they apply only to prostitution and pornography, not to protecting children and vulnerable adults. The powers do not allow for the swift action that is needed. However, perhaps the most serious problem with that approach is that to use a sexual offences order, evidence of a criminal offence is needed. The grooming method of such gangs is quite sophisticated in a warped way, and many victims of child rape and sexual abuse do not complain. They may even believe that their abuser is their boyfriend and that they have sex with his friends to please him. While in the clutches of these men, the victims cannot even recognise that they are being abused.

This is a simple amendment. It obviously does not solve all the problems but it will make a difference. Tony Lloyd and Councillor Colin Lambert first wrote to Minister Jeremy Browne on 4 October last year seeking this help to tackle the problem. I put on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, as Minister, for his willingness to discuss these issues with me. I really hope that the Minister can accept this amendment but I would be happy for him to take it away to consider further, and for us to bring something back at Third Reading. I beg to move.

Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a hugely important matter. I was glad to hear her say that she would welcome the Minister taking the matter away, but I have to say that my reaction would be to wonder whether, as she says—and I am not doubting what she says—there are gaps in our legislation that mean there are problems for the authorities.

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If that were the case, I should have thought it necessary to make changes to the Sexual Offences Act. I question whether the changes should be made in this Bill, given that the offences she is talking about are of a very different order from the nuisance and disorder that this part of the Bill is addressing.

There is also the difficult issue of taking steps to prevent something that might be a criminal offence—we are talking about something rather different in this part of the Bill—without having gone through prosecution and so on. I have not had a discussion with the Minister —he might be about to take the ground completely from under my feet—but it seems that we are talking about something very important but rather different.

3.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Taylor of Holbeach) (Con): My Lords, sexual offences against children are a serious crime and one of the utmost concern to the Government. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for tabling this amendment to allow the House to debate this important issue today.

The Government are determined to do everything they can to protect the public from predatory sexual offenders. The United Kingdom has some of the toughest powers in the world to manage the risks posed by sex offenders, but we are committed to ensuring that the police and other enforcement agencies have the right powers to protect the public from sexual harm.

It may be useful to noble Lords if I outline some of the powers already available to the police to tackle the sexual exploitation of children. As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, has said, in particular, the Sexual Offences Act 2003, already gives the police and the courts the power to close premises on a temporary basis where there are reasonable grounds for believing that they are being used for certain sexual offences involving a child and that closing the premises is necessary to prevent the commission of those offences.

Under that Act, service of a closure notice by the police will prevent anyone entering or remaining on the premises, unless they regularly reside in or own the premises, until a magistrates’ court decides whether to make a closure order. If the court is satisfied that the relevant conditions are met, it can make a closure order for a period of up to three months. An application can be made for the closure order to be extended but the total period for which a closure order has effect may not exceed six months. The Sexual Offences Act closure notice and order therefore operate similarly to the closure power in the Bill, although they are targeted specifically at sexual crimes against children, which are listed in Sections 47 to 50 of that Act. These crimes all relate to the abuse of children through prostitution or pornography. In addition to their duty to investigate criminal offences, the police have a statutory duty to safeguard and promote the welfare of children, and have powers to enter premises and remove children to ensure their immediate protection if they believe they are at risk of significant harm.

I recognise—the noble Baroness is correct to draw this to our attention—that there are concerns that the powers in the Sexual Offences Act do not go far enough. As the noble Baroness has indicated, Home

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Office Ministers have been in recent correspondence with the police and crime commissioner for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd, on this issue. Tony Lloyd has pointed to cases where takeaways and other premises could be used for grooming children.

As I have said, the closure powers in the 2003 Act relate only to premises used in connection with prostitution or pornography, so there may indeed be a case for extending their reach. As my noble friend Lady Hamwee has pointed out, I believe the 2003 Act rather than the closure powers in this Bill, which relate to anti-social behaviour, is the proper place to address this issue.

I suggest to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that if she would be prepared to withdraw her amendment, I will undertake to give the matter sympathetic and urgent consideration in advance of Third Reading. I cannot, at this stage, as noble Lords will understand, give any commitment to bring forward a government amendment at Third Reading. However, I will let her know the outcome of our further deliberations in good time so that she can, if necessary, retable her amendment, or something similar to it, at that stage.

We all want to ensure that all possible action is taken by the police to protect children at risk of sexual exploitation. I share the noble Baroness’s determination to get to the bottom of this issue and, as speedily as possible, to plug any confirmed gap in the powers of the police in this regard. I hope that on this basis she will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for his response in this regard. It contrasts quite starkly with the comments from the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, who seemed to be much against taking action in the Bill. However, his response—

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I apologise to the House if I was not clear. I was entirely sympathetic with the thrust of what the noble Baroness was seeking to do but was suggesting, precisely as the Minister has said, that the Sexual Offences Act might well be the place to do it.

Baroness Smith of Basildon: It came over rather more negatively than that, but the Minister’s response was very useful and I think it showed a clear determination to take action on this. I am very happy to enter into discussions with him and we should be able to find a way to bring this back at Third Reading. It is an urgent issue: children are being abused today and will be abused tomorrow and the day after, and we have a real opportunity here to make a difference. I am grateful to the Minister for seizing the opportunity and I look forward to our further discussions.

Amendment 61A withdrawn.

Amendment 62

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

62: Clause 69, page 41, line 37, leave out “habitually”

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Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 71, 72, 73, 74 and 75. These amendments are concerned with people who are affected, and how they are affected, by closure notices and closure orders. Amendment 62 addresses those who “habitually”—that is the term in the Bill—live on the premises and their entitlement to access. The subsequent amendments deal with the clauses relating to temporary orders and their extension and discharge, and appeals, as well as the extent of the building which may be the subject of an appeal.

I am concerned about the employees who live on site. Pubs, hotels and other leisure establishments often include accommodation for junior staff and not just for the managers. When I raised this at the previous stage, the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said that closure notices could be,

“tailored to the appropriate circumstances”.—[

Official Report

, 2/12/13; col. 14.]—

we were talking about security and safety—but that the Government considered that the exception should be limited to residents who are habitually resident and, in the case of an appeal, to those who have an interest in the premises, meaning a financial or legal interest.

The draft guidance, which we have seen, seems to consider these issues only to the extent of the police or the local authority, allowing discretion for the retrieval of items left on the premises. My concern goes wider than that. A young person employed in the sort of situation to which I have referred may well be living a long way from home and quite suddenly lose the place where they are living, if not habitually at that point. I am not suggesting that this may be a widespread situation but, for those affected, it will be very significant and I wonder whether my noble friend on the Front Bench can give me any more assurances. I am simply not confident that the legislation allows for enough to go into the guidance to cover the points that I am making. I beg to move.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con):My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee has explained, these amendments relate to the closure powers in Chapter 3 of Part 4 of the Bill. She has also indicated that her particular concern is to protect the interests of employees—such as caretakers, for example—who may live on premises subject to a closure notice or order. Amendment 62 relates to the use of the term “habitually” in the context of Clause 69(4). That subsection provides that a closure notice cannot prohibit access by a person who habitually lives on the premises. The term “habitually” in this context means those who routinely or regularly live at those premises. It could, for example, cover students who live away from the family home for part of the year but routinely return to the family home as their main residence or those who spend the majority of the week living at the pub in which they work.

The term is commonly used in legislation setting out entitlement to social security benefits, such as the Income Support (General) Regulations 1987. It is also used in the family law context when a court decides cases under the Child Abduction and Custody Act 1985, where it is often relevant to decide in which country a

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child habitually resides. When approaching this test in each context in which it has arisen, the courts have said that it is essentially a question of fact to be determined by reference to all the circumstances of a particular case. We expect the police and local authorities to follow the same approach in this context and assess each circumstance on a case-by-case basis. However, it is important to retain this word so that we exclude persons who may only occasionally live on the premises: for example, a friend of one of the residents who may just be spending time there over a weekend or at a sleepover.

Amendments 71, 72, 73 and 75 all seek to extend certain rights—for example, the right of appeal against a closure order—to persons who live on the premises concerned. Such rights already apply to persons on whom a closure notice has been served and on persons who have an interest in the premises. The Government are satisfied that these existing provisions are wide enough to protect the position of employees who may reside on the premises.

In Committee, I explained that the reference in the Bill to a person having an “interest” in the premises covers those who have a financial or legal interest. I would fully expect that any employee who has been furnished with accommodation as part of his or her employment would have their entitlements to such accommodation set out in either their contract of employment or an associated tenancy agreement. That being the case, I am satisfied that in any such formal relationship between an employee and the owner or occupier of any such premises subject to an application for a closure order, the employee will be a person with an interest in the premises and therefore already covered by the provisions provided in Clauses 74 to 77.

Finally, Amendment 74 seeks to clarify the circumstances in which an appeal against a decision to make or extend a closure order may be made. Of course, I understand that my noble friend has in mind the situation where an appellant may wish to challenge the extent of a closure order in terms of those parts of a building or structure which are covered by the order. Again, I can assure my noble friend that the provisions in the Bill as drafted allow for this. Clause 77(6) enables the court hearing an appeal to make whatever order it thinks appropriate. This would include varying the terms of a closure order so that it applies to a more limited part of the building or structure in question. Therefore, an employee living on-site could use the appeal to argue that a closure order should not include his or her living area. I hope that, in the light of the explanation that I have given, my noble friend is reassured and will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, in the Minister’s explanation of “habitually”, which I understood from the previous stage, the example he used of a student whose real home—if I can put it that way—was somewhere else actually confirmed exactly what I was worried about. That part therefore did not reassure me, but I am helped by his more extended explanation of the term “interest”. I know when I am beaten, so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 62 withdrawn.

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Clause 72: Service of notices

Amendments 63 to 70

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

63: Clause 72, page 43, line 39, leave out “an employee” and insert “a representative”

64: Clause 72, page 43, line 41, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

65: Clause 72, page 43, line 45, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

66: Clause 72, page 44, line 2, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

67: Clause 72, page 44, line 7, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

68: Clause 72, page 44, line 11, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

69: Clause 72, page 44, line 12, leave out “employee” and insert “representative”

70: Clause 72, page 44, line 14, at end insert—

“( ) In this section “representative”, in relation to a local authority, means—

(a) an employee of the authority, or

(b) a person, or employee or a person, acting on behalf of the authority.”

Amendments 63 to 70 agreed.

Clause 74: Temporary orders

Amendment 71 not moved.

Clause 75: Extension of closure orders

Amendment 72 not moved.

Clause 76: Discharge of closure orders

Amendment 73 not moved.

Clause 77: Appeals

Amendments 74 and 75 not moved.

Amendment 76

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

76: After Clause 83, insert the following new Clause—


(1) The Secretary of State may issue—

(a) guidance to chief officers of police about the exercise, by officers under their direction or control, of those officers’ functions under this Chapter;

(b) guidance to local authorities about the exercise of their functions under this Chapter and those of their representatives (within the meaning of section 72).

(2) The Secretary of State may revise any guidance issued under this section.

(3) The Secretary of State must arrange for any guidance issued or revised under this section to be published.”

Amendment 76 agreed.

Amendments 77 to 80 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

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3.45 pm

Clause 91: Offences connected with riot

Amendment 80A

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con)

80A: Clause 91, page 61, line 41, leave out “a person” and insert “an adult”

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, Clause 91 introduces a new discretionary ground for possession for offences connected with a riot. The existing grounds for possession for anti-social behaviour are discretionary and require that the anti-social behaviour must have occurred in the locality of the property. This means that thuggish behaviour committed against neighbours or in the immediate vicinity of a tenant’s home may currently be a basis for eviction.

However, similar offences likely to have a devastating effect on whole communities such as looting, or other riot-related criminal activity, committed by tenants further from their homes would not usually be taken into account. I do not think that that is right. It is important that people who wreck other people’s communities through riot-related offences should face the same consequences that they would if they carried out such behaviour in their own neighbourhoods.

It is not just the Government who are of this view. Following the 2011 riots, the e-petition entitled “Convicted London rioters should lose all benefits” received over a quarter of a million signatures, the second greatest number of signatories for any e-petition that has been submitted to the Government to date. That is strong evidence that the public want tough action to deal with rioters.

This clause seeks to make sure that that is the case by adding a new ground for possession into the Housing Acts 1985 and 1988 in respect of secure tenants and assured tenants respectively. Under the new ground, landlords will be able to apply for possession of a tenant’s property in England where the tenant or a person living in the tenant’s property has been convicted of an offence committed at the scene of a riot which took place anywhere in the UK.

Following concerns raised in Committee and by the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we gave a commitment to consider the amendments tabled at that stage by my noble friends, Lady Hamwee and Lord Greaves, which proposed that the new ground would apply only where the tenant and not a member of the household has been convicted of a “serious offence”, rather than any offence, as currently drafted.

Recognising the concerns that have been expressed, government Amendments 80A to 80F provide further reassurance that the new ground will apply only to the more serious cases of riotous behaviour. Amendments 80A, 80C, 80D and 80F provide that landlords would be able to seek possession under the provisions of Clause 91 only where the tenant or an adult member of their household has been convicted of an offence at the scene of a riot.

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We have retained the application of the ground to the convictions of adult members of the household as we do not believe that adult perpetrators of serious anti-social behaviour or criminal activity should be able to escape consequences for their home simply on the basis that the tenancy is not in their name.

In addition, to address concerns relating to the possibility of minor offences triggering possession under this ground, Amendments 80B and 80D would restrict the application of the new ground to “indictable offences” instead of any offence committed at the scene of a riot as currently drafted. This means that convictions for less serious offences such as common assault and obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty will not trigger possession under this ground. However, I emphasise our commitment to ensuring that we send a strong signal: if you get involved in a riot, whether it is near your home or not, there may be consequences for your tenancy.

With regard to the concerns raised by the Joint Committee on Human Rights that the ground amounts to a double punishment and may disproportionately affect children, it is important to note that the new ground is discretionary and that the court can grant possession only where it considers it reasonable to do so. This means that the court can take into account the circumstances of the tenant and other family members, including children, when deciding whether to grant possession. I should add that available evidence also indicates that landlords resort to eviction only as a last resort. In addition, these government amendments would provide additional safeguards in the Bill to ensure that whole families are not evicted under the new ground for the actions of a child during a riot. I would reassure the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan— I am pleased to see that she is in her place—and the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, who have tabled Amendment 80G to remove Clause 91 from the Bill, that we expect the impact of the provision and the number of evictions, including those of families, to be very small over time. That is especially as I hope that we will not see any future occurrences of the disgraceful looting and rioting across England that we saw in the summer of 2011.

I hope that the House will agree that these government amendments respond positively to the concerns that have been expressed about this provision and that your Lordships will support the retention of Clause 91 in its amended form. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Loan (CB): My Lords, Clause 91 as originally drafted added a new ground for possession under Schedule 2 of the Housing Act 1985 and Part 2 of Schedule 2 to the Housing Act 1988 so that, as the Minister has said, a landlord might apply for possession where someone living in the property has been convicted of an offence committed at the scene of a riot which had taken place anywhere in the United Kingdom. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a member, has consistently stated that this clause should be deleted from the Bill. In the first instance the committee stated that it was unnecessary and disproportionate. It was also concerned about the potentially serious implications of this clause for family members and considered that it may disproportionately

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affect both women and children. The committee said that it amounted to a punishment rather than a genuine means of preventing harm to others.

I wish to set out absolutely the aggravated nature of riot offences. Living in Northern Ireland, I have long experience of the fear and the horror of riots. People who commit criminal offences must be pursued under the criminal law. To allow an offence committed anywhere in the UK, even if the conviction were to be on indictment only, to be grounds for eviction where there is a tenancy, is certainly to impose a second punishment on a limited group of people who do not own their own home and who have committed no offence, since the other members of the household have committed no offence. I should like to thank the Minister for meeting with me in December to discuss this issue, and for giving me the opportunity to articulate again the difficulties with this clause.

I note the amendments that the Government have now tabled and the fact that they make in effect two changes. The clause will apply only where an adult member of the household—someone living in the house—has been convicted of an indictable offence. That is to be welcomed because it limits the effect of the clause. It relieves from the threat of eviction the families of young people who may have fallen into bad company, but who have been dealt with for their criminality under the criminal law. However, that still leaves tenants and their householders subject to a possible double punishment for a crime committed either by a tenant or someone else who lives in the rented property, and no such double punishment can be applied to a private householder. The family of such a household will be put through the stress, fear and expense of fighting an eviction application. It will go on for months, and while they may well win at the end of the day, there will still have been serious disruption and expense and, above all, distress to the family. Can the Minister tell me whether there is a time limit on the use of a conviction as a ground for eviction? If a person was convicted in 2013, could that conviction be used in 2014? If he was convicted 2011 as a result of the London riots, could it be used in 2014?

Clause 91 would create the curious circumstance in which someone convicted of a riot offence in Edinburgh, Glasgow or even Belfast could be evicted in England and Wales but a person convicted in England and Wales could not be evicted in Scotland or Northern Ireland. The Government have offered no justification for this measure, nor is there any necessity for it, even in its amended form. In the Minister’s letter to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the explanation for the Government’s amendments is that, in light of the Lords Committee stage debate, they concluded that it would be appropriate to place further safeguards on the face of the legislation. However, the Minister repeats the Government’s position that “this provision is intended to deter the sort of deplorable ‘riot tourism’ that we witnessed in summer 2011”. The Joint Committee on Human Rights states:

“In our view it is the job of the criminal law, not the civil law, to deter riot-related offences and to administer sanctions when such offences are committed. Nor do we consider the existence of judicial discretion to be a satisfactory answer to our concern about the disproportionate impact of eviction on other members

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of the household who have not engaged in such behaviour. We maintain our recommendation that clause 91 be deleted from the Bill”.

The justification for the current position under the Housing Act is that those convicted of rioting in their locality pose a threat to their local community and that, in order to protect that community, the person must be removed from it. This justification cannot cover the proposed extension of the ground for eviction—there is no link between the crime and the local area. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, a former deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, stated in Committee,

“the provision to order possession of a property when the offence has absolutely nothing to do with protecting neighbours, for example, from anti-social behaviour, is a step too far. It is politically motivated and is not driven by the needs of justice. Therefore, it should be no part of this Bill”.—[

Official Report

, 2/12/13; col. 62.]

The Government have sought to justify their proposals by stating that the threat of eviction is intended to deter those considering engaging in riot-related behaviour —but that is the purpose of the criminal law.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who is soon to take his place on the Front Bench, stated that he could not endorse the clause. He did not qualify that in any way:

“The courts have sufficient powers to deal firmly with offenders caught up in a riot … The criminal justice system—some would say ‘for once’—in general responded very well to what occurred”.

He also said:

“Those who committed offences during the riot on that occasion were dealt with speedily and firmly”.

He stated that he did not think it was “necessary or appropriate” to legislate in this manner,

“given all the other powers that exist elsewhere in the Bill”,

and concluded that,

“this clause is a step too far”. —[

Official Report

, 2/12/13; col. 60.]

In 2011, Wandsworth Council threatened to evict a Liberty client, Maite de la Calva, and her younger daughter, if her son was convicted of a crime committed during the riots in 2011. Her son had been arrested and charged during the disorder. He had moved out of his mother’s property earlier in the year, but she was still served with a notice by Wandsworth Council seeking possession, which stated that she was likely to have breached her tenancy agreement. The authority vowed to apply for a possession order evicting her and her daughter if her son was convicted. This was despite her contribution to the local area over the past three years: she was described as a credit to her housing estate by neighbours and spent her spare time volunteering with a youth charity and working with domestic violence victims. She had committed no crime herself and would not have faced that threat had she lived in a mortgaged house. Liberty represented her in challenging Wandsworth Council’s attempt to punish her and her daughter for her son’s conviction. Eventually the council was persuaded to back down, but not before considerable anxiety and suffering had been inflicted. If the eviction powers set out in the Bill are enacted, even as modified by the present government amendments, there will be many more cases just like this one and it is unlikely that the outcome in all of them will be as positive.

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Removing a person and their family from social housing is unlikely to lead to less, rather than more, crime and anti-social behaviour. Dispossession will shift the problem elsewhere, creating new and greater problems for the individuals concerned and their families. Private housing may be unavailable and private sector rents are rising, partly as a consequence of the welfare reform measures. Temporary accommodation does not deal with the issue: it splits up families; it disrupts education and social cohesion; and the end result may well be that alternative accommodation becomes unaffordable for many families, leading to increased homelessness and destitution.

I ask the Minister to consider again the fact that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has consistently said that this clause is neither necessary nor proportionate; that it is not about protecting a local area; that it discriminates against those in public housing; and above all that it will create significant distress to people who have committed no crime.

4 pm

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I am pleased to speak in support of Amendment 80G—to which I added my name as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights—and to follow the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, who has moved the amendment so powerfully.

I apologise for not being able to be present during the Bill’s Committee stage, but I have read the debate. It was striking that no noble Lord other than the Minister, of course, spoke in support of Clause 91. The noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, who is also a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, called it an unhelpful precedent. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, lately of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick—who have both already been quoted—called it a step too far. To the Minister’s credit, he has taken note and come back with government amendments. In my view, however, his amendments are a step not far enough. They do not meet the concerns of the Joint Committee on Human Rights which have been voiced in two reports on the Bill and lie behind Amendment 80G. The noble Lords who serve on the JCHR said in Committee that Clause 91 smacks of punishment rather than serving as a means of preventing harm. As the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said, it would create a double punishment. The Minister talks about tough action, but tough action was taken after the riots, as the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, argued strongly in Committee. Moreover, in many cases the punishment will be applied to people who are totally innocent of the behaviour in question. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about the clause creating new victims.

In response to the JCHR’s concerns on this point, the Minister tried to reassure your Lordships that the power would be discretionary and the courts would have regard to what is reasonable before granting a possession order. He also argued in Committee that it is an established principle of tenancy law that a tenant is held responsible for the behaviour of members of their household. Surely tenancy law concerns behaviour that affects the accommodation and/or contravenes a condition of the tenancy and not behaviour that could

14 Jan 2014 : Column 125

have taken place hundreds of miles away. Indeed, the Minister himself has dubbed it “riot tourism”. That is not a phrase that I would use but it underlines the fact that we are talking about behaviour that has no implications for the neighbours of those concerned, and nor does it affect the landlord.

Research into existing discretionary anti-social behaviour powers reveals how, in practice, women are often held responsible for the behaviour of sons and/or male partners. Reporting on this research in an article in the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, Caroline Hunter and Judy Nixon note that two out of three complaints of anti-social behaviour against women heads of households concern the behaviour of teenage children—mainly sons—or male partners or boyfriends. The article states:

“Regardless of the difficulty and in some cases, the impossibility women experienced in controlling the behaviour of their teenage sons or boyfriends, they were deemed responsible for the behaviour and were as a result evicted from their homes … while the lack of fault on the part of the women in many of these cases was striking and in some cases acknowledged by the judges, this was not a sufficient factor to prevent the women from being punished and evicted from their homes”.

So I am not reassured by what the Minister said about this being discretionary and about the reasonableness of the judicial system.

Subsequent analysis of more recent Court of Appeal cases found a similar pattern, in particular in relation to the behaviour of male partners—not underaged children but partners. Limiting the operation of Clause 91 to cases where a riot-related offence is committed by an adult member of the household, as under the government amendment, in practice makes little difference. In many cases, it will be adults, probably males, sons or partners, who are the perpetrators.

The phrase of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was striking: we are creating new victims here. Those innocent victims who will lose their homes will disproportionately be women and children. The Minister also tried to reassure us by saying that the impact will be small, there will not be that many people affected. What about every woman and child who loses their house, their home, because of this provision? Surely that is not just; that is not fair.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, I am sure that nobody wishes to condone rioting or the serious damage and intimidation that it can cause. Most of us are grateful to the Government for bringing forward their amendments. Nevertheless, they do not deal with the discrimination against, for example, owner-occupiers, because they touch only on secure and assured tenants. There is the further point that the Bill, even as amended, is very likely to punish the innocent. Unless the Government can come back with a very much better defence of the clause, I shall certainly support the noble Baroness and my noble friend if they wish to press the amendment to a Division.

The Earl of Lytton (CB): My Lords, first, I should like to clarify a point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister of Burtersett, and reinforce what she said about the Landlord and Tenant Act issues under secure tenancies.

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The legal situation, as I understand it from my profession as a chartered surveyor, is that tenants are responsible for the actions of those living with them only to the extent of the lease terms and the demise concerned. It does not and never has extended to liability for the wider actions of members of a tenant’s household elsewhere. Even general paving clauses such as “immoral or illegal activity” have, as I understand it, been pleaded in vain. I put that clearly. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, has raised a valid point here. The whole of Clause 91 looks like being a knee-jerk reaction that would go beyond what is necessary and desirable.

I would like to ask one or two questions for clarification. What about the whole question of the rehabilitation of offenders? When somebody has been indicted, put into prison, served their sentence and comes out, what are the circumstances in which a court will grant this further period of indefinite rustication, if you like, from any sort of enjoyment of a place that they can call a home and to which they can naturally relate? What are the safeguards? Is this the default position, or does it concern the second or third strike after the event? We do not know and I invite the Minister to clarify the position.

Moreover, what about the selective post-sentence treatment of rioters as a particular species of offender under the Bill—as opposed to, say, murderers or other offenders? Very large numbers of offences are anti-social, and virtually all have a victim class of some sort who would naturally look, under the terms of the overarching principle of this Bill, to some sort of rebalancing. I worry about the singling out of this class of offender. Maybe the Minister can explain how that works. This provision could result in a class of persons without rights to occupy anything that they could call a home of their own. That needs to be circumscribed and contained in some way because the circumstances of the offence will not necessarily be replicated. If there is no risk of replication, what is the court being instructed to do? The justification is rebalancing towards the interests of victims—for them to feel that justice has been done. Would Clause 91 achieve that rebalancing? I am not clear that it would.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, the term “knee-jerk reaction” was used. I think we are all clear—let me use a synonym—that it was an immediate reaction to the riots of 2011. I am never comfortable with using legislation to give a message. At the previous stage I proposed amendments that were replicated in what we have today because I recognise the political realities of the situation and the circumstances in which that message had been given.

I was horrified when I looked at Hansardtosee that I was on record as saying that I was happy with the clause. Hansardnow knows that I was not happy with the clause and is correcting the record from Committee stage. As I say, I recognise the strength of feeling and where we might well end up. Knowing how the two Houses work and that this clause has been considered by the Commons, I went straight to what I hoped might be a way of ameliorating the situation, which was to suggest that it be limited to serious offences. That is a very significant change and taken with the

14 Jan 2014 : Column 127

other safeguards—that is how I look at them—which the Minister has listed, I am perhaps somewhere between where


said I was and where I was. I am not happy but I am not nearly as unhappy as I might have been.

I was interested to know what had happened in Wandsworth after the 2011 riots and checked with the council. I understand that that council—presumably this is not the case with every local authority—has specific tenancy conditions covering the behaviour of tenants and it considered the criminal activities as coming within those conditions. The housing professional from whom I have heard talked about the double jeopardy term being used as a criticism but said, however, that the ground relating to possession for a serious conviction has existed since 1985. In essence, if the new ground meant that a tenant living in one borough could be pursued if convicted in connection with rioting in another borough I can see the attraction but I doubt whether the courts will agree. I am grateful to the Minister for bringing forward the amendments today.

4.15 pm

Baroness O’Neill of Bengarve (CB): My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister could address the case of the adult child of a tenant who is away at university but whose place of permanent residence remains the family home and who gets involved in a riot—a serious matter—in or near the university. Would it be the case that in those circumstances the parent stands to lose their tenancy?

Lord Elton (Con): If your Lordships will permit a latecomer—almost an interloper—to ask just one question, would my noble friend be kind enough to tell me what exactly is the definition of the members of a household? I take it that it includes anybody who has been given or lent a room at the time. Would it include anybody who is paying the tenant for a room? It would obviously not include anybody who was paying the landlord for a room. In other words, is there any necessity for there to be a familial or emotional connection, or any other close connection, with the other members of the household?

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, I regret that I was not able to be present for the Committee stage of the Bill. As the House knows, there were various clashes of other important Bills at the same time, so I come new to this issue. It seems to me that what the Government are trying to do here is to give an additional power to the courts. That point has not yet been made by anyone, other than the Minister. It is of course a matter entirely for the court whether or not such an order is made. I see that Clause 91(1) refers to,

“grounds on which court may order possession … if it considers it reasonable”.

It seems to me that if a university student, who is almost certainly over 18, goes AWOL and behaves extremely badly in university precincts but has a mother and three young siblings living in the house, the mother will have absolutely no control over the young man at university. She probably does not even have any financial control these days. The court would be certain to look

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at the hardship of the situation and this would be a circuit judge in the county court. I am not particularly keen on this addition to the powers of the court but I would find it difficult to believe that a court would act other than justly and with mercy in situations that would require it.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: Before the noble and learned Baroness sits down, does she accept that the research which I quoted suggests that the courts have perhaps not always been reasonable in their application of anti-social behaviour legislation and that lone mothers, in particular, have been evicted because of the behaviour of men in their household who they simply were unable to control?

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I understand the point and I would hope that there would be an appeal system so that at some stage this issue would come before the Court of Appeal, which would deal with it appropriately.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend the Minister for accepting the amendment suggested by my noble friend Lady Hamwee which excludes offences committed by young people and excludes minor offences as well. However, I share other noble Lords’ concerns about this additional sanction. As I said in Committee, in the aftermath of the riots a couple of years ago, the courts clearly showed how seriously they took offences committed during a riot—far more seriously than if those offences had been committed at some other time. It does not appear to be necessary to have a further sanction in order to deter rioters. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said that this is a power given to the courts. I am a great believer in the courts and in the fact that they will make the right decisions. But I fail to see why we need this power. I cannot think of circumstances where a court would allow such an order to be made. Therefore, I see this power as being superfluous.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab): My Lords, I want to repeat a point I made briefly at Second Reading, following up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about Wandsworth Borough Council. I, too, checked with serving councillors regarding what happened subsequent to the 2011 riots. It is my information that the council did not pursue the repossession of its property. Although it had the powers, the council decided that it was not in its interest or that of the tenants to pursue the matter. Therefore, I agree with the points that have been made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick. One has to question the motivations of the Government for pursuing this legislative change when a council which sees itself as a flagship of the Conservative Party has not pursued the avenues that were open to it.

Lord Rosser (Lab): The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett, have already made a strong case for deleting Clause 91. The Government, of course, have put down amendments that make some changes to that clause, but do not address the basic objections, which have also been expressed for a second time by the Joint Committee on

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Human Rights, about the disproportionate impact of eviction on other members of the household who have not engaged in such riot-related behaviour. The Joint Committee on Human Rights was not moved by the references to judicial discretion, so clearly it did not rate very highly in its thinking as a safeguard. The Joint Committee also expressed the view that it was the job of criminal law, not civil law, to deter riot-related offences, and to administer sanctions when such offences were committed. As has been said, courts when sentencing, quite rightly, already take a much more serious view of offences committed as part of a riot, and under cover of a riot, as was shown by the sentences given to those convicted following the riots in 2011. Many people were sent straight to prison when they probably would not have been given such a sentence if the offence had not been committed in association with the riots.

Clause 91 does not just relate to offences in the locality in which the offender lives, but covers such offences anywhere in the United Kingdom. It is clearly seen as an additional punishment by the Government, and it is not related to the experience of victims in the locality in which the offender lives. The Government are seeking to make some amendments so that Clause 91 would not apply where under-18s are convicted of a riot-related offence or in respect of the most minor offences. However, that still means that, since Clause 91 relates to repossession where a person residing in the dwelling house has been convicted of a riot-related offence, the penalty of eviction affects everybody else in the house. People who are guilty of no crime, such as pensioners with a son or daughter living at home, or children whose older brother or sister, aged 18 or over, has been convicted, are the innocent victims of Clause 91.

It will certainly act as a deterrent to a member of a household reporting another member of the household to the police for rioting if they know that the effect of such action, which surely we should encourage not discourage, would be to find themselves evicted as a result, under the terms of the clause. Why do the Government take the view that riot-related offences justify repossession and eviction when they do not take that view over equally serious or more serious offences? In addition, why do they think that those who commit riot-related offences away from their own locality and who own their own home or live in a house that is owner-occupied should face no further penalty other than the sentence of the court for the crime that they have committed but that those who live in rented accommodation should not only receive and serve the sentence of the court for the riot-related crime that they have committed but face eviction from the house in which they live in their own locality, along with other members of the household, who could include the tenant, who have committed no riot-related offences—indeed, no offences at all—and will be made innocent victims of Clause 91? The Government say that the Bill is about victims, but this clause creates victims.

The amendment to delete Clause 91 is in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett. It is that amendment that we will support if a vote is called.

14 Jan 2014 : Column 130

Baroness Hamwee: With the leave of the House, just to pursue the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, the information that I had from the chief executive of Wandsworth was that, in that borough after the 2011 riots, 12 notices of seeking possession were served, which is the first step in eviction proceedings. That resulted in an outright possession order and subsequent eviction in one case; seven others resulted in possession being granted but suspended on terms or an undertaking being given to the court. That, of course, supports what the noble and learned Baroness said about the court’s position.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: This has been a good debate on an important subject, and I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for bringing it to us today. However, I reiterate that, as with the existing discretionary grounds for possession, the legislation has always contained important safeguards—not least the discretion of the court, at the end of the day. However, this has been recognised by the Government in our amendments, reflecting the key concerns, if not all the concerns, of the Joint Committee on Human Rights.

A lot of noble Lords have spoken in this debate, including the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, my noble friend Lady Hamwee, the noble Baroness, Lady O’Neill, my noble friend Lord Elton, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, my noble friend Lord Paddick and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. A number of points have been made, all working on a theme.

To put the debate in context, I remind the House that the Housing Act 1996 already provides for a ground of possession where a tenant, a member of their household or a visitor has been convicted of anti-social behaviour or a criminal offence in the locality—there is the difference—of their property. Many of the issues that noble Lords have pointed to are already familiar to those who have to make the decisions. The noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, referred to the debates in Wandsworth, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Hamwee for giving us the figures there. Such decisions have to be made by housing authorities and landlords over time in any event, and the courts themselves have to consider the impact not only on the perpetrator of the crime but on the family. This is familiar ground.

4.30 pm

The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, asked why it was necessary to introduce a special ground for riot-related offences but not for other offences. As I have explained, it is indictable offences concerning a riot that are covered; in general, within the locality, the specific riot-related element is absent. We think it is right that eviction should be an option only where the crime has a direct impact on those living where the offender lives. However, the particular characteristic of looting and rioting is that they can wreck whole communities, which may be distant from where the rioter or perpetrator lives. That makes these crimes a particular case.

14 Jan 2014 : Column 131

The noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Rosser, pointed out that eviction is not tenure-neutral—that it discriminates in favour of owner-occupiers at the expense of those who live in homes under a tenancy. A tenancy presents a contract between a landlord and an individual, and includes obligations on both the landlord and the tenant. One of those obligations is that the tenant must ensure that they and members of their household do not behave in an anti-social way. No such contractual understanding applies to owner-occupiers, so provisions around possession cannot apply in the same way. As I have said, conviction for an indictable offence in the locality of the property already constitutes a ground for possession.

The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, asked about the time limit. For future rioting there is no time limit, but this legislation is not, of course, retrospective as regards the 2011 riots; I think noble Lords will understand that. If a person were convicted of a riot-related offence in future years, it could be pursued over time. The courts will consider whether it is reasonable for it to be pursued. Indeed, reasonableness lies at the bottom of the court’s discretion in all cases.

Lord Elton: Forgive my ignorance, but it is important to get this right, and I am left in doubt. The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, said that this was a power given to the court, but earlier the Minister spoke as if the discretion lay with the housing authority. Who actually makes the decision in such cases?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The court does not initiate the action; the housing authority does. The court makes the decision as to whether the action is reasonable. That is the difference. I think all noble Lords would understand that, and I hope I have not confused anybody by any of the ways in which I have described the decision-making process. The point is that there are checks and balances in such a process. Housing authorities live with them all the time.

I was specifically asked about adult children at university, not living at home and therefore being largely out of the control—or rather, beyond the influence—of their parents, because of the distance involved. The key word is “reasonableness”. It seems to me very unlikely that a landlord would seek possession in those circumstances, and I doubt very much that any court would grant possession on that basis.

I think it would be a mistake to remove Clause 91 altogether. We in this House have a duty to remember victims: the families whose homes are wrecked and whose jobs are lost. The noble Baroness said the fact that an action has taken place 100 miles away makes no difference. I disagree with her. The consequences of these actions affect people in their homes and in their work. It is important that we make people aware of their responsibility to others through the law and that potential rioters bear in mind that there may be consequences for their tenancy wherever they choose to wreak havoc. This clause does that. It should serve as a deterrent and shows that the public’s views on this issue are not being ignored by the Government. I beg to move.

Amendment 80A agreed.

14 Jan 2014 : Column 132

Amendments 80B to 80F

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

80B: Clause 91, page 61, line 42, after “an” insert “indictable”

80C: Clause 91, page 61, line 44, after “Ground” insert “—

“adult” means a person aged 18 or over;

“indictable offence” does not include an offence that is triable only summarily by virtue of section 22 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (either way offences where value involved is small);”

80D: Clause 91, page 62, line 7, leave out “a person” and insert “an adult”

80E: Clause 91, page 62, line 8, after “an” insert “indictable”

80F: Clause 91, page 62, line 10, after “Ground” insert “—

“adult” means a person aged 18 or over;

“indictable offence” does not include an offence that is triable only summarily by virtue of section 22 of the Magistrates’ Courts Act 1980 (either way offences where value involved is small);”

Amendments 80B to 80F agreed.

Amendment 80G

Moved by Baroness O'Loan

80G: Clause 91, leave out Clause 91

Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, I had expected to have the right to respond to the Minister on the previous amendment. I do not think that the relevant measure has been shown to be necessary, proportionate or in the interests of innocent victims. I beg to move. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

4.36 pm

Division on Amendment 80G

Contents 215; Not-Contents 248.

Amendment 80G disagreed.

Division No.  1


Adonis, L.

Ahmed, L.

Allenby of Megiddo, V.

Alton of Liverpool, L.

Anderson of Swansea, L.

Andrews, B.

Bach, L.

Bakewell, B.

Bassam of Brighton, L.

Berkeley, L.

Best, L.

Blackstone, B.

Blood, B.

Boateng, L.

Boothroyd, B.

Borrie, L.

Brennan, L.

Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.

Brookman, L.

Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, L.

Browne of Ladyton, L.

Campbell of Surbiton, B.

Campbell-Savours, L.

Chandos, V.

Christopher, L.

Clancarty, E.

Clark of Windermere, L.

Clarke of Hampstead, L.

Clinton-Davis, L.

Collins of Highbury, L.

Condon, L.

Corston, B.

Coussins, B.

Craig of Radley, L.

Davies of Coity, L.

Davies of Oldham, L.

Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.

Deech, B.

Donaghy, B.

Donoughue, L.

Drake, B.

Drayson, L.

Dubs, L.

Eatwell, L.

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Elder, L.

Elystan-Morgan, L.

Evans of Parkside, L.

Evans of Temple Guiting, L.

Falkland, V.

Farrington of Ribbleton, B.

Faulkner of Worcester, L.

Finlay of Llandaff, B.

Ford, B.

Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.

Foulkes of Cumnock, L.

Gale, B.

Gibson of Market Rasen, B.

Giddens, L.

Glasman, L.

Golding, B.

Gordon of Strathblane, L.

Goudie, B.

Gould of Potternewton, B.

Grantchester, L.

Grenfell, L.

Grey-Thompson, B.

Griffiths of Burry Port, L.

Grocott, L.

Hannay of Chiswick, L.

Hanworth, V.

Hardie, L.

Harries of Pentregarth, L.

Harris of Haringey, L.

Harrison, L.

Hart of Chilton, L.

Haworth, L.

Hayman, B.

Hayter of Kentish Town, B.

Healy of Primrose Hill, B.

Henig, B.

Hilton of Eggardon, B.

Hollick, L.

Hollis of Heigham, B.

Hope of Craighead, L.

Howarth of Breckland, B.

Howarth of Newport, L.

Howells of St Davids, B.

Howie of Troon, L.

Hoyle, L.

Hughes of Stretford, B.

Hughes of Woodside, L.

Hunt of Kings Heath, L.

Hutton of Furness, L.

Hylton, L.

Irvine of Lairg, L.

Jay of Paddington, B.

Jones of Whitchurch, B.

Jones, L.

Kennedy of Cradley, B.

Kennedy of Southwark, L.

Kidron, B.

Kinnock of Holyhead, B.

Kinnock, L.

Kirkhill, L.

Knight of Weymouth, L.

Laming, L.

Layard, L.

Lea of Crondall, L.

Leitch, L.

Liddle, L.

Lipsey, L.

Lister of Burtersett, B.

Listowel, E.

Low of Dalston, L.

Lytton, E.

McAvoy, L.

McDonagh, B.

Macdonald of Tradeston, L.

McFall of Alcluith, L.

McIntosh of Hudnall, B.

MacKenzie of Culkein, L.

McKenzie of Luton, L.

Mallalieu, B.

Martin of Springburn, L.

Massey of Darwen, B.

Maxton, L.

May of Oxford, L.

Meacher, B.

Mendelsohn, L.

Mitchell, L.

Monks, L.

Montgomery of Alamein, V.

Morgan of Drefelin, B.

Morgan of Ely, B.

Morgan, L.

Morris of Aberavon, L.

Morris of Yardley, B.

Newcastle, Bp.

Norwich, Bp.

O'Loan, B. [Teller]

O'Neill of Bengarve, B.

O'Neill of Clackmannan, L.

Ouseley, L.

Palmer, L.

Pannick, L.

Patel of Bradford, L.

Pendry, L.

Pitkeathley, B.

Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.

Prashar, B.

Prescott, L.

Prosser, B.

Puttnam, L.

Quin, B.

Quirk, L.

Ramsay of Cartvale, B.

Ramsbotham, L.

Reid of Cardowan, L.

Rendell of Babergh, B.

Richard, L.

Rooker, L.

Rosser, L.

Rowe-Beddoe, L.

Rowlands, L.

Royall of Blaisdon, B.

St John of Bletso, L.

Sandwich, E.

Sawyer, L.

Scott of Foscote, L.

Sherlock, B.

Simon, V.

Smith of Basildon, B.

Smith of Gilmorehill, B.

Snape, L.

Soley, L.

Stern, B.

Stevenson of Balmacara, L.

Stoddart of Swindon, L.

Stone of Blackheath, L.

Symons of Vernham Dean, B.

Taylor of Blackburn, L.

Taylor of Bolton, B.

Temple-Morris, L.

Tenby, V.

Thornton, B.

Tomlinson, L.

Touhig, L.

Trees, L.

Triesman, L.

Truro, Bp.

Truscott, L.

Tunnicliffe, L. [Teller]

Turnberg, L.

Turner of Camden, B.

Uddin, B.

Walker of Gestingthorpe, L.

Wall of New Barnet, B.

Walpole, L.

Walton of Detchant, L.

Warner, L.

14 Jan 2014 : Column 134

Warnock, B.

Warwick of Undercliffe, B.

Watson of Invergowrie, L.

West of Spithead, L.

Wheeler, B.

Whitaker, B.

Wigley, L.

Wilkins, B.

Williams of Elvel, L.

Wills, L.

Winston, L.

Wood of Anfield, L.

Woolf, L.

Woolmer of Leeds, L.

Young of Hornsey, B.


Aberdare, L.

Addington, L.

Ahmad of Wimbledon, L.

Allan of Hallam, L.

Anelay of St Johns, B. [Teller]

Armstrong of Ilminster, L.

Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, L.

Astor of Hever, L.

Attlee, E.

Avebury, L.

Baker of Dorking, L.

Bakewell of Hardington Mandeville, B.

Balfe, L.

Barker, B.

Bates, L.

Bell, L.

Benjamin, B.

Bew, L.

Black of Brentwood, L.

Blencathra, L.

Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury, B.

Borwick, L.

Bourne of Aberystwyth, L.

Bowness, L.

Boyce, L.

Brabazon of Tara, L.

Bradshaw, L.

Bridgeman, V.

Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.

Brougham and Vaux, L.

Browne of Belmont, L.

Browning, B.

Burnett, L.

Buscombe, B.

Butler-Sloss, B.

Cameron of Dillington, L.

Carlile of Berriew, L.

Carrington of Fulham, L.

Cathcart, E.

Cavendish of Furness, L.

Chadlington, L.

Chalker of Wallasey, B.

Chidgey, L.

Clement-Jones, L.

Colwyn, L.

Cope of Berkeley, L.

Cormack, L.

Cotter, L.

Courtown, E.

Craigavon, V.

Crickhowell, L.

De Mauley, L.

Deben, L.

Deighton, L.

Denham, L.

Dholakia, L.

Dixon-Smith, L.

Dobbs, L.

Doocey, B.

Dykes, L.

Eaton, B.

Eccles of Moulton, B.

Eccles, V.

Eden of Winton, L.

Edmiston, L.

Falkner of Margravine, B.

Fellowes of West Stafford, L.

Fellowes, L.

Fink, L.

Flight, L.

Fookes, B.

Forsyth of Drumlean, L.

Framlingham, L.

Freeman, L.

Freud, L.

Garden of Frognal, B.

Gardiner of Kimble, L.

Gardner of Parkes, B.

Geddes, L.

German, L.

Glasgow, E.

Glenarthur, L.

Gold, L.

Goodlad, L.

Grade of Yarmouth, L.

Greenway, L.

Grender, B.

Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.

Hamilton of Epsom, L.

Hamwee, B.

Hanham, B.

Harris of Richmond, B.

Henley, L.

Heyhoe Flint, B.

Higgins, L.

Hill of Oareford, L.

Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.

Holmes of Richmond, L.

Hooper, B.

Horam, L.

Howard of Rising, L.

Howe of Idlicote, B.

Howe, E.

Humphreys, B.

Hunt of Wirral, L.

Hussain, L.

Hussein-Ece, B.

Inglewood, L.

James of Blackheath, L.

Jay of Ewelme, L.

Jenkin of Kennington, B.

Jenkin of Roding, L.

Jolly, B.

Jones of Cheltenham, L.

Jopling, L.

Kakkar, L.

Kilclooney, L.

King of Bridgwater, L.

Kirkham, L.

Knight of Collingtree, B.

Kramer, B.

Lawson of Blaby, L.

Leigh of Hurley, L.

Lexden, L.

Lindsay, E.

Lingfield, L.

Linklater of Butterstone, B.

Liverpool, E.

Loomba, L.

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Lothian, M.

Lucas, L.

Luke, L.

Lyell, L.

McColl of Dulwich, L.

Macfarlane of Bearsden, L.

MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.

Mackay of Clashfern, L.

Maclennan of Rogart, L.

McNally, L.

Maddock, B.

Magan of Castletown, L.

Manzoor, B.

Marlesford, L.

Mayhew of Twysden, L.

Methuen, L.

Miller of Hendon, B.

Montagu of Beaulieu, L.

Montrose, D.

Morris of Bolton, B.

Morrow, L.

Moynihan, L.

Naseby, L.

Nash, L.

Neville-Jones, B.

Neville-Rolfe, B.

Newby, L. [Teller]

Newlove, B.

Noakes, B.

Northbrook, L.

Northover, B.

Norton of Louth, L.

O'Cathain, B.

Oppenheim-Barnes, B.

Palmer of Childs Hill, L.

Parminter, B.

Patten, L.

Perry of Southwark, B.

Phillips of Sudbury, L.

Plumb, L.

Popat, L.

Powell of Bayswater, L.

Purvis of Tweed, L.

Randerson, B.

Rawlings, B.

Razzall, L.

Redesdale, L.

Rennard, L.

Ridley, V.

Risby, L.

Roberts of Llandudno, L.

Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.

Rogan, L.

Roper, L.

Ryder of Wensum, L.

Sassoon, L.

Scott of Needham Market, B.

Seccombe, B.

Selborne, E.

Selkirk of Douglas, L.

Selsdon, L.

Shackleton of Belgravia, B.

Sharkey, L.

Sharp of Guildford, B.

Sharples, B.

Shaw of Northstead, L.

Sheikh, L.

Sherbourne of Didsbury, L.

Shipley, L.

Shrewsbury, E.

Shutt of Greetland, L.

Skelmersdale, L.

Slim, V.

Smith of Clifton, L.

Spicer, L.

Stedman-Scott, B.

Stewartby, L.

Stoneham of Droxford, L.

Stowell of Beeston, B.

Strasburger, L.

Sutherland of Houndwood, L.

Suttie, B.

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4.53 pm

Clause 93: The community remedy document

Amendment 81

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

81: Clause 93, page 64, line 28, at end insert—

“( ) consultation with the local authority for any part of the area,”

Amendment 81 agreed.

Amendment 82 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

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Amendment 83

Moved by Lord Taylor of Holbeach

83: Clause 93, page 65, line 3, at end insert—

“local authority” means—

(a) in relation to England, a district council, a county council for an area for which there is no district council, a London borough council, the Common Council of the City of London or the Council of the Isles of Scilly;

(b) in relation to Wales, a county council or a county borough council;”

Amendment 83 agreed.

Amendment 84 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendment 85

Moved by Lord Rosser

85: After Clause 97, insert the following new Clause—

“Proxy purchasing of tobacco products on behalf of children

(1) A person commits an offence if he buys or attempts to buy a tobacco product or cigarette papers on behalf of a person under the age of 18.

(2) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.”

Lord Rosser: My Lords, this amendment was also moved by my noble friend Baroness Thornton in Committee, so I do not intend to repeat all the points that were so powerfully made at that time. Needless to say, we were not happy at the Government’s response, which was basically that, because the measures proposed in this amendment would not solve all the problems in relation to young people in the purchasing of tobacco products, it should not be adopted. The amendment has the support of the Association of Convenience of Stores, which represents 33,500 stores, the majority of which sell tobacco products. The ACS welcomes these proposals as a further measure to help to restrict youth access to tobacco products.

It is illegal to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18, but it is not an offence for someone to buy tobacco products on behalf of a minor. There is, thus, a gap in the legislation which this amendment seeks to close to bring the position more into line with the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003, which has made it an offence to proxy purchase alcohol. Proxy purchasing is one means by which young people gain access to tobacco products. A recent survey has shown that, in 2012, 8% of pupils had asked somebody to buy cigarettes on their behalf and nine out of 10 were successful at least once. We are not saying that tobacco proxy sales are the only means by which children receive their supply of cigarettes—there is a variety of means for this—but we are saying that it is one of the predominant ways, hence this amendment.

Issues were raised in Committee by my noble friend Lady Crawley concerning the need for proper enforcement and adequate surveillance if moves were made to tackle proxy sales of tobacco. That comes down to providing adequate resources, including for

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local authority trading standards organisations. However, we are talking about sales that adversely affect the health of young people and we should be prepared to act, as they have in Scotland, where there is an offence of proxy selling tobacco. That has the support of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association, which has said:

“Scotland introduced regulation criminalising the proxy purchasing of cigarettes, where adults purchase cigarettes on behalf of children in April 2011. The TMA and its members supports this legislation. Proxy purchasing was identified in NHS data as one of the most common sources of tobacco for young people”.

The Minister said in Committee that the Government had an open door on this issue, and my noble friend Lady Thornton invited them to think further on this matter before Report stage, which we are at today. I hope that the Minister will be in a position to give a more positive response to this amendment than he was able to do in Committee. I beg to move.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB): My Lords, my name is added to this amendment, which I feel is very important. We know that when young people start smoking, their addiction potential and the long-term harms are very great. There is good evidence that children get cigarettes by proxy either, particularly in the case of younger children, by stealing from their own families or by purchasing single cigarettes from other children at school. However, a cohort in the older, middle-teens bracket seems to obtain cigarettes more through proxy purchasing. Quite often, with a very small incentive added to the cost of the cigarettes, they use a drug abuser or somebody else to do the purchasing for them. The retailers—the small shops—which sell cigarettes find themselves in a really difficult position. Rightly, they are not allowed in law to sell directly to the youngster, yet they are aware that there is no lever in terms of proxy purchasing, although it is they who would be prosecuted rather than the person doing the proxy purchasing.

It is important to bring the law into line with legislation on alcohol purchasing. The harms from tobacco are in a different group from those relating to alcohol, but they should not be underestimated.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab): My Lords, I intervene only briefly. This is the first occasion on which I have spoken on an amendment supported by the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association.

It seems to me self-evident that the arguments made by my noble friend Lord Rosser and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, just make so much sense. It is entirely sensible to bring the law into line with that governing the proxy sale of alcohol and to follow the practice which has been adopted in Scotland with regard to the proxy purchase of tobacco. Persuading young people not to smoke is something to which we in this House have devoted a lot of attention. When we return to the Children and Families Bill at the end of the month, we will have an opportunity to do something on the standard packaging of cigarettes and on smoking in cars where children are present. This is also an important measure, which will make it more difficult for youngsters to start—and thus become addicted to—this terrible, dangerous habit.

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5 pm

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it seems that in Scotland the provisions which are in force have not been as effective as one would have hoped. I am not sure that the laws against proxy purchasing of alcohol have been terribly effective. I would be concerned if bringing in a further measure which failed to achieve what we wanted to see was a deterrent to anything more effective. Is the Minister aware of what the police think about this? After all, enforcement is what matters when one is introducing a new offence.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, when we debated this issue on 4 December, we agreed that, because smoking is largely an addiction taken up during childhood or adolescence, reducing the availability of tobacco to young people is important if we are to succeed in reducing overall smoking uptake. This new clause seeks to create a new criminal offence of an adult purchasing, or attempting to purchase, tobacco products on behalf of a child or young person under the age of 18. This act is commonly known by the phrase, “proxy purchasing”.

While smoking prevalence among young people has declined considerably in recent years, there are still each year around 300,000 young people in England under the age of 16 who try smoking for the first time. As a starting point, we must continue to take action to encourage adults to quit smoking. If smoking is seen by young people as a normal part of everyday life, they are much more likely to become smokers themselves. The Government’s Tobacco Control Plan for England is clear that, to promote health and well-being, we will work to encourage communities to reshape social norms, so that tobacco becomes less desirable, less acceptable and less accessible. We aim to stop the perpetuation of smoking from one generation to the next.

We need to think carefully about whether creating a proxy purchase offence would have an impact on how accessible tobacco is to children and young people, and whether it would have a meaningful impact on reducing smoking rates among young people. Obtaining cigarettes from retailers is just one of many avenues by which young people access tobacco. We know that children and young people obtain their cigarettes from a wide range of sources. Some young people take tobacco from their parents, from other family members or from older friends. In such circumstances, no proxy purchase has occurred. Introducing a new proxy purchase offence would not tackle that particular way of getting tobacco.

I understand that introducing a proxy purchase offence for tobacco is supported by some retailer organisations, including the Association of Convenience Stores and the National Federation of Retail Newsagents. Let me be clear that I recognise the important role played by retailers in ensuring that tobacco products are sold in accordance with the existing age-of-sale legislation. I also want to recognise the important work that retailer organisations have played in recent years to support their members in meeting age-of-sale requirements.

I realise the difficulties that some retailers face, and I understand why some feel that it should be an offence to buy tobacco on behalf of under-18s. I also

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understand that the creation of a proxy purchasing offence has the support of the tobacco industry—as the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, said. However, I am sure that noble Lords will agree that the creation of effective and practicable legislation should be informed by evidence. In the area of proxy purchasing, the Government’s current view is that we want to see evidence that a proxy purchase offence would be effective both in reducing young people’s access to tobacco and in having a deterrent effect on those adults who are prepared to buy cigarettes on behalf of children and young people.

In fact, I am concerned that some of the evidence that is currently available suggests that creating a proxy purchasing offence would have only limited benefit. For example, a Scottish study published in August 2013 looked at how young Scottish smokers living in disadvantaged communities obtained their cigarettes. The study concluded that the introduction of a proxy purchasing offence in Scotland had had little discernible impact.

Nevertheless, that is not to say that evidence does not exist, and I encourage those who support this amendment to provide evidence of the likely public health benefits of creating a proxy purchasing offence to the Department of Health for further consideration. Proxy purchasing of tobacco is an area that the Department of Health is keeping under review, and any further evidence that is provided will be carefully considered. I assure noble Lords that I will draw the attention of my noble friend Lord Howe to the debate we are having on the subject this afternoon.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, said, those in support of a proxy purchase offence point to Scotland, where the offence was introduced in April 2011. While I understand that a light-touch approach has been taken on enforcement and that the legislation has been in place only for a few years, I note that only one fixed penalty notice has been imposed since the offence was introduced, and that there have been no convictions. Furthermore, whether the legislation has had any deterrent effect is also not clear.

The statistics for the similar offence of the proxy purchase of alcohol show that convictions are few and far between in that area, too, in no small part because of the burden of proof required. Furthermore, the alcohol offence includes a defence that the purchaser had no reason to suspect that the individual they bought the alcohol for was under 18. This amendment does not address that point.

Whether local authorities want the creation of a proxy purchasing offence is not at all clear at the moment. After all, they rather than the police would be responsible for enforcement. The Minister responsible for public health made it clear during a debate on this issue in the House of Commons in October that the Government would be happy to hear the views of local authorities on the potential for effective enforcement, or to hear of good examples of existing local measures to reduce access to tobacco by young people. I also call on those in the public health community to provide this sort of evidence for the creation of a proxy purchasing offence. I want to be clear that we are not rejecting the creation of a proxy purchasing offence outright, but we need to give the matter further consideration.

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While we understand the views of retailers and the tobacco industry on proxy purchasing, the Department of Health will continue to work with local authorities and the public health community to understand their views. I want to reassure your Lordships that the Department of Health will also keep under review relevant evidence and experience from elsewhere. I again encourage those with evidence to make it available; I cannot reiterate that enough.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords, if the evidence is supplied, how will the Government deal with it? If we do not agree the amendment, the Minister would have to wait until further primary legislation was brought forward. Would the Government consider implementing a clause of this kind by order rather than placing it in the Bill?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I think that I can answer that best by saying that if the evidence were provided and the Government were persuaded that creating this offence was a practical and effective way of dealing with a policy issue that I am sure all noble Lords in the Chamber agree with, they would wish to see it introduced through primary legislation. However, I am not in a position to be definitive in my answer, and I think that my noble friend will understand the reasons for that. I can assure noble Lords that we are committed to reducing the availability of tobacco to children and young people. However, our actions must be guided by evidence and effectiveness. On that basis, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, will be prepared to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Rosser: I would be grateful if the Minister would first clarify what he has just said. One interpretation is that the Government do not really intend to do anything further themselves but are urging anyone else who thinks that there is any evidence to put it in front of them. I am not sure whether that is what the Minister is saying. Obviously, if anyone else does have evidence on this issue, of course they should submit it to the Government—but are the Government themselves seeking to do anything to ascertain or produce evidence? The Robinson and Amos study of 2010 looked at how young people’s sourced cigarettes and attempted to circumvent underage sales. It concluded that there was a problem, and one suggestion was that regular national smoking surveys should include questions that would capture more accurately the nature and extent of proxy purchases. What I am asking the Minister is whether it is now purely up to other people to put the evidence in front of the Government, or are the Government, through the Department of Health, actually doing any work themselves to seek to ascertain evidence of their own?

The amendment that I moved would be a key tool by which the authorities would know that there was a problem in a particular location because of evidence that proxy purchasing was taking place. Again, is the noble Lord’s response that it is basically up to everyone else to provide the Government with evidence, or is he saying, “If you have any evidence, provide it to us, but we are also”—whether it be through the Department of Health or anyone else—“seeking that evidence ourselves”?

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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: Perhaps I may respond to that point. The Government are determined to try to stamp out smoking as a habit, particularly among young people, so they are being proactive. However, what I am saying on this particular issue and this particular amendment is that the advocates of proxy purchasing as an offence—the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner, drew attention to the wide number of people who are, and I said it myself in my speech—will be helped in their advocacy if they can provide the Government with the information they need to make sure that if at a future date they choose to implement such a policy through legislation, they will have the information on which to base that decision.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, I want to make a point about the evidence. It may be my fault, but I am not entirely clear what evidence the Minister is looking for. It is quite difficult, until such a measure is in force, to know whether it will be effective. Of course the Scottish experience is there as an example, and it may be that the noble Lord is relying on that, but the fact is that until the measure is actually put on to the statute book, you cannot be absolutely certain one way or the other that it will be effective. On the other hand, there is certainly evidence, which has been referred to, that people with knowledge of the way these things work are asking for the measure. Is that not evidence to justify putting the measure on to the statute book, taking the view that it may do some good and would certainly do no harm?

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I have always been cautious about taking the latter point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, has made. I always appreciate the noble and learned Lord’s contributions, but just putting something on the statute book because it might work is probably not a particularly good way of going about things.

Having said that, the Government are serious about evaluating this issue. We know that it has been rather disappointing in Scotland—I think the noble and learned Lord would know that from his own experience—and I gave some illustration of that. It may not be the solution, but it is certainly a possible solution, and I urge the House to allow the Government to evaluate that in a proper fashion.

Lord Berkeley of Knighton (CB): My Lords, if I may make one small point—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: I remind the House that we are on Report and that, after the Minister has spoken, unless it is a point of clarification or elucidation, normal convention is that there are no further interventions.

Lord Rosser: I note what the Minister has said about the situation in Scotland. I do not know whether that means he has had further information since we discussed it in Committee, but the Government said then:

“The Scottish Government, who we have talked to about this issue, say they do not currently hold any information about the numbers of convictions or, as yet, any evaluation of the effectiveness of the new offences”.—[Official Report, 4/12/13; col. 279.]

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It appears from what the Minister has just said that, since 4 December, the Scottish Government have now said to the Westminster Government that the provision is not working. I do not know whether the Minister has had that information since we discussed it in Committee.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I do not want to give that impression. I am not prejudging this and I simply gave an evaluation. The results are disappointing because there have been no convictions and just one offence has been reported.

Lord Rosser: That is slightly different from what was said in Committee, when the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, on behalf of the Government, referred to the fact that, as far as the Scottish Government were concerned, there had been no evaluation of the effectiveness of the new offences. However, I will leave it at that and do not intend the pursue the issue any further.

I would like to think that the Government’s view is that they will play a part in seeking to evaluate the evidence for the measures set out in this amendment and that it is not simply up to other people to provide it to them. I hope that is what I can draw from what the Minister has said. I might have drawn the wrong interpretation, so I will not say that I will withdraw the amendment on that basis, but, in the hope that that is the correct interpretation and that the Government in fact intend to take an active role in evaluating the evidence and not simply rely on others to provide it, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 85 withdrawn.

Amendment 86 not moved.

Amendment 86A

Moved by Baroness Gale

86A: Before Clause 98, insert the following new Clause—

“Dog control notice

(1) Where an authorised officer has reasonable cause to believe that a dog is not under sufficient control and requires greater control in any place, as a preventative measure to protect the public, the dog itself, or another protected animal, he or she may serve on the owner, and if different, person for the time being in charge of the dog a written control notice which—

(a) states that he or she is of that belief;

(b) specifies the respects in which he or she believes the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog is failing to keep the dog under sufficient control;

(c) specifies the steps he or she requires the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog to take in order to comply with the notice;

(d) specifies the date by which the terms of the notice must be complied with; and

(e) specifies the date that the notice expires which will not be for a period which exceeds six months.

(2) In a control notice pursuant to subsection (1)(c) an authorised officer must require a dog to be microchipped (if not already done) and the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog, register the dog with a microchip database, and may require the following steps, where appropriate, but not limited to—

(a) keeping the dog muzzled as directed;

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(b) keeping the dog on a lead when in public or under control as directed;

(c) requiring the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of the dog, to seek and implement expert advice about training and behaviour for the dog;

(d) having the dog neutered where appropriate; and

(e) keeping the dog away from particular places or persons.

(3) Failure to comply with the steps required in a control notice within the time period specified, to the satisfaction of the authorised officer may lead to a complaint to a magistrates’ court under section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871.

(4) The provisions of section 2 of the Dogs Act 1871 shall have effect if the owner, and if different, the person for the time being in charge of a dog fails to comply with the steps required in a control notice within the time period specified in accordance with subsection (3) as they would apply if a dog was dangerous and not kept under proper control.

(5) An “authorised officer” is a person that has been appointed by the local authority or police for the purposes of this Act.

(6) A “protected animal” is one that is commonly domesticated in the British Islands, is under the control of man whether on a permanent or temporary basis, or is not living in a wild state.”

Baroness Gale (Lab): My Lords, Amendment 86A has been tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Donaghy, who is unfortunately unable to be here this evening. I spoke to a similar amendment in Committee and wish to raise the matter of dog control notices once again.

My main reason for doing so is that organisations involved in this field still feel very strongly that dog control notices, rather than what is proposed in the Bill, are the best way forward. Those organisations include the RSPCA, the Kennel Club, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, the Dogs Trust and the Communication Workers Union, as well as individual campaigners, many of whom have suffered as a result of attacks by dogs and, in some cases, have seen their loved ones killed in dog attacks. They have consistently argued that community protection notices will not work as well as dog control notices and strongly feel that we need dog control notices rather than the community protection notices which the Government propose.

The Government believe that community protection notices will be sufficient to address a range of anti-social behaviour problems including dangerous dog attacks and the need to promote responsible dog ownership. The use of a CPN, in conjunction with an acceptable behaviour contract, is meant to have a similar impact to issuing a dog control notice. The Bill states that CPNs will address issues of,

“a persistent or continuing nature”.

In practice, however, CPNs will be issued only after an attack has taken place and a written notice has been issued. A CPN requires that there be an existing complaint about a detrimental impact on a community’s quality of life, and it could involve a costly, painful and bureaucratic prosecution and investigation process for victims as well as for local councils.

Dog control notices directly target irresponsible ownership and will be pre-emptive. The preventive measures they contain address both repeat offenders and one-off attacks which affect individuals, not just communities, much earlier on. I believe that DCNs would be a better approach and the RSPCA’s statistics

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fully support that conclusion. In 2012 the RSPCA issued more than 12,000 informal advice notices—which in practice are similar to DCNs—in England and Wales. The compliance rate was 93%, an extremely high figure which was maintained at around that level for a number of years. The numbers show that DCNs not only work but work well.

In 2012, dog attacks cost the NHS more than £9.5 million. I said in Committee that 17 people have been killed by dogs since 2005, including nine children, but that figure has now increased and, sadly, 19 people have been killed. It is estimated that more than 200,000 people are attacked every year, with more than 6,000 injuries treated by the NHS in 2011-12. One in six of those attacks were on children under 10.

The issue of dog control cannot be dealt with under this catch-all policy. Many charities and organisations have spent much time and effort trying to educate the public about responsible dog ownership and many dog owners have responded to that. Most dog owners do their best to care not just for their dog but also about their dog’s behaviour. Owners must be held responsible for dogs that cause problems.

In Northern Ireland, the use of dog control orders in conjunction with dog licensing has been very successful. Has the Minister looked at how it works in Northern Ireland, and can we learn lessons from that experience? Can he say why he is so adamant on this point? He has listened to the campaigning organisations, but why has he failed to impress on them a belief that CPNs are better than DCNs? The individuals and organisations which have been campaigning are the experts in this area, and the individuals concerned have strong personal reasons for campaigning on it. If community protection notices rather than DCNs are included in the Bill, can the Minister say what sort of publicity and additional funding will be provided to ensure that we have the best possible outcome in reducing the number of dog attacks and safeguarding people against dog attacks in future? We are all aiming to achieve that objective in this Bill and the orders. I beg to move.

Lord Redesdale (LD): My Lords, I feel a little torn, having read the amendment, because I would heartily support it. In fact, I proposed two Private Member’s Bills which set out many of the provisions in the amendment. I would support the amendment, but we are where we are, with the Government having proposed the legislation. I have been working with organisations such as the Dogs Trust, the Kennel Club, Blue Cross and others for four or five years now, so I know their commitment to dog control notices. I believe that the Government have taken on board a large number of the arguments put forward. The department should be commended for the amount of work it has done to listen and to propose amendments to deal with some of the concerns raised about the Bill as drafted.

The noble Baroness, Lady Gale, has a very good point. It would be wrong not to say that I think in my heart that dog control notices would be an excellent idea. However, I believe that the Bill will now go a great deal of the way to meeting many of the assessments that we set out. It sets out to defend assisted dogs for the blind. It sets out to deal with the issue of dog

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attacks in private residences. It sets out clearly in the guidance how the local authority should try to deal with many of the issues.