First, the positives. As I said in my short contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate, I welcome Part 5 of the Bill, particularly, along with other noble Lords, the explicit reference in Clause 62 to amendments to the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to define cruelty to children as including both physical and psychological injury. As my noble and learned friend Lord Brown mentioned, there have already been indications of that, but I think it is important and overdue that it is absolutely clear. Anyone who has worked closely with child abuse knows that emotional cruelty by either parent, and sometimes tragically by both, can cause long-term damage to the child at least as great as any physical abuse. Having said that, an already severely traumatised child will be damaged further by the process of criminal proceedings against either parent, particularly in view of the inordinate time that such proceedings very often take. A criminal charge against either parent must surely be a very last resort. That is the essence of what I am trying to say, and I am sure that the Minister is well aware of this point.

I hope that clear recognition in law of the offence of emotional cruelty to a child will focus more attention on that possibility and ensure that appropriate interventions are put in place to rescue the situation. I have certainly been aware of cases where all the focus is on any possible physical abuse, ignoring the far greater issue of psychological abuse that is staring people in the face. That is why I strongly support what the Government are trying to do, despite the real risks of criminalising parents.

Very often, emotional abuse may result from a parent’s mental health and addiction problems. A criminal sanction in such circumstances is clearly wrong. I would never condone such a response. The parent or parents need skilled and appropriate addiction or mental health treatment and perhaps also support in developing parenting skills following a diagnosis of

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the problem. I hope that we can discuss with the Minister what steps the Government are taking to ensure that the right interventions are provided to avoid the need for costly and damaging criminal proceedings wherever possible, and certainly whenever a parent is unwell.

Another issue is the 16 year-old cut-off point in defining children in this context. As any parent knows, 16 and 17 year-olds can be very vulnerable, particularly when abuse is likely to have occurred over a long period, albeit that it may have come to light only when the child reaches maybe 16 or 17. It seems wrong for protection to be denied to young people at that age. The consequences of emotional neglect are likely to come out just then in the form of depression, self-harm or suicide. What are we doing by giving that cut-off point?

A final point on Clause 62, which I am sure we will raise in Committee, is whether, as the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, highlighted, the term “wilful neglect” is correct or too narrow. This point was raised by the Children’s Society and I support it, at least as a matter for debate.

On Clause 64, at this stage I only want to welcome the broadening of the scope of the Bill from permanent UK residents to include those who are living in this country but who may not have permanent resident status. Others have spoken at greater length on that point.

I now turn to Clause 47 concerning injunctions to prevent gang-related violence and drug-dealing activities. The principle of preventing activities can only, of course, be a good thing. However, I have serious reservations about the approach set out in the clause. The NGO release makes the point that injunctions as envisaged may not satisfy the basic requirement of reasonableness. This is particularly the case if they were to be applied to problem drug users.

Under Clause 47, a court may grant an injunction against a child of only 14 years, or just over that, if for example it is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that the child has been engaged in or has assisted gang-related drug-dealing activity. A gang, as I think the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned, can comprise just three people. Let us suppose that a 14 year-old has become a problem drug user, and in order to afford the drugs he needs to feed his dependency he and a couple of friends, also drug dependants, agree to sell some cannabis to their school mates on behalf of a thoroughly undesirable gang in the neighbourhood. Clearly the situation needs to be dealt with firmly—I do not doubt that—but an injunction will simply not work unless it is backed up by a treatment programme.

What do the Government plan to do to ensure that an injunction is not issued unless the child or young person is at the same time referred for appropriate treatment? I think that at this point the Minister would expect me to refer to the Portuguese model, and I shall not disappoint him. The Portuguese have had a system in place for 13 years that deals firmly but sensibly with problem drug users and which has produced some good results: far higher numbers of people—young people, in particular—are receiving treatment; drug

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users are representing a very much smaller percentage of the prison population; and most important of all, in a way, the number of teenage problem drug users has fallen under that regime. Social use may not have fallen—it is roughly in line with that in neighbouring countries—but surely the important thing is problem drug users: we do not want them in our country.

These are the sorts of results that I think that our country would celebrate if only we could achieve them, so a constructive way forward would be to link injunctions to an aspect of the Portuguese model. Would it not be wise for a young person suspected of gang-related drug-dealing activity, as it is referred to in the Bill, to be referred to a drugs commission? Again, if we followed the Portuguese model, the commission would comprise three people—a psychiatrist, a social worker and a lawyer—to determine whether the young person was a problem drug user and, if so, to refer that person for treatment.

The system in Portugal is not a soft one. If a person does not comply with the treatment and is simply a problem drug user, they will receive an administrative penalty, but if they are dealing they will at that point find themselves drawn into the criminal justice system. The important point here is that treatment comes first, and I hope for some assurance from the Minister that that will also apply in this country. The Clause 47 injunctions could be applied to anyone suspected of gang-related or other drug-dealing activity who is deemed by the commission not to be a problem drug user. In other words, if they are playing around with drugs and find themselves drawn into a gang, then indeed a clear injunction might be very helpful.

I shall refer only briefly to Part 4. I simply want to ask the Minister how the Government will prevent the new powers to seize, detain and destroy drug-cutting agents from impacting on genuine businesses that use the same substances for medical products for human or veterinary use. No doubt we will return to this in much more detail in Committee, but that is all I want to say today.

In conclusion, the Bill has valuable sections, but we could radically improve it through our discussions with Ministers and through amendments in the coming weeks, as various noble Lords—and, I hope, I—have indicated.

5.57 pm

Earl Attlee (Con): My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his explanation of the Bill. There is not much meat left on the bones and I do not have that much to say but I do not subscribe to the recent analysis of the gracious Speech—far less the view of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, on the health of the coalition Government.

The Bill may not be a flagship Bill; nevertheless, it is a very useful one, without any election puffery, and I shall be honoured to take part in its Committee and later stages. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, referred to the number of Home Office Bills in your Lordships’ House. I cannot recall a Session since 1992 when there has not been a Home Office Bill and perhaps an education Bill for good measure.

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The good news for this Bill is that it seems to be welcomed by many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. However, many noble Lords have received the commendably short and evidently effective briefing from the ICAEW concerning Clause 41, which relates to participation in organised crime. I am not absolutely convinced that the ICAEW fully understands how the clause works. The Minister is very good at holding meetings with your Lordships and with outside organisations, and perhaps if he were to have a meeting on that, it might alleviate some of the concerns.

I welcome the tidying-up of the FGM legislation in Clause 64. I am clearly not an expert on this issue and others are. The whole House will recognise that it is exceptionally difficult to deal with but we seem to be making pitifully slow progress. There have been no prosecutions so far, although I understand that one is in hand. This morning, I looked at the aggravating factors for the offences of causing grievous bodily harm and child cruelty. By comparison, FGM appears to be off the scale of horror, yet it attracts a maximum of only 14 years in prison. At one point, I understand that the maximum sentence was only five years. Given the extreme difficulties of mounting a prosecution, I am not convinced that we are sending the right signals. On the other hand, the Minister was right when he indicated that we cannot solve this problem with legislation alone. He tempted us with the prospect of some further legislation on anonymity. It will be interesting to see how this will work, since the parents are usually involved. I am slightly pacified by the compliments paid to the Government by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, but we should leave no stone unturned to eradicate this problem in the UK and overseas.

The House seems to be giving the Bill a reasonably warm welcome. That does not mean we should not scrutinise it very thoroughly indeed and I look forward to doing so with the rest of your Lordships.

6.01 pm

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK.

I shall focus on Clauses 62, 63 and 64, which many other noble Lords have also mentioned. In his opening speech, my noble friend said that the current legislation on emotional and psychological abuse was fit for purpose but its wording just needed to be updated for the 21st century. However, as we discovered in the passage of the Children and Families Act 2014, there is evidence that police and social workers were often concerned that the term “mental derangement” was so specific that it was not used as much as it should have been when judging how severely a child had been affected by emotional abuse. Some years ago, I talked to a social worker about some casework from my division in Cambridgeshire, where it was absolutely clear that emotional abuse was taking place. However the child was not “mentally deranged”, just very distressed with low self-esteem and in danger of harming herself. The social worker said that it would be so much clearer cut if only the person doing the abuse had provided some visible injuries as well, because they could not get the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to take it seriously.

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The longer-term abuse referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, is also important. There are parallels here with bullying research, which shows that the impact on life consequences for children with severe self-esteem problems following abuse is enormous—whether that abuse is from contemporaries, parents, or other people in a position of influence such as teachers—especially if it is not tackled early. I therefore welcome Clause 62, which will make the crime of psychological and emotional abuse fit for practice as well as fit for purpose.

However, further steps are needed to provide absolute clarity for professionals working with abused children. There has been some discussion about whether the word “wilful” in legislation is sufficient. This is another thing that is often misunderstood by professionals, including social services and police. I also support the proposal from the Children’s Society that “wilful” should be changed to “intentional and reckless”, which would enable more effective identification and response to the event. This also picks up the point made by my noble friend Lady Hamwee on behalf of my noble friend Lady Walmsley, who cannot be in her place today. We need to make sure that this offence is defined as serious because failure to report will allow a child to continue to be abused and the perpetrator to continue finding more victims. It is good news that the Public Bill Office has confirmed this as a serious offence to my noble friend Lady Walmsley, which will mean that it is statutorily reportable. I look forward to seeing the amendment in Committee.

We also need to provide support for children and their families before neglect and abuse begin. The Children’s Society research in 2010 into adolescent neglect shows that professionals perceive teenagers as more resilient and better able to cope with maltreatment than younger children. These perceptions affect how cases of older children are assessed and whether protection is offered to them. However, an absence of emotional warmth and support is likely to be detrimental to psychological well-being and potentially to mental health. Studies of neglectful parenting indicate that young people may be more likely to internalise problems and become depressed. Young people also say that neglect can lead to difficulties with sleeping and to self-harm, and can even, as we have heard, be linked to suicide or suicide attempts. That goes back to my earlier point about the negative, very long-term effects on a young person who is faced with emotional abuse. The effects may not just be those of risky or anti-social behaviour but could turn a young person off learning and academic achievement, which could affect their working lives.

In these austere times, local government and the child and adolescent mental health services are under considerable pressure. Sadly, there is limited scope for preventive work. In fact, we keep hearing about more and more projects having their funding curtailed. This research shows that funding is vital and will save money later. A clinically depressed adolescent who cannot get help is much more likely to have problems later in life. The second group of children and young people who need help are those who have been emotionally abused.

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The Bill is about crime, and we often talk about justice for victims. As I mentioned in last week’s response to the gracious Speech, access to mental health for children and young people is in crisis. Only one in four children diagnosed with a mental health problem is able to get access to therapy. Child victims of psychological and emotional abuse should be fast-tracked for assessment by CAMHS, and the implication of this clause needs to be woven into education, children’s services and health services. Therefore, I will table probing amendments in Committee to seek reassurance that that will happen. As I have said previously, we would not allow a child with a broken leg to leave hospital without a plaster cast; why do we allow children who are emotionally abused to walk away with no support?

As my noble friend Lady Hamwee mentioned, the legislation on emotional neglect covers only young people up to the age of 16. Recent court cases of grooming and coercion of 16 and 17 year-old girls have demonstrated that that needs to be extended to 18. A vulnerable young person remains vulnerable for some time to come. That is why I also support the comments of my noble friend Lord Paddick, who was concerned particularly about women—but it might apply to men as well—in families where adults are being abused mentally as much as children. As we did with the stalking legislation, it is very important to look at the behaviour of the perpetrator and to make sure that all the victims—whether it is just the children or also an adult in the family—are appropriately looked after. It would be absolutely wrong for a mother who has been bullied, coerced and abused by a partner to find that she is being accused as the aggressor in this type of instance.

Under Clause 63, online paedophile manuals will be incorporated into the legislation against access to paedophilic material, and so they should. I have great respect for the work of CEOP, the Internet Watch Foundation and all the ISPs, telephone companies and cable companies that contribute to the IWF. If that helps to make access to information on paedophilia much harder to get, that is good news.

As regards Clause 64 and the proposals on extraterritorial acts of female genital mutilation, my honourable friend Lynne Featherstone has made it a personal priority to start the cultural change on this barbaric practice, for exactly the reasons laid out by my noble friend Lord Attlee. The progress of convictions in the court is woeful at the moment. There are a couple of cases in train, but to have no convictions is embarrassing for this country as a whole. I hope that this clause will make it easier to hold these butchers to account.

We should be realistic that this law on its own, while it will be a useful tool, will not change things overnight. Sex and relationship education, working with the communities that practise FGM and more brave women such as Waris Dirie—now a UN ambassador for the abolition of FGM and the founder of the Desert Flower Foundation—speaking up will start to make things change. A UNICEF report shows that in seven countries almost all women and girls experience some form of FGM, with up to 140 million girls and

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women currently living with the consequences. So the extraterritorial acts clause will be important in chasing those who travel around the world to carry out this obscene practice.

I am proud that these three clauses are being brought forward by this Government. Inevitably, in typical scrutiny by the Lords, there will be an effective and detailed debate and, I hope, some amendment. Most importantly, it will help to safeguard some of our most vulnerable children and young people, and for that I welcome the Bill.

6.10 pm

Lord Blencathra (Con): My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the excellent, detailed and knowledgeable speech of my noble friend Lady Brinton. When I was Home Office Minister, I dreaded speeches like that when I tried to put through a Bill relating to Home Office matters. We called them Christmas tree Bills because every department wanted to hang its own very important bauble on the tree—to deal with terrorism, children and various other aspects. Inevitably, as a Minister, one had to have a grasp of a huge range of subjects and when the Bill came to your Lordships’ House it brought out all the experts from every section. The other reason why I detested Bills like this is that one had to amend the original Act and one was required to have about five different Acts open on the table in front of one and six fingers on each hand to understand them. The final introductory comment I would make is to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, that she handled nine Home Office Bills in four years. In the final couple of years that I was in the Home Office, in 1996-97, in that frenzy to pass legislation, I think I handled 15 Bills, including Private Members’ Bills. I am not sure whether it did me or the Government any good at the time.

I begin with the proceeds of crime part, which is very important. I am completely supportive of the intention here. I remember talking to policemen. Every single policeman of every rank that I spoke to said that the vital thing that mattered to criminals was cleaning out their money. They factored in going to prison for a few years or even up to 10 years if they had enough money stashed away to live on when they came out. They did not worry about prison. What they really worried about was losing their ill-gotten gains. I would say to colleagues that it is not about the Chancellor making more money, good though that may be, it is about cleaning out criminals and their profits from crime because that acts as a deterrent and a punishment.

Under Clause 10 there is a maximum of 14 years for defaulting on fines of more than £1 million, if the court imposes that maximum penalty, which is then automatically halved or reduced on early release. However, if the money is more than £10 million, the early release provisions do not apply. I admit that sums are not one of my strengths, but it seems that if one had salted away up to £9 million where the maximum 14 years applied and there was early release, and suppose that one was let out after seven or eight years, if the person had invested it reasonably at 7% interest, they would come out to an annual return of about £630,000. That

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is not bad. I also assume that if the police and enforcement authorities had not been able to track down that initial £9 million, they would not be able to track down the £630,000 per annum—or perhaps the taxman could do it instead. I should be grateful if my noble friend could look at that point and see whether I am almost right. I ask him to revisit the whole area of the figures and the length of prison terms because I do not think that it is adequate.

Clause 36 deals with confiscation orders by magistrates’ courts. Again I suggest that possibly the £10,000 figure may be too low in certain cases. Of course, if the magistrates’ court is attempting to sentence a criminal and feels that its powers are not great enough, it can refer them up to the Crown Court for sentencing. However, I can imagine cases where someone is convicted of burglaries, lower level drugs offences or dealing in stolen goods, where the magistrates may consider that it is not worth while sending it up to the Crown Court for greater sentencing—and the Crown Courts might not like it—but at the same time the only assets those people have may be their BMWs or their cars, which are worth considerably more than £10,000. One needs to look at this clause again to see whether, in certain circumstances, magistrates could have a power to impose penalties greater than £10,000. I understand that at the moment the Metropolitan Police is awash with Ferraris and Porsches that have been impounded because people have not paid their insurance. I am sure that the Metropolitan Police would be quite happy to impound vehicles from drug dealers and others whose vehicles could also add to its resources.

I am totally supportive of Clause 37 on computer misuse, but I am not clear who is capable of understanding it all and prosecuting. Is it the police who prosecute for computer misuse under the 1990 Act? The proposed new Section 3ZA carries a penalty of up to 14 years—or up to life if national security is involved—but the rest of the penalties in Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act are for up to two or five years. Will my noble friend confirm that those other penalties in Section 3 of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 have also been upgraded to 14 years, or possibly life, in prison?

Parts 5 and 6 of the Bill deal with the protection of children and terrorism. I dislike the term FGM because I do not think it carries the right connotations or expresses the seriousness of this vile, barbaric practice. I recall that for years we talked about people trafficking. It was only when colleagues in this House and in the other place began to talk about modern slavery that we got traction on it—that the rest of us woke up to what it was about. The use of the term modern slavery as opposed to people trafficking really gave more life to that horrible practice. I do not mean to be derogatory here but FGM sounds like a food additive. It is too nice a term. It is vile, evil child torture. I would like those who have spent their lives trying to deal with this to consider whether we should think of using a more vicious terminology which properly describes what it is about.

I conclude my remarks on this business of terrorism, paedophiles and serious crime, because that is the mantra that the Home Office has been using for the past few years to demand better and greater RIPA

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powers. I have heard that mantra used again in the past few days by the Home Office. It says that unless it has greater powers there will be a data gap in tackling terrorism, paedophiles and serious crime. The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, is not quite right in saying that nothing has been done on this. I had the privilege a couple of years ago of chairing the Joint Committee on the Draft Communications Data Bill. The committee was made up of noble Lords from this House and Members from the other place. Members of the committee had widely differing views. There were those who wanted the police to get every power under the sun and those who took a view that privacy of the individual was far more important. However, we ended up with a unanimous report and concluded that the draft Bill produced by the Home Office then—which was nicknamed the snoopers’ charter—was far too sweeping and we were rightly critical of most aspects of it. However, we did not simply crucify the Bill, say it was a load of rubbish and leave it at that; we made considered suggestions on how to draft a better Bill. Our overall conclusion was that there was,

“a case for legislation which will provide the law enforcement authorities with some further access to communications data, but that the current draft Bill is too sweeping, and goes further than it need or should. We believe that, with the benefit of fuller consultation with CSPs than has so far taken place, the Government will be able to devise a more proportionate measure than the present draft Bill, which would achieve most of what they really need, would encroach less upon privacy, would be more acceptable to the CSPs, and would cost the taxpayer less”.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I stand corrected. It was wrong to say that nothing was done. A Bill was produced and a Joint Committee looked at it. Unfortunately, nothing very much has happened since then, which I think makes my point. It sounds as though the noble Lord did all the work for the Home Office and somehow it still has not happened. I suspect that this comes back to my earlier point about dysfunctionality.

Lord Blencathra: The noble Lord is getting closer to the possible political reality. To be fair to the Home Office, it studied our report carefully. I and one or two others had the privilege of seeing the revised draft Bill, which took into account everything we had said and delivered about 95% of what our report suggested. Unfortunately, that revised Bill did not find favour with all the members of the coalition and therefore it has not emerged in that form.

I say to my noble friend the Minister that if in the next Parliament the Government produce a Bill largely along the lines of the redraft, I am certain that it will have a chance of getting through both Houses of Parliament. But if they are encouraged from any quarter to go back to the original so-called snoopers’ charter, they will merely tack on more powers to a discredited RIPA. In my opinion, RIPA is no longer fit for purpose. It was designed at a time when we had push-button telephones that could hold two or three messages at most, not the modern communications machinery that we have today. If they go back to that old charter, they will face massive opposition in the country and in Parliament, and they do not need to because the blueprint for a better Bill exists.

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Finally, I will make a couple of observations that may be slightly more contentious. As we were deliberating on the powers the police needed to look at e-mails and other data in order to capture paedophiles, stories began to emerge of police forces around the country—for example, in Bradford or Leicester—which had ignored complaints over the past 15 years from hundreds of young girls of systematic and habitual rape. The police turned a blind eye to those cases and have only now started prosecuting. I believe that they turned a blind eye because the perpetrators were mainly from the Pakistani community and they did not want to prosecute because of political correctness. Of course the police and security services must have the powers they need to deal with paedophiles on the internet but they must also prosecute hard cases of children being raped and brutalised in reality in this country.

My very final point, which again comes from my experiences on the Bill, is that we discovered that police training was often inadequate to deal with the amount of communications data available. The executive from Twitter told us that she would often get a request from the police saying, “Give me everything you have on Blencathra’s tweeting”, when the answer was, “Look on the net yourself”. We do not need a special order for that. It is out there in the public domain, and they were not fully aware of that. There is a range of things that our modern iPhones and other Samsung-type devices have and the police need to get up to speed on the information that is currently available on the world wide web before seeking some draconian powers to look at a few hundred million e-mails each year.

With those little caveats and pieces of advice to my noble friend on how to take forward serious crime measures and a new data communications Bill, I warmly welcome the Bill.

6.24 pm

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, I wish I had as many caveats and as much good advice. I stand very briefly, first, to welcome this Bill and to keep my foot in the door in case I can be useful in the later stages; and, secondly, to welcome warmly, as others have done, particularly the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, and my noble friend Lord Henley, the use of the much neglected Keeling schedule. I can almost hear the stopping of the rotation in the grave of my late noble friend Lord Renton, who campaigned tirelessly for this when I arrived in this House back in the 1970s. It is a useful thing, but has a danger in that it brings one’s notice to particular aspects which might take up time.

I apologise for spending a little time on my pocket computer, looking at the anomalies in the sentencing range for defaulting penalties—I am not a sentencing expert. They seem to range from 18 days per £10,000 in the top of band 1, to half a day per £10,000 at the point where the 50% extra penalty cuts in. That needs looking at.

The next thing that drew my attention, which my noble friend Lord Henley was the first to mention, was the gigantic Home Office engine churning out legislation. I was fascinated to hear that my noble friend Lord Wasserman may have spent many years

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stoking the engine and that my noble friend Lord Blencathra spent some time driving it. I suffered from it. My noble friend’s estimate was very high and I would agree with it. My other noble friend’s was rather low. I shall look at the record when I get home.

The other thing that needs saying is a word of caution. I understand my noble friend Lord Wasserman’s interest in getting a single coherent control of both security and serious organised crime, but bringing it into central government under the Home Secretary or the Home Office is something we have been very leery of for many generations. ACPO exists because of a fear of having a national police force, and it sounds to me as if this would rapidly grow into something like the FBI or something more sinister from Europe. It would need very careful control and if we are to have it, since it will already have its hand in security, the Select Committee in the other place must have oversight of the whole of its work. However, I would approach this with the greatest caution.

I will make one other reference to my noble friend Lord Blencathra. If we called the crime of FGM child mutilation, it would carry revulsion and also be quite an accurate description of what is done. I will detain your Lordships no longer. I apologise for taking so long.

Lord Rosser (Lab): My Lords, despite the frequency of Home Office Bills at times appearing to match the frequency of gas and electricity bills, the Minister has shown an enthusiasm for this Bill that has been surpassed, not for the first time, only by the noble Lord, Lord Wasserman. This Bill has a number of separate intended courses of action, rather than a single new theme or policy objective running through its provisions, other than a desire to make serious crime a less attractive proposition for those tempted to go down that road—mainly, though not exclusively, through higher sentences and more offences. It covers the asset recovery process, through amendments to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and increases sentences for attacks on computer systems, through amendments to the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

It moves on to serious, organised and gang-related crime generally, creating a new offence of participation in an organised crime group, and making changes to the law relating to serious crime prevention orders and gang injunctions. It provides for new powers on entering and searching premises for drug-cutting agents, makes changes to the criminal law in respect of protecting children and it makes amendments to the Terrorism Act 2006 to confer or extend extraterritorial jurisdiction relating to the UK courts in respect of the offences of preparation of terrorist acts and training for terrorism.

We have had detailed and highly informative contributions in this debate, which have rightly addressed—and, basically, welcomed—the main provisions of the Bill. The issue, though, is not so much to question the changes it seeks to make, or the outcomes it seeks to achieve, but rather to question whether the Bill always goes far enough or simply restates existing legislation that is not being fully enforced;

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whether it will always achieve the objectives desired; and whether there could or should have been other issues covered in the Bill—a question that my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey in particular addressed.

We support doing more to recover the proceeds of crime. Performance in this area has actually got worse under the current Government. The amount collected by the police and the volume of confiscation orders has fallen, yet there are still some £1.5 billion of outstanding orders because assets have been hidden, moved away overseas or reduced by third-party claims. Only 18% of confiscation orders worth more than £1 million are recovered. The National Audit Office report indicated that just 26p of every £100 of profit that a criminal makes is confiscated.

We have been calling on the Government to end early release with regard to default sentences where organised criminals refuse to pay, and to stop loopholes enabling criminals to transfer assets to families. We will want to look carefully at the provisions to see whether they will be effective in confiscating criminal assets. It also appears that over the past five years or so, £200 million-worth of assets have been frozen by the UK courts in response to overseas requests for legal assistance, but that none of that money has been returned to the countries that asked us to seize and freeze those assets. Do the Government accept that that is the case and, if they do, do they think that will help in securing co-operation when we want it from overseas jurisdictions?

In her opening speech, my noble friend Lady Smith of Basildon indicated our support for the measures in Part 5 on the offence of child cruelty and conduct likely to cause psychological suffering or injury, as well as physical harm; on the new offence of possession of paedophile manuals; and on extending the extraterritorial reach of offences under the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003. However, there has been a drop in Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre arrests and in the number of child abusers being caught. Child cruelty conviction rates have fallen. In 2009, there were just over 700 convictions—about 720—but last year it fell to just above 550. Why do the Government believe that these developments have happened, and what measures do they propose to address the situation?

Violent crime has also risen while the number of prosecuted criminals has gone down. Reports of rape and domestic violence, like those of child abuse, are up, but convictions are not matching those rising reports. What is going up is the cost of some police and crime commissioners. The Northamptonshire commissioner, for example, now employs 34 staff at a cost of £1.4 million. That is at a time when the proportion of adults reporting seeing a police officer on foot patrol in the local area at least once a week has declined.

The Bill creates new offences and increases maximum sentences for attacks on computer systems and cyberattacks. These are crimes that can have serious consequences for the economy of the nation, of individual companies or of groups of companies, as well as for our national security. Such crimes are planned, premeditated, probably sustained and carried out over

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a period, and the perpetrators know that they are hitting large numbers of people, including the most vulnerable in society. They should be dealt with severely. We should also be tough on those who through computer crime seek to trick and defraud large numbers of people who end up losing considerable amounts of their hard-earned money and savings.

However, the issue is not simply one of the level of sentences and breadth of offences provided for in the Bill. They may well be a deterrent—although, interestingly, the Government’s impact assessment says that there is no evidence that cybercriminals will be deterred by a longer sentence. The biggest deterrent, of course, is the likelihood of being caught.

Fraud and computer crime has been rising. It is a 21st century crime. It does not hit the headlines in the way, for example, that gun and knife crime or violent assaults do, but those who are victims of computer crime and fraud can also suffer devastating consequences. In some cases, it can have a serious effect on their health and, in extreme cases, even lead to death—as the Minister said in his opening speech. It does not hit the headlines because some feel almost ashamed of having to admit allowing themselves to be fooled—and perhaps because some of our major companies, including financial institutions, would not regard it as helpful if the full extent of the problem were widely known. It does not hit the headlines because there is no immediate victim in the way that there is in the case of gun and knife crime or violent assault, particularly when that is on a vulnerable person. Yet it is an area of criminal activity that is expanding fast and becoming of increasing concern, as reflected by the measures proposed in the Bill.

I hope that when he responds, the Minister will be able to say what the Government are doing to provide the necessary resources to fight this kind of crime at all levels. Police forces have made cuts; the temptation must be to make those cuts in areas that will have the least impact as far as adverse headlines are concerned. Have police forces around the country increased or decreased the number of officers engaged full-time in working to detect and prevent computer crime and the fraud associated with it? If the numbers have increased at a time of cuts in front-line policing, has that been in proportion to the increase in the volume of such crime?

On the national and international scene, this is an area in which the National Crime Agency and the City of London fraud unit are involved. Have their resources been increased and, if so, by how much? Are we still in a situation where the prospects of bringing the perpetrators of such crimes to justice are less than those of being able to disrupt the fraud or scam that is occurring, but without being able to call the key perpetrators to account?

The Bill does not offer a coherent government plan for tackling online fraud and economic crime. Recorded offences of fraud have increased by a quarter over the past year but prosecutions and convictions have gone down while business crime, which surveys indicate is going up, is not counted in official figures despite online crime exploding. I hope that the Minister will be able to give some assurance on these issues because,

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important though it is that sentences should fit the crime, it is equally important that the required resources are there to keep such online fraud and economic crime in check and not allow it to become a crime with, all too often, apparently easy and secure pickings for those who engage in it.

As my friend Lady Smith of Basildon has already said, we support further action against those aiding and abetting criminals, subject to ensuring that innocent parties are not sucked in as well. We also support the proposed amendment to the Terrorism Act, although we question whether the Home Office is doing enough within communities to deter young people from acting on the words of those who encourage them to go to Syria.

This is not one of those Bills where major battle lines over principles have to be set out at Second Reading. However, there are details about the effectiveness and potential consequences of at least some of the Government’s proposals which will need to be addressed in Committee, as will the extent to which the Government are actually providing the necessary resources to deter or bring to justice the perpetrators of some of the serious offences set out not only in the Bill but in existing legislation.

6.38 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, this has been a good debate. Even though the Bill itself has been widely welcomed and there has been general agreement about its purposes, noble Lords have raised matters which we will be required to resolve and deal with in Committee. In handling this Second Reading debate, I will do my best to answer as many of the questions as I can. We have strayed a little; I am thinking in particular of my noble friend Lord Blencathra’s contribution regarding his communications data Bill, while the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, gave my noble friend Lord Faulks some indication that he might be troublesome on the Criminal Justice and CourtsBill that is to come. In the mean time, we can all agree that the serious and organised crime which this Bill is designed to address is a significant threat. We must equip the National Crime Agency, the police and others with the necessary powers to counter that threat.

We can also agree that we need a robust body of law to protect children from harm. Passing new laws will not, of itself, change anything on the ground. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, emphasised that, as did many other noble Lords. As we move from clause to clause, noble Lords will want to test whether the provisions of this Bill provide for adequate enforcement, as well as for the legislative changes that we are proposing.

A number of noble Lords have properly and helpfully used this debate to set out some of these issues. It is striking that many contributions have related to Part 5, concerning child cruelty and female genital mutilation, but it is not surprising given that so many Members of your Lordships’ House are committed to enhancing the protection and life chances of children. In responding to some of the specific points raised, I will start with

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these provisions. I thank my noble friend Lady Brinton for her contribution; she is very keen that we scrutinise these aspects. The noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, suggested that we should brush away the Victorian cobwebs which surround this area.

The Government accept that the current offence of child cruelty in Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is still effective and that the courts are able to interpret it appropriately. We acknowledge that some of the language is outdated and that the law may be easier to understand if it is updated and clarified. That is a reasonable approach to take. It is why we are amending the 1933 Act to make it absolutely clear that children subject to cruelty likely to cause psychological suffering or injury are to be protected by law. My noble friend Lady Hamwee and the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, questioned why the offence applies not to 18 year-olds but only to those up to the age of 16. We recognise that there are circumstances in which people of 16 and 17 require protection. Young people over 16 are lawfully able to be married and are generally deemed capable of living independently of their parents. They could themselves be parents or carers of a person under 16. Those under the age of 16 are generally more vulnerable and more dependent on those who care for them. That is why Section 1 focuses on protecting those under 16, though it is not to deny the vulnerability of those who are older than that.

With regard to Clause 62, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked that for child cruelty offences prosecution should be the last resort. I agree totally with that view; prosecution is a last resort, and in cases regarding children Section 1 of the 1933 Act is really only one part of a comprehensive legislative framework for protecting children. The role of social workers and partners in caring for young children is to protect the child and to support the parents to do just that. Our proposed changes to Section 1 of the 1933 Act will not change that responsibility.

Baroness Meacher: My comments on this area did not really have to do with whether the legislation was adequate; rather, they were to suggest that we need to discuss what sort of support will actually be available for these children and their parents, particularly because—this is a slightly political point—there are massive cuts to local authority services and a risk that services will not be available along the lines that I was suggesting. If you find a parent emotionally abusing a child and causing severe psychological damage, there may be nothing between no intervention and some sort of criminal sanction. My point was about trying to look at whether guidance or something needs to be in place to ensure that the criminal route really is the last resort. I think that the Minister will understand what I am trying to get at.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I understand exactly what the noble Baroness is saying. All I will say is that at every point at which I have been taking Home Office legislation through the House, these sorts of points have been made. I hope that I have been able to emphasise that it is exactly the points that the noble Baroness has been making that are uppermost. We are

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urging local authorities and those with responsibility for the welfare of children to have a high regard for their role in preventing abuse, and indeed for detecting it. As someone mentioned earlier—I think it was my noble friend Lady Hamwee—it is schools and a whole series of individuals with responsibility for the welfare of children, in terms of their general activity of support, that are important to make success of legislation such as we are bringing through. It puts legislation in context to see it being a supporting pillar of a caring society, does it not? That is what we are seeking to do with this legislation.

That applies to FGM as well, on which we have had some really good contributions. In welcoming the measure, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, said that more should be done to tackle this issue. Of course successful prosecutions are the key to stamping out FGM, and the DPP has announced the first prosecutions while the CPS is also considering 11 other cases. However, we agree that legislation cannot in itself eradicate FGM; it is important that we change the law where necessary, but there are other pressures that we can bring to bear. I note the robust comments by my noble friend Lord Blencathra in this regard and indeed the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Elton, both of which I think are worthy of our consideration when we come to the clauses in Committee.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, asked why the new offence of the possession of paedophile manuals does not extend to Scotland. This provision does not relate to reserved matters and, as such, under the Sewel convention, we would legislate here at Westminster only with the consent of the Scottish Parliament. We have discussed the provision with the Scottish Government and they have indicated that they will monitor the new offence and then take a view on whether to bring forward a similar offence in the Scottish Parliament. If, however, they change their mind before the passage of this Bill is complete then I am sure this House, and indeed Parliament in general, would consider such a request favourably as part of the legislative process.

Parts 1 and 4 of the Bill, as I have indicated, ensure that the National Crime Agency and others have the powers that they need to pursue relentlessly, to disrupt and to bring to justice those who commit serious and organised crime. We heard an excellent speech from my noble friend Lord Paddick, who informed our debate by drawing on his experience of policing. He and other noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and my noble friends Lord Bourne and Lord Blencathra, pointed to the importance of ensuring that confiscation orders made under the Proceeds of Crime Act are robustly enforced. Serving time in prison does not excuse the liability to compensation. People who have not paid their compensation orders are still liable for them and will still be pursued because, as was said during the debate, the whole point of the exercise must be to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains. That is the fundamental point of these measures. The measures in Part 1 of the Bill, which I set out, will assist in that regard.

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Let me deal with some of the particular points made. The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said that more needs to be done to strengthen default sentences. The Bill includes significant increases in the length of default sentences where an offender fails to pay higher-value confiscation orders. As a result, an offender who defaults on a confiscation order of more than £10 million will in future serve up to 14 years in prison rather than five years as now. The noble Baroness asked whether that was the right figure. We will no doubt be monitoring closely the impact of these changes, and provisions in the Bill enable us to make further changes to the default sentencing framework through secondary legislation. My noble friend Lord Blencathra referred to Clause 36, which relates to the making of confiscation orders in magistrates’ courts, for example. We agreed that the existing £10,000 threshold may be too low, which is why we have included an order-making power in the Bill to increase this figure through secondary legislation. I trust that that will be welcomed by my noble friend and I expect that we will be debating these issues in Committee.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, asked whether enough groundwork was being done to ensure that the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed the necessary legislative consent Motion. I understand her interest in making sure that that is the case. We have worked very closely with the Minister of Justice, David Ford, on the development of this Bill in general. The provisions in Chapter 3 of Part 1 have been included at his request and he has agreed, in principle, to pursue a legislative consent Motion for them. It is now a matter for David Ford to take forward, but we are ready to assist him in any way that he would consider helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked about the distributing of moneys under POCA. One of the key incentives of our criminal finances improvement plan, which is overseen by the Criminal Finances Board, is to ensure that the asset recovery incentivisation scheme works effectively. To this end, we intend to review the scheme later this year to ensure that it works to support front-line agencies in the way that he has suggested.

A number of noble Lords mentioned the participation offence; I expect that we will be returning to this in Committee. This new offence is designed to capture anyone who takes part in the criminal activities of an organised crime group. It is not just about corrupt lawyers and accountants; it is about anyone who is involved in criminal activities. Taking part in such activities will in future be a criminal offence rather than just an issue of professional misconduct. For the regulated sector, which would include lawyers and accountants, failing to report someone else who is known or suspected to be involved in money-laundering is a criminal offence, but that is not the same as an individual themselves taking part in the activities of the crime group. We will shortly be meeting with the Law Society and the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales to discuss their concerns. I am sure that elements of the new offence will be scrutinised when we come to them in Committee.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby wanted to hear more about other strands of the serious and organised crime strategy, namely the three Ps of

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Prevent, Protect and Prepare. I agree that they are just as important as the Pursue strand. The measures in the Bill to improve the operation of serious crime prevention orders and gang injunctions are designed to prevent people from engaging in serious and organised crime. However, here, as elsewhere, prevention is better than cure. I noted very much the right reverend Prelate’s comments about involving the police, local government, education and faith groups, in the last of which he has shown what can be done, particularly in local circumstances.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, queried the draft of new Section 36A of the Serious Crime Act 2007, which is concerned with the standard of proof that is applicable to proceedings in Scotland in relation to serious crime prevention orders. The noble and learned Lord has made a telling point in contrasting the approach taken in the Bill with that taken in the 2007 Act as it applies to England and Wales. I undertake to consider the matter further before Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, felt that the Bill reinforced, in his view, another big push in a failed drugs strategy. I know that the noble Lord is totally sincere in his view that drugs are an iniquity and I know that he does not favour drugs but takes a more liberal view towards those who find themselves in a world of drugs. I think that he is wrong. Drugs are illegal because scientific and medical analysis has shown that they are harmful to human health. They can destroy lives, as we all know, and cause misery to families and communities. The drugs strategy—reducing demand, restricting supply, building recovery and supporting people to live a drug-free life—aims to take a balanced, evidence-based approach to tackling drug use that works within international conventions. We are confident that our approach is the right one. Drug use has fallen to its lowest level since records began in 1996. People going into treatment today are far more likely to free themselves from dependency than ever before.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, and my noble friend Lord Wasserman asked about the responsibility for counterterrorism policing. Our position has not changed. We will take a decision following a review and conduct that review only when the NCA is more established. I remind the House that the NCA came into being only last October.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Sherbourne, referred to the provision in Clause 65 that extends extraterritorial jurisdiction for offences under the Terrorism Act 2006. That is an important provision to help further to protect the country from those who commit acts preparatory to terrorism or undertake terrorist training abroad.

I have a further point for the noble Lord, Lord Rosser. The Government are making £860 million-worth of investment over five years to 2016 through the national cybersecurity programme and have so far committed £72 million of that programme over four years to build law enforcement capabilities to tackle cybercrime.

I have been overtaken by time and a lot of issues have been raised. I hope that I will be able to help noble Lords by writing to them in the period between

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now and Committee. I will try to take the opportunity at that stage to reinforce those views so that they are on the record. In the mean time, I thank noble Lords and commend the Bill to the House.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

Prisons: Overcrowding


7.01 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Faulks) (Con): My Lords, I wish to repeat as a Statement an Answer given to an Urgent Question in the other place by my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor. The Statement is as follows:

“Let me start by challenging the premise of the Question posed by the right honourable gentleman. We do not have a prison overcrowding crisis. Today’s prison population is 85,359. This is against total useable operational capacity of 86,421. This means we have more than 1,000 spare places across the prison estate.

By next April we will have opened an additional 2,000 places. This includes four new house blocks, which will start to open from the autumn. We also have a number of additional reserve capabilities to cope with unexpected pressures. At the time of the election next year, we will have more adult male prison places than we inherited in May 2010, despite having to deal with the financial challenges that the previous Government left behind.

Since last September, the prison population has started to rise again. This has happened for a number of reasons. They include the significant increase in the number of convictions for historic sex abuse. Those people committed appalling crimes, and probably thought they had got away with it. I am delighted to be finding the space for them behind bars.

Because that increase was unexpected, I have agreed to make some reserve capacity available to ensure that we retain sufficient margin between the number of places occupied and the total capacity of the system until the new prison buildings come on stream later this year. What this means in reality is that, in a number of public and private prisons, a few more prisoners will have to share a cell for a few weeks. We may not need these places but I would rather they were available in case we do.

I am also taking steps to address what I believe is a weakness in our prison system: that we have had no access to the kind of temporary or agency staff that you find as a matter of routine in our health and education systems. I am therefore establishing a reserve capability among former staff to give us the flexibility to adapt to short-term changes of population by bringing reserve capacity into operation. We have some staff shortages in London in particular because of the rapid improvement in the labour market, and this will help us to cover any gaps.

Let me also set out for the House how we are managing the prison estate. My objective is to bring down the cost of running the prison estate while

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maintaining capacity levels. An important part of that is replacing older, more expensive prisons with new or refurbished capacity that is less expensive to run. So far this Parliament we have opened 2,500 new places, with a further 2,000 places due to open in the next nine months. This has enabled us to close a little over 4,500 places in older prisons in the past two years, saving a total of £170 million during the current spending review period.

In addition, we have launched a benchmarking programme across the prison estate to bring down costs. I introduced this programme in the autumn of 2012 as an alternative to privatisation, at the request of the Prison Governors Association and the unions. The leaders of the Prison Officers’ Association described my decision to do so as a ‘victory’ for them. I am grateful to our staff for their hard work in taking these changes forward.

This programme of change has been praised by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office. The NAO said recently:

‘The strategy for the prison estate is the most coherent and comprehensive for many years, has quickly cut operating costs, and is a significant improvement in value for money on the approaches of the past’.

We will end this Parliament with more adult male prison places than we inherited, more hours of work in prisons than we inherited, more education for young detainees than we inherited and a more modern, cost-effective prison estate than we inherited. That is anything but a crisis”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

7.06 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating his right honourable friend’s Answer but, as far as this side is concerned, it does not begin to deal with the questions that have been raised in the past few days. Last week, the highly respected Chief Inspector of Prisons voiced serious concerns over the impact on prisoners and staff of overcrowding in the prison estate. He referred to a rising trend of suicides and self-harm, of tension and violence, and of the inability to offer meaningful work or recreation. It was frankly astonishing to hear the Secretary of State for Justice airily dismiss these concerns on the “Today” programme, sounding like a political Dr Pangloss of whom Voltaire would have indeed been proud. He seemed to think it was only a matter of prisoners doubling up in their cells for a few weeks until the crisis passed, as if that was merely a trifling inconvenience for the prisoners and—as importantly if not more so—for those whose task it is to ensure good order and their safety.

When will the Government acknowledge and act on the facts that violence against prison staff has increased by 45% since 2010; that there has been a 60% rise in the number of times the prison riot squad has been called out; and that the use of Gold Command to deal with serious incidents has doubled in the past two years? It is time for the Secretary of State to stop playing to the gallery, to start listening to the chief inspector and to deal properly with the crisis in the service.

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7.08 pm

Lord Faulks: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, suggests that there is a great degree of overcrowding. He will know, because he is experienced in the field, that there is a difference between the certified capacity and the certified normal accommodation. It is true that, in the short term, some prisoners have to double up, but they double up in the context of cells that have been approved for occupation by two, and of infrastructure that has also been approved in the prison in which they reside. Of course, in an ideal world most of these cells would be occupied by one person, but none the less these are prisoners who are in their cells in circumstances where there is temporary overcrowding and where they are in fact serving a prison sentence.

I reject the suggestion that the Secretary of State is somehow cavalier about the problems of so-called prison overcrowding. Of course, any death in custody or any self-harm is a matter of great anxiety to all those concerned with the management of prisons. We are fortunate in having prison officers of a very high standard and prison governors who are concerned for the welfare of prisoners.

It is difficult to ascertain exactly what is causing the increase. The fact is that, unfortunately, the suicide rate among young males is reflected to some extent by an increase in the general population outside prison as well. Every death is subject to an investigation by the police and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman and there is, of course, a coroner’s inquest. The Secretary of State has commissioned an independent advisory panel on deaths in custody to review self-inflicted deaths of 18 to 24 year-olds in custody from 1 April 2007, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, who I am glad to see in his place.

The Government are by no means complacent about any incident of self-harm or death and are doing their best to avoid such consequences. However, it does not help the morale of prison officers or the welfare of prisoners generally to manufacture some crisis which, in truth, is no more than and no different from the situation that prevailed in many years when the party opposite was in government. For example, the so-called overcrowding figures were higher between 2003 and 2010 than they are now. This is a storm that has been manufactured and does not help the welfare of prisoners.

7.11 pm

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames (LD): My Lords, whether or not the present shortage is under control, as the Statement asserts, can the Minister assure those of us on these Benches that the Statement should not be taken as suggesting that the more prison places there are the better? Will he confirm that the Government’s aim remains to achieve a reduction in the prison population by reducing reoffending and keeping offenders out of custody through rehabilitation where possible? Is that policy not achieving some success? Does he also accept that an obvious way to free up necessary space in prisons is to enable the early release of the 3,500 prisoners who have already passed their tariff date for release but are still serving indeterminate sentences for public protection, which were, after all, abolished by the Government to their credit in 2012?

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Lord Faulks: My Lords, the Government take no pride in the increase in the prison population, of course, but it is a matter for the judges to decide the length of sentences and whether an individual is sent to prison. It is the Government’s job to ensure that there is prison capacity to deal with the sentences that are passed. The Government are indeed anxious to prevent the cycle of reoffending. As my noble friend quite rightly says, the Transforming Rehabilitation programme is particularly designed to deal with the many short-term prisoners—less than 12 months—who have unfortunately simply gone in and out of prison as a matter of routine. He is right to refer to the fact that the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which went on stream in June, is going to mean that for the first time those prisoners have support outside prison from the probation service and that they receive contact with the probation service before they leave prison. That should help to reduce the prison population in the long term.

As to his observation about IPP prisoners, to whom I know he was referring, of course there is some anxiety about this. The Government, as he correctly acknowledges, repealed the relevant legislation. Steps are being taken to ensure, in so far as it is possible, that prisoners can be released when it is safe for that to happen. That will sometimes involve prisoners going on appropriate courses, but it should not be thought that simply going on a course automatically makes them appropriate for release. It is a matter for anxiety and the Government are particularly concerned that those who should be released are released and that the prison population should be kept as low as it can be, commensurate with public safety.

Lord Elystan-Morgan (CB): My Lords, does the Minister accept that there are many ordinary, decent, right-thinking members of society representing all manner of political persuasion or none who find their minds exercised by two considerable ironies? One is that while for many years the level of crime has been falling substantially, the prison population has nevertheless been going in a totally different direction. Secondly, and perhaps more fundamentally, despite the historical traditions of decent and law-abiding attitudes in the United Kingdom, of all the major countries of Europe we, per 100,000 of population, incarcerate many more than any other major country. I am not entirely certain of the figures for France, Italy and Germany, but they are far below ours. The figure for Britain, I remember, is 149 per 100,000. Is there no possibility of a deep and searching study into those two considerable ironies?

Lord Faulks: My Lords, as the noble Lord says, the level of crime has gone down under this Government. Sentences are longer than they were, as the sentencing guidelines suggest. Unfortunately, while serious crime remains a problem, that is unlikely to change. I take the noble Lord’s point, but I cannot announce any investigation from the Dispatch Box.

Lord Howarth of Newport (Lab): My Lords, the House has just given a Second Reading to the Serious Crime Bill, which creates new imprisonable offences and provides for longer sentences for existing offences.

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Does the Minister not think that the Home Office should think more carefully before it introduces torrents of legislation that place great pressure on the Prison Service, which is already highly stressed and at the limits of capacity?

Lord Faulks: The Serious Crime Bill is intended to deal with serious crime, which unfortunately is a problem. If serious crime is committed, sadly it will result in sentences of imprisonment.

Lord Deben (Con): Why is it—

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, this is an Urgent Question and the time allocation of 10 minutes is up.

Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict, and Iraq


7.16 pm

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary on Iraq and on last week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict. The Statement is as follows.

“Mr Speaker, with permission, I will make a Statement on Iraq and update the House on the outcome of last week’s Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

The Sunni extremist group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, ISIL, issued a series of attacks and car bombings in Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, Samarra, Ramadi and Jalawla, over the past 10 days, culminating in the capture of Mosul on Tuesday. From Mosul, ISIL, with other armed groups, took control of the towns on the main route to Baghdad, including Tikrit, 110 miles north of the capital. The Iraqi security forces initially proved unable to resist these attacks, although there are now signs of a fight-back in the area around Samarra.

These are extremely grave developments. ISIL is the most violent and brutal militant group in the Middle East. It has a long record of atrocities, including the use of IEDs, abductions, torture and killings. The reported massacre of 1,700 Shia air force recruits is more evidence of its brutality.

ISIL’s aim is to establish an Islamic state in the region, and it is pursuing this goal by attacking the Government of Iraq, gaining control of territory and inciting sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The group has bases in northern Syria as well as in Iraq. While the majority of its members are Iraqi or Syrian, it also includes a significant number of foreign fighters among its ranks. As I have previously told this House, we estimate the total number of UK-linked individuals fighting in Syria to include approximately 400 British nationals, who could present a particular risk should they return to the UK. Some of these are inevitably fighting with ISIL.

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Over the past few days, I have held discussions with Foreign Ministers from the region, including with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, with whom I discussed the welfare of more than 60 Turkish citizens kidnapped in Mosul. Our national interest lies in supporting a sovereign and democratic Iraq to resist those threats, offering assistance where necessary, and working with others to prevent the spread of terrorism in Iraq and throughout the region.

On Friday, I held talks with Secretary Kerry in London. We agreed that the prime responsibility for leading the response to these events lies with the Iraqi Government. The United States, which is the country with the most appropriate assets and capabilities, is considering a range of options that could help the Iraqi security forces push back on ISIL advances. President Obama has been clear that action taken by the United States will succeed only if accompanied by a political response from the Iraqi Government.

We are taking action in three areas: promoting political unity among those who support a democratic Iraqi state and stability in the region, offering assistance where appropriate and possible, and alleviating humanitarian suffering. We have made it clear this does not involve planning a military intervention by the United Kingdom.

On the first of these points, yesterday I underlined to the Iraqi Foreign Minister the need for his colleagues to form a new and inclusive Government who will bring together all Iraq’s different groups and will be able to command support across Iraqi society. ISIL is taking advantage of political disaffection, including among Saddam-era officers and soldiers, and Sunni tribal fighters, who have lost trust in the Iraqi Government. Overcoming this will require a concerted political effort by the Government, including working with the Kurdistan regional government against this common threat. I welcome the fact that the Iraqi Supreme Court has today ratified the large majority of the results of April’s elections in Iraq, and I call on it to announce the full results as soon as possible to allow for the rapid formation of a new Government.

On our second objective, we are examining what more can be done to assist the Iraqi authorities directly in their security response. We are urging the Iraqi Government to take effective measures to organise their security forces effectively and push ISIL back from the areas it has occupied while protecting civilian life, infrastructure and vital services. We are discussing with the Iraqi Government areas for co-operation, including the possibility of offering counterterrorism expertise. We are also providing consular assistance to a small number of British nationals who have been affected. For this purpose, a UK-MoD Operational Liaison and Reconnaissance Team arrived in Baghdad on Saturday to help assess the situation on the ground and assist the embassy in contingency planning.

Thirdly, we have responded rapidly to the humanitarian emergency. Around 500,000 people are reported to have been displaced in the north and now need urgent support. Last week we were the first donor country to send a field team to the Kurdistan region, where they met UN and NGO contacts and the Kurdistan

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authorities. My right honourable friend the International Development Secretary announced on Saturday that we would provide £3 million of immediate assistance including £2 million from the Rapid Response Facility to NGOs for water and sanitation and other emergency relief and £1 million to the UNHCR for mobile protection teams and for the establishment of camps. We are considering urgently what further assistance we could provide.

The rise of sectarianism and religious intolerance is fuelling instability in the Middle East. This has been compounded by the brutality of the Assad regime, whose relentless war against its own people has created an opening for extremists. That is why we will continue to support the moderate opposition in Syria who have had the courage to fight directly against ISIL and other extremists, as well as urging the Iraqi Government to take the political and military steps required to defeat such groups in Iraq. We are also working to reinforce stability across the region, including through providing significant security support to the Governments of Lebanon and Jordan, as well as £243 million in humanitarian assistance. We will intensify our efforts in the coming weeks and days to tackle this serious threat to international peace and security.

Addressing the crises of today should never prevent us from dealing with the longer-term issues that are fundamental to conflict prevention in many parts of the world. Last week I co-hosted the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, the largest ever summit held on this issue. One hundred and twenty eight countries and 79 Ministers attended, along with eight UN agency heads, as well as presidents, prosecutors from the ICC and international tribunals, and another 300 delegates from conflict-affected countries.

The summit had two primary objectives: to agree practical action to tackle impunity for the use of rape as a weapon of war, and to begin to change global attitudes to these crimes. We opened the summit up to thousands of members of the public at 175 different public events. Our embassies held events to mirror what was going on in London for the entire 84-hour period and we mounted an intensive social media campaign that reached all parts of the world.

This was the most important milestone in our efforts to address this issue and my intention is to create unstoppable momentum in addressing these crimes, which are among the worst experienced in the world today. We set in motion a series of practical steps and commitments. We launched the first ever international protocol on how to document and investigate sexual violence in conflict, as a means of overcoming the barriers to prosecutions of these crimes.

I announced £6 million in new UK funding to support survivors of rape, and the US, Finland, Bahrain, Australia, Japan and others also made new and generous pledges. The African Union also announced a pilot project in the Central African Republic to respond to the urgent needs of victims of sexual violence. The Somali Government launched a new action plan on Somalia, supported by the UN and the international community, for addressing sexual violence, which has blighted the lives of thousands of women, men and children.

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Within the summit, I convened a special meeting on security in Nigeria following the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April and a summit on this issue in Paris last month. We agreed that a regional intelligence fusion unit should be made operational immediately. The countries of the region also agreed rapidly to implement joint or co-ordinated patrols along their borders, and Cameroon committed to add a battalion to the regional task force. The UK, the US and France pledged to support these regional efforts. On behalf of the UK, I announced a separate package of support for Nigeria, including tactical training for the Nigerian army, assistance to regional security and intelligence co-operation, and a joint UK-US educational programme to educate an additional 1 million children in Nigeria. All the parties present also agreed on the need for UN sanctions against Boko Haram’s leadership and Ansaru, another dangerous terrorist organisation in Nigeria.

Finally, states and delegates at the summit joined together to sign a statement of action, uniting Governments, UN agencies, civil society, experts and survivors with a shared determination to end sexual violence in conflict. We will now work hard to ensure that the momentum is sustained and accelerated in the months and years ahead. We will publish a comprehensive report on the summit that will distil the expert recommendations and political discussions that took place. This will serve as a reference point for future work.

We will turn our focus to practical implementation of the international protocol in priority countries. We will ensure it is translated and disseminated around the world, and we will champion its use and promote its principles in the projects that we fund and in international institutions. We will continue to use our team of experts to strengthen the capacity of affected countries to address accountability and to work with UN special representative Zainab Bangura and UN Action to improve international co-ordination and the capability of militaries to respond and prevent sexual violence.

For the past two years the United Kingdom has led the way internationally in addressing these vital issues and we must continue to do so until the scourge of sexual violence is finally confronted, addressed and defeated”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

7.28 pm

Lord Bach (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating her right honourable friend’s Statement made in another place earlier today. Let me come to Iraq first. Iraq clearly faces fundamental threats to its integrity, security and stability. Faced with a lightning advance by a few thousand ISIL fighters from their base in Syria, the Iraqi army’s presence in the northern and western Sunni-majority provinces of Iraq effectively has collapsed.

Beneath these latest advances for ISIL is a deeper and fundamental question, not just for Iraq but also for its neighbouring countries across the region. That question surely is: can they in time develop a pluralistic,

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democratic politics where people live together as citizens rather than divide along sectarian, ethnic or religious lines? Alas, the answer today still remains uncertain.

Inevitably and understandably, these events have rekindled the debate around military intervention in Iraq 11 years ago. For most British people, including many of us who supported the action at the time, the fears of those opposed to the intervention have been vindicated by subsequent events. It is futile to deny that subsequent history as surely as it would be folly to repeat it, yet it is also facile to suggest that the crisis affecting Iraq today can be attributed solely to the consequences of intervention. Such an account denies the truth that the slide towards crisis in Iraq has been exacerbated by the civil war in Syria. These are two nations, both sitting astride the Sunni/Shia fault line, engulfed increasingly by sectarian violence while the rest of the region has looked on as sectarian tensions rise. Tragically for Iraq, the hallmark of Nouri al-Maliki’s Shia-dominated Government has been a sectarian rather than an inclusive approach. By way of contrast, the welcome progress made since 2003 by the leadership of the Kurdistan regional government only serves further to highlight the extent of the Iraqi central government’s failures in moving the country forward

I have a couple of questions for the Minister. Can she set out what specific steps are being taken by the UK Government in co-ordination with allies to encourage the formation of a new Government in Iraq, bearing in mind, as she told us, that the large majority of results now in April’s elections have been ratified? Secondly, what conversations are taking place to urge Prime Minister Maliki to take concrete measures to reduce sectarian tensions, empower regional government and reprofessionalise the Iraqi armed forces?

The Foreign Secretary today and in statements over the past week confirmed that military intervention in Iraq is not being contemplated. We welcome that assurance. We do not believe that the Government should agree to any proposals significantly to increase the nature or scale of support that we are already giving to the Iraqi Government without a much wider debate in Parliament and indeed in the country. I hope that the Minister and the Government agree.

It is clear that Iran is heavily engaged in Iraq today and it is disappointing to hear Tehran apparently ruling out direct talks with the US earlier this morning, but we very much welcome confirmation that the Foreign Secretary has been in touch with his Iranian counterpart earlier today. Does the Minister agree that there is now an urgent case for ensuring an effective British diplomatic presence in Tehran to help co-ordinate discussions? The Minister may be able to tell us that there will be some news about this matter very shortly. Certainly, her right honourable friend hinted as much in another place this afternoon.

As the crisis continues, the scale of the humanitarian suffering of course also grows, so we warmly welcome the additional humanitarian funding that the UK Government have already announced. Will any further requests from Iraq’s Government for additional humanitarian support be considered promptly? Many British citizens will have watched the scenes both in Syria and in Iraq with growing concern and anxiety,

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so it is right that we pay tribute to the British intelligence and security forces who are doing such vital work to keep us safe. Will the Minister set out the Government's latest assessment of the threat posed by British citizens returning from the region?

The Government will be concerned, as we all are, with the safety of British diplomatic staff in Baghdad, Erbil and Basra. Will the Minister assure the House that all the necessary plans are in place to guarantee their safety? The most urgent task now is for Iraq’s leadership to unite and galvanise its response to this crisis. The future of the whole country and the fate of millions depend upon it.

I turn briefly to the preventing sexual violence in conflict summit in London, which the Minister spoke of. That summit was a real credit to the work of the campaigners and activists across the world who tirelessly worked to raise this issue up the political agenda. The British Government and the Foreign Secretary have done a great deal in recent months. We from this side commend them sincerely for that work. However, not least in this House, if I may say so, it is important that we commend the Minister for her important part in this exercise. Indeed, I had the pleasure of reading two—I do not know how many she made last week—fairly short speeches in which she puts the overwhelming case very well.

The Foreign Secretary was right though to say in his Statement that the priority has to be to translate words into practical action, and we welcome the further £6 million pledged by the UK to support survivors of sexual violence in conflict. The statement of action to tackle the culture of impunity surrounding sexual violence in conflict, which is referred to in the Statement, was indeed an important step forward. Alongside agreeing a coherent legal framework, can the Minister set out this evening, or in writing, what further steps may be taken to tackle some of those underlying issues that contribute so much to impunity—such as the independence of the judiciary—within conflict-affected states? We look forward to the publication of the comprehensive report on the summit. It may be too early for the noble Baroness to give us any indication of how long it will be before that is published, but we hope it is not too long. The real test, as I know the Government recognise, is now whether the summit here in London can make a real difference on the ground in conflict zones across the world. The Minister and the Foreign Secretary will have our support to make sure that work is done.

7.37 pm

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, I start by thanking the noble Lord opposite for his support, both in relation to a difficult emerging situation in Iraq and his kind words about ending sexual violence in conflict. There is no doubt that sectarianism, which appears to be the root cause of so much of what we see across the region, can be resolved only by making sure that Governments respond to the needs of their citizens and respond in a way that is pluralistic and does not make communities feel isolated. There is no doubt that successful elections and the subsequent formation of an inclusive Government is going to be an essential part of rebuilding Iraq.

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I heard the very gracious words from the noble Lord in relation to the Iraq war. I, of course, come at it from a very different perspective. I was part of the anti-war position. Even I would have to say that it cannot be said that intervention was the sole cause of what we see now, but we would all probably have to admit that it had a significant impact on the region. In terms of working with the region, it is right that the relationship with Iran has been strengthened over time. Noble Lords will be aware of an imminent announcement—something could be said tomorrow—about what we intend in terms of our relationship with Iran. The noble Lord asked what steps we are taking to support the new Government. I think the new Government have to be formed as soon as possible and have to be inclusive. It is right that we support the Government of Mr Maliki, but also that we demand of him conditionality in relation to how he makes sure that all Iraqis are included in any future Government. I take it upon myself to ensure that the House is always informed of changes and I assure the noble Lord that if there are to be changes to our approach in Iraq I will certainly bring the matter back to the House.

We stand ready to provide further humanitarian support. I am proud of the fact that we were among the first to respond and we keep that support under review. Of course, there is an ongoing threat from returning fighters. The Home Office is very aware of this. Noble Lords will be aware of high-profile arrests that have been made. It is important that we continue to monitor that situation, as well as supporting our staff and ensuring that our travel advice is kept up to date. Of course, a number of British nationals either live or work out there.

Turning briefly to ending sexual violence in conflict, the noble Lord is absolutely right: of course it is great that we had this conference but it must translate into real action. If everybody does what they pledged to do at the summit last week, we will have a real, genuine and long-term impact on tackling and ending sexual violence in conflict. It is important for this to be translated into practical action, including tackling what is known as the underlying impunity. The way we do that is by supporting the legal systems of individual countries and ensuring that the evidence is gathered properly and prosecutions are prepared properly and that we get convictions for these offences which send out a very strong message.

Of course, the particular part of the summit I led on was the work and role of faith communities in ending sexual violence. Sometimes in those situations they are the first point of call and only form of support. More fundamentally than that, if there is to be a culture change, where the shame sits on the perpetrator and not on the survivor, faith communities have an incredibly important role to play and must lead this challenge.

7.41 pm

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): My Lords, of course I welcome the powerful message from the violence in conflict conference last week. That was a very good initiative. Obviously, it needs to reach not just states

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and Governments but all the non-state actors and private armies around the world that are engaged in violence.

Does my noble friend not agree that what is happening now in northern Iraq is an immediate threat to our national direction, purpose and security of a very high order, putting in question many of the policy assumptions we have had in recent years? I see no particular point in rowing backwards now to the issues of the difficult past in Iraq but will she assure us that we will continue to work very closely—as I think she has indicated that we are doing already—with the regional powers? That is obviously with Iraq itself but also with Turkey, Egypt and Iran, and even with Saudi Arabia, which of course has a Sunni affiliation but can do a great deal, I think, to help reduce support for the butchers of Mosul, and of course with the United States as well, with its technology and the proposals it has already made. Does she agree that in doing so, sensibly and with our own unique experience, we could help to halt this grim development which breaks open the old assumptions that have governed the nations of the Middle East since the end of the Ottoman Empire, and that we should do so, even if at the moment we do not like Mr al-Maliki’s divisive policies? They may have to be changed, but the immediate task is to prevent a further smashing up of the Middle East order, which we have sought to protect over the past few years.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, as always, my noble friend makes an important point. He will be heartened to hear that over the weekend my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary spoke to the Foreign Minister of Iraq, Zebari; the Foreign Minister of Turkey, Davutoglu; the Foreign Minister of Iran, Zarif; and to John Kerry on Friday. He and the Government absolutely accept that this has to be resolved as a regional issue. Every state has a responsibility to support stability, including Saudi Arabia. We cannot accept that countries are affiliated to certain elements within Iraq. We have to encourage all Iraqis—the Sunni community, the Shia community and indeed the Kurds and the Kurdistan regional government—to work together to provide that stability, which is so badly needed.

Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl): My Lords, the Minister will be aware that since 2010 I have been raising the issue of the 300,000 women in Bangladesh who were raped by the Pakistani army. Therefore, as a campaigner I take pleasure in congratulating her on her leadership and that of the Foreign Secretary. I welcome the international protocol that has been announced. It marks a crossroads in protecting vulnerable women, although I know that in the end implementation is everything.

The £6 million that has been announced is much to be welcomed, especially if it adds to the pot of the international community. Given the past week’s momentous event, would the Minister say whether there is any room to create a constructive provision of support and resources for the survivors of past atrocities and conflicts? In particular, what is her view about measures to provide justice, reparation and apologies to the 300,000 Bangladeshi women victims of the Pakistani army in the 1971 war?

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Baroness Warsi: The noble Baroness makes an important point and has tirelessly campaigned on this issue for many years. As the Minister with responsibility for both Pakistan and Bangladesh, I was incredibly pleased to have the opportunity to convince both countries to sign the international declaration on preventing sexual violence in conflict. I was delighted to see that both countries took that pledge. This could have consequences for their own nations and states, but both countries are also huge providers of peacekeeping troops, which are sometimes the first point of defence where this sexual violence happens.

Supporting victims was an essential part of the summit and one of the priorities. It includes supporting victims now, but also supporting victims from the past. As the noble Baroness will be aware, many of these horrific stories of sexual violence do not even come to the fore because victims are not prepared to speak about them. One thing that we can all agree on is that the summit gave a voice to survivors, and that in itself will start to tackle the cultural impunity.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine (LD): My Lords, one of the reasons why my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford and I always attempt to speak at the same time is because we so often agree completely with what each other has to say. In addition to endorsing everything that my noble friend said, I simply want to address two or three issues.

While I congratulate the Minister and the Government wholeheartedly on the ending sexual violence summit, she will understand if I concentrate my remarks on Iraq. I understand where the Government are coming from in keeping their assistance extremely limited at the moment, but will she tell the House whether the Prime Minister continues to abide by his royal prerogative in taking any measures that he considers necessary in order to persist with bringing about a resolution to the situation? This is the gravest political situation that we have seen since 2003, because if ISIS gets control of a swathe of territory we are in real trouble.

My second question relates to what the Foreign Secretary has been doing in his conversations with the Prime Ministers of the regional powers. Are we encouraging Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have recently thawed relations with each other, to continue to resolve this situation together? The noble Lord, Lord Bach, referred to Iran not having direct talks with the United States, but if Saudi Arabia and Iran can work together, that would be significantly helpful.

Finally, has there been any discussion in the Foreign Office and government about taking this issue to the United Nations Security Council? If there is one point where we need decisive action by the international community, it seems to be now. Events are moving very quickly indeed, so I exhort them to do so.

Baroness Warsi: My noble friend will be aware that the United States has said that all options are still on the table, but I can say that the United Kingdom is not planning a military intervention. We are looking urgently at other ways to help, examining where, for example, we can give support in relation to counterterrorism expertise.

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My noble friend makes an important point about regional players. Saudi Arabia and Iran of course have a role to play. Many of these groups and countries unfortunately feel a sense of affiliation to certain sections within Iraq and it is important that we stress again the need for stability and communities to work together. I am not aware of any proposals at this stage for United Nations Security Council involvement, but if I do I will certainly write to my noble friend.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, with regard to Iraq, can the noble Baroness say whether she has any information about the alleged presence inside Iraq of units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or indeed of any other Iranian forces? I ask that because, if there is any truth in that allegation, it could have a very destabilising effect. Secondly, will HMG consult with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government with a view to finding out whether Kurdish military forces could come to the assistance of, and possibly recover, the city of Mosul? If that could be done, it would enable a large number of displaced people to return to their homes and avoid the necessity of their being in camps.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, the situation on the ground is of course becoming clearer as each day goes by. Even the Iraqi Government were to some extent caught by surprise by the pace of what happened in the north. I cannot provide specific information on the noble Lord’s questions. I can say that the Iraqi Government will lead the protection of their communities. Of course, that will include the Kurdistan Regional Government, which is a part of the wider support in bringing stability to the country. We will of course support the Iraqi Government. That is why it is important that they are formed as soon as possible.

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend, the Foreign Secretary and all those working on the Ending Sexual Violence initiative at the Foreign Office on the global summit last week. As a member of the steering board of the initiative, I spent much of the week there, and it was truly impressive. It was a coming together of government Ministers from across the world, NGOs, campaigners and survivors. The events were numerous and very moving. I hope it has started a global movement that will draw a red line that makes sexual violence unacceptable in future.

What is happening now in Iraq is an illustration of exactly how important the initiative is. There has been so much sexual violence, often not publicly spoken about, in Syria, and it will be happening right now, as we speak, in Iraq. Can my noble friend please assure me that the situation for women and children there will be considered when the Government are thinking about how to address the overall situation?

Baroness Warsi: I pay tribute to the work of my noble friend. She has worked tirelessly on the issue and has been a huge asset in making the summit a success. Of course, sexual violence unfortunately takes place where security breaks down. We heard the harrowing accounts from victims where, tragically, women’s bodies are used as battlegrounds when conflict strikes.

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I think my noble friend will accept that this change will take time. Ultimately, it will happen when there is a culture change, when communities stand up and say, “This will not be tolerated”, wherever the conflict zone and whatever the situation on the ground, and when that support mechanism is there. When perpetrators know that if they commit, command or condone any form of sexual violence, they will be brought to justice, we will truly start to end this scourge.

Baroness Thornton (Lab): My Lords—

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (Ind UU): My Lords—

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I will be very quick, I promise the noble Lord.

First, I congratulate the Minister and her right honourable colleague the Foreign Secretary on their commitment and on the conference last week. It was a huge privilege and very moving—I agree with the noble Baroness—to attend that event, as I did on behalf of the equality scheme. I know that my colleagues from the FCO team were also there. It was also good to bump into my noble friend Lord McConnell and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. I spent most of Thursday there, and I was particularly impressed and moved by the exhibition by the women from the Congo and the workshop of young women from all over the world. It was a brilliant event, and I did tweet about it like mad all the way through.

Can the Minister give us some idea about the likely timescale and whether some thought has been given to the markers that will need to happen to get to where we want to be? She is quite right that this is a long haul. It is going to take some time but it seems that there are events happening across the world that need to be used to take this forward. I wondered whether some planning had been put into that.

I also wondered whether the Minister was as irritated as I was, and as I am sure other people were, by the comments that John Humphrys made on the “Today” programme this morning. He seemed to suggest that because Angelina Jolie is a very beautiful and famous woman it somehow undermined her support, which has been totally admirable and long-term, for this issue and that this meant that our Foreign Secretary did not have his eye on the ball on other issues. I wondered whether everybody else was as irritated as I was by that discussion.

Baroness Warsi: First, I thank the noble Baroness for her contribution at the summit and for her support for it. She is absolutely right that we must have milestones going forward and she will be heartened to know that already the work has started. Expert teams have been put in place and are working on the ground to help countries prepare their action plans. She will also be aware of two new indictments that have been accepted at the ICC, both with specific reference to sexual violence crimes. It is important that we see more prosecutions but those will be milestones in themselves. Further work will happen at the United Nations General Assembly meeting later this year but she can be assured that the Foreign Secretary is incredibly passionate about this issue. He and his team will make sure that it will continue to be taken forward.

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In terms of the comments, that is everyday sexism—what can we say about it? If there are men out there who believe that women cannot be beautiful and brainy, perhaps they should read the speech that the Foreign Secretary gave in Washington last year, when he said that it is finally time for women to take their place at the important tables where decisions are made and for their full economic, political and social participation, and that it is only then that we will have a truly fair society. I hope that the BBC will pick up Hansard.

Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne (LD): I congratulate the Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Government on last week’s superb conference, which I had the honour to attend and speak in. However, does the Minister not agree that it throws up a curious anomaly, which should be addressed—and I believe she would wish to address it—between the principled stand of the United Kingdom and that of the European Union on rape as a war crime? The European Union overrules the Geneva Convention by saying that medical care for women victims who have been impregnated in the war should not include abortion if that is against local law. The Minister will of course agree that the United Kingdom is the single biggest donor to ECHO and that the second and third biggest, which are France and the Netherlands, agree with us. Is there a possibility that the Minister would be willing to work on this important issue, since the European Union provides medical care for every single war zone globally and is therefore treating women victims purely on humanitarian grounds and not under the Geneva Convention?

While the Minister is concentrating on that question, perhaps I might ask an important question about Tikrit in northern Iraq. Will the British Government associate themselves with Tikrit in future as a wholly Kurdish city or would they be willing to comment—perhaps to the KRG as well as to the Baghdad Government—that since maybe only 25% of Tikrit’s population is Kurdish, having the Peshmerga contain the city as it is at the moment might cause further unrest in future once Mosul has been cleared? If Tikrit is already clear, might the Government be willing to put some pressure at that moment on the KRG?

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. I will go back on that issue and write to her because she raises a significant point about sexual violence in conflict. In relation to Tikrit, where conflict happens it creates an opportunity for some of these ongoing challenges around disputes to rear their head again. I am sure these will form part of the discussions that we will have with the Iraqi Government about forming and creating an environment in which these discussions can happen. We can then deal in a united way with making sure that the country is stable.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, I apologise to the Minister and to noble Lords that my slight impediment made me miss the first minute or so of her Statement. One is greatly heartened by the participation we have had in the conference to end sexual violence which arises as a result of warfare. I would like to ask the Minister specifically about Iraq. We and the West played a huge part in what is happening today. We

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gave our blessing to Nouri al-Maliki. For more than 10 years, 1,000 people a month have died in Iraq. It may be called democracy, but it is not what democracy is intended to deliver. I worry that we almost pass over the hint that our US allies talk about making an arrangement with Rouhani in Iran. Under Rouhani’s presidency we have had two executions virtually every day since he was elected. He and his Iranian revolutionary guards, the Quds force, have put tremendous pressure on al-Maliki. We have seen some of the outrages, such as the slaughter of unarmed Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf on 1 September 2013. In the present situation, should we not be looking outside the box? Are we not going to have a similar civil war—

Baroness Northover (LD): Especially as the noble Lord was not here at the beginning and we are over time, perhaps he would conclude.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: I will do my best. Is it not a fact that we will have a similar civil war to that happening in Syria if we do not—as the Minister

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suggested—get international intervention? She should know as well as I do that, unless we resolve the Iraqi problem with some sort of federal solution, we will not make any impact for the good of that community.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, of course we have interests with Iran and feel that it is an important player. It is an important part of the stability that can and will be created in the region. Even for somebody who was vehemently against the intervention in Iraq, it is wrong to distil everything down to a simplistic analysis. Not everything is due to western action or inaction. We have to be quite bold in saying to the region, to the people and to the Governments in these regions, “You have to take responsibility and create pluralistic Governments and societies where people feel that the rule of law applies”. It is only then that stability will be created.

House adjourned at 8.04 pm.