17 Nov 2015 : Column 1

House of Lords

Tuesday, 17 November 2015.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Birmingham.

Introduction: Lord Porter of Spalding

2.38 pm

Gary Andrew Porter, Esquire, CBE, having been created Baron Porter of Spalding, of Spalding in the County of Lincolnshire, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Taylor of Holbeach and Lord Feldman of Elstree, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord Shinkwin

2.44 pm

Kevin Joseph Maximilian Shinkwin, Esquire, having been created Baron Shinkwin, of Balham in the London Borough of Wandsworth, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Norton of Louth and Baroness Finlay of Llandaff, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Retirement of a Member: Lord Stewartby


2.49 pm

The Lord Speaker (Baroness D'Souza) (Non-Afl): My Lords, I should like to notify the House of the retirement, with effect from 12 November, of the noble Lord, Lord Stewartby, pursuant to the Section 1 of the House of Lords Reform Act 2014. On behalf of the House, I thank the noble Lord for his much valued service to the House.

Criminal Justice: Anonymity


2.49 pm

Asked by Lord Fowler

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to protect those who have not been charged with any offence from being named as under investigation.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, decisions to release the name of a suspect in an investigation are for the police to take. Such decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis, and the police should not release the names of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime except in exceptional circumstances.

Lord Fowler (Con): While I thank the Minister for that Reply, does he realise that in the case of our late and respected colleague Leon Brittan, the CPS told the police not once but four times that, in respect of an alleged case of rape half a century previously, he had no case to answer? However, that did not prevent his name being critically plastered over the media, even on the very day that he died. There have been similar cases, such as that of Paul Gambaccini, who, again, was named but never charged with any offence. Rigorous investigation should clearly take place in cases of rape and sexual abuse, but surely that should not be at the price of public injustice to innocent men and women.

Lord Bates: My noble friend is absolutely right to draw attention to this. When accusations of this vile nature are made against people who are subsequently found to be not guilty, it is a matter of incredible distress to them and their families. The police guidance on this is very clear. It says that the police should not release the names of those who are arrested or suspected of a crime unless there are clear circumstances to justify it. That means that such a decision should be taken by a chief officer and should not be the subject of informal press briefing: it ought to be communicated above the line. I am aware, as is my noble friend, that the

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Metropolitan Police has itself looked into this and has issued a letter of apology to Lady Brittan in respect of some allegations and conduct. It has also invited another constabulary to review its procedures. In this case, as in any other, there is also the possibility of referral to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick (Con): Does the Minister agree that the strictures on naming people in these circumstances should apply not just to the police but to the public and Members of the House of Commons and House of Lords? Is he aware of the evidence given to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee by Detective Chief Inspector Paul Settle, the senior investigating officer for Operation Fairbank? When commenting on the activities of Mr Tom Watson MP, who had called for the investigation into Leon Brittan, he said that it was a “baseless witch hunt”. Does the Minister also agree that Mr Watson’s letter to the DPP undermined the police and that his conduct was very damaging to future investigations into child abuse? Surely, Mr Watson’s activities were wholly reprehensible. He had a duty to inform the police, and then keep quiet.

Lord Bates: I appreciate my noble friend’s feelings, but he will understand that, because some aspects of these issues are the subject of ongoing review and investigation, it is not possible for me to comment further. Suffice it to say that, because of the seriousness of the allegations, it behoves every person in public life, wherever they are, to apply the most rigorous and judicious process to the words and language they use and to the accusations they make.

Lord Paddick (LD): My Lords, from detailed personal knowledge of the Paul Gambaccini case, from the beginning, it appears that the police feel under political pressure to investigate such cases to the nth degree, even when it becomes immediately apparent that a prosecution is unlikely. Does the Minister believe it is time for the Government to call on the police to exercise a more proportionate approach to such cases?

Lord Bates: This is a very difficult issue. We have historic cases in which very serious allegations were made, and in places such as Rotherham, Manchester and Oxford, there is often a public outcry and a feeling that the police have not taken the claims seriously enough. That has to be balanced against the right to fairness and due process throughout. In the past, child sexual exploitation has far too often been swept under the carpet; it needs to be brought out into the open and reviewed. That is why we set up the inquiry and why we have told the police that they need to investigate all allegations based on their credibility, rather than that of the complainant.

Lord Rosser (Lab): The Minister referred to the ACPO guidelines. If I understand them correctly, the guidelines accept that in exceptional circumstances, the police may release the name of a suspect if it is considered to be in the public interest to do so. Also, when a media organisation has already discovered a suspect’s name through investigative journalism and

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seek confirmation of it, the police are permitted to confirm the name. Do the Government believe that the ACPO guidelines should be amended or reviewed?

Lord Bates: The College of Policing guidelines on the relationship with the media are currently under review. A number of the points raised during this Question would merit submission to that review.

Lord Dear (CB): My Lords, the Minister mentioned apologies and the machinery for handling police complaints, but frankly, that does not go far enough. If I correctly sense the mood of your Lordships’ House, while all of us perhaps understand that there is some advantage on some occasions to publicising the identity of a person subject to inquiry, that is massively and frequently outweighed by the considerable reputational damage not only to those already in the public eye—public figures, if one likes—but to those who hitherto enjoyed anonymity. Is the Minister willing to explore with me and others introducing legislation at the earliest opportunity to prevent personal identification until the preferment of a charge by the police?

Lord Bates: That specific idea was raised by the Home Affairs Select Committee in one of its recommendations. As the noble Lord will know better than most, it gives rise to particular issues and difficulties when applied across the board in all cases. But it is certainly something we should look at, and there will be legislative opportunities, most notably in the Police and Criminal Justice Bill, to consider such issues further.

Lord Morris of Aberavon (Lab): My Lords, if injustice can occur in these circumstances, how is it justified to release names when there is no charge?

Lord Bates: The police very much need to deal with such issues on a case-by-case basis. I am struggling to think of particular circumstances, but they might include a threat to life, the prevention or detection of a crime, or public interest and confidence. Those are the tests that the police have to pass before it is done, and when it is done, it should be done in a formal way, not by leaking—which, of course, was the subject of another inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson, into the culture and ethics of the press.

Disabled People: Independent Living


2.58 pm

Asked by Baroness Campbell of Surbiton

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they are monitoring how local authorities disburse money previously disbursed from the Independent Living Fund to enable disabled people to live as independently as they were before the closure of that fund.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Baroness Altmann) (Con): My Lords, the Government are conducting research on the impact of the closure of the Independent Living Fund based on interviews with a sample of former users. They are also conducting research on the implementation of

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the Care Act 2014, which made the Independent Living Fund’s main features—personalisation, choice and control—part of the mainstream social care system.

Baroness Campbell of Surbiton (CB): I thank the Minister for her reply. Is she aware that two independent research reports, carried out by In Control and Scope, have been published in the past month? Both found that more than half of disabled people using social care can no longer get the support they need to live independently? Now that the Independent Living Fund has been transferred to the wider social care system, will the Government commit, in the spending review, to invest in social care that will directly ensure that disabled people’s independent living support continues in the future? It would be a travesty if it returns to 1980s provision.

Baroness Altmann: The Government are committed to ensuring that people who require care and support have choice and control over their lives, and they are aware that independent living is often vital to the well-being of those we are trying to assist. That is why the Government added the extra chapter to the Care Act guidance before closing the Independent Living Fund. We will be monitoring the situation, and local authorities now have a statutory duty to ensure minimum standards.

Baroness Brinton (LD): My Lords, many disabled people view local authorities as uncommitted to independent living. They say they face a different social worker each time, a lack of understanding of their needs and very bureaucratic assessment processes, leading to further stress for them. Can the Minister reassure your Lordships’ House that the Government have a plan in place to monitor council spending on independent living and to ensure that those in need can access the benefits to which they are entitled?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, the Government are committed to this matter and are following it up with research into both the general implementation of the Care Act and the specific impact on former users of the Independent Living Fund. We do not currently have any evidence that those affected by the closure of the Independent Living Fund, 94% of whom were already receiving local authority support, have been unable to maintain the standard of care they require.

Baroness Hollins (CB): My Lords, is the Minister aware that the recent survey by In Control, referred to by my noble friend, found a significant reduction in well-being among those receiving social support? Will not those transferring from the Independent Living Fund also be affected, and how will the Government prevent the situation getting worse for all those receiving care?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, the Government are committed to spending on care and support for those who are disabled and vulnerable. Indeed, every year between now and 2020, spending will increase beyond the 2010 level. Local authorities supported the changes to the Independent Living Fund, and people will now be dealing with only one system, whereas previously they dealt with two. The ILF was a discretionary trust; now, there is a statutory underpinning to protect users to the minimum required standard.

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Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, when will the Government take steps to make it the norm that people dependent on local authority support have a nominated member of the support team as their principal carer so that they establish a continuous relationship with somebody in the outside world?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, the Government believe that local authorities are best placed to decide what intervention and support disabled people require. I should add that all Independent Living Fund users had one-to-one visits, and reports were sent to local authorities before the scheme was closed.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, I can see that the Minister has a brief that requires her to tell us how committed the Government are, but I wonder whether she can listen to some of the stories she has heard today. From the comments made by the noble Baronesses, Lady Campbell, Lady Hollins and Lady Brinton, and from the two reports that have been mentioned, it is quite clear that there is very serious disquiet that people who used to get help from the ILF are not now getting it. Therefore, I ask her again: what plans do the Government have specifically to ensure that disabled people are able to get the care that they used to get and can expect to get in the future?

Baroness Altmann: My Lords, as I have said, we are monitoring the impact of the Independent Living Fund: 94% of users were already receiving local authority support. Local authorities have an obligation under the Care Act to meet the minimum standards required for all those who need care and support, including taking account of their requirement to live independently. I assure the House that the Government are committed to supporting those who need care and support. As I said, the spending will be higher each year between now and 2020 than it was in 2010. This will rely on local authorities carrying out their duties, which we will monitor.

Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting: Human Rights


3.05 pm

Asked by Baroness Berridge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they propose to take to raise human rights issues at the forthcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development (Baroness Verma) (Con): My Lords, Ministers will seek opportunities at CHOGM for constructive dialogue, while avoiding an approach that exposes divisions and entrenches positions. The UK remains absolutely committed to universal human rights. The Government are committed to combatting discrimination and violence and to promoting efforts to address human rights abuses throughout the Commonwealth more generally.

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Baroness Berridge (Con): I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. One important addition in many nations across the Commonwealth has been the development of national human rights institutions based on models akin to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. The chairmanship of the Commonwealth forum for those institutions is passing to the Northern Ireland commission. Will the Minister outline whether there are plans to give additional resources to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission so that it can perform its important convening role across the Commonwealth?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, the answer to my noble friend’s question is yes. I am pleased to confirm that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is making contributions from programme funds to allow the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission to take on its role as chair of the Commonwealth Forum of National Human Rights Institutions with an agreed fund.

Lord Chidgey (LD): My Lords, in December 2012, the Commonwealth charter was adopted. Under the heading “Human Rights”, it states:

“We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination, whether rooted in gender, race, colour, creed, political belief or other grounds”.

Yet almost three years later, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative report, Civil Society and the Commonwealth, found that the Commonwealth is not living up to its core values and is losing relevance to the international community. Will the Government therefore press at the Malta CHOGM for a Commonwealth ministerial action group on human rights abuses, particularly the use of obsolete 19th-century laws to prosecute homosexuality and other gender issues in this, the 21st century?

Baroness Verma: The noble Lord is absolutely right in highlighting the charter. We agree with him that we must push hard for the Commonwealth to meet those commitments under the charter. All forms of discrimination are unacceptable and we will do our bit at CHOGM to raise those questions with the countries that continue to abuse the charter.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB): My Lords, will Her Majesty’s Government use the opportunity of the summit to ensure a greater commitment to human rights within the Commonwealth by suggesting, on the lines already mentioned, the creation of a human rights task force within the secretariat to monitor and tackle human rights abuse wherever it occurs within this unique and important group of countries?

Baroness Verma: The noble Lord reiterates what the noble Lord, Lord Chidgey, said. The important thing is that there is a charter and we should ask all countries within the Commonwealth to uphold that charter. We need to push hard. It is not about creating more task forces; it is about pushing and working together to make sure that the Commonwealth is relevant in today’s world. In doing that, I hope that a new Secretary-General will, as part of their commitment and role, push hard for countries within the Commonwealth to adhere to the rules and regulations of the Commonwealth.

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Baroness Whitaker (Lab): Will the Government take the opportunity to make representations to the Government of Bangladesh about the assassination of humanists and others because they do not profess a religion?

Baroness Verma: The noble Baroness raises some important points. We have to make sure that no space is created where freedom of speech is not allowed. The UK Government raise this issue regularly as a matter of course. Wherever we can, we will make sure that all countries, including Bangladesh, that are closing the space for freedom of speech address these issues so that the Commonwealth meets its commitment to the Commonwealth charter.

Lord Cashman (Lab): My Lords, the criminalisation of homosexuality is a relic of our colonial past. Forty out of 53 Commonwealth countries criminalise homo- sexuality. At CHOGM, will the Government advocate and promote the decriminalisation of homosexuality within the Commonwealth, support those countries that have already done so and express regret for the UK’s historic role in the global criminalisation of homosexuality?

Baroness Verma: My Lords, I welcome the noble Lord to his post on the Front Bench and I look forward to working with him, particularly in this area. At CHOGM, I will be chairing the round table on LGBT issues. It is absolutely unacceptable in the 21st century that we are still looking at these issues, but we have to do it with sensitivity. We have to work with countries where these are sensitive issues and make sure that we continue to raise them while also working locally on the ground, with grass-roots organisations, to offer help and support.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, will my noble friend try to ensure that it is made plain to the new Government in Burma—or Myanmar, as it is sometimes called—that they would be most welcome in the Commonwealth?

Baroness Verma: My noble friend is right to raise the issue of the Burma elections, which allow us an opportunity to make some real progress with the reforms process that started in 2011. We look forward to working with Burma.

Lord Anderson of Swansea (Lab): My Lords, these are sensitive issues, but is it not true that all these Governments have signed the Commonwealth charter? Is the Government not distressed that, among the list of the worst offenders in, for example, the persecution of Christians are several Commonwealth countries, notably in south-east Asia? If the Commonwealth is serious, should it not have some means of monitoring or peer-reviewing how countries are performing in relation to their commitments under the charter?

Baroness Verma: Again, the noble Lord raises an important issue. We regularly urge Governments to protect the right to practise religious belief free from persecution and discrimination. We shall continue to do so.

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Rob Lawrie


3.13 pm

Asked by Lord Alton of Liverpool

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the French authorities about the case of Mr Rob Lawrie, arrested in France for attempting to rescue a refugee child and to bring her to her relatives in the United Kingdom.

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been in contact with the French authorities regarding Mr Lawrie’s arrest. It is ready to provide consular assistance to Mr Lawrie, should he request this. However, we cannot interfere with another country’s police investigation or judicial proceedings.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): I thank the Minister for his reply. Rob Lawrie, a former soldier now facing five years in prison, rescued a four year-old girl from the jungle camp at Calais. In the words of the petition now signed by 100,000 people, were these not the actions of

“an ordinary man who was trying to do the right thing in extraordinary circumstances”?

As we recoil in horror at the atrocities committed in Paris, and witness the many shocking consequences of mass migration, what are we doing to prioritise—as he tried to do—the special plight of children, thousands of whom are now reported to have gone missing and who have been caught up in events entirely beyond their control?

The Earl of Courtown (Con): My Lords, the noble Lord raises an incredibly important point. I am sure that the thought of all these children who have gone missing is quite appalling to all noble Lords. The noble Lord also refers to the Save the Children proposals. We looked very seriously at them but major international organisations, such as UNHCR, advised caution on relocating unaccompanied children. This is why the Dublin Regulations are so important in relation to the children who have come into Europe. It is important that we register and give identities to these children who find themselves on our shores.

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, has the child been reunited with her family?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, as I understand the situation, the child’s father is in Calais. However, I cannot give any more information at the moment, so I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale (Lab): My Lords, as we have discussed before in the Chamber, not only is the situation dire for these children when they arrive in Europe, it is dire when they arrive in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, as well as in Iraq. Does the Minister agree that the United Kingdom bears a special responsibility to those children who have been born in Iraq since 2003

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and who face the prospect of not having permanent schooling, being internally displaced, or living in fear of ISIL and other threats? Do the United Kingdom Government intend to support those children through UNICEF and other organisations to make sure that they have better opportunities in the future?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, the noble Lord makes some very pertinent points relating to children to Iraq. With regard to the Syrian resettlement scheme, the noble Lord and the whole House will be glad to hear that children and adolescents are being especially looked at for resettlement in the United Kingdom.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): Does the Minister agree that of the 10,000 children who have arrived in Italy, some 4,000 have gone missing? The situation we face today is very different from any that we have faced in the past, and that means that a rethink is needed by our Government, especially when they bring forward proposals in the new Immigration Bill. We must remember that children are our special concern. Lloyd George said that he wanted to build a world fit for heroes to live in; we want to build one fit for children to live in.

The Earl of Courtown: The noble Lord is quite right. I have not seen the figures he referred to, but obviously children are important for our future. I know that my colleagues in the department will be keeping a close watch on this debate.

Lord Hylton (CB): My Lords, will the Government ensure that an excessive burden of unaccompanied children does not fall on the county of Kent, where so many have been concentrated? Further, will they make sure that those children who have been taken in to local authority care do not then go missing?

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I understand that we are working on a redistribution, and I know that this is something which my honourable friend in another place, Mr Richard Harrington, is looking at.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab): My Lords, following on from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, the Minister will be aware that outcomes for looked-after children in this country are not especially good, and one might suspect that children who have had a particularly rotten start in life as refugees from a war zone are more vulnerable than most. What will the Government do to ensure that those children are looked after in a way that ensures that they have a good outcome for their adulthood?

The Earl of Courtown: I apologise, but I did not catch the whole of the question. It is our duty to do as much as possible to help these children and thus ensure their futures. I will write to the noble Baroness if there is anything more I can add.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, I think that the Minister referred to the report from Save the Children when he responded to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno. Will he undertake to meet representatives of Save the Children to discuss that

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report? As the noble Lord correctly said, it has identified some 10,000 children arriving in Italy in one recent year, 4,000 of whom have gone missing. I know that the noble Lord shares my concern about the actual implications of going missing.

The Earl of Courtown: My Lords, I will pass on that question to the Minister whose responsibility that is, if the noble Lord finds that acceptable.

Lord Thomas of Gresford (LD): My Lords, is the Minister aware that at the moment an exhibition in Prague runs the length of Wenceslas Square about the children who were brought to this country in 1938 by Sir Nicholas Winton in that magnificent humanitarian gesture of his? No other country would take those children. Is it not time that this Government adopted a similar principle towards the children who are clamouring for help in Europe at the moment?

The Earl of Courtown: The noble Lord reminds the House of the great work that was done at that period. The whole point is to try to stop these children making the journey in the first place. This is what we are working at through the departmental work and, particularly, with what has been happening in Valletta recently, where we have been concentrating on the Valletta action plan, which is to get people work and sustainable lives in their own countries.

G20 and the Paris Attacks


3.20 pm

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Stowell of Beeston) (Con): My Lords, with the leave of the House I will now repeat a Statement made by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister in another place. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the terrorist attack in Paris and the G20 in Turkey this weekend. On Paris, the Home Secretary gave the House the chilling statistics yesterday, and now we know that among the victims was a 36-year-old Briton, Nick Alexander, who was killed at the Bataclan. I know the thoughts and prayers of the whole House will be with the families and friends of all those affected. On Saturday I spoke to President Hollande to express the condolences of the British people and our commitment to help in whatever way we can.

After our horror and our anger must come our resolve and our determination to rid our world of this evil. So let me set out the steps we are taking to deal with this terrorist threat. The more we learn about what happened in Paris, the more it justifies the full-spectrum approach we have discussed before in this House.

When we are dealing with radicalised European Muslims, linked to ISIL in Syria and inspired by a poisonous narrative of extremism, we need an approach that covers the full range: military power, counter-terrorism, expertise and defeating the poisonous narrative that is the root cause of this evil. Let me take each in turn.

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First, we should be clear that this murderous violence requires a strong security response. That means continuing our efforts to degrade and destroy ISIL in Syria and Iraq. And, where necessary, it means working with our allies to strike against those who pose a direct threat to the safety of British people around the world.

Together, coalition forces have now damaged over 13,500 targets. We have helped local forces to regain 30% of ISIL territory in Iraq. We have helped to retake Kobane and push ISIL back towards Raqqa and, on Friday, Kurdish forces retook Sinjar.

The UK is playing its part—training local forces, striking targets in Iraq and providing vital intelligence support. Last Thursday, the United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria, targeting Mohammed Emwazi, the ISIL executioner known as Jihadi John. This was a result of months of painstaking work in which America and Britain worked hand in glove to stop this vicious murderer.

It is important that the whole House understands the reality of the situation we are in. There is no government in Syria we can work with, particularly not in that part of Syria. There are no rigorous police investigations or independent courts upholding justice in Raqqa. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots against our people. In this situation, we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing that things were different. We have to act to keep our people safe. And that is what this Government will always do.

Secondly, on counterterrorism here in the UK, over the past year alone our outstanding police and security services have already foiled no fewer than seven terrorist plots right here in Britain. The people in our security services work incredibly hard. They are a credit to our nation. We should pay tribute to them again in our House today, and now we must do more to help them in their vital work.

So in next week’s strategic defence and security review, we will make a major additional investment in our world-class intelligence agencies. This will include over 1,900 additional security and intelligence staff and more money to increase our network of counterterrorism experts in the Middle East, north Africa, south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

At the G20 summit in Turkey this weekend, we agreed additional steps better to protect ourselves from the threat of foreign fighters by sharing intelligence and stopping them travelling. We also agreed for the first time ever to work together to strengthen global aviation security. We need robust and consistent standards of aviation security in every airport in the world, and the UK will at least double its spending in this area.

Thirdly, to defeat this terrorist threat in the long run we must also understand and address its root causes. That means confronting the poisonous ideology of Islamist extremism itself and, as I have argued before, going after both violent and non-violent extremists. Those that sow the poison but stop short of promoting violence are part of the problem. We will improve integration, not least by inspecting and shutting down any educational institutions that are teaching intolerance,

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and we will actively encourage reforming and moderate Muslim voices to speak up and challenge the extremists, as so many already do.

It cannot be said enough that the extremist ideology is not true Islam, but it does not work to deny any connection between the religion of Islam and the extremists, not least because these extremists are self-identifying as Muslims. There is no point in denying that. We need to take apart their arguments and demonstrate how wrong they are. In doing so, we need the continued help of Muslim communities and Muslim scholars. They are playing a powerful role, and I commend them for their essential work. We cannot stand neutral in this battle of ideas. We have to back those who share our values with practical help, funding, campaigns, protection and political representation. This is a fundamental part of how we can defeat terrorism both at home and abroad.

Turning to the G20 summit, there were also important discussions on Syria and on dealing with other long-term threats to our security, such as climate change. Let me briefly address them. On Syria, we discussed how we can do more to help all those in desperate humanitarian need and how to find a political solution to the conflict. Britain, as has often been said, is already providing £1.1 billion in vital life-saving assistance, which makes us the second-largest bilateral donor in the world. Last week, we committed a further £275 million to be spent in Turkey, a country hosting more than 2 million refugees. In February the United Kingdom will seek to raise further significant new funding by co-hosting a donors conference in London together with Germany, Norway, Kuwait and the United Nations.

None of this is a substitute for the most urgent need of all: to find a political solution that brings peace to Syria and enables the millions of refugees to return home. Yesterday, I held talks with President Putin. We reviewed the progress made by our Foreign Ministers in Vienna to deliver a transition in Syria. We still have disagreements, there are still big gaps between us, but there is progress. I also met President Obama and European leaders at the G20 and we agreed some important concrete steps forward, including basing some British aircraft alongside other NATO allies at the airbase in Incirlik, if that is the decision of the North Atlantic Council that will meet shortly. They would be in an air defence role to support Turkey at this difficult time.

We also agreed about the importance of stepping up our joint effort to deal with ISIL in Iraq, Syria and wherever it manifests itself. This raises important questions for our country. We must ask ourselves whether we are really doing all we can be doing, all we should be doing, to deal with the threat of ISIL and the threat it poses to us directly not just through the measures we are taking at home, but by dealing with ISIL on the ground in the territory it controls.

We are taking part in air strikes over Iraq, where we have struck more than 350 targets and where significant action has been taken in recent hours, but ISIL is not present just in Iraq. It is operates across the border in Syria, a border that is meaningless to it because, as far as ISIL is concerned, it is all one space. It is in Syria —in Raqqa—that ISIL has its headquarters and it is

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from Raqqa that some of the main threats against this country are planned and orchestrated. Raqqa, if you like, is the head of the snake.

Over Syria we are supporting our allies—the US, France, Jordan and the Gulf countries–with intelligence, surveillance and refuelling. But I believe, as I have said many times before, we should be doing more. We face a direct and growing threat to our country and we need to deal with it, not just in Iraq, but in Syria too. I have always said there is a strong case for us doing so; our allies are asking us to do this and the case for doing so has only grown stronger after the Paris attacks. We cannot and should not expect others to carry the burdens and the risks of protecting our country.

I recognise that there are concerns in this House. What difference would action by the UK really make? Could it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? Above all, how would a decision by Britain to join in strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy to bring the war in Syria to an end? I understand these concerns and I know they must be answered. I believe they can be answered. Many of them were expressed in the recent report by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

My firm conviction is that we need to act against ISIL in Syria. There is a compelling case for doing so. It is for the Government, I accept, to make that case to this House and to the country. I can therefore announce that as a first important step to do so, I will respond personally to the report of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. I will set out our comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East. This strategy—in my view—should include taking the action in Syria I have spoken about. I hope that setting out the arguments in this way I can help build support right across the House for the action I believe it is necessary to take. That is what I am going to be putting in place over the coming days and I hope colleagues from across the House will engage with that and make clear their views so we can have a strong vote in the House of Commons and do the right thing for our country.

Finally, the G20 also addressed other longer-term threats to global security. In just two weeks’ time, we will gather in Paris to agree a global climate change deal. This time, unlike Kyoto, it will include the USA and China. Here at this summit, I urged leaders to keep up the ambition of limiting global warming by 2050 to less than two degrees above pre-industrial levels. Every country needs to put forward its programme for reducing carbon emissions and as G20 countries we must also do more to provide the financing that is needed to help poorer countries around the world switch to greener forms of energy and adapt to the effects of climate change.

We also agreed that we should do more to wipe out the corruption that chokes off development, and deal with antimicrobial resistance. Corruption is the cancer at the heart of so many of the problems the world faces today, from migrants fleeing corrupt African states to corrupt Governments undermining our efforts on global poverty by preventing people getting the revenues and the services that are rightfully theirs. While if antibiotics

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stop working properly—the antimicrobial resistance issue—millions will die unnecessarily. These are both vital issues on which the United Kingdom is taking a real lead.

Let me conclude by returning to the terrorist threat. Here in the UK the threat level is already severe, which means an attack is highly likely and will remain so. That is why we continue to encourage the public to remain vigilant and we will do all we can to support our police and intelligence agencies as they work around the clock. The terrorist aim is clear. It is to divide us and to destroy our way of life. Now more than ever we must come together and stand united, carrying on with the way of life that we know and love. Tonight England play France at Wembley. The match goes ahead. Our people stand together as they have done so many times throughout history when faced with evil. Once again, together we will prevail. I commend this Statement to the House”.

3.34 pm

Baroness Smith of Basildon (Lab): My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. I am sure other noble Lords shared similar emotions to mine as we watched the horror of the attacks in Paris unfold on Friday evening. Such deliberate, calculated evil is almost impossible to comprehend, especially in such a beautiful city, where so many of us will have happy memories and remember good times.

I totally endorse the comments already made about our thoughts and prayers being with those who were murdered and maimed, their friends and their families, but also with the citizens of Paris and the whole of France, whose lives and confidence have changed dramatically as a result of what happened on Friday evening. There can never be any justification for such acts of terror, so we share their hurt, their anger and their resolve. We also share the determination to protect our citizens, and those of other countries, from such attacks. Such violent attacks are totally indiscriminate. Those of all faiths and none can be killed, maimed or lose loved ones, and those of all faiths and none have come together to condemn universally those responsible, without reservation.

I reiterate and reinforce the commitments made by my colleagues in the other place: this is an issue above and beyond any party politics. A Government’s first duty is to the safety, security and well-being of their citizens, and we will work with the Government to fulfil that duty.

The Prime Minister outlined the action that has already been taken with our international allies to tackle those who create death, mayhem and fear. I welcome that he acknowledged, and said that he understands, the concerns raised by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee and others about the way forward, and how and whether further military action, such as airstrikes on Syria, should be part of that response. We welcome his commitment to respond personally, as the noble Baroness said.

I know the noble Baroness understands the huge human cost of the conflict in Syria and the necessity for a full, strategic plan to seek a politically sustainable

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resolution that will bring peace to Syria, and for a longer-term strategic plan to seek to deal with the aftermath. The thousands who have fled their homes include so many of those who will be needed to return to build the peace. The Prime Minister’s comments at the G20 yesterday, when he said:

“I think people want to know that there is a whole plan for the future of Syria”,

and for,

“the future of the region”,

were widely welcomed. To be successful, any plan will need national and international support.

I shall raise specific questions about security here at home. We welcome the additional support and money being made available for security and intelligence. We welcome the announcement of greater resources for tackling cybercrime and terrorism. But when asked, when he made the Statement today in the other place, about the role of community and front-line policing—given the cuts that have been made and are being planned to the “eyes and ears” on the ground—the Prime Minister did not respond.

There are many in your Lordships’ House who, through professional experience, can provide real examples of how community policing is essential and successful in tackling crime and terrorism. On 28 October, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Bates, about this very issue. My Question was prompted by those in the most senior roles in counterterrorism in the UK being very clear that community police, through the normal course of their work, pick up intelligence and information that is essential to fighting serious crime and identifying terrorism threats. Of the proposed further cuts in policing, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, said:

“I genuinely worry about the safety of London”.

I understand that the noble Baroness is unlikely to answer a question that the Prime Minister failed to, but can she assure your Lordships’ House that she recognises the seriousness of this issue? Will she commit to raise it directly with the Prime Minister and report back to your Lordships’ House?

Those seeking to leave and enter this country, including British citizens, will face increased levels of checks and security at borders. It is right that visitors and refugees fleeing the brutality of ISIL and chaos in the region should be subject to such security, but the noble Baroness will also know of the reductions made in border security staff at ports and airports. What plans are there to ensure that staffing levels will be appropriate to deal with the increased level of security required?

In recent years, the Government have introduced a number of new measures designed to tackle terrorism. One referred to in the Statement, which the noble Lord, Lord Bates, and I discussed at length in the course of a recent Bill, is about closing down any educational institutions teaching intolerance. Is this commitment and others to be met from existing resources, or will new resources be made available? To what extent is the Treasury involved in such decisions on new powers?

Lastly on security, the Prime Minister said in his responses that all members of the Privy Council can receive security briefings on these issues. The noble Baroness may be aware that I have previously requested

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such briefings when speaking for the Opposition on security and counterterrorism, but I was not successful in receiving any. The Official Opposition in the other place has welcomed the briefings to date, so will she confirm the Prime Minister’s commitment to briefings for privy counsellors?

I welcome the understandably brief comments at the end of the Statement on the other issues that were raised at the G20. Specifically on global warming, we welcome the fact that the USA and China will join the Paris talks and we look forward to hearing more on that after the conference. However, the noble Baroness also referred to the UK taking the lead on action to tackle corruption in a number of areas. This is essential. I appreciate that there is not enough time today to cover the whole range of issues that this raises, but can she provide further information on the areas and the success of any measures that have been taken? If the noble Baroness is unable to respond today, perhaps she will write with more details.

Finally, in the Statement, the noble Baroness, repeating the Prime Minister, asked the public to be vigilant. We must, of course, do that, but let us also pay tribute to those in the emergency services and the first responders, who never know from day to day what they may have to attend to. It is right that this House should recognise their service.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness the Leader of the House for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement. On behalf of my noble friends, I join in condemning the atrocities in Paris on Friday evening, and those who perpetrated them. I also offer condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed, those who were injured and those whose lives will have been shattered. I also join the noble Baroness the Leader of the Opposition in paying tribute to the emergency services and the ordinary citizens who responded with such evident compassion and help.

I also ask the noble Baroness the Leader of the House to join me in expressing sympathy for the victims of the suicide bombings in Beirut on Thursday, which killed more than 40 people as they, too, went about their daily lives. It is important to send a signal by showing our solidarity with the people of Beirut, as we do—rightly—with the people of Paris. While ISIL likes to frame the conflict as one between the West and Islam, is not the truth that, day in, day out, ISIL is murdering scores of Muslim believers?

We, too, support what the Government are doing. We accept that the primary duty of any Government is to safeguard their citizens. I welcome the announcement of additional support for the security services in general and for strengthening cybersecurity in particular. I hope the Leader of the House will endorse what the Prime Minister has said in another place about the importance of safeguarding human rights. ISIL detests our diversity, our freedoms and our values; we let it win if we compromise on any of these.

I also echo what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, said about police funding. Reassurances have been given about the counterterrorism element of police funding. I will not elaborate on what she said because she very clearly and concisely put the point about the

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importance of community policing and the intelligence-gathering that can be done through it. I repeat her request to the Leader of the House to recognise the strength of feeling on this and to undertake to take the matter up with the Prime Minister.

It would be very easy, in the aftermath of such outrages, to make knee-jerk, rather than properly considered, responses. I therefore welcome the fact that the Prime Minister says that he will respond personally to the report from the Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in the House of Commons on military intervention in Syria. I also welcome the Prime Minister’s acknowledgement that many questions and concerns have been raised—including some from these Benches—about the wisdom of joining in airstrikes and adding our explosives to the tons that have already been dropped on Syria. Specifically, the Prime Minister, in articulating some of these concerns, asked what difference action by the UK would make. Would it make the situation worse? How does the recent Russian action affect the situation? How, above all, would a decision by Britain to join strikes against ISIL in Syria fit into a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and a diplomatic strategy for bringing the war in Syria to an end?

He went on to say:

“I understand those concerns, and they must be answered. I believe that they can be answered”.

I do not expect the noble Baroness to give us the answers today, but will she give us some indication of when those questions are likely to be answered? When the Prime Minister says that he will set out a comprehensive strategy for dealing with ISIL and our vision for a more stable and peaceful Middle East, will he also be consulting our allies before he makes that announcement on his strategy? It is important that we reflect on the allies. He has said that progress has been made in Vienna to deliver transition in Syria, but we are entitled to ask some questions about the nature of the international coalition. It is important that it is international. We have called in the past for engagement with Russia and Iran but clearly, too, there are a number of different countries and partners—such as the Sunni monarchies in the Gulf and Turkey—that do not all share the same priorities and objectives. Trying to pull together that coalition is clearly a complex matter. What specific steps are the United Kingdom Government taking to make sure that when these talks take place and a coalition is being put together, everyone is pulling in the same direction?

At home, the Statement recognises the importance of engaging with the Muslim communities. Britain’s diverse Muslim communities are affected by conflict and they are as well aware as anyone of the efforts being made by those who would pervert Islam to try to sow poison in those communities. We need an active dialogue with the leaders of our Muslim communities on an appropriate response. When she held office, the noble Baroness, Lady Warsi, did sterling work in taking this forward and I would welcome reassurances that the level of work and engagement that she undertook continues to be undertaken by Ministers.

Finally, the Statement also referred to climate change. Not surprisingly, given the enormity of what happened on Friday, it has been somewhat overlooked but it will

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be in Paris next month that people gather again to discuss climate change. The Secretary of State at DECC is reported to have indicated recently that the forecast is that we will manage only 11.5% of energy from renewables by 2020, rather than the EU obligation of 15%. Can the Minister confirm this and, if it is indeed the case, will she not take the opportunity that this House has provided by taking out the clause that would accelerate the ending of the renewables obligation for onshore wind? Perhaps she could reflect again on that and just quietly drop it.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, for their comments and support for the remarks of the Prime Minister in his Statement. I certainly share in the warm thanks of the noble Baroness for everything that the emergency services do in and around our country, alongside the security services, in keeping us safe. I understand very much the risks that they face.

Various points and questions were put to me, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, raised a number about policing, which were echoed by the noble and learned Lord. I will make a few points in response. First, it is absolutely this Government’s commitment that the police forces should have the resources necessary to do their work. In the previous Government and this Government, we have not just protected the funding for counterterrorism policing but are actually increasing it, as has been announced in the last few weeks. More general police funding will be part of the spending review but it is worth noting that, over the last few years, the police have worked very hard to achieve efficiencies in police forces in order for them to apply their resources to front-line policing. Community policing numbers have actually risen in recent years.

Secondly, the noble Baroness raised points about additional resources for counter-extremism and protecting our borders. It has been evident from what we have said in the last few days—not in response to the events in Paris but as part of a clear plan for ensuring that the right funding is available for these essential services—that we are putting money where it needs to be and that by having a growing economy, we are ensuring that we use our resources effectively, in the way that is needed to deliver the security that we all expect.

The noble Baroness raised a point about briefings for privy counsellors, and I will take that issue away. I certainly do not want to exclude her from any appropriate briefing that is available for privy counsellors. I will get back to her outside the Chamber.

The noble Baroness also asked about corruption’s being on the agenda at the G20 summit. This is a matter on which the UK has very much taken the lead. One of the steps we have taken, which other countries are now following, is to ensure greater publication and transparency of ownership of companies. We will be implementing a public register of company ownership in the UK from next year, and hosting an anti-corruption summit next year. We believe, as I said in the Statement, that this is a big contributing factor to overall safety in global matters. I am pleased that we are very much in the forefront of action in that regard.

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The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, rightly referred to the terrible attack by ISIL in Beirut a few days before that which took place in Paris. I very much share his view and the point he made that ISIL is quite indiscriminate: it is not attacking just western countries but a range of different countries. We must never ignore the fact that this is a group of extremists, of violent people—the Prime Minister has called them a “death cult”—who attack Muslims as well as people of other religious faiths. The noble and learned Lord asked about protecting human rights and liberties. Of course, these terrorists—this evil group—are trying to remove from us our liberties and our belief in liberty and the way of life we hold so dear. We are taking steps to combat them in order to protect the liberties and human rights which are an important part of our society.

The noble and learned Lord asked various questions about the response the Prime Minister will make to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee in the other place. He also asked what discussion there has been and will be between the United Kingdom and allies who, like us, are seeking to defeat ISIL and bring stability to the Middle East. The Prime Minister held several bilateral talks while he was in Turkey yesterday, and the Foreign Secretary was very much involved in and at the forefront of talks in Vienna at the weekend. We continue to talk and remain in contact with all interested parties in this way.

We are just recognising as a House one of the reasons why some of our allies are keen for us to go further than we have. Although we are not contributing militarily in Syria in the way that other countries are, we are doing an awful lot already in contributing to the effort against ISIL. Noble Lords have heard me talk about the contribution we have made in air strikes in Iraq. Some of our ground forces are training Iraqi ground forces on combating IEDs—we are doing a lot to support the coalition.

Some of those countries are keen for us to get involved further, particularly with the air strikes, because we have some of the best equipment for targeting these terrorists in a way which protects civilians. Other countries, including the United States, do not have this. By contributing to the military effort in Syria, we could make a big contribution not just by attacking ISIL, but by doing so in a way that affords greater protection to civilians.

The noble and learned Lord mentioned climate change and the Paris summit in a couple of weeks’ time. Clearly, this remains an important priority for us, and we are committed, as we have been throughout, to making our contribution to tackling climate change and ensuring that all other countries make their effort as well.

Lord Gardiner of Kimble (Con): Your Lordships will, I hope, be pleased to know that the question time period has been extended to half an hour, which I hope will be good news—but that will enable more questions rather than lengthy questions.

3.54 pm

Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB): My Lords, if a killer disease was rampant, every effort would be made to find its causes and the environment in which it

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thrives. With Islamic extremism, we need to do much more to look at the ways in which radicalisation takes place. There are verses in the Koran that were written for particular circumstances 500 years ago, when the infant community was being besieged and its very existence threatened—words such as, “Kill them wherever you find them”, which are pretty direct. They were written for different circumstances, but they are being used today by those people who want to radicalise disadvantaged youths, or youths generally, to move them towards this extremism. Do the Government agree that they and the Muslim community need to do much more to ensure that young people in mosques understand the context in which some of these verses are written—and that, perhaps, the explanation should be in English?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, we published the counter-extremism strategy in October. It is very important to stress that it is about supporting mainstream and inclusive Muslimist voices, and showing that we actively back them. There are four strands to our counter-extremism strategy, and building cohesion among communities and ensuring that we take steps to prevent the radicalisation that is such a serious threat is very much part of that.

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, will the Government consider expediting the enactment of the Investigatory Powers Bill, perhaps with a sunset clause and detailed post-legislative scrutiny, to ensure that the security services have the proportionate facilities they need, and to enable an informed judgment to be made of the provisions in action?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I know that the noble Lord and many others in this House are concerned, and rightly so, to ensure that our security services and counterterrorism measures are adequate for the threat we face. If there was any suggestion that that was not the case, clearly, we would want to look at that and take the necessary steps. The Investigatory Powers Bill, which is about to receive pre-legislative scrutiny, is landmark legislation that futureproofs the existing legislation, which gives the powers the security services need at this time. So while the noble Lord makes some interesting points, what is important is that that Bill receives the proper scrutiny that Parliament expects it to receive. However, at the same time, I assure the noble Lord and the House that, if there is anything the security services do not have now that they need to do their work, we will review that legislation and reconsider our approach to it.

The Lord Bishop of Birmingham: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her repeating of the Statement and, from these Benches, join your Lordships in offering our sympathy for the tragic loss of life and the injuries that occurred in Paris—and, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, said, in other parts of the region, in recent weeks.

On the area of ideology, the third of area in the Statement, can the Minister go a bit further? While we make every effort, as we must, to deal with this issue by military power and by counterextremism measures, the area of ideas is a matter which I ask the Minister to consider very seriously in terms of quite small but

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important resources, as we try to develop the right relationships in the community that the Prime Minister so wants—not just asking Muslims to argue for a good Islam, but also to join people of faith, or no faith, of all parts in developing right thinking, friendship and deep relationships, which will allow us to move on from this ghastly use of violence into a more integrated society. Will she also encourage us to make a successful integration of the new wave of Syrian refugees fleeing from death in their own country?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The right reverend Prelate makes an important set of points about the importance of cohesion and for us to all unite around a clear set of values that are so important to our own way of life. In the counterextremism strategies that I have already referred to, a big part is about supporting different communities and cohesion among communities. The Prime Minister has been clear about the importance of British values. This is something that we are keen as a Government to promote. As a country, we should not shy away, as we may have in the past, from saying that our values as British people are the ones that—whoever we are, whatever our faith—must unite us and are so important to the way in which we continue to prosper.

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con): Does my noble friend accept that the efforts of our right honourable friend the Prime Minister are very welcome in trying to nudge Mr Putin into a more co-operative and commonsense approach to the horrors of ISIL? Should we not now put aside further hesitations on this point and take firm decisions by the Executive of this country and others to pull together regional and global powers to support efforts by, for instance, Jordan to cut into the heartland of ISIL territory—and to do so on the ground, against a ruthless enemy who is not open to dialogue, does not believe in political discussion of any kind, and will not be dislodged just by bombing?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The Prime Minister has talked about a comprehensive approach and his overall strategy. That very much involves not just the way in which we are currently supporting the region and the way in which he is talking about extending military action, it is also about supporting neighbouring countries and working with them in the region. The points that my noble friend makes are well made, and certainly very much in the Prime Minister’s mind as he considers how best to respond to the current situation.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab): My Lords, there is a great deal in the Prime Minister’s Statement with which I concur—not least his sentence which was very simple but should mean a lot to all of us:

“In this situation we do not protect the British people by sitting back and wishing things were different”.

In that context, I make just two comments to the Leader of the House. First, it is absolutely proper that we should be engaged in trying to find a political solution to some of the problems in Syria, but we would be operating under a delusion and deceiving the people of this country if we implied that even should a political solution—with President Assad or without him—be achieved tomorrow, it would solve the problem of ISIL. It will not. This is part of a long-running,

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generational attempt to establish an Islamo-fascist empire under people who will stop at nothing. Therefore, it is to delude the people of this country to say that opposing ISIL is somehow made redundant if we achieve a political solution.

The second thing is what is missing from the Statement in terms of domestic security. Last week I asked the relevant Minister, and received assurances, about the scrutiny of refugees coming to this country. However, 750 UK citizens have gone off to Syria, 450 of whom have come back. They are prime facie not only sympathisers but active supporters of the atrocities that have been carried out by ISIL abroad, and there is every reason to suspect that they will continue that sympathy, and potentially that action, in this country. What are the Government doing about the 450 who have come back, and why was there no mention of them in today’s Statement?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord argued in his first point that finding a political solution in Syria would not render our efforts to destroy ISIL redundant. I agree; he is absolutely right. On his question about those Britons who have left the UK, gone to Syria and elsewhere and then returned, the measures that we introduced in the Counter-terrorism and Security Act, which was passed by Parliament earlier this year, were designed specifically to address this kind of threat.

Lord King of Bridgwater (Con): My Lords, I strongly commend the Prime Minister’s Statement that my noble friend has repeated on the response to the terrible tragedy and outrage in Paris.

There is an aspect of the Statement that I regret. It rightly says that, recognising the threats that we face, intelligence is a crucial first line of defence for this country—one or two breakdowns in that respect may have contributed to the disasters in Paris. It also says that we will do all that we can to support the intelligence and security services. If I may make one small point, I do not think this Parliament has done that. For more than two years, we have been trying to consider the gaps that exist in our armoury of what is available to our intelligence services to protect our country. Two weeks ago in this House I asked a question about the Investigatory Powers Bill, pointing out that we are now embarked on a pretty leisurely process which, if we are lucky, will get those powers into effect by next September or October. I wondered at that time what events might happen between now and then. I am all too sorry that within two weeks that has proved to be the case.

I have one constructive suggestion. Following on from the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I do not think it realistic to take the whole of this huge Investigatory Powers Bill through on some accelerated process, but there is one element in it that the Home Secretary has indicated is the one additional power that she wants: the retention of internet communications data, which might enable us to identify some of the links that obviously existed in the attack in Paris and the way that it was organised. I suggest that, by discussions through all the usual channels, this particular element in the Bill is taken out and dealt with by an Order in Council and emergency regulations, with a sunset clause, so that it is operational while the normal parliamentary

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procedures for the Investigatory Powers Bill can continue in the way proposed by the Government without the liability that we do not yet have the crucial power that the Home Secretary has identified as being essential.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: On my noble friend’s first point about the security services and intelligence being our first line of defence in this country, I agree that they are the first line of defence and do magnificent service for this country. Indeed, I think that the UK’s intelligence services are very much seen as the best in the world.

I am not sure that I agree with him that we have not supported them in the way that they need in order to do their work. We have ensured that they have all the funding and additional resources that they need, and I am sure that the House will be familiar with the range of different announcements that the Government have made, as I have already referred to, in the past few days.

We will keep the Investigatory Powers Bill under review. If there is anything in the draft Bill which the security services need now to do their work but do not have, we will certainly reconsider our approach. However, my noble friend must accept that the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act, which we passed in July, brought into force the additional powers which the security services need, but they expire at the end of next year. The Investigatory Powers Bill will make sure that we enshrine and protect those powers for the future. It is about future-proofing powers, rather than giving new ones.

Lord Wright of Richmond (CB): My Lords, I note that the Statement makes no reference to the Government’s announcement, last week, that we are still providing munitions to the so-called moderate rebels. Does the noble Baroness the Leader of the House accept that, instead of pouring more fuel on the fire of the Syrian civil war, we ought to be persuading the rebels whom we call our friends to enter into talks with what our American friends, at least, still regard as the Syrian Government in Damascus?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The United Kingdom has been ensuring that we support the moderate forces which oppose Assad in their efforts to fight him and ISIL. They have regained some important territory and are making some progress. We need to encourage them to go further and that is where we are focusing our efforts.

Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon (LD): My Lords, remembering the baleful effect that ensued when George Bush Jr used the word “crusade” in the context of the second Gulf War, does the Minister agree that the language we choose at this moment is extremely important? In this context, does she agree that use of the word “war” is, at best, unhelpful and perhaps even unwise, given that it will only reinforce the Manichean view of the terrorists? Does that also apply to the Prime Minister’s favourite phrase, which is that we are fighting for “western values”, when we are, in fact, fighting for the universal values that underpin all the great religions and philosophies, including Islam?

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Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Lord is right that language is very important, at any time, and certainly so at a time of great sensitivity. As to the Prime Minister’s use of language and what we are fighting for, he has been clear, on very many occasions, about the importance of protecting the way of life which all of us in the West enjoy and which many in other parts of the globe look to and want for themselves.

Lord Rooker (Lab): In the main, I would oppose fast-tracking the Investigatory Powers Bill. Much of it concerns modernising the authorisations. It is right that we do that: nobody is arguing that the present system will prevent what needs to be done. However, I served on the RUSI panel, which gave evidence about this sort of thing, and if, as the noble Lord, Lord King, said, there is a need to take out a couple of clauses then I would support that. The international internet companies need reminding: not one of them would ever have been able to start their businesses in China, Russia or any of the other oppressive states in the world. They relied on doing it in western, liberal democracies. If the extra powers are needed just to retain some information to assist the security services in protecting our people, then it would be legitimate to fast-track them. Their opposition to it would be damaging to their own customers.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I hope I have made it clear, in responding to several questions on this, that if there is any need for us to reconsider that Bill, we will. However, at the moment I am confident in the approach we are taking.

Baroness Afshar (CB): My Lords, have the Government considered why educated, bright, French or Belgian-born Muslims are driven into extremism? These are people who know no Arabic, have no understanding of their religion and actually train in order to find an alternative so that they are recognised and valued. Is it not necessary to start at the very beginning?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The noble Baroness is right. That is why we, in this country, are trying to tackle the root causes and reasons, and to prevent young men—and women—being influenced and adopting a mindset that is clearly and completely wrong. That is part of our overall comprehensive approach; it has to be because we have to combat this evil ideology.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch (UKIP): My Lords, in that vein, I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to inspect and shut down any educational institutions which teach Islamist intolerance and, I presume, violence. Can the noble Baroness confirm that this policy will include all evening madrassahs and, indeed, our mosques, where so much of the poison is spread?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, it will include any establishment where this kind of extremism—non-violent and violent—is being pursued. We can no longer tolerate a situation where it is okay for somebody to espouse extremist views and stop short of inciting violence. Because of that, we are committed to taking all necessary steps. As the noble Baroness said a moment ago, we have to ensure that people are not in a position where they are influenced by or attracted to this kind of ideology, which is so damaging and dangerous.

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Lord Tebbit (Con): My Lords, does my noble friend take as much encouragement as I do from the extent of the support all around the House for the guts of the Government’s policy on this? Will she advise the Prime Minister, if he needs it, to listen to that advice and not to the leader of the Opposition?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My noble friend is right in saying that there is widespread support for the measures that we have already committed to taking, and I am very grateful for that. The Prime Minister said very clearly today that he knows that he and the Government have a responsibility to come forward and make their case for the additional steps that we believe are right, and that is what he is going to do. He hopes very much that by doing that in a very clear way, he will attract strong support for the additional action that is necessary to keep this country and its people safe.

Lord Grocott (Lab): Is it not perhaps an unpalatable truth that the progressive removal of border controls—and, indeed, the virtual elimination of boundaries between many countries of Europe—while very good news for law-abiding people, can have pretty serious consequences so far as the movement of terrorists across Europe is concerned? Has the Leader of the House seen reports that it is now a deliberate strategy of the terrorists to make plans for terrorist attacks in one country and implement them in another? Given the dangers facing Europe at the moment, is not the progressive removal of border controls—not, of course, applicable to the UK—an aspect that heads of Governments need to look at?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: As the noble Lord has just acknowledged, we are not part of the Schengen agreement. We remain very committed to retaining our borders and to policing them strongly. As we have announced in the past few days, we are taking even more steps towards, and investing further in, protecting those borders. We also play a big part in protecting the outside borders of Schengen agreement countries. However, I agree with the noble Lord that this raises very serious issues that have to be considered by countries that are part of Schengen.

Lord Elton (Con): My Lords, we neglect the home front at our very great peril. The Statement rightly says that the terrorists’ aim is clear: it is to divide us and destroy our way of life. We therefore need to strengthen everything that holds our society together, and that lead must be given by the Government. We have to demonstrate that they are a Government for the whole people, not part of the people. Where things appear to bear down unfairly not only on members of ethnic minorities but on our indigenous community, such as we saw demonstrated a fortnight ago, it is essential that the Government put themselves in a position that shows that we are all on the same side in this and no longer fragmented.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My noble friend is right that good governance is about governing for all the people and about being clear about the principles and values to which a country expects its citizens to

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subscribe. That is an important part of what makes us British. I say to my noble friend that one of the problems in countries such as Syria that needs to be addressed as part of the overall approach towards civility in the region relates to good governance and to those in charge governing for all the people.

Lord Lea of Crondall (Lab): My Lords, the language that we use was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ashdown, and, by implication, many others. Does the Minister agree that there is no contradiction in, on the one hand, using very severe language to describe the bloody extremism, fascism and so on of a tiny minority and, on the other hand, using language to describe the civilisation that is common to all of us, going back to the Indus Valley, the Nile Valley, Mesopotamia, Assyria and so on? That is our common civilisation and it needs to be emphasised. It is not a question of thrusting it down people’s throats; rather, it is a question of nurturing the great majority. There is a need to use language to describe our common civilisation in order to make some purchase in that territory.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: The two words that are important for all of us are “freedom” and “liberty”, and they are words that I will certainly continue to promote in the discourse that we have on this topic in the months ahead.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton (CB): My Lords, the Prime Minister uses the word “generation” very frequently and it is also used by others. Does that mean that this is a challenge that is going to last for a generation? Is that not extremely pessimistic?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My Lords, I think it is a question of being realistic rather than pessimistic.

Lord Avebury (LD): My Lords—

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes (Con): My Lords—

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: My noble friend has been trying to get in from the very beginning.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, although tiptoeing across some very dangerous ground, I should like to expand on what the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, said, which I endorse wholeheartedly. Among all the difficult problems that the EU has to consider at present, surely it must now be a priority for it to consider the question of having open borders—both the extent to which they exist today and the extent to which they facilitated the dreadful scenes in France that we have all witnessed.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: Clearly, borders are a very important issue. As I have already said, we as a Government are pleased that we retain control of our borders. I am sure that this matter will be discussed again by the European leaders. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary will be at a justice and home affairs special meeting at the end of this week and I imagine that this will be very much a part of the discussions there.

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Lord Avebury: My Lords, reverting to the need to eradicate Daesh and its territorial base as part of a comprehensive strategy, does the noble Baroness agree that the YPG is the most effective military force in opposition to Daesh? Will we therefore make supreme efforts to bolster its efforts by supplying armaments and logistics?

Baroness Stowell of Beeston: We are supporting the moderate opposition groups in the area so that they can combat ISIL and Assad, and we will continue to do that.

Welfare Reform and Work Bill

Bill Main Page

Second Reading

4.25 pm

Moved by Lord Freud

That the Bill be now read a second time.

The Minister of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud) (Con): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

This Bill will ensure that the welfare system is put on a sustainable footing, while continuing to support the most vulnerable. It will ensure that work always pays and it will restore fairness in the system.

It is important to remember that this Bill forms part of a broad package of reforms, which includes the introduction of the national living wage, increases to the personal tax allowance and an enhanced childcare offer. Our welfare reforms are focused on transforming lives by supporting people to find and keep work. There is a focus on employment, fairness and affordability, while supporting the most vulnerable.

We have already made some key achievements over the last Parliament: 2 million more jobs have been created; there are 2.3 million apprenticeships; the number of workless households has reached a record low, down nearly 700,000 since 2010; and there are 800,000 fewer people with relative low income. Perhaps most importantly, these achievements came during a Parliament in which welfare spending increased by the lowest rate since the creation of the modern welfare state. But we still have work to do.

We will continue to bear down on the deficit and debt, achieving a surplus by the end of the Parliament. We spend £3 billion on government debt interest payments alone every month: that is £33 billion a year or £1,230 per household. Every pound we spend on paying off the debt is a pound we are paying to others, such as overseas investment funds, rather than spending on public services such as schools and hospitals. We need to end the cycle of borrowing, which is burdening our children with an ever-increasing debt. Eliminating the deficit and paying off our debts is the moral and most effective thing a responsible Government can do for people on low incomes who rely on those services.

This is a Bill for working Britain, underpinned by three key principles: first, that work is the best route out of poverty, and being in work should always pay more than being on benefits; secondly, that spending on welfare has to be put on a more sustainable footing,

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but in a way that protects the most vulnerable; thirdly, that people on benefits should face the same choices as those in work and not on benefits.

In the past, we have seen that just throwing money at the problem is not the solution—it is much more complex than that. That is why we are bringing in changes to help support people back into work and drive real change in their lives, both now and in the future.

Everyone deserves to have the dignity of a job and the pride that comes with earning your own pay packet. We want to support everyone in society who can and wants to work, and that is why we are committed to progressing towards full employment.

We also need to make sure that today’s young people start off on the right track, with the skills and experience required to open up employment opportunities in the future. That is why we are committed to delivering three million more apprenticeships during the course of this Parliament. The measures in this Bill will help to drive these commitments by requiring us to report on each measure every year.

The £26,000 cap we established in 2013 has reintroduced fairness into the system. Most importantly, it has driven meaningful change in people’s lives. The cap has helped get people back into work. Capped households are over 40% more likely to go to work than similar uncapped households. More than 18,000 previously capped households have now moved into work.

The changes to the benefit cap in this Bill are underlined by three basic principles of fairness. First, the cap should be set at a level that ensures it continues to be fair and to provide the right incentives for people to move into work. Secondly, this measure ensures that the cap better reflects the circumstances of working families around the UK. We know that around four in 10 households outside London earn less than £20,000, with the same proportion of households in London earning less than £23,000. Thirdly, welfare spending needs to be put on a sustainable footing.

Let me be clear: we will continue to provide protection and support for the most vulnerable. That is why exemptions will still apply, including those households entitled to DLA, PIP or Armed Forces PIP, industrial injuries benefit, the ESA support group component, and the limited capability for work-related activity component in UC; those moving into work who are entitled to working tax credit; and war widows and widowers. We have provided considerable additional support through discretionary housing payments for those claimants who need temporary financial assistance to adjust to the reforms. This additional funding will continue, and we are making £800 million available for discretionary housing payments over the next five years.

For too long now, this country has been dependent on unsustainable borrowing, with government debt repayments currently costing each household more than £1,200 every year. We simply cannot continue this way. It is not fair to keep borrowing and burdening future generations with even more debt. That is why we are committed to achieving a surplus by the end of the Parliament. During recent years, since the financial crisis began in 2008, benefits have been increasing at a

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greater rate than average earnings. Between 2008 and 2015, the minimum wage increased by 17%, whereas the main rates of most benefits, such as jobseeker’s allowance, have increased by 21%, and the individual element of child tax credits has increased by 33%.

The Bill will freeze working-age benefits for the next four years, helping to bring welfare spending under control. As part of our commitment to protecting the most vulnerable, benefits reflecting the additional costs of disability are excluded from the freeze. This includes PIP, DLA and the support group component of ESA. Pensioner benefits and statutory payments will also be excluded from the freeze.

During the last decade, growing evidence has shown that work can keep people healthy, as well as helping to promote recovery if someone falls ill. We are committed to ensuring that everyone who is able to has the opportunity to take advantage of the financial, social and health benefits which employment brings. However, perverse incentives in the benefits system and the lack of appropriate support can mean that some miss out. The work-related activity group component of ESA was never designed to help towards the additional costs of disability.

It is clear that the current system is failing claimants. Some 61% of WRAG claimants want to work but only 1% leave the benefit each month. People on ESA receive nearly £30 a week more than those on JSA, but receive far less support to move closer to the labour market and, when they are ready, into work. For new claims, the Bill will end this disparity between what people receive. Current claimants will not be affected, and new funding rising to £100 million a year in 2020-21 will be provided to help new claimants with limited capability for work to move closer to employment. A similar change will be made to the limited capability for work element of universal credit, ensuring that we provide the same level of support under the new system as we do through the current one. We are committed to ensuring that everyone who is able to has the opportunity to take advantage of the financial, social and health benefits which employment brings.

The Bill will also enable the Government to recover the expenses they incur for administrating benefit diversions to the Motability scheme. This is a purely administrative change which will not affect Motability’s users. The change involves less than £1 million a year and has the support of Motability, and I am sure that noble Lords would not wish such a minor issue to occupy too much of the Chamber’s time.

We also want to support parents claiming universal credit to get into and stay in work after having a child. We found out just last month that the number of children living in workless households is at a record low, down by 480,000 since 2010. That is really good progress and we want to build on it. The Government are introducing a far-reaching childcare offer. With universal credit, people will get up to 85% of their childcare costs paid from April 2016, up from 70% under the previous system. Working parents of three and four year-olds will receive an additional 15 hours of free childcare a week, while tax-free childcare will benefit up to 1.8 million working families. In line with that, we think that parents claiming universal credit

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should be required to look for work when their youngest child turns three, and to prepare for work when the youngest child turns two. In addition, the Bill will create a statutory duty to report on our progress supporting troubled families with multiple, highly complex problems. This will include how we have supported them to move closer to work.

We are also making provision to tackle social rents, which have increased by 20% since 2010. The Bill will reduce rents in social housing in England by 1% a year for four years from April 2016, protecting taxpayers from the rising costs of subsidising rents through housing benefit and protecting tenants from rising housing costs. This will reduce average rents for households in the social housing sector by around 12% by 2020 compared with current forecasts. It will also mean that people who are not on housing benefit and not subject to “pay to stay” will be better off by around £12 per week by 2019-20.

The Bill reforms the way support for mortgage interest will be paid in the future. The current system of providing benefit payments towards the cost of mortgage interest payments will be replaced by a system of interest-bearing loans which are secured against the claimant’s property. Loans will not be repayable until the home is sold. This change will ensure that claimants receive the same level of protection from repossession that they enjoy now, while providing a better and fairer deal for the taxpayer.

We are ensuring that people on benefits face the same choices as those in work and not on benefits. Families in work have to make careful choices about what lifestyle the money they earn can support, and what their income can provide for. People who receive child tax credit should make the same financial choices about having children as those who are supporting themselves through work. Therefore, from April 2017, the Bill will limit the child element of child tax credit to the first two children. A two-child limit will also apply in universal credit in relation to third or subsequent new children in the household, and to completely new claims. Again, we are ensuring that this change is fair, so it will not affect existing claimants at the point of change.

Finally, I turn to how we will tackle the root causes of child poverty and improve children’s life chances. We want to see substantial and sustained improvements in the life chances of our children. The past approach, enshrined in the Child Poverty Act, has focused on dealing with the symptoms of child poverty rather than addressing the root causes. It has incentivised Governments to move families a pound above the poverty line, not to help them transform their lives.

Evidence tells us that worklessness and educational attainment are the factors that have the biggest impact on child poverty and children’s life chances. We want legislation to focus government action where it can have the biggest impact. The Bill will provide a statutory basis for much-needed reform to drive real change to improve children’s life chances and tackle the root causes of child poverty.

The Bill will remove the existing measures and targets in the Child Poverty Act and introduce a new duty on the Secretary of State to report on worklessness and educational attainment. Alongside these statutory measures, we will develop indicators to measure progress

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against other root causes of child poverty, including family breakdown, addiction and problem debt. Our new approach will drive action which will make the biggest difference to the most disadvantaged children, both now and in the future.

This Bill is an important legislative step. It will ensure that the right support and incentives are in place, so that people are always better off in work rather than trapped on welfare, and it will protect the most vulnerable members of our society. We acknowledge that these are difficult decisions to make, but we think they are the right decisions. They are decisions that put work first, drive sustainable welfare spending and allow us to continue to protect the vulnerable and those most in need. I beg to move.

4.41 pm

Baroness Sherlock (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for that introduction to the Bill and I look forward to the debate, especially to the four maiden speakers.

In his speech to the last Conservative Party conference, the Prime Minister talked of the need to tackle social problems, including entrenched poverty, in our country. Why? He said this:

“So when the new mum looks at her new-born baby—the most precious thing she’s ever seen—and she vows to provide for it, she knows she actually can”.

This Bill makes a mockery of that pledge. It is a sustained assault on low-income families. It will increase poverty, penalise working households and push more families out of their homes and into temporary accommodation, homelessness or on to housing benefit, and the evidence base for it is poor. So often, I am sorry to say, this Government’s cuts to social security end up being counterproductive, adding more to the benefit bill by undermining work incentives or raising spending elsewhere.

A good example is the proposal to cut social sector rents by 1% a year. This sounds great, but, as the IFS points out, it does little for the 93% of tenants who will lose housing benefit pound-for-pound as their rents falls. As the IFS points out:

“The policy largely represents a transfer from social landlords … to the exchequer, rather than to social tenants”.

As the OBR has pointed out, it will mean fewer social sector properties being built. Social landlords risk having their credit ratings downgraded, planned investments are being cancelled and if specified or all supported housing becomes unviable, costs are simply transferred to the NHS and local government.

As the Minister mentioned, the Bill abolishes the scheme that gives help to some people on benefits to pay the interest on their mortgages so that they do not lose their homes and end up on housing benefit. In future, they will be offered a nine-month wait then the option of a loan secured by a charge on the property. Almost half of recipients are of pensionable age, despite the Government’s pledge to protect pensioner benefits. We will seek, as the Bill goes through, to retain support for low-income pensioners, who may never be able to pay off a loan.

The Bill also takes £30 a week, one-third of their employment and support allowance, from the 500,000 sick and disabled people in the work-related activity

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group. The impact assessment reassures us that if they worked for just five hours a week at the new higher minimum wage rate, they could recoup the money, but these are people an independent assessor has decided are unfit for work. They include people with learning difficulties, mental health issues, Parkinson’s disease or MS. Only 5% of that group will get back to work within a year. We can see no justification for making people poorer to incentivise them back to work they have been deemed unfit to do. How can the Minister justify this, especially in the light of the manifesto commitment not to cut disability benefits?

The other measures in the Bill all hit low-income families with children. Child poverty has already risen by 400,000 since 2010 and is predicted to rise by another 300,000 by 2020. Two-thirds of poor children will have a parent in work. Those figures could explain why the Bill decides to remove the requirement to measure child poverty or to do anything to reduce it. It abandons the internationally recognised benchmark for poverty because the Government have decided poverty is no longer about money. The Bill expunges the word “poverty” from the legislation. We all accept that deprivation is multifaceted. By all means measure other things as well, but the idea that poverty is not really about money is risible. I fear that what is really happening is that the Government are trying to hide the trail of devastation their reforms are leaving in their wake.

Successive government welfare reforms are hitting the same groups of people, yet Ministers consistently refuse to do a cumulative impact assessment, and now they will not even count child poverty. This will not do. The first rule of power surely means that if you will the ends, you must will the means and you must know and take responsibility for the consequences of your decisions. I hope this House will see fit to challenge that proposal as the Bill goes through.

Then there is the benefit cap. When the Government introduced it, their whole argument was that it was set at the level of average earnings. We had a long debate in this House on whether the test was fair. I remember marching into the Lobby behind the much-missed Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who proposed an amendment to remove child benefit from the cap on the grounds that people would get child benefit as well. We voted for it. Now Ministers have ditched the entire standard and simply plucked figures out of the air. They have simply decided that they are going to cut the cap by £3,000 for families in London and by £6,000 for families elsewhere. In future, Ministers can change the cap at whim by regulation without reference to any external benchmark and with minimal parliamentary scrutiny. The evidence is nowhere near as strong as even the impact assessment has suggested. Housing providers are worried that rent arrears will rise, as will evictions and homelessness. We have heard that £800 million has already been set aside for discretionary housing provision to deal with it. In Committee, we will want to see a great deal more evidence about the cost-benefit analysis of this policy, as well as about the impact on families.

The Minister mentioned that DWP is changing conditionality in universal credit. At the moment, parents are expected to work when their youngest child turns

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five. The Bill will mean that parents on universal credit will be expected to work when their youngest turns three. They will have to do work-related activity when their youngest is two and when the youngest reaches one, they will be out doing work preparation interviews. If the Government are going to push mothers of very young children and babies into work preparation activity, they need to be a lot more convincing about the availability and affordability of suitable childcare than they have been in this House in recent months when the Childcare Bill was going through.

Then there is the benefit freeze. Previously, the retail prices index was used to uprate benefits. Then the Government came along and decided that CPI was the measure—the only thing that would do—so they changed it to CPI. Then in 2013, they decided it would be reduced to just 1%, as a temporary measure, rather than CPI. Now it will be 0%, whatever happens to inflation during this Parliament. If inflation carries on flatlining, the Government may not get the savings they have been hoping for. There is a real process issue here. This is undermining the long-standing convention by which Ministers are meant to make an assessment annually of what poor households need to live on, come to the House and propose an alternative, and take responsibility for what should happen to benefits. This is moving away from that, which is deeply regrettable.

Finally, there is the proposal the Minister outlined to change universal credit and tax credits to abolish the family premium for all families with children and to limit the amount paid per child to the first two children in a household. This means that 3.7 million households will lose money. The two-child limit will cut payments by up to £2,780 per child per year, affecting 640,000 families by 2021 and 150,000 families with disabled children.

The Government repeatedly stress that the aim of their welfare reforms is to get people into work but child tax credit and universal credit are paid to working families as well as those who are out of work. If the aim is not to get families into work, what is it? The impact assessment said that,

“people may respond to the incentives that this policy provides and may have fewer children”.

I should like to ask the Minister some questions. First, is the objective that people in low-paid work should have fewer children, or is it just to give them less money? What does the Minister expect to happen in the 16% of pregnancies in the UK that are unplanned? What assessment has he made of the impact on adoption and kinship care, especially of sibling groups? Will there not be a disincentive to remarry if a stepfamily would then have more than two children in the household? The equality impact assessment is silent on religion and belief; can the Minister tell the House what work his department has done in assessing whether this policy will be likely to affect people of some religions more than those of others or of none. We are also told in the impact assessment that the Government will exempt women who have a third child as a result of rape. I wonder if the Minister has really thought through the implications of a woman having to prove to the Department for Work and Pensions that her pregnancy was the result of rape.

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Even if the Minister could answer all those questions robustly, this policy spectacularly fails the Government’s own family test. There are reasons the state has traditionally helped with the cost of raising children. First, it is to avoid British children growing up in poverty, since child poverty is significantly higher in larger families. The real losers of this policy will be children born into larger families, especially as younger siblings, through no choice of their own. Secondly, it is because children are good for society. Maybe if I use the language of economics the Minister will work with me on this. In economic terms, children are a public as well as a private good. Parents bear the bulk of the costs of raising their children but we all contribute through our taxes because we want to see the next generation thrive and, being practical, as our population ages, we need to ensure that there are enough people around of working age to pay for our pensions, our health service and our social care. Most of all, it is because children are not a luxury. We give child tax credit to families to ensure they can afford to raise their children healthily.

Let us be clear: this is not about the small number of people with lots of children who are not in work. They would be caught be the benefit cap anyway. Shelter pointed out that the benefit cap would kick in for a couple with two children renting a house not in Mayfair but in Leeds or Plymouth. It is not about them. It is about a family with three children who, despite working very hard, are struggling to make ends meet. It is about the mum I met who never thought she would need state help until her husband disappeared and left her with three children. It is about all those people who had children confident they could provide for them, until something happened—perhaps a parent died or became sick or disabled and could not work; perhaps they had their hours cut or got made redundant. These are all things our welfare state is meant to protect us against. When the Minister says it affects only people making new claims, anybody making a fresh claim for universal credit next year will get no help for their third child already in existence.

When Mr Cameron spoke about that mum looking down at her new baby and knowing she could provide for it, the reason she knows that is that she lives in a country that offers the safety net of the welfare state alongside the National Health Service and state education. Our welfare state was never about workers helping workless or rich helping poor. It is about pooling risk across our life cycles and across our population. There are times, such as when children are young, when it is hard to make ends meet even if you are working. The best laid plans can go also astray. Anyone can get cancer, lose their job, lose their spouse or have a disabled child. We will all get old—we hope—and draw a pension. When things go well we pay in, and when things go badly we take out. The Government’s reforms undermine that. They change the way our welfare state works, by undermining work incentives, breaking the link between need and support and refusing to protect the next generation from growing up in poverty. If the Bill goes through unchanged, when that mum described by the Prime Minister looks down at her newborn baby, especially if it is her third child, she can no longer know that she can provide for it because that safety net will have a child-sized hole in it.

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4.54 pm

Baroness Manzoor (LD): My Lords, the Liberal Democrats’ approach to this Bill is based on two simple principles. First, the benefits system should encourage people into work whenever they are able and it really should pay to be in work. Secondly, the £12 billion of welfare cuts the Government announced in the Budget are unnecessary to deal with the deficit. They are a political choice based on the Government’s wider political agenda to achieve a budget surplus by 2020, rather than the pragmatic need to eliminate the structural deficit by 2017-18.

While we are not averse to finding savings from the welfare budget, we do not believe that savings of the scale set out by the Government are needed. Cuts of the scale proposed will harm the principles of making sure that work pays and will remove much-needed support to the most vulnerable in society. This cannot be defendable on the grounds of savings alone. Having a job is not just about earning an income. It is also strongly linked to building dignity, self-esteem and improving health outcomes. The social security system must be able to help people avoid the benefits trap and to make work pay by ensuring that there is a more gradual withdrawal of benefits when someone enters work.

There is also a third principle that guides our view of this Bill: Lib Dems remain committed to the framework of universal credit, a project that has the capacity to fundamentally improve the structure and goals of our welfare system. We recognise the hard work and commitment that the noble Lord, Lord Freud, has given to universal credit and we are clear that he deserves significant recognition for this. However, I hope that the Chancellor will not seek to undermine the universal credit framework in the comprehensive spending review to dig himself out of the hole that he has created on tax credits—or, indeed, to introduce new horrors.

Although the Government assert that a central goal of the Bill is to strengthen work initiatives and to encourage households to move out of poverty through employment, many components of this Bill will weaken work initiatives, further negatively impact the most vulnerable, drag more people into poverty and may hinder the United Kingdom’s economic recovery.

There is a fundamental problem with the Bill, in that the worthy aim set out in the first clause—that of achieving full employment—risks being undermined by the subsequent clauses. We are proud that our work in government helped turn the tide on unemployment to the point where more people are now in employment than ever before. But that means that, to take the next step, we need to focus on supporting the hardest to help. That means looking at how we improve the work programme, how we support the disabled and how we provide high-quality training in skills needed by the labour market. Sadly, the Bill does nothing to address these issues. It is not a Bill about work.

The Lib Dem’s biggest concern is around Clauses 13 and 14, which would effectively reduce the amount of money given to claimants in the work-related activity group—WRAG—of the employment and support allowance. It is worth noting that more than 50% of

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the people in the WRAG have a mental health and behavioural disorder as their primary condition. I cannot see how cutting the amount of money going to people in this group, especially those that the Government’s own work capability assessment has deemed vulnerable, can possibly help achieve the Government’s own target of halving the disability employment gap. Indeed, we are concerned that it will instead push these people further from the job market and it risks aggravating conditions such as depression or eating disorders.

The changes are also likely to increase appeals and intensify high levels of stress. They may have the perverse effect of pushing people from the WRAG into the support group, rather than into the labour market. The Government would be better focusing on providing people with the support that they need to get better and with specialist disability employment advice via the jobcentres to make the transition into work, rather than placing the emphasis on the stick. In its review of the links between disability, long-term conditions and poverty, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation found no evidence that disability employment rates are improved by reducing benefits.

With reference to the proposed benefit cap, while we agree on the need for a cap, we do not see the logic in reducing it to £20,000. Nor do we see the logic behind breaking the link between average earnings and the cap. The real concern here is that the requirement to find affordable housing may force families away from areas where there are high levels of work opportunities, such as London, to places of high unemployment. This would undermine the ultimate aim of getting people off benefits. Will the Minister say whether the Government intend to undertake a distribution analysis of the levels of housing benefit the average person hit by the benefit cap would receive and where they may be able to secure suitable housing?

The Bill also introduces a two-child limit on receipt of the child element of tax credits for children born after 5 April 2017, and the child element of universal credit for families making a new claim, whether or not the child is born before April 2017. The Government estimate, based on the current profile of tax credit claimants, that by 2020-21 640,000 families will lose support as a direct result of this limit.

While it is right that people should take responsibility for the number of children they have, there are a number of cases where exemptions should be made. These are: families fleeing domestic violence; stepfamilies; bereaved families; kinship carers, who, according to the Children's Society, support an estimated 200,000 children across the UK; cases of rape; multiple pregnancies; and where the third or subsequent child is disabled. I would be grateful if the Minister gave an assurance to make exemptions and to review the two-child limit in all such cases.

It is also of concern that the Bill repeals the income targets and associated duties to eradicate child poverty that are set out in the Child Poverty Act 2010. Without question, worklessness and lack of access to employment are key drivers of child poverty. However, while work can be a key route out of poverty, it is by no means a guaranteed one. As the End Child Poverty coalition has shown, the latest government statistics show that

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62% of children in poverty now live in working families. This affects 2.4 million children. The changes that the Government plan to make to the support for low-income families is only likely to make this situation worse. Will the Minister look at maintaining income-related measures of poverty among the life chances measures?

We have a significant concern about the decision to reduce social housing rents over four years. This represents, as the Minister has said, an overall reduction of 12% compared to current forecasts. While this may indeed help to reduce the housing benefit bill, and the costs for people living in social housing, we are concerned about the impact it will have on the ability of housing associations to borrow in order to build more homes or to ensure that improvements are made to current social housing stock.

The Government have already decided to keep housing costs for specified accommodation—such as that offered by St Mungo's Broadway, which provides specialist services and housing for the most vulnerable—out of universal credit and benefit calculations. This is very welcome, but by introducing a rent-reduction measure the Government will undo these steps and a vital safety net may be cut. Will the Minister give an assurance that the Bill will be amended to exempt specified accommodation?

Finally, there are a number of areas which are not in the Bill but we believe will further undermine the principle that work should pay and people who are able to work should be supported back into work. In particular we are concerned about the appalling cuts to tax credits, which even Conservative MPs are now in open revolt over; the cuts to housing benefit for those under 21, which will make it harder for young people to move to areas of high employment in pursuit of career opportunities; and the deepening cuts to further education colleges, which make it harder to ensure that young people get the skills they need to become employable. These are all areas in which further work is needed by the Government if they are to be truly on the side of all working people. This Bill is not a Bill for work.

Before I sit down, I wish my noble friend Lady Thomas a speedy recovery from a knee operation after a fall last week. I hope that she will be well enough to join us for the remainder of this Bill.

5.04 pm

Lord Patel (CB): My Lords, four years ago, speaking during the passage of what became the Welfare Reform Act 2012, I highlighted the many issues faced by those in the work-related activity group, or WRAG, on employment and support allowance, and the necessity of them receiving adequate financial support for the period when they are too ill to work. I will focus again on that one cause: people who are too ill or recovering from a debilitating disease. The Minister may well remember that I carried four amendments, but he immediately turned the Bill into a money Bill, so the discussion had to stop. But he came true on that occasion and understood the cause that I was fighting for. He brought in a government amendment to put people with cancer in the support group, and I am forever thankful for that. I am hoping to get the same response this time without having to win any votes.

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I am having to repeat many of the same points today which I made at that time. Clauses 13 and 14 would cut the amount that people claiming ESA in the WRAG, and with a limited capability for the work element of universal credit, can receive from £102.15 to £73.10. You may say that £30 a week is not a great deal of money, but for people who are on benefits, it is a great deal. They will receive the same amount of money as those on jobseeker’s allowance yet be unable to work. This is a significant cut for anyone to face to a weekly budget.

Let me highlight briefly the individuals who will be affected in the WRAG. I am talking about people such as cancer patients who have undergone debilitating treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy and are in the process of recovering from their illness. I am also talking about people with other diseases such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis, or who have physical and learning disabilities. Mental health has of course already been mentioned. I want to draw particular attention to people who have had a cancer diagnosis. As the Government have stated, it is true that many people undergoing most types of chemotherapy and radiotherapy go into the support group, thanks to the amendment that the Government brought in. I am pleased that that level of support is not being changed. I welcome that.

However, thousands of others who may be experiencing long-term side-effects as a result of their cancer and treatment, or those living with other comorbidities, are placed in the WRAG. While many of these people will have finished their treatment, they will still be suffering from disability. The side-effects of treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy, as is well known to many Members of this House, can be severe and long-lasting. Ask any who have had such treatment and they will tell you what it feels like and for how long. It also varies from person to person, depending on their cancers and their ability to cope with the therapy. Research by Macmillan and other cancer charities found that one in four of the 2 million people in England alone living with and beyond cancer today face disability or poor health following their treatment. It is not uncommon for a cancer patient still to be reporting pain and extreme fatigue long after their treatment has ended. Many of them will be unable to work as a result. To suggest that these people should be treated in the same way as jobseekers who are fit and able to work cannot be, and is not, right. It is uncompassionate and uncaring.

I am concerned that the Government’s proposals fail to recognise a clear distinction between those on jobseeker’s allowance who are available for, seeking and able to engage in work and those on ESA in the WRAG who have been independently medically assessed as being too ill to work. Most cancer patients want to get back to work. They see that as a recovery from their illness, so they wish to work.

The Government have stated that this move is about providing an incentive for people to return to work, no matter what their condition. However, I have yet to see any evidence to suggest that this is needed, let alone that it will work. If I am wrong, I have no doubt the Minister will correct me with the evidence that he has.

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What people who are ill need is enough time and the right support to recover and get well. They do not need to be penalised for not recovering quickly enough.

Let me give an example that many of your Lordships may have seen. Stacie, a 43 year-old in remission from leukaemia, recently wrote an article in a leading daily newspaper about her experience of having cancer. She said:

“Throughout it all, I wanted to work. I am still desperate to return to the classroom. My hospital room was wallpapered with cards and pictures from my students and fellow teachers. When I was struggling, I only had to glance up to see the gallery I’d created of children’s artwork. Those crayon suns and stars brightened a very dark time in my life. The idea that I’d need to be further impoverished to be incentivised to return to teaching is not only ludicrous, it’s insulting”.

Stacie’s doctor told her that, because of the effect that cancer and depressed immunity had on her immune system, teaching was for her now,

“more dangerous … than police work”.

This comment highlights what I fear that the Government have failed to consider in their proposals. In order for people with long-term illness, physical or mental, to return to work without further risk to their physical or mental health, they need the right support, and they need time. They should not feel pressurised to return to work before they are mentally and physically fit enough because of financial worries. Doing so could have a significant negative effect on people’s physical and mental health. People could actually require longer-term welfare support: the exact opposite of what the Government are seeking to achieve.

I wonder what, if any, assessment the Government have made of the potential knock-on costs and implications for both the health and benefits systems if people who have been medically assessed as being too ill to work return to work too soon and their health deteriorates as a result. I spoke about people living with cancer, but, as I mentioned, it is not just people with cancer but others with long-term disabilities and other illnesses.

I welcome the fact that no current claimants will lose money, but that will provide no comfort to those who will be placed in the WRAG after April 2017. I, like many noble Lords, welcome the Government’s commitment to provide extra investment in employment support for those in the WRAG. I look forward to the Minister’s outlining more detail about this. If not, then there is a risk that the Government’s proposals will inadvertently move people further away from the labour market as people already too ill to work are made even more ill.

There is a clear link between financial difficulties and poorer health. Four years ago, I was accused of not understanding the need to reduce costs. I said then, and I repeat it now: I clearly understand the need to balance the books. However, it is not compassionate, caring, or a mark of a civilised society to do so by making the sick poorer and sicker.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Freud, who I know from my previous experience does care, will look at Clauses 13 and 14 particularly in relation to this group of people who are suffering or recovering from cancer, and suggest a way of mitigating the effects of these proposals. I look forward to his comments.

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5.13 pm

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I will pick up on some of the themes that have been raised by some of my noble friends who have spoken today, particularly on the area of vulnerable adults and those who are disabled. I invite the Government to think about two issues in particular. The first relates to the clause in the Bill legislating for a mandatory 1% annual reduction in social housing rents over the next four years. I, like other noble Lords, understand that the Government have their reasons for introducing this mandatory reduction, not least the considerable savings on housing benefits that such a rate reduction would deliver. I welcome the discretionary power that the Secretary of State will have to waive the requirement for rent reductions. This will go some way to protecting those housing associations which find themselves financially exposed due to circumstances outside their control.

What concerns me most about these measures is the direct and indirect effect that they might have on the supported housing sector, which provides vital accommodation and a degree of independence for vulnerable groups such as the mentally and physically handicapped, the homeless, those with addiction issues and those fleeing domestic violence. While I welcome the DWP’s indication that there will be an exemption from the rate reduction for specialised housing support, that constitutes only a very small subset of the supported housing sector, and I do not believe that the exemption goes far enough.

Because of the various needs of the tenants, supported housing is far more expensive to maintain than standard social housing, creating an extra cost burden on supported housing that is inevitably reflected in smaller operating margins. One supported housing provider has pointed out that its housing is on average 64% more expensive to provide than standard housing, while one large, mixed-sector housing association has calculated that the proposed rent reduction would leave one-third of its supported housing stock making a loss. Given the small margins involved, it seems highly likely that a forced rent reduction in supported housing will endanger the supply of supported social housing in this country. Smaller housing associations which are devoted to the supply of supported housing might be simply unable to absorb the rate cut, while larger housing associations with a variety of housing stock might find themselves forced to get rid of their most unprofitable supported housing. New supported housing developments would inevitably be postponed and, even where supported housing remains viable, it is likely to face staff cuts that would lead to a drop in the standard and provision of care for some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

Any of these outcomes would not only be bad social practice, but be bad economics. Any measure that increases the number of vulnerable people in unsuitable accommodation, or the number of those experiencing homelessness, is only going to increase the wider financial burden on the state. Given that other measures in this Bill are liable to increase the pressure on the social housing sector, such as the benefit cap as applied to homeless households and the proposed changes to the support for mortgage interest scheme, it seems ill advised to place this vital service under undue pressure.

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There is, of course, a simple solution to all this, which is to exclude supported housing from the measures in this Bill. Given that supported housing forms only a small proportion of wider social housing—estimates put it at around 4%—the cost of such a measure would be relatively small, and would certainly not prevent the Government from making significant savings on housing benefits. That is one way in which we can seek to ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are properly protected, and I urge this House, and indeed the Government, to consider any such amendments if and when they are brought forward.

I also want to raise a more general point of concern about how this Bill impacts vulnerable disabled adults. The Government have rightly given some protection to the most vulnerable disabled people in protecting the current employment and support allowance support group component from cuts. Yet even this group, which the Government have promised to protect, will face a cut in real terms through the freeze on the basic ESA allowance. The Motor Neurone Disease Association has estimated that the freeze will leave those suffering from terminal and degenerative illnesses over £250 a year worse off by 2020, when the projected rise in prices is taken into account. This is deeply problematic, both in that it is liable to put an extra burden on those who might be nearing the end of their life—and something like motor neurone disease hits people with incredible speed—and in that it sends the wrong message to those who should have our fullest support. I would welcome a comment from the Minister about whether Her Majesty’s Government would consider measures to mitigate the impact of the rate freeze on those in the support group.

I also find myself deeply concerned about the substantial reductions in benefits for those in the ESA work-related activity group. This issue has already been discussed by those far more knowledgeable than me, but I want to make one point before I finish. The work-related activity group is formed of half a million people who, as has already been said, have been medically assessed as not fit for work. This includes those with cancer, mental health issues, musculoskeletal diseases and even progressive and incurable diseases. They are people who are in a deeply vulnerable position. Those who have had members of their own family hit by these illnesses realise just what a huge and devastating impact they make—and how quickly they can hit. In no way should they be treated as your average jobseeker, just because there is a hope that with the right training and support they might one day be able to re-enter the world of work, yet that is exactly what this Bill is in danger of doing. I urge the Government to reconsider this aspect as we go through to the next stage.

5.21 pm

Lord Lansley (Con) (Maiden Speech): My Lords, it is my privilege to address your Lordships’ House for the first time. I beg your indulgence, together with my noble friends who are making their first speeches in the course of this Second Reading debate. It is a privilege to follow the right reverend Prelate and to contribute to this debate.

Coming here, having retired from another place, and not seeking re-election, one is often asked, “What’s the difference? Why did you do that?”. The difference

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was lost on my 10 year-old son, who said, “So you’re off to the five-star place with the red seats and the gold leaf”. He was literally right, but the metaphorical differences are much more important. I went to the other place as part of a governing majority and—perhaps I am old-fashioned in this respect—with the purpose of upholding that governing majority and securing the Government’s business in what I regard as the determinative House. Here one has a freedom; I come here with the intention of seeking out that freedom—the freedom to take my own view about the policies that have a long-term impact on this country.

I am proud of what we achieved in the coalition Government. People will argue heatedly about whether the things I did as Secretary of State were right or wrong, but from the policy point of view I believed in them and I continue to believe in them. I think they made an enormous difference compared to what would have happened without them in a transition over three years, which was achieved on time and on budget, which saved £5.5 billion off administration costs in the last Parliament, which gave to the NHS an independent voice, which just over a year ago the NHS used for the first time at a general election—its own view of what should happen for the NHS in the next Parliament. We brought waiting times down to their lowest ever level; we kept the NHS out of deficit over the course of that transition; we brought hospital-acquired infections down to their lowest ever level; we virtually abolished mixed-sex accommodation and had a million more people with access to NHS dentistry; and this at a time when the increase in the NHS budget was marginal in real terms, as compared to large real-terms increases in the past.

Policy can change things, but very often the optimum policy and the exigencies of politics are not the same thing. I will not go on at length about the differences—many here realise that entirely. I come here knowing, as a Secretary of State and a Cabinet Minister who had to take Bills through this House, what this House is capable of doing. It is presumptuous of me to say so, but I hope to be part of that. I saw Bills, like today’s Bill, where the prior debate was a reflection of the interests, the stakeholders and the comment that came to this House from outside. To that extent, it started to feel as if it was going to be—how shall I put it?—a rerun of the same arguments. However, what I appreciated as a Cabinet Minister, enjoying all the frustrations of watching this House scrutinise my legislation, was that as time went on more and more Members of this House took the trouble not just to listen to what other people were saying but to read it themselves, to understand it, to see why things were being done in the way that they were in the legislation, and then to propose worthwhile amendments to do those things better, not to try to overturn the purposes of government but actually to fulfil them in a more effective way. I hope that that is what we can achieve here.

From my point of view, I started as a policymaker—I was a civil servant before I was a politician—and I hope in a sense to be a policymaker after being a politician. I should say that when I first came here I was rather surrounded by all my old bosses. When I

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was a civil servant my noble friend Lord Tebbit was my Secretary of State. I am the first, and thus far I think the only, Principal Private Secretary to a Cabinet Minister subsequently to have become a Cabinet Minister. I am not sure that civil servants should necessarily seek to emulate my path, but there it is. I want to be a policymaker after being a politician, and in this House we can do that.

It is important in the debate on this Bill to realise that its purposes are the right ones. I have never been a fan of declaratory legislation, of simply setting up targets in legislation and imagining that those things will happen as a matter of course. They do not; you have to have policies and substance to make them happen. However, I do not think that legislation can be, as this is designed to be, a mechanism for accountability. Regarding life chances for children and social mobility, therefore, it is important to set out in this legislation what that accountability should look like. For my part, I think this structure is better than the previous Child Poverty Act structure because in the past there was a risk that it added no value—that it was essentially about redistribution. For the benefit of our children we need to add value and ensure that their life chances are greater than they would otherwise have been without our policy interventions.

I look to the Minister and suggest that we look beyond simply key stage 4 educational attainment and reducing the number of workless households, important though both of those are. When I was Secretary of State we supported the work of the Marmot review on the social determinants of health, and there are aspects, particularly for children, such as readiness for school when children first go to school and minimising the number of those who are not in education, employment or training, that in themselves are central determinants of subsequent health and indeed of long-term life chances as well. So we should be looking progressively to see whether we can expand the accountability aspects of the reporting process.

The other thing that we have to do, of course, is recognise that there are two purposes of the Bill that we must see through. The first is the manifesto mandate to reduce the cost of welfare and enable the Government consequently to reduce the deficit, so we have to see where those savings will come. On the first day when I was here after my introduction I listened carefully to the tax credit debate. I heard more about what was wrong with what was being proposed than about how in practice the saving could be accomplished in a way that did not significantly reduce the incentive to work.

My second and final point is exactly that: the Bill is designed around a purpose of sharpening incentives to work. Doing the right thing is often tough. However, it is important to look at the evidence and say, “Is the present structure of work incentives in the employment and support allowance, or in the new structure of universal credit, right yet?”. If it is not right, and if it is not yet delivering the work incentives that it should, we have to support the Government in the Bill in trying to make those incentives much more effective in future. For those reasons, because I agree with those purposes, I for one will certainly be supporting the Bill.

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5.28 pm

Lord Blencathra (Con): My Lords, what a privilege to be present today for the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Lansley. When I looked at the alphabetical list of speakers last week and saw my noble friend’s name, I hoped that I would not be following him since he would show up the gross inadequacies of my contribution. Naturally, my silent prayer to the Chief Whip went unanswered.

We have just seen a splendid example of how this noble House benefits from the addition of Peers such as my noble friend, who are experts in their subject and have considerable experience of government and the other place. My noble friend has told the House that he was Principal Private Secretary to my noble friend Lord Tebbitt. I assure your Lordships that he did not inherit all the views held by that noble Lord. In fact, although my noble friend was the Bernard of his time, rising to become the Minister, he often had to say, “No, Minister”, so he also did a Sir Humphrey act with my noble friend Lord Tebbitt. In addition to what he has told us today, the House will have discovered that my noble friend has brought a disarming and quiet style of delivery. I have always found this to be persuasive in the past and I am sure your Lordships will find it so in the future. We shall all look forward to his further contributions on a range of subjects. However, as a former Chief Whip, I hope my noble friend will not range too widely with the freedom he intends to exercise.

I support the Bill, which has to be seen in the context of what the Government have achieved on the economy since 2010. Employment is now at a record high of over 31 million, up 2 million since 2010. That represents a record employment rate of 73%. Crucially, the number of workless households is at a record low, down nearly 700,000 since 2010. The best thing that any Government can do to help people on welfare is to get them into paid employment and off welfare. I will touch on a few aspects of the Bill, first of which is apprenticeships. I like the idea of reporting annually on this. Apprenticeships are absolutely crucial for individuals and the economy and they are the best way to boost employment chances for young people. I am delighted that the Government have delivered over 2 million new apprenticeships over the past five years and plan to deliver 3 million more over the next five. It was wonderful to read of the brilliant A-level student who turned down Oxford or Cambridge to take up an apprenticeship with Rolls-Royce. Of course, not all apprenticeships are of the calibre of Rolls-Royce and, although we need to make sure that all apprenticeships do offer genuine skills training, we must not let cynics rubbish the less glamorous and technical end of the scale.

I am thinking of catering, for example, which is often scorned as low-grade work. I suppose that an apprenticeship to serve a skinny latte at Starbucks would be a bit thin, but what about the 15 kids Jamie Oliver took and trained to be really good chefs? That was quality training in cooking which we should not scoff at—if your Lordships will pardon the very bad pun. In 1980, when I was Food Minister, the splendid Albert Roux came to see me. He said: “Everyone,

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especially we French, mock English food as just roast beef and sticky brown gravy; but within 25 years English food will be regarded as the best in the world. We are training brilliant young apprentices who will one day be among the finest chefs in the world, but it all depends on training apprentices”. How right Albert turned out to be.

I welcome Clause 3 and the duty to report annually on the troubled families programme. If we are to add to the 117,000 families already helped by getting children back in school, and significantly reducing youth crime and anti-social behaviour, then we need as much information and as many facts as possible. All the research I have read shows that, when children come from a home with one or more parents who are unemployed or who have a criminal record, or from a home with absent, uncaring fathers where there is no support or encouragement to attend school, the chances of those children going bad are greatly increased. That is not making any moral or social judgment. It is a simple fact that the fewer positive factors are present during a child’s upbringing, the less chance he—and it is usually a he—has to succeed. So information is vital, and then policy can be revised accordingly.

Similarly, I like the clauses on life chances, although the phrase sounds a bit trendy. This reform is long overdue. The existing statutory framework in the Child Poverty Act, set around the four income-related targets, is a nonsensical way to measure real poverty. As the Prime Minister said,

“we are in the absurd situation where if we increase the state pension, child poverty actually goes up”.

If we focus on the number of children living in workless households and their educational attainment by the time they get to 16, and we incorporate family breakdown, problem debt and addiction, we will get a real measure of poverty, will be better informed and will be able to devise proper policies to tackle it.

?The benefit cap restores fairness to the welfare system and has incentivised work. I will not bore the House with the statistics; we shall no doubt hear a lot more today. Lowering the cap emphasises the message that it is not fair for someone on benefits to be receiving more than many people in work, and better reflects the circumstances of many working families. Tens of millions of people in work and paying taxes would love to live in a bigger house, in a better street or in a house with a nice garden, but they cannot afford to. They have to settle for what they can afford. No wonder all the polls suggest that they are outraged to see people on benefits being paid to live in housing which they, as hard-working taxpayers, simply cannot afford.

Clauses 11 and 12 will limit child tax credit and universal credit to two children from April 2017. As we have heard, this is controversial, but it has to be right. Families in work have to make tough decisions on how many children they can afford. It is probably the most difficult decision any parent can make. Therefore, families on benefits should be encouraged to make the same financial decisions as families supporting themselves solely through work. It is not fair to the working families who can afford only two children that they have to pay taxes to support those who decide to have

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more, on the basis that the taxpayer will pay. Some will say that this is inconsistent with child benefit paid for any number of children. Yes, it is, but in politics one has to accept political reality: no Government have dared to tackle it. There are inconsistencies in many policy areas, such as the state pension being paid to the poorest and to multimillionaires, but that does not mean that we should perpetuate, or create new, unfair regimes. We are where we are and must make incremental changes where we can.

Finally, I will mention the welfare budget generally. We have heard a lot, and will hear a lot more today, about those who may have their benefits reduced because of the Chancellor’s Budget. I pay tribute to Gordon Brown for keeping us out of the euro: it was the right decision. No doubt, at the time, he considered his plan on tax credits and child tax credits to be right also. However, that was when it was set to cost £4 billion; but it has rocketed to £30 billion and applies to nine out of 10 households. So who are all the people who were not in his original plan but became included later on? Who were the unexpected beneficiaries? Did Gordon Brown never intend some or all of those who may lose out now to be winners in the first place? I simply do not know, but I cannot imagine that he intended the costs to rocket as they have, and for so many other people to be included.

There have been intriguing suggestions about where the Chancellor could get alternative funding so that there are no losers. However, the whole point is that welfare spending is out of control and has to be cut. Taking away what has been given, even if it was not justified or intended in the first place, is never easy but we all know what the long-term sustainable solution is. It is a big hike in the minimum wage until it eventually becomes the real living wage. We cannot reduce welfare dependency while large multibillion pound companies are paying poverty wages and depending on the taxpayer to pay their employees what they should be paying them in the first place. I make no apologies for returning to this theme for the fourth time this year. We have the fastest growing economy in the G8. Business is flourishing and businesses should pay their workers a lot more than the present minimum wage. I urge the Chancellor to increase the rate still further next year and ignore the usual sob stories of the CBI. We will reduce the welfare bill when people working 40 hours per week get sufficient pay on which to live, without other taxpayers having to top it up. We have a long way to go but the Bill is another step in the right direction, and I commend it to the House.

5.39 pm

Lord Layard (Lab): My Lords, I will make just one, completely simple, point. If you are on ESA because of mental illness, you are sick. If you are sick, you ought to be in treatment. It is an astonishing fact than under half of the people on ESA by virtue of mental illness are in any form of treatment: a crazy situation. If we really want to get these people back into work, the most important thing would be to help them get better. They should be in treatment and the purpose of the Bill should include the effort to get them into it.

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