In 2014, the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, set out the defence of the Government’s policy when he said that asylum seekers are,

“provided with support and accommodation while we determine whether they need our protection and until they have exhausted the right of appeal”.—[

Official Report

, 17/3/14; col. 30.]

However, the reality is that £5 a day to meet their essential living needs of food, clothing, toiletries and transport and to pursue their asylum application—housing and utility bills are paid for separately for those who need it—is wholly inadequate. Which of us could survive on that kind of paltry sum? Therefore the asylum seeker loses, but so does the state. We must give asylum seekers a route out of poverty and help them not to become part of a dependency culture.

At the end of June 2015, more than 3,500 asylum seekers had been waiting more than six months for an initial decision. The Minister arranged an all-Peers meeting, which I was able to attend, and Mr James

20 Jan 2016 : Column 844

Brokenshire, the Minister, was also there. He of course said that the Government’s aim is to ensure that there are no people waiting for longer than six months. Can the Minister tell us just how many people are waiting for longer than six months and how long it will be before that objective is met?

I am told that an asylum seeker spends an average of around 18 months on Section 95 support. Asylum seekers who have to survive solely on this level of support for extended periods of time will suffer a negative impact on their mental and physical health.

While a Member of the Commons, Sarah Teather chaired a cross-party parliamentary inquiry into asylum support for children and young people. In January 2013 it found that,

“asylum seeking parents are prevented from working, leaving families dependent on state support. This means that parents are left powerless and lose their skills”—

a point to which the noble Baroness alluded—

“while children are left without positive role models. The government’s own research has highlighted that this can lead to high levels of unemployment and underemployment once a family gains refugee status”.

That inquiry took evidence from over 200 individuals and organisations, including local authorities and safeguarding boards, and specifically recommended that asylum seeking parents and young adults should be given permission to work if their claim for asylum had not been concluded in six months—the point of these amendments.

Let us be clear: by keeping them out of work, many experienced and professional asylum seekers are deskilled, and the time spent not working hinders the opportunity to develop a career. It prejudices the chance to get references for future employment, and it denies people the chance to gain experience. Mr Brokenshire said that this provision would,

“blur the distinction between economic migration and asylum”.—[

Official Report,

Commons, Immigration Bill Committee, 10/11/15; col. 461.]

But this amendment addresses that concern, because permission to work would apply only when the delay was not due to action taken by the applicant. I therefore hope that this amendment commends itself to the House.

7.30 pm

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, Amendment 134, which I wish to support, is simple, just and proportionate in its aims. I accept that Home Office officials must, in the discharge of their duties in this area, deal with barriers of language, emotional distress, the fear of authority, the complexity of people’s lives and, on occasion, deceit. All this takes time. However, it is far from unknown for applicants for asylum to wait months or even years for a substantive decision in their case. This subjects them to a fearful limbo, with limited means of support and the background anxiety of not knowing for a very prolonged period what the outcome will be. Furthermore, we know from the experience of our own citizens the deleterious effects of prolonged inactivity on their emotional and physical well-being, and how this can erode an individual’s skill base.

The European Union’s reception conditions directive, which came into force last July, recognises this and requires of all EU countries—except Ireland, Denmark

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and the UK, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, was saying—that asylum seekers waiting nine months for a decision may work. Germany has responded, interestingly, by legislating for a three-month threshold.

It is the policy of the Church of England, by resolution at its General Synod in February 2009, that all asylum seekers should be granted permission to seek employment. If the Government brought forward their own amendment with a threshold of nine months rather than six, as here, I could accept that. What is manifestly unfair is excluding such individuals from the world of work for an indefinite period, as at present. This amendment, with its threshold of six months, is not an invitation for migrants to enter the UK job market by an easy route. It could not be, with that sort of threshold. It is a measured and fair response to a manifestly unfair and damaging exclusion. I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, and others.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I am pleased to be able to speak in support of the amendment tabled by my noble friends on the Front Bench. Indeed, I, too, am delighted that this is now my party’s official policy.

The right to work—or, perhaps more accurately, the right to be allowed to undertake paid work—is a human right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and incorporated into human rights law as part of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which recognises,

“the right of everyone to the opportunity to gain his living by work”.

After the Second World War, TH Marshall wrote that in the economic field, the basic civil right is the right to work. More recently, in 2007—long before I came to this place—the Joint Committee on Human Rights described the denial of the right to work as part of a deliberate policy of destitution, in breach of asylum seekers’ human rights.

The all-party parliamentary inquiry into asylum support, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Alton—of which I was a member—talked about how asylum seekers who are not able to undertake paid work lose skills and are unable to provide a role model for their children, and about the impact on their self-esteem, self-confidence and mental health. All this has a damaging effect on their children. A Freedom from Torture report on poverty among torture survivors states:

“Many questionnaire respondents, and most participants in client focus groups, highlighted the importance to them of having permission to work while their asylum claim is decided as a means of supporting themselves and being self-reliant. Indeed, the lack of permission to work for asylum seekers was a major theme of discussion and the key change that focus group respondents called for, although they also recognised that many torture survivors”,

may not be “well enough to work”.

A letter to the Independent at the end of last year asked why asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK. It pointed out:

“We have skills to contribute: some of us are doctors, nurses, carers, teachers, builders. But these skills are wasted and deteriorate while we wait for a decision on our asylum applications. We want to contribute to the UK economy and to be part of this society”.

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Much of government social policy, whichever party is in power, is premised on the principle that paid work is the primary responsibility and the most important contribution that people make to society, summed up in the rather tired mantra of “hard-working families”. Why should asylum seekers be denied the opportunity for a whole year of joining the happy ranks of hard-working families in the labour market—and even then joining only on very restrictive terms? The evidence shows that this impedes integration. The Home Office’s own research shows that delayed entry into the labour market can cause problems even when refugee status is then granted, leading to high levels of unemployment and underemployment.

We have already heard about what happens in other European countries. My understanding is that most of these countries have fewer applications for asylum than are received in the UK, which does not support the argument that providing the right to work acts as a pull factor. The lack of impact on the number of applicants is confirmed by a study of OECD countries. Indeed, after our last debate on the issue, the then Minister acknowledged the paucity of hard evidence to support the Government’s case. Moreover, as Still Human Still Here argues, it is not very likely that economic migrants would draw themselves to the attention of the authorities by making an asylum claim, so that they might be able to apply for permission to work in a whole six months’ time.

The danger is that asylum seekers will end up in the shadow labour market, facing the kind of exploitation we discussed earlier in the context of undocumented migrants. Indeed, can the Minister say whether, if they do take paid work, they could be caught by Clause 8 —criminalised for working illegally even though they are legally in the UK awaiting a decision on their asylum claim?

I fear that Governments are often timid with regard to the rights of asylum seekers, for fear of public opinion. However, surveys by the IPPR, and the British Social Attitudes survey, show that there is public support for allowing asylum seekers the right to work. The Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, in an inquiry into destitution among asylum seekers a few years ago, said:

“Overwhelmingly, giving asylum seekers the right to work was the favoured solution identified”,

by those who gave evidence.

As has been said, we have debated this issue a number of times in your Lordships’ House, even in just the five years that I have been here. Since the previous time we debated it, the financial position of asylum-seeking families has worsened because of the savage cut in asylum support for children. So the cost to them of not being able to undertake paid work is all the greater now, with damaging implications for their mental and physical health and that of their families. I urge the Minister to take this amendment away and think about whether the time has not now come to concede this most basic of human rights.

Baroness Ludford: I, too, welcome the support of the Labour Party and its conversion to this cause. It is hugely important and significant. All the considerable benefits of a change in policy have been cited, and I do

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not need to enumerate them. They are so powerful, and there are only benefits—there are no costs, quite honestly, associated with this policy, except possibly a political one. That is no doubt what the Government fear. So I want to propose a rebranding exercise: to position this not so much as the right to work as the obligation to work—a requirement to work, except for asylum seekers who, for reasons of age or health, cannot do so. We could reframe it in those terms, as we do in the field of welfare. Indeed, a Liberal Democrat policy document from two years ago did exactly that. Why not talk about an obligation on fit asylum seekers to use their skills to benefit themselves, this country and the taxpayer? I think that you would also see a different approach and a different perception from the public, as well as, one hopes, from the Government, if that rebranding were to take place.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, first, I welcome all those who now support so vigorously and enthusiastically the right of asylum seekers to work after, say, six months. They have such potential. I know they are not asylum seekers but a third of the doctors and consultants in the hospitals and half the nurses in north Wales are not of Welsh extraction; they are from overseas. We rely on each other. If you go to the hospitals in Liverpool, the same story is told. We work together; we are one world. We have a responsibility towards each other—a responsibility, I suggest, to help everybody, wherever they are from, to reach their potential and to contribute as much as they can to the well-being of the whole community.

I am not going to speak at great length—I would be very unpopular if I did. In any case, everybody else has said what I wanted to say. It is wonderful that we are in an atmosphere of wanting this policy to succeed.

I will say just one thing. Last night I was at a meeting where we spoke of the children in the camps at Calais and Dunkirk. At Dunkirk there are no facilities, and we have all seen the pictures of the children tramping in the mud, which in places is a foot deep. One contributor last night said, “You know, they haven’t had any education for 12 months. They haven’t had any schooling. They are missing out”. Many of those of Arab extraction who are coming to the UK—people who speak the languages of other nations—could become the teachers who help this new generation, and in helping that new generation I am sure we will be doing something to build the kind of world that Lloyd George talked about. He once said that he wanted to build a country fit for heroes to live in. Let us build a world fit for children to live in. We can do it in this Bill by adopting amendments such as the one that is proposed here.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I am always heartened by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. I remember one rather lonely evening when he moved a version of this amendment and there were not so many friends present as there are today. I see already that he is heartened by the voices from all around the Committee.

I am strongly in favour of extending the time available to migrants and asylum seekers because it is realistic. It recognises and legalises a situation that is already

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happening. As my noble friend said, the issue of permission to work is linked to concerns about destitution, which we will come to in Part 5 when we discuss Section 95 support. As Sir Keir Starmer said about Clause 8 in the Commons, the most vulnerable will become even more so if we do not pass this amendment. For example, making it a specific crime to work without leave drives the exploited and enslaved further underground.

There is one more point which needs to be underlined. The Immigration Minister said during Committee in the Commons that asylum seekers could frustrate the process of application in order to qualify for the permission, and I expect that the Minister has this argument in mind this evening. But the amendment addresses this point—and the Refugee Council makes this clear—because permission would be granted only where the delay was in the process and not due to any action taken by the asylum seeker.

Lord Ramsbotham (CB): My Lords, until seven years ago, I thought that Red Cross food parcels were handed out only to British prisoners of war in Germany. However, when I was a commissioner in the Independent Asylum Commission, I saw Red Cross food parcels being handed out on the streets of Manchester to destitute asylum seekers who had been refused permission to work.

One of the things that has distressed me most about what has been said tonight relates to remarks that I made at Second Reading about the quality of Home Office casework. Listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord Alton, I could not help reflecting that a great deal of this unnecessary destitution is caused by poor casework in the Home Office. I wonder whether the Minister can say what steps are being taken to improve that situation and speed up the processing of these applications.

7.45 pm

Lord Green of Deddington: My Lords, I think that I may find myself in a small minority in this Committee, although, I have to say, certainly not in the country. The first point to make is a very general one: it is a mistake to generalise about asylum seekers. Roughly 50% of them claim only when they are discovered. Therefore, it would appear that they come, at least initially, as economic migrants. Of those who then do claim, half are refused, but only half of those who are refused are removed. That is why I suggest that we need to be a bit more discerning about people who are referred to simply as asylum seekers.

As for the amendment, the Committee will be aware—indeed, it has already been mentioned—that the most recent EU directive, No. 33 of 2013, requires that asylum seekers should have access to the labour market after nine months if the asylum claim is still pending. The UK, Ireland and Denmark have, of course, opted out. Nevertheless, the amendment proposes a time limit of six months. It would also remove the current requirement for the job to be on the shortage occupation list, despite the fact that the EU directive provides for such provisions. Therefore, in these two respects, the

20 Jan 2016 : Column 849

amendment goes beyond the minimum standards now required by the EU directive, from which we have, as I said, opted out.

Let us be clear that the effect of the amendment would be to make the UK not the most but one of the more generous countries in Europe in terms of access to the labour market, and there is no doubt that that would act as a pull factor for both asylum seekers and economic migrants. The extreme case is Sweden, which until recently allowed asylum seekers to work on arrival. Of course, the numbers went up and up and now it has had to close its borders. So it is absolutely clear that the ability to work is, in that case and more generally, an incentive to people when they choose a country in which to seek asylum.

It is also worth pointing out that people are queueing up in their thousands in Calais—in a country which is perfectly safe. They have every right to seek asylum in France—they would have a slightly less good chance of getting it—but they do not. They want to come here despite the fact that they cannot work for 12 months. I hope that it is the general nature of our society that attracts people, and let us be proud of that, but I come back to the point about balance when it comes to setting up an immigration and asylum system. There has to be a balance between reasonable treatment of people, half of whom are in serious need, and the need not to attract those who may well not be genuine asylum seekers. For goodness’ sake, anyone who has read the newspapers in the last three months will surely understand the need to be very careful on that front.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: The noble Lord referred to the position in most of the European Union where people have to wait for nine months before they can work. Is he saying that he would support a time period of nine months?

Lord Green of Deddington: No. I am saying that we should keep it at 12 months in order that we are not more attractive than other countries on that point.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: Amendment 134A in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, says that asylum seekers should get permission to work after 12 months as a right. Would the noble Lord support that amendment?

Lord Green of Deddington: The short answer is no. We have an asylum system which does not work as fast as people would like, but let us improve the system. The obvious answer is to process the claims more quickly and then this question would not arise. However, I would go back to the original, existing system.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: My Lords, this is an emotive issue. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, these are not new arguments. In fact, I think they were had on the last Immigration Act and possibly in immigration Bills before that. Of course, it is an emotive issue and everyone has sympathy with the

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plight of some of the people whom we are talking about. It is a difficult line to draw and we have to draw a balance.

I have listened carefully to the arguments in favour of allowing permission to work where an asylum claim is still outstanding after six months, removing the caveat that any delay must not be of the asylum seeker’s own making, and lifting restrictions on the types of employment available. The amendments would radically change existing permission-to-work arrangements for asylum seekers and the Government are not convinced that that is sensible. As a general rule, the Government believe that it is not appropriate to allow asylum seekers to work. It is important that we protect the resident labour market for those lawfully present in the UK.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: Did the Minister listen to the employment statistics announced by one of our Ministers three weeks ago? She said that there were 200,000 job vacancies in the UK.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I am not aware of those statistics, but I will take a look at them.

Lord Green of Deddington: There are about 600,000 vacancies in the UK, and there always are. It is frictional unemployment. The only way that you can take another job is if a job is vacant.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: Thank you.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: We will come to employment in a moment.

It is important that we protect the resident labour market for those lawfully present in the UK and discourage those not in need of protection from claiming asylum for economic reasons. There are provisions in the Immigration Rules to allow non-EEA nationals to come to the UK to take up employment where there are no suitable resident workers available, and which give priority to those coming to fill roles included on the list of shortage occupations published by the Home Office. These arrangements are subject to numerical limits. This ensures that the employment meets our needs for skilled labour and benefits the UK economy. This approach prioritises access to employment and business opportunities for those lawfully in the UK, including recognised refugees. It will undermine this approach if non-EEA nationals can bypass employment restrictions by claiming asylum, particularly where that claim is clearly without merit.

There has been much comment, including tonight from the noble Lords, Lord Alton and Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, about historic delays in decision-making in the Home Office, but this has been brought under control. The Home Office met its public commitment to decide straightforward asylum claims lodged before April 2014 by 31 March 2015, and to decide all straightforward claims lodged from 1 April 2014 within six months. About 85% of cases are straightforward. This means that the vast majority of asylum claims are decided quickly. While awaiting

20 Jan 2016 : Column 851

a decision, asylum seekers are provided with free accommodation and a cash allowance to cover essential living needs—I will come on to the detail of that in response to the noble Lord, Lord Alton—if they would otherwise be destitute. They can also undertake volunteering activities while their claim is outstanding. I am not relying on volunteering as a primary argument, and it will not be financially beneficial, but it will help with integration, making friends, learning the language, maintaining skills and so forth. I will also deal with the noble Lord’s question about volunteering in a moment.

The Government believe that the current policy strikes the right balance. If a claim remains undecided after 12 months, for reasons outside their control, the person can apply for permission to work. That is a fair and reasonable policy and is consistent with our obligations under EU law. It also assists genuine refugees. It is common knowledge that some people make unfounded asylum claims. The reasons why can be difficult to establish, but it is reasonable to assume that some do so because of the benefits, real or perceived, that they think they will gain. Earlier access to employment risks making asylum more attractive for those who are otherwise not eligible to work in the UK.

Providing more generous employment opportunities for those who claim asylum therefore creates a risk of more unfounded claims. An increase in the number of such claims would slow down the processing of genuine claims and undermine our progress towards a fair and efficient asylum system. The Government do not believe that that is a risk worth taking.

I said that I would address the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about voluntary work and volunteering. Asylum seekers can undertake voluntary activity, but it must not amount to unpaid work. They cannot be paid for it and it cannot be undertaken on a contractual basis. The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked a straightforward question about whether asylum seekers would be caught by Clause 8 and the offence of illegal working. The right to work is a different question from whether you are in the UK lawfully and it is better if I write to the noble Baroness and send copies to interested Peers to confirm how Clause 8 will affect asylum seekers.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Lister and Lady Hamwee, talked about other countries that allow asylum seekers to work that had fewer asylum claims and whether reducing the period would act as a pull factor for asylum seekers. Germany, which was mentioned by the right reverend Prelate, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and others, allows asylum seekers to work after three months and the highest number of applicants were registered in Germany in 2015, including thousands of migrants from the western Balkans who are economic migrants and rarely qualify for asylum. Germany has the highest asylum intake in the EU.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked about the permission to work, which is limited to the shortage occupation list. The list is based on expert advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee. It comprises skilled jobs where there is an identified national shortage that it is sensible to fill, at least in part, through immigration. The restriction ensures that the employment meets our needs for skilled labour and benefits the UK economy. Under EU law, we are

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entitled to prioritise access to work for UK and EEA citizens over asylum seekers. Limiting access for those granted permission to work to employment on the shortage occupation list is an effective mechanism for achieving that. However, those granted refugee status have unrestricted access to the labour market.

The noble Baroness also mentioned the recent news about red doors. As the Immigration Minister told the other place today, we have commissioned an urgent review and officials will be travelling to Middlesbrough tomorrow to begin that.

The noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Alton, talked about the support package that is made available to asylum seekers. Nobody is pretending that they will live in anything like the lap of luxury, but it is not a random amount. The £36.95 per week is in addition to free furnished accommodation, with utility bills and council tax paid; and the weekly cash allowance is designed to meet essential living needs. It is reviewed every year using evidence-based methodology and we are satisfied that we provide enough to meet essential needs. The current level is for each person in the household—the asylum seeker and any dependant—and of course they have access to NHS healthcare and all minor children are legally entitled to free primary and secondary education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked how many asylum seekers had been awaiting a decision for at least six months. There are around 3,500. As I have said, the delays that have happened before have been brought under control and we have met our public commitments.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, talked about Red Cross food parcels. The British Red Cross has produced a report on the problems of destitution faced by asylum seekers which is based on 56 cases, but for the most part these were not asylum seekers. Some 46 of the 56 were failed asylum seekers, people the courts agreed did not need our protection.

As I said at the beginning, this is an emotive issue. The Government do not believe that the risk entailed in reducing the period is worth it. In light of the points I have made, I respectfully ask the noble Lord to agree to withdraw his amendment.

8 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, in response to the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, the Minister referred to the nature of voluntary work. I think we may need a little more on detail on that, and perhaps it would be a good idea if he wrote to noble Lords. It is an important point because voluntary organisations and the people who work for them need to be very clear about what their position on this matter.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I completely agree that it is an important point and I will be happy to the write to the noble Lord and others who have spoken on this after our session in Committee today.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: I am grateful to the Minister for his response to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy. Can he be clear in that response on the distinction that is being made between voluntary activity and voluntary work, which I found very difficult to understand, and

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I am sure that many in the field will find it perplexing too. Their worry will be that either they as organisations or some of those asylum seekers who are involved in voluntary activities could find themselves prejudiced against or even prosecuted. These are significant issues that need to be addressed in some detail.

Lord Ashton of Hyde: I take the point from the noble Lord, and that is why it would be better if our response was written down once we had had a chance to think about it carefully and get our definitions right. I will circulate the response and put a copy in the Library of the House so that voluntary organisations know where they are.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. When applications for asylum take longer than six months, being allowed to work is a reasonable objective. I thank the noble Lord for his response and I look forward to the letter on the points we have just discussed. Some powerful speeches have been made, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Alton of Liverpool, and many others. Surviving on £5 a day is an impossible hardship and it has to be endured for many months. As my noble friend Lady Lister said, the risk is that these people will be driven into the illegal work market where the risk of exploitation is even greater.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, mentioned the issue of the red doors in Middlesbrough. It is unbelievable and I hope that the Government will take very firm action, but let us make sure that we do not end up just painting all the doors blue next time. I make that point because this has to be dealt with properly. It is a scandal and an absolute disgrace. With that, and with my thanks for other comments made by the noble Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 134 withdrawn.

Amendment 134A not moved.

Amendment 134B

Tabled by Lord Hylton

134B: After Clause 12, insert the following new Clause—

“Protection from slavery for overseas domestic workers

Rules made by the Secretary of State under section 3 of the Immigration Act 1971 shall make provision for overseas domestic workers in the United Kingdom, including domestic workers employed in diplomatic households, to—

(a) change their employer;

(b) be required to attend a group information session within one month of the commencement of their visa;

(c) be able to renew their visa as long as they remain in employment and are able to support themselves without recourse to public funds;

(d) be able to apply for settlement;

(e) be able to apply to be joined in the United Kingdom by their dependants;

(f) be entitled to a three month temporary visa permitting them to live in the United Kingdom for the purposes of seeking alternative employment as an overseas domestic worker, where there is evidence that the worker has been a victim of exploitation.”

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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I rise to confirm that I only spoke to my amendment and did not move it, but in doing so perhaps I may thank those who spoke in favour of the fullest possible implementation of the Ewins recommendations, and I welcome what the Minister said as regards his intention to make progress between now and the Report stage.

Amendment 134B not moved.

Schedule 3: Illegal working closure notices and illegal working compliance orders

Amendment 135 not moved.

Amendments 136 to 145

Moved by Lord Bates

136: Schedule 3, page 81, line 8, after “if” insert “—

(a) the immigration officer considers that the condition in paragraph 1(3) or (6) is not met, or

(b) ”

137: Schedule 3, page 85, line 10, leave out “5(1)” and insert “10”

138: Schedule 3, page 86, line 34, leave out “Subject to sub-paragraph (4),”

139: Schedule 3, page 86, line 35, after “notice” insert “, other than one cancelled under paragraph 3(1)(b),”

140: Schedule 3, page 86, line 35, leave out “or an illegal working compliance order”

141: Schedule 3, page 86, line 39, leave out “or order”

142: Schedule 3, page 86, line 42, leave out paragraphs (a) and (b)

143: Schedule 3, page 86, line 42, at beginning insert—

“( ) that at the time the notice was issued, the condition in paragraph 1(3) or (6) was not met,”

144: Schedule 3, page 87, line 4, leave out “or order”

145: Schedule 3, page 87, line 4, at end insert “and”

Amendments 136 to 145 agreed.

Amendment 146 not moved.

Amendment 147

Moved by Lord Bates

147: Schedule 3, page 87, line 7, leave out sub-paragraph (4)

Amendment 147 agreed.

Schedule 3, as amended, agreed.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 9.05 pm.

Health: Cancer

Question for Short Debate

8.05 pm

Asked by Baroness Walmsley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the factors contributing to cancer survival rates in the United Kingdom.

Baroness Walmsley (LD): My Lords, my reason for asking for this debate is to highlight the fact that, despite much good work, cancer patients in the UK

20 Jan 2016 : Column 855

have poorer survival chances than those in comparable countries. We rank 20th out of 24 developed countries for cancer survival in breast, cervical and colorectal cancers. For a Government that seek a world-class health service, this is not good enough. I want to look at the reasons and ask what the Government plan to do about it, in particular the implementation of the five-year cancer strategy.

Anyone who has had a diagnosis of cancer will know the naked fear that the news generates. At that moment, it is hard to remember the great strides we have made in cancer survival, with half of all cancer patients now surviving for 10 years or more compared with a quarter 40 years ago. Some cancers such as breast cancer have seen remarkable improvements in survival rates, particularly because of the excellent screening programme, for which I am most grateful. But others such as pancreatic cancer have seen very little improvement. Some cancers related to lifestyle or environmental factors, such as skin cancers or the various bowel cancers, have become more common. But many more people are living with cancer for a long time and we need to consider how we look after their needs.

So what needs to change? We need to invest in prevention through information and help for people to reduce their risk and earlier, more accurate diagnosis. We need better training and resources to enable GPs to refer quickly and a realistic approach to consultant utilisation and shortages, along with that of specialist nurses. We need better data collection and transparency and earlier access to innovative treatments. To show public support, I hope that all noble Lords will celebrate World Cancer Day on 4 February by sporting a unity band to celebrate survival, show solidarity with those in treatment and remember loved ones.

Let us look at some figures. According to Public Health England, four in 10 cancers are preventable. Cancer cases are increasing, partly it is believed because we are living longer and partly due to lifestyle, so more people are living with cancer. One in two people will develop cancer at some point in their lives. But according to Eurocare-5, the UK’s survival performance rates are below the European average. According to the Lancet in 2011, Norway, Canada, Sweden and Australia do a lot better than us, while recent studies have shown that the gap is not being closed. As we do better, other countries are doing even better. That is why we need excellent data and accountability. Experts tell us that the one-year survival rate is a very good indicator of success or failure, so it is important that this information is collected efficiently and made available transparently.

This week, we have had some very worrying headlines. Cancer services have missed key targets. The six-week target for diagnostic tests to be done was missed and it is now two years since it was last met. One of the key cancer targets, the 62-day target for treatment to start from urgent GP referral, was missed. Those missed targets mean that nearly 2,000 people—not targets—had to wait longer than they should have. Wales was the worst, with only 71.9% of patients starting treatment within that time in Swansea and 62.9% in Cardiff and Vale. In Wales overall, the target has not been met since 2008. In England, just under 8,000 people with suspected cancer did not see a consultant within two weeks of an

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urgent referral by their GP and 536 patients had to wait more than a month to have their first treatment for cancer. We need to be cautious about targets. There is no point in setting higher and tighter targets for tests if hospitals do not have enough consultants to deal with the patients diagnosed as positive.

What is the Government’s answer? The independent cancer strategy, which reported last July, made six key recommendations: a radical upgrade in prevention and public health, including national plans on reducing smoking and obesity; earlier diagnosis with 95% of patients referred by a GP being diagnosed or given the all-clear within four weeks; patient experience on a par with clinical effectiveness and safety through access to test results and a clinical nurse specialist or other key worker; transformation in support for people living with and beyond cancer, and appropriate end-of-life care; investment to deliver a modern high-quality service, including upgrading radiotherapy machines, reviewing the Cancer Drugs Fund and better molecular diagnostics for more personal treatment; and a big effort to address the shortage in the cancer workforce. It also called for overhauled processes for commissioning, accountability and provision with a regional network of care alliances and a national cancer team to oversee delivery of the strategy.

The Government have accepted the recommendations and the latest NHS five-year mandate asks for: early diagnosis to be a priority; more work to tackle smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity; reduced impact of ill-health and disability; and support for research and innovation to enable new treatments to reach patients more quickly. So there was a recognition of the role of speedy diagnosis in improving cancer survival rates, but nothing about better training or diagnostic tools for GPs. Molecular diagnostics have made enormous strides in recent years for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments as well as diagnosing the disease and enabling more effective personalised treatments. The strategy asks for a national commissioning framework for this. Will the Minister ensure that that happens? It is vital for equal access for patients, particularly for rare cancers.

The mandate recognised the need for prevention, but then we had cuts in public health budgets. When will the Government accept the common sense and economic benefit of prevention and put their money where their mouth is, and save money and lives at the same time? The mandate mentions support for research and innovative new treatments, but many in the service are not convinced that appropriate pathways exist. The mere existence of the accelerated access review recognises that the UK is very poor at getting innovative new treatments to patients, and that needs to change.

In the first year, among other things, the Government are reviewing the operating model of the Cancer Drugs Fund within its existing budget. This is currently being consulted on, but patients, clinicians and pharma companies have serious concerns that the outcome will not achieve what it should. Does the Minister agree that any new methodology should guarantee increased access to innovative medicines, as proposed in the cancer strategy? We do not want the UK to

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become a “late-launch market”, meaning that UK patients would have poor access to innovative drugs compared to others worldwide.

Nothing should be done to deter pharma companies from doing R&D and clinical trials in the UK, since this both adds to total UK life sciences and covers the costs of treating patients which would otherwise be borne by the NHS. Indeed, we need an about-turn in relation to research. Every patient, every doctor and every health worker could be involved in medical research, but there are currently threats to the collection of data. I would encourage all patients, with suitable assurances, to allow their anonymised data to be used for medical research to save future lives. Without complete data, the researchers are working blindfold and we cannot hold CCGs, hospitals and the Government to account.

NICE must look again at its methodology for evaluating cancer drugs, especially those focused on rare cancers. But there are no proposals for NICE to change the criteria or thresholds and no recognition of unmet need, such as for cancers with very poor prognoses, such as pancreatic cancer.

It is instructive to look at some specific cancers to see where the problems lie. Despite being the 10th most common cancer, pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest killer. Yet it only gets a tiny research spend. Survival rates are shockingly low. Only 4% survive five years from diagnosis and this has not improved in 40 years, indicating a desperate need for earlier diagnosis and more research. Around four in five patients are diagnosed at a very advanced stage and may have made up to seven visits to their GP with symptoms. All that suggests a need for better GP training and better access to diagnostic tools so that patients can have surgery before it is no longer an option. Other specialties such as skin cancer have a shortage of consultants and the ones there are spend far too much of their time seeing patients whose GP could have diagnosed the lesion as benign if they had had better training. This is another area where public awareness of symptoms needs to improve.

I have not been able to cover all the ground in 10 minutes, but I hope that other speakers will. I thank all those who are about to take part in this debate and hope that the Minister can answer the many questions that will be raised.

8.16 pm

Lord Colwyn (Con): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing time for this debate. Her excellent speech enables me to bring the dental profession to your Lordships’ attention—again. A speaking slot of four minutes is always very restrictive but I am pleased to be able to make reference to dental professionals, most of whom play an important role in the detection, diagnosis and treatment of many forms of oral cancer.

As we all know well, cancer remains one of the biggest killers and burdens on our health service. In turn, tobacco is by far the biggest preventable cause of cancer, with more than one-quarter of all cancer deaths in the UK being linked to it. Cancers of the head

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and neck are among the ones most directly linked to smoking, second only to lung cancer. Two-thirds of all cases are as a direct result of tobacco use and as many as nine in 10 cases could be prevented. Oral cancer is also one of the fastest-increasing types of cancer, with cases up by almost 40% in the last decade alone. With almost 7,000 patients diagnosed every year, it now kills more people in the UK than cervical and testicular cancers combined.

With tobacco cessation and early diagnosis being the keys to reducing the incidence and improving the survival rates of this particular kind of cancer, we cannot overlook the important contribution dentists can make in the fight against this terrible disease. Dental professionals are on the front line in the fight against mouth cancer. Dentists are uniquely placed to diagnose oral cancers very early, before the patient notices any symptoms and seeks help. This is crucial, as mouth cancer patients have a 90% chance of survival if the condition is detected early, but this plummets to just 50% if their diagnosis is delayed. The British Dental Association and Cancer Research UK have recently jointly launched a very useful new scheme called the Oral Cancer Toolkit, which improves dentists’ knowledge of how to prevent and detect oral cancer. This is something that could and should be built on.

Being the only health professionals who regularly see healthy patients, members of the dental team are also in an ideal position to help prevent future cases of oral and other cancers by becoming involved in tobacco cessation. They update the patient’s medical history form, which includes questions on tobacco, during every visit and can often see visual evidence of smoking or chewing tobacco during a check-up or treatment. Trials have revealed that dentists with the right support and access to information on tobacco counselling can contribute significantly to tobacco control measures in the community. It is important that the dental profession is involved in the development and delivery of the new tobacco control strategy, as it is a potential resource we truly cannot afford not to harness in the fight against cancer.

8.19 pm

Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for securing this debate. I shall focus on childhood cancers, which present challenges that are often distinct from more common adult cancers. I declare an interest as a father of a boy who has been treated for brain cancer and take this opportunity to declare my thanks for the extraordinary joined-up care he continues to receive.

Childhood cancer is the most common cause of death in children aged one to 14 and the most common medical cause of death for 15 to 25 year-olds. Death from cancer at any age is, of course, tragic and traumatic for those left behind, but childhood deaths from cancer are especially so, and the years of life lost are considerably higher.

Paediatric cancers are rare and histologically diverse, which provides challenges for both diagnosis and attracting research funding. For many cancers, such as non-Hodgkin lymphoma and bone tumours, survival rates for 15 to 25 year-olds are worse than for adults, and childhood

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cancer treatments have particular hazards because they take place while bodies are still in the early stages of development and often involve lifelong consequences for those affected. But there is good news: survival rates have steadily increased for more than 20 years, from under 70% in 1990 to more than 80% in 2010. We are in the top third of high-income countries for childhood cancer survival rates, which is encouraging—but we know what more needs to be done to improve further, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, talked about.

There are four challenges in particular. The first is diagnosis. Nearly a third of teenage and young adult cancers are diagnosed through emergency presentation at A&E—much higher than the average for all other cancers in the adult population. About a third of this young age group have to visit the GP three times with symptoms before getting a referral—delays that make it more likely that a cancer will advance and that make the treatment much more complex. I know a number of parents of child cancer sufferers who very sadly feel that their GP acted as though rationing entry into the diagnostic system. I am keen to hear what more the Minister thinks can be done to raise awareness among GPs of warning symptoms.

The second challenge is education. Surveys show that teenagers have less understanding of cancer than older age groups, yet we know that many of the major risk factors for developing cancer in adulthood are initiated in adolescence. The Independent Cancer Taskforce recommended that a cancer education programme should be instituted for all secondary schools to raise awareness of healthy lifestyles and cancer symptoms. Will the Minister say whether the Government plan to endorse this proposal?

Thirdly, there is the issue of clinical trials. Half of young children with cancer enter trials for common cancer types. Among 15 to 19 year-olds just under a third do, and for 20 to 24 year-olds the figure is only 14%. That is why the Teenage Cancer Trust is calling for NHS England to set an expectation that at least half of teenagers and young adults with cancer be recruited to cancer trials over the next decade. Will the Minister comment on that ambition and say whether the Government intend to support it?

Lastly, perhaps the most important issue is funding for research. From 2010 to 2012, paediatric cancer research funding fell by 25%. What is as worrying as this dramatic fall is that it is wholly due to a reduction in government-funded research, which fell from nearly 40% of all research spend in 2011 to just 12% in 2014—so in 2014 the Government spent on paediatric cancer research one-third of what was being spent by the Government in 2009. We live in straitened times that force us to focus on priorities—we all know that—but I suggest that public funding of research into childhood cancer has to be, as for any generation, one of those priorities.

8.23 pm

Lord Sharkey (LD): My Lords, I declare an interest as chair of the Association of Medical Research Charities, via whose members the British public contribute £1.3 billion annually to medical research, the largest part of which is spent on cancer research.

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My noble friend Lady Walmsley noted that our cancer survival rates are significantly worse than in many comparable countries. People in the UK are dying of cancer quite unnecessarily. I know that the Government are acutely aware of that and that they recognise the need for urgent progress. The very impressive report of the Independent Cancer Taskforce, led by Sir Harpal Kumar of Cancer Research UK, shows us how to make that progress, and I am glad that the NHS has endorsed its recommendations.

Not surprisingly, a key recommendation of the report is an improvement in early diagnosis. I am myself a beneficiary of a very early diagnosis five years ago of lung cancer. Without that early diagnosis, I would not now be alive. To improve early diagnosis we need better training of GPs, better symptom awareness among patients, and better and quicker access to scanning. In this context, I am very disturbed to read reports of CCGs offering financial incentives to GP surgeries not to refer patients for further tests or specialist advice. Will the Minister tell us how widespread this practice is and what is being done to stop it?

The UK has a world-class record in medical research—a vital tool in improving cancer survival rates—and the mandate for NHS England requires publication of a plan for research. But we do not have that plan for 2016-17; in fact, we never got it for 2015-16. I know that some charities have had sight of a draft plan and that Cancer Research UK, for example, considers it to be limited in its vision of the NHS as research-active. Will the Minister say when we can all see the plan?

To date, the NHS has been slow to engage with the research community and to act on its recommendations. More effort is needed from NHS England to ensure that research funders can help them effectively meet their ambition to support and promote research. For example, as things stand, despite the pledge in the NHS constitution and the wishes of the Prime Minister, only 31% of cancer patients said that taking part in research had been discussed with them. This is despite the fact, too, that there is very good evidence that research-active trusts deliver better health outcomes.

Then there is the issue of money. The Government deserve congratulations for the science funding settlement in the spending review, but there are some important outstanding issues. The plan for a national fund to be held by NHS England for payment of excess treatment costs for cancer radiotherapy trials—a recommendation of the independent task force endorsed by NHS England—has not yet been published. Will the Minister say when we will see this?

Then there is the issue of excess treatment costs in general. We now have the guidance on this, but no published timetable for implementation. Delay in implementation prevents the full benefits of the HRA’s new single-approval system being fully realised, which is critical to the much-needed streamlining of research approvals. Will the Minister say when we might see the excess treatment costs implementation plan?

Finally, there is the question of the Charity Research Support Fund. The Minister will know that this fund is critical to universities seeking charitable funds for basic research, the largest part of which is on cancer.

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He will know how successful this fund has been: in 2013, the Government’s £198 million leveraged £883 million in charitable investment. We need this fund to continue. We need to protect it in real terms and to increase it in line with charitable investment.

8.27 pm

Lord Freyberg (CB): My Lords, I begin my speech with a startling fact: rare cancers accounted for 43% of cases in 2010, but 59% of cancer deaths. Let me repeat that: these less common cancers affect roughly four in 10 of new patients, but make up six in 10 of deaths. If we want to improve survival overall we have to improve our performance in these cancers, and our performance in caring for them is poor relative to international peers. Broadly speaking, in every case there is a 5% to 15% gap in the UK’s one year performance. In stark numbers, we kill one patient more for every 10 we treat. This cannot go on.

So what can we do to improve care in these cancers? First, we should publish risk-adjusted hospital survival by cancer so that patients have informed choice. These do not need to be put into the NHS dashboard if that will delay things. Patient advocacy groups can pick up the data and take it to their constituents.

Secondly, we should measure other important care quality outcomes, such as incontinence in prostate cancer. To give noble Lords a sense of the power of measurement, Germany recently introduced metrics in incontinence and impotence after prostatectomy. On average, about 50% of German patients are left incontinent, except in Hamburg, where the Martini-Klinik has been tracking its outcomes to drive internal performance improvements. Its rates are 6.5%—in other words, a national average of one in two men in diapers for the rest of their lives, versus one in 20.

Thirdly, we should streamline diagnosis and better connect primary and secondary care. The Government should be commended for putting one-year survival rates and emergency presentation data into the CCG dashboards, and these will drive local behaviours in this area.

Fourthly, we should centralise more services, especially specialist surgery. As an example, my sister’s cancer was in the chest cavity. Getting access for such thoracic surgery is highly complex and risky. General surgeons doing these sorts of procedures get worse outcomes than those who do them more often. It is like playing the piano; the more you practise, the better you get, yet we run shy of the necessary service reconfigurations to achieve this; and, without the data on hospital performance, one can see why. Patients can judge only convenience.

Fifthly, we should introduce national molecular testing for those cancers where there is no service incumbency, such as cancers of the upper digestive system or of the female reproductive system. We should use that patient volume to catalyse precision medicine trials in these diseases. They share the same genetic mutations as common cancer, and so, if pharma can recruit to trial, they will prove whether their drugs for common cancers work for these less common ones.

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Sixthly, we must continue to collect rich clinical data on all patients with cancer out of routine care. This is essential in the emerging era of personalised molecular medicine. England has at the moment the largest and best cancer registration data collection service anywhere in the world. It is this rich clinical data linked to the molecular and genomic analysis that will allow us to understand both rare and common types of cancer. However, if we allow large numbers of individuals to opt out of the registries, then our hopes for improving care quality and finding treatments and cures for rare cancers will be lost for ever.

While some of these measures will cost money, some are cost-free. Public Health England, in the form of the National Cancer Intelligence Network, has hospital survival data, but we just do not publish it. The Government have made a commitment to open data. This is an area where data can save lives. We must unlock Public Health England’s vaults and give the information to patients and doctors.

8.32 pm

Baroness Hodgson of Abinger (Con): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing forward this important debate. Most of us have had someone close who has been diagnosed with cancer, so this subject is personal to me, as it is no doubt to many other noble Lords here this evening.

Every two minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with cancer. It is now estimated that one in every two people born after 1960 will be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime. Cancer can be both physically and psychologically distressing given its unpredictable nature, the potential for spreading, and the often intensive and damaging treatment required to treat it. Then there is the uncertainty about whether the disease has truly gone, and the lurking fear about whether it will return.

In the wider and longer-term context, results are improving. Awareness and understanding, through to diagnosis, treatment and, ultimately, survival, have improved enormously in recent decades. Overall, rates of cancer survival have doubled in the last 40 years. However, these rates still remain around 10% lower than the European average. As we have already heard, as with all health matters, prevention is key. While cancer is indiscriminate, we are able to influence our likelihood of falling prey to it. Alongside medical advances, we must examine what we as individuals can do to lessen our risk. We also need to focus very heavily on the most prevalent cancers, as, between them, lung, prostate, breast and bowel cancer account for more than half of all cases. Public awareness campaigns play an important role in educating people about the risks they face should they make certain lifestyle choices.

Early diagnosis is critical. Regular tests and screening for cancers is where government support and personal responsibility can go hand in hand. However, given that cancer is most common in older people, with a third of cases being diagnosed in people aged 75 and over, I am slightly concerned that this is not reflected in the age brackets where regular screening is standard. For example, women over the age of 70 cease receiving invitations for breast screening, and instead must self-refer.

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However, the fact is that around one in three women diagnosed with breast cancer, and more than half of those who die from it, are over 70. Given that we know early diagnosis is the best way of stopping cancer in its tracks, and with an ageing population, surely we should allocate proper resources to ensure comprehensive awareness and monitoring among this older age group.

Cervical cancer is most common in women aged 30 to 45, and after this time screening invitations are sent only once every five years, and cease to be sent once a woman reaches the age of 65. However, an academic study last year found that one in five new cases of cervical cancer are in fact diagnosed in women 65 and over. Half of cervical cancer deaths are now also in this older age group. The charity, Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, has called for further research into a self-administered urine test, which women can carry out at home to check for signs of cervical cancer. I suggest that this is exactly the sort of measure that we should be looking into.

I also encourage greater uptake of the PSA blood test for prostate cancer, and to consider introducing the CA125 blood test for ovarian cancer, as this is often discovered all too late. Once cancer has been diagnosed, follow-up appointments and treatment need to happen speedily.

Government must ensure that their policies are shaped by science and statistics, using resources where they are needed the most. In turn, we must all be proactive in taking responsibility for our health and choosing to live healthier lifestyles. This will ultimately save public money and, more importantly, lives.

8.36 pm

Baroness Masham of Ilton (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for securing this short but very important debate. I declare an interest as a member of the All-Party Group on Cancer. On many occasions, I have been to presentations of cancer survival rates in Europe and it is alarming to see the UK near the bottom. I ask the Minister, why is this? Whatever happens, we must get better. Early diagnostics are vital.

On Monday evening, I attended a reception for the Lymphoma Association. I met a young scientist who told me the story of her brother. He was aged 26 and had just taken his exam for a pilot’s licence. He had swellings, excessive night sweats, weight loss and tiredness. He went to his GP three times but was told that he was suffering from stress from taking his pilot’s exam. Family members then took him to a private doctor and insisted that he had blood tests. The results came back and he was sent directly to St Thomas’ Hospital and told that he had cancer. Because it was a late diagnosis he had to have strong chemotherapy, which gave him many problems including depression. His career was in ruins and he is now a stay-at-home father.

Lymphoma is cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the body’s immune system. It is the fifth most commonly diagnosed form of cancer. Without consistent and reliable data, further opportunities to improve the diagnosis, treatment and aftercare for lymphoma will be missed.

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The Minister knows my concern about the patchy provision of vital healthcare across the country. The vision of the British In Vitro Diagnostics Association is to have robust, fair and sustainable access to and provision of molecular diagnostics across England. Rapid advances in medical science and technology are transforming the way health problems are identified, prevented and treated. However, in the area of molecular diagnostics, further reform is needed to ensure that patients can realise the benefits of these tests and have equity across the country. I hope that NHS England will take note.

Proton beam therapy came to the public’s notice when the parents of a young boy with a brain tumour went to the Czech Republic for treatment. This showed that the UK was lagging behind other countries in targeted methods of treatment. The treatment allows high-energy protons to be targeted directly at the tumour, reducing the dose to surrounding tissues and organs. Can the Minister give us a progress report on the availability of this treatment in the UK? If London and Manchester are to be the chosen centres for this treatment, patients from all over England should be able to use it and should have help with travelling and accommodation.

8.40 pm

Baroness Redfern (Con): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for introducing this debate this evening. Unfortunately and as we all know, cancer touches us all. Every year, more than 250,000 people in England are diagnosed with cancer and, sadly, around 130,000 of these die as a result of the disease.

However, more people are now surviving cancer and I take this opportunity to pay tribute to all those healthcare professionals and volunteers—and dentists—who dedicate their lives to finding cures and caring for patients. The sad fact remains though, that our survival rates are still worse than those for other countries that are as wealthy as us. If we want the best for cancer patients, we have to invest in treatment but our priority also needs to be prevention through early diagnosis, as we have heard from earlier speakers.

I welcomed the Government’s strategy on cancer in 2011 and efforts to raise awareness of symptoms, with £750 million allocated to support this. If we take bowel cancer, for example, which is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and where survival rates are closely associated with the stage at diagnosis, it is estimated that up to nine in 10 people could survive if they were diagnosed in the earliest stages of that cancer. There is a huge variation in survival between cancer types and we have the staggering statistic that one in five cancers is not spotted until A&E.

This Government made a manifesto commitment to continue to support tackling cancer through campaigns such as Be Clear on Cancer. Many noble Lords will be familiar with radio and television advertising that encourages people with possible symptoms or concerns to visit their GP and get them checked out. I, for one, would welcome increased media attention, with a possible monthly “focus on cancer” to promote awareness of the symptoms of a different cancer each time and what to look for.

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Alongside diagnosis, access to appointments is vital. In May last year, the Prime Minister reiterated a commitment to seven-day general practice and hospital services by 2020. One initiative that I think has been particularly effective is the free NHS “midlife MOTs” for those aged 40 to 74 who do not have a pre-existing condition, which we have delivered in north Lincolnshire with GP support. These health checks mean that residents will be better prepared for the future and able to take steps to maintain or improve their health. However, we still have a stigma attached to seeking advice on health, particularly with older residents and especially men. I would welcome the Minister considering this point and explaining what further assistance may be available to local authorities to increase contact with these target groups to improve survival rates. We also need to look at lifestyles to reduce the risk of cancer, with around a third of cancers being linked to smoking, diet, alcohol and obesity. By running screening programmes, we have the chance to get an earlier diagnosis so that treatment is more likely to work.

We face a massive challenge ahead to do the best we can against the seemingly endless toll that cancer has on people’s lives. I am positive that more can be done to support those with cancer and identify the risks sooner, but at the same time I acknowledge the huge strides that have already been made.

8.44 pm

Lord Aberdare (CB): My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, on securing this debate and on making a number of points in her excellent speech—as indeed did other noble Lords—of such merit that I plan to repeat them.

It is good news that cancer death rates have fallen steadily in the past 20 years and that half of adult cancer patients are now expected to survive for 10 years or more. As a cancer survivor myself, I hope to reinforce those figures. However, this is not a uniform picture, and I shall speak about one of the cancers with the worst survival rates of all. I declare my interest as a vice-chair of the All-Party Group on Pancreatic Cancer.

As we have heard, pancreatic cancer is the 10th most prevalent of the top 21 cancers but the fifth biggest killer, causing some 8,700 deaths a year. UK five-year survival rates are just over 5%. Shockingly, these have hardly changed in 40 years. Average survival after diagnosis is a mere two to six months; 80% of patients are diagnosed too late to be operated on; and 45% are diagnosed only as a result of emergency admission to hospital, with only a 9% chance of surviving for one year, as opposed to 26% for GP referrals. I could go on but I will end with just one more dismal fact: the UK is near the bottom of the European league table in its pancreatic cancer outcomes, with a one-year survival rate that is only half that of Belgium—21% versus 40%—and well below the average of 30%.

What are the factors contributing to pancreatic cancer survival rates—or, more accurately, non-survival rates—in the UK and what might be done to improve them? I will make five suggestions, based on the findings of two inquiries carried out by the all-party group in 2013 and 2014. If the Minister has not seen them, I would be glad to send him copies.

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The first requirement is for more research. Pancreatic cancer accounts for 5.2% of UK cancer deaths but only 1.4% of research spending. Of course, the experience of other cancers shows a clear link between research and improved survival rates. The second is earlier diagnosis. The all-party group reports have highlighted ways to achieve this, including better training and diagnostic support tools for GP practices; new referral pathways, giving GPs direct access to CT scans; and multidisciplinary centres to avoid patients being shuttled back and forth between their GP and various investigative routes before a correct diagnosis is made.

Thirdly, a specific strategy is needed for tackling pancreatic cancer and other so-called cancers of unmet need whose outcomes are lagging behind. These are not adequately addressed in the current national strategy for England. Fourthly, as we have heard, the public should be made more aware of pancreatic cancer. A 2015 poll found that 71% of people in England could not name a single symptom of pancreatic cancer unprompted. An awareness campaign is needed, if not for pancreatic cancer on its own, then perhaps for the whole group of gastrointestinal cancers, including pancreatic.

Finally, it is deeply troubling that the only new treatment for pancreatic cancer in some 20 years, providing a real, albeit small, extension of life for patients, has been removed from the cancer drugs fund and rejected by NICE for use in the NHS, although it remains available in both Scotland and Wales. This only exacerbates the finding of the 2014 national Cancer Patient Experience Survey that pancreatic cancer patients report a lower standard of care than others; for example, in terms of the information provided, the availability of cancer nurse specialists with specific pancreatic cancer skills, and access to specialist dieticians.

I have outlined five ways in which the Minister could set about improving cancer survival rates, particularly for pancreatic cancer sufferers, for whom the need is so dire. Perhaps he might borrow from President Obama’s cancer “moonshot” idea in his recent State of the Union address and bring to the battle against cancer the sort of energy, innovation, commitment and resources that led to America putting a man on the moon—or at least enable us to catch up with other leading countries.

8.48 pm

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, I, too, thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for instituting this debate. Clearly, we have made progress over the past 10 to 15 years but much more needs to be done. International comparisons show that to be the case. I also acknowledge briefings from many different organisations for this debate, including Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK and the Teenage Cancer Trust. Of course, my noble friend Lord Wood has already spoken very eloquently about the devastating impact of cancer on young people.

I have a number of questions for the Minister. First, can he clear up the status of the Cancer Taskforce report? A number of noble Lords referred to this being accepted. I would like to know what that means. Does it mean that, in essence, NHS England

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is committed to implementing all its recommendations or is it a broad-brush acceptance of the philosophy behind the report? I believe that there is some confusion here.

Secondly, I move on to early diagnosis. A number of noble Lords mentioned GPs. There are any number of conditions where issues are raised about GPs and diagnosis. I am not one who rushes to blame GPs but there is now a general issue about how you get the benefits of general practice, which are many, and then ensure that diagnosis is better than before. It is a very difficult question. At the very least, are the Government working with the profession on this?

Thirdly, there was the question about screening and the age limits. Why, for instance, is the screening for bowel cancer stopped at the age of 74? I have tabled Written Questions about this and I am not convinced that there is an answer. I am not at all sure whether the National Screening Committee is keeping up to date with the demographics in this country. Also on screening, there is the recommendation from the NSC about making changes to both bowel and cervical cancer screening programmes to make them more effective. What has happened to those recommendations? One of the tests is called FIT; the other is an HPV in relation to cytology test. I would be grateful if the Minister could at least write to me on that.

A lot of charities have expressed concerns that we do not have enough diagnostic capacity. I know from the latest OECD survey that, in the UK, we have less access to new equipment than in many other countries. What is going to happen in relation to that?

I would like to ask the Minister about drugs. A number of noble Lords, in particular the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, mentioned the fact that we have an appalling record in getting innovative new drugs to our patients. We have an accelerated access review. The question that I keep asking the Minister is: where is NHS England’s commitment to this? I sense that there is no commitment and that it sees drugs as a burden and a cost, rather than a huge advance for patients. It is essential that the philosophy of the NHS is changed in terms of the accelerated access review.

The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, raised very important points. The Minister is very generous with his time, but I wonder whether he would be prepared to meet him to discuss the points that he raised about data and huge variations. The noble Lord referred to Germany but he could of course have referred to the UK in those terms.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised a lack of co-ordination. Will the Minister agree to bring back cancer networks locally? They were brilliant and it was a pity that they were dissolved. They should be brought back.

8.53 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, I join everybody else in thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for bringing this very important debate to the House. It really is a shame that we have only an hour. So much has been said that I cannot do it all justice. The noble Baroness kindly gave me a hint of what she might say this evening, so I hope that I will

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cover that in my main speech. I would like to come back to her on the two-week target. Maybe I could write to her on that.

My noble friend Lord Colwyn raised the importance of the dental profession, which again is all part of the common theme of early diagnosis. The importance of clinical trials was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Wood, particularly in relation to teenagers and children. They are clearly very important. I would like to come back to the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, about his comment that CCGs were putting in incentives to GPs for not referring suspected cases of cancer. Perhaps I might investigate and come back to him on that important issue.

The noble Lord, Lord Freyberg, mentioned powerfully the power of transparency. The example he gave which stuck with me was that of prostate cancer and the differing rates of incontinence as a result of that. I think that it was in Hamburg that the results were particularly good. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I have already agreed to meet the noble Lord, Lord Freyberg. Transparency about survival rates will not solve all the issues but could be very powerful.

Both my noble friend Lady Hodgson and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised the issue of screening for elderly people. I will write to them on that issue, as I cannot give them an answer this evening. The noble Baroness, Lady Masham, raised the issue of proton beam therapy. Again, I will write a progress report to her on that. As she knows, we are proceeding with two centres, one in Manchester and one at UCLH in London. I believe that both of them have started and are on target, but I will revert to her on that if I can.

My noble friend Lady Redfern asked whether we could look at increasing public awareness and referred to the Be Clear on Cancer campaign. That is important. The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, raised the issue of pancreatic cancer. I was not aware that the survival rate after a year was 5%. That is terribly low, and I would like to research that more. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, raised lots of important questions, but in answer to a particularly important one, NHS England has, as I understand it, accepted the recommendations of the Harpal Kumar report and will be implementing them over the next four years.

I hope that I will answer most of the questions in my speech. It is worth noting that we have made huge progress over the last 15 years, even though the kernel of the debate this evening is that we have got a lot further to go to catch up with our European neighbours. Activity has increased dramatically. In the last five years, 645,000 more patients with suspected cancers were seen, an increase of 71%. Almost 40,000 more patients were treated for cancer, an increase of 17%.

The proportion of cancers diagnosed as a result of emergency presentation—an issue raised by a number of noble Lords—has decreased significantly. At the same time, the proportion of cancers diagnosed through urgent GP referral following a suspicion of cancer has increased. In 2006, almost 25% of all cancers were diagnosed as an emergency. In 2013, this figure had fallen to 20%, or one in five. That is a considerable reduction, but there is still a long way to go. To help diagnose cancer earlier, we have invested over £22 million in our Be Clear on Cancer campaigns and we continue

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to expand and modernise our cancer screening programmes. Nationally, 37% of radiotherapy treatments are now being delivered with more precise intensity-modulated radiation therapy—IMRT—ahead of the 24% target.

Since October 2010, the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped more than 84,000 cancer patients in England, and £1 billion has now been made available to support that fund. We are committed to the fund, although we are out for consultation at the moment as to how we should progress it forward for next year. It is worth noting that in this current year some £340 million has been spent in that fund. Some of these new cancer drugs are extremely expensive.

We know that cancer survival in England has historically lagged behind the best-performing countries in Europe and the world, but none of these international comparisons of cancer include patients more recently diagnosed than 2009. As a result, we should be careful about using these comparisons as a measure of the current performance of the system, although they can be useful as a long-term benchmark. Although we will have improved considerably since that time, I suspect that other countries will also have improved, so the question is whether that gap has closed. Although our survival rates are at a record high and continue to improve, as shown by the new figures published by the ONS in November, we know that we must do better. The gap between England and the better-performing countries is narrowing for some cancers, but for others it remains.

That is why, in January last year, NHS England announced a new Independent Cancer Taskforce to develop a five-year strategy for cancer. A report was published in July 2015, which I think was well received by most interested parties. It recommends improvements across the cancer pathway with the aim of improving survival rates. I thank Sir Harpal Kumar and his colleagues for that report.

In terms of delivery, NHS England has recently appointed Cally Palmer, whom some of you will know, as she is also chief executive of the Royal Marsden, as the NHS National Cancer Director. She will lead on implementation, as well as new cancer vanguards to redesign care and patient experience. She is currently setting up a new Cancer Transformation Board to lead the rollout of the recommendations of the new strategy, and a Cancer Advisory Group, chaired by Sir Harpal Kumar, will oversee and scrutinise its work. I hope that that will go some way to addressing the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the networks that used to be there. We hope that they will put in place something similar, if not the same.

Although this is a five-year strategy and an implementation plan is being developed, good progress has already been made on many of the key recommendations. The task force recognised the importance of early and faster diagnosis to improve outcomes and experience. It is essential that we make sure that cancer is diagnosed as early as possible, so we will adopt the task force’s ambitious new waiting times target for the NHS. From 2020, patients will be given a definitive cancer diagnosis or the all-clear within 28 days of being referred by a GP. This will mean that the period of uncertainty will be as short as possible.

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We are backing this with an expected investment of up to £300 million a year by 2020, along with a national training programme for an additional 200 staff with the skills and expertise to carry out endoscopy tests by 2018. This is an area of shortage at the moment. We have also confirmed a commitment from NHS England to implement the Independent Cancer Taskforce’s recommendations on molecular diagnostics. This will mean that about 25,000 additional people a year will have their cancers genetically tested to identify the most effective treatments. I noted the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, about fairness in access to molecular diagnostic tests.

To monitor the impact of the new strategy, we are also introducing two new outcome metrics: the proportion of cancers diagnosed at stages 1 and 2 and the proportion of cancers diagnosed through an emergency route. These will be published quarterly at CCG level from May 2016. From April 2016, the new cancer dashboard will enable every CCG to see its data and benchmark itself against other CCGs and England as a whole. It will measure progress with a focus on incidence, survival rates, patient experience and quality of life for patients.

In conclusion, I congratulate your Lordships’ House on the quality of this debate. Some fascinating issues have been raised. The personal experience of many noble Lords has been particularly illuminating. I hope that I have been able to set out our commitment to delivering the Independent Cancer Taskforce’s new strategy, the good progress that has already been made, and NHS England’s robust plans to turn the recommendations into reality.

If the NHS is successful in implementing its initiatives and ambitions, an additional 30,000 patients a year will survive cancer for 10 years or more by 2020, 11,000 through early diagnosis. There will also be a closing of the gap in survival rates between England and the best countries in the world, which is something that we all want to see.

We have some progress to report. It is never enough. It will take time to build up both the diagnosis and treatment resources so that we can close that gap with other European countries completely, but with Sir Harpal Kumar’s task force report, we have a very clear way to do that.

Lord Aberdare: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I hope that I did not misspeak, but the figure I cited of 5% for pancreatic survival was for five years, not one. I apologise if I misled the Minister.

Immigration Bill

Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

9.04 pm

Clause 13: Offence of leasing premises

Amendment 148

Moved by Baroness Hamwee

148: Clause 13, page 8, line 32, at end insert—

“( ) In section 33(1)(a), for “race” substitute “a protected characteristic as defined in Chapter 1 of Part 2 of that Act”.”

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Baroness Hamwee (LD): My Lords, this group of amendments takes us to the provisions in the Bill on the right to rent. The debate and many briefings around the evaluation of the restrictions applied in the West Midlands under the scheme instigated by the 2014 Act, particularly references to discrimination, prompted me to look at that Act. Section 33 requires a code of practice from the Secretary of State specifying what a landlord or agent should do to avoid,

“contravening … the Equality Act 2010, so far as relating to race”.

I confess that I cannot remember why only race is mentioned in that section, not the other so-called protected characteristics, which include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, religion and belief, and sex and sexual orientation. I accept that some of these may be unlikely to influence a landlord’s or agent’s attitude, but it can be difficult for some people to distinguish discrimination on the basis of race and religion in practice. So my question to the Minister is: why did we confine this to race? I am implicated in this, after all, as I took part in debating that Bill. In any event, is the matter not due for review?

The other amendments in this group are on the evaluation of the right-to-rent scheme. My Amendment 159 was tabled to come before Clause 13, but it does not matter. I have added my name to Amendment 151, which is about applying criminal sanctions to the provisions in the 2014 Act, making non-compliance into a criminal offence. That obviously requires an evaluation of how the 2014 provisions are going. Amendment 159 would provide that there would be no rollout of those provisions from the West Midlands until there was the evaluation, to which I referred in the amendment. Since then, the Government have laid a statutory instrument to roll out those provisions. I have also tabled a Motion to annul that—quite separately, of course, from today. For a number of reasons, I was very sorry that that was laid, obviously because of the substance of the matter but also because I was really rather proud of this amendment, which, somewhat to my surprise, did not get altered in its passage from my head on to the Marshalled List. The evaluation which Amendment 159 would require would be independent of a representative sample of landlords, agents and tenants of the impact both on the lettings market and on the wider local community, as well as on whether the aims of the legislation were achieved. I would give until the West Midlands scheme was in effect for long enough to undertake a good evaluation. I have said five years, but I appreciate that that may be contentious—and I apologise to the West Midlands for continuing to inflict this there. These are all issues that have been identified by those who work in the sector, both the landlords and agents and the various groups which have concerns for immigrants.

The Home Office evaluation of the West Midlands scheme acknowledges that the sample sizes were small—I would say they were very small—and that the findings are indicative rather than definitive. The sample does not claim to be representative. My comments are not intended to be any criticism of those who were tasked with the evaluation. The majority of the tenants surveyed were students who are clearly not representative of

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families, older people and people who are in work. It is particularly easy to check on a student’s right to rent, so in that way they are less representative as well. I understand that they were specifically targeted by an information campaign in the area. The majority of tenants did not move property, so there is no experience there. The pointers to discrimination in the period that the scheme was running may have been few, but they are significant in the context. You certainly cannot say that the evaluation shows that discrimination was not an issue. In fact, the evidence showed discrimination.

The aims of the right-to-rent scheme are to reduce the availability of accommodation for people who are illegally in the UK, to discourage those who stay illegally—in other words, to encourage them to leave—by making it more difficult to establish a settled life here and to reinforce action against rogue landlords. I do not believe that the report demonstrates that those aims were met.

I congratulate the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants on the work it did. I shall not quote a great deal from its report as I hope that I have made the points fairly succinctly, but it points out from an independent evaluation it commissioned that 42% of landlords said that the right-to-rent requirements have made them less likely to consider someone who does not have a British passport and more than one-quarter said that they would no longer engage with those with foreign accents or names; at Second Reading, I said that I thought that with my slightly odd name I might find it hard to find rented accommodation. The council also said that 50% of respondents who had been refused a tenancy felt that discrimination was a factor in the landlord’s decision and—I am so naive that I found this shocking—landlords and agents have charged fees in order to undertake the right-to-rent checks. In addition, unscrupulous landlords have passed the potential cost of a fine on to the tenant in the form of increased rent or deposits.

I have also heard from Crisis, as other noble Lords will have done, which comments on the problems arising from the scheme for homeless people, whose documents often get lost or stolen. It says that replacing missing documents is expensive, probably prohibitively expensive, and when the lettings market is very high pressured and fast moving, as we know it is, landlords are not prepared to wait for tenants to produce documents. They will rent to somebody who can provide the evidence immediately and thus provide them with rent immediately.

Crisis also comments on the right-to-rent scheme applying to live-in landlords who take in lodgers and is concerned that it will act as a disincentive to people letting out rooms in their homes given the housing pressures we are experiencing.

I end by quoting from a letter that I received yesterday from the Residential Landlords Association, which says:

“Given that the little data available is at best contradictory and at worst shows that the Right to Rent scheme is … not achieving what the Government wants; and … is leading to discrimination against those unable to clearly unable to identify their nationality, we believe it premature to roll out the scheme across the country … To proceed at this stage runs the very real

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risk of causing considerable harm to the relationships between landlords and tenants which are so crucial to the smooth operation of the private rented sector”.

I thought it important to include that because it comes from the perspective of landlords, not that of many others from whom we have received briefings.

My name is on the third amendment in this group, but I beg to move Amendment 148.

9.15 pm

Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab): My Lords, the amendment in this group in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Rosser would require the Secretary of State to lay before Parliament an evaluation of the national rollout of the 2014 right-to-rent scheme before the offences listed in the clause came into force. Again, this issue was raised at Second Reading, and there is considerable concern about this position. Landlords can find themselves in some difficulties as they are not immigration officers and do not have the expertise to make determinations. The penalties for offences committed under new Sections 33A and 33B are severe: on conviction on indictment, a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both; and on summary conviction, a prison term of up to 12 months, a fine, or both.

The amendments in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have considerable merits, and Amendment 159 would stop any orders coming into force other than in the pilot area until the Secretary of State had published an independent evaluation of these sections of the Immigration Act. The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was right to say that we do not have a very long period in which to make a proper evaluation. She also made a valid point about the protected characteristics in Amendment 148.

I hope that the Minister will be in a position either to accept these amendments or at the very least to reflect on them before coming back to this issue on Report. As I have said, the Bill is in a bit of a mess and, unlike the Modern Slavery Act, we have not had the pre-legislative scrutiny required. That is why we are having all these difficulties as we go through Committee.

Will the Minister think about the effect on the rental sector and the injustice that can be done not only to landlords and people who rent out to lodgers, but to prospective tenants who may be unable to rent easily just because they are foreign, have an accent or dress differently, or their documents are not understood by lay people because they are in a foreign language? They will suffer unfairly due to the Government’s proposals here not being properly thought through, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to.

Earl Cathcart (Con): My Lords, I support the amendment about delaying the rollout of the pilot scheme. This seems to focus on the likelihood of landlords potentially asking all those with foreign names or accents for evidence of their right to rent. I thought that the whole point of a pilot scheme was to ensure that what was being put forward was actually working as intended. However, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, the Joint Council for

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the Welfare of Immigrants found that two-thirds of landlords had not fully understood the code of practice on preventing illegal immigration or indeed the code of practice on avoiding discrimination, and that 50% of those who had been refused a tenancy felt discriminated against while 40% of tenants in the pilot area had not been asked for any identity documents. That is hardly a resounding success for the pilot scheme, yet the Government want to roll out this contentious scheme across the country next month. That cannot be the right answer.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I will speak in support of Amendment 151 in particular. The pilot scheme has done nothing to allay all the fears that have been voiced by many organisations that the policy will have unintended, discriminatory consequences, for the reasons given by the noble Earl, Lord Cathcart, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, referred to the JCWI’s independent evaluation. I would be interested if the Minister could tell us what view the Government take of its evaluation alongside the pilot that they have prayed in aid to suggest that everything is fine.

At Second Reading I made brief reference to concerns raised by the charity Rights of Women about the possible implications for women fleeing domestic abuse. I will quote more extensively from the briefing it sent, because it is important. Rights of Women, as noble Lords may know, is a charity which specialises in supporting women who are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing, gender-based violence, including domestic and sexual violence. It says it is,

“deeply concerned that the ‘right to rent’ scheme will place already vulnerable migrant women who have experienced domestic violence at further risk of harm as a result of a scheme that creates barriers to accessing private … accommodation … Many women, including British citizens, experiencing violence in their relationships will have been deprived of access to important documents, such as passports and biometric residence permits, necessary to prove their right to rent and therefore these provisions will have a disproportionate effect on women fleeing abusive partners or other perpetrators of abuse regardless of their nationality.

Furthermore, women with limited leave to remain in the UK on the basis of their relationship with a British or settled person are dependent on that relationship subsisting for the continuation of their leave; when the relationship ends their immigration leave is at risk and women need to take steps to regularise their status in another category. Women who have fled abusive partners often need time to recover from their trauma before starting to address matters such as regularising their immigration status. It is not uncommon for a woman to find out much later after the breakdown of a relationship due to violence that unbeknownst to her the Home Office has curtailed her leave after her abusive partner informed them of the relationship ending. Without receiving notice of a Home Office curtailment decision, a woman can find herself without leave in the UK, unable to work or access housing.

Many of the vulnerable migrant women we advise on our telephone legal advice line have left or are trying to leave abusive relationships. Of these women a significant proportion are presently undocumented though either have an existing right to reside in the UK under European law or have a strong basis on which they can submit an application to the Home Office for leave to remain. The ‘right to rent’ scheme places these already vulnerable women at further risk by preventing them from accessing their own safe private rented accommodation due to a lack of documentation”.

These women will then be,

“at risk of homelessness, renting from exploitative landlords, returning to abusive partners or being forced into entering exploitative relationships”.

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The charity gives a couple of case studies which illustrate the very likely problems that could occur, which I will not cite now given the lateness of the hour. However, I will ask: how does this fit in with the Government’s laudable strategy to end violence against women and girls?

Baroness Sheehan (LD): My Lords, I lend my support to the remarks made from all sides of the Chamber in support of Amendments 151 and 159, which would provide for a proper evaluation of the right-to-rent scheme before we roll it out nationwide.

I have spent a fair amount of time volunteering with a local charity for homeless people in Wimbledon called Faith in Action. On one occasion I was asked to help a person whose documents had been stolen—an occupational hazard when you are a rough sleeper. It was a lengthy and frustrating morning and afternoon—and quite expensive to boot—and I was not successful in tracing the documents on that occasion. I say this because it is clear to me that homeless people, foreign nationals and those from a black and ethnic minority background who have a right to rent but are not in a position readily to produce the necessary documents will be excluded from the rental market as landlords inevitably become more risk-averse in the face of the harsh penalties that could be incurred.

A number of people have talked about the many different organisations that have put forward their case strongly and well. Crisis—a national charity for single homeless people and a member of the Home Office panel—is one of them. It states that, according to an evaluation of the Immigration Act 2014 in Birmingham, which other noble Lords have mentioned, six of the local charities surveyed said that people they represent have become homeless as a result of the scheme, while interviews with landlords found “potential” for discrimination. They, of course, are not alone in those findings. The Law Society raises similar concerns, as does Liberty. To that list I can add Shelter, St Mungo’s and the JCWI. In fact, any charity that works on the ground with homeless people or supports immigrants’ welfare will say the same.

So I can do no less than lend my support to Amendments 151 and 159. Surely it makes sense to delay implementation of the offences contained in this Bill and the rollout of the right-to-rent scheme until independent evaluations of the associated risks have been carried out.

Lord Deben (Con): My Lords, I find myself in a very difficult position. I have to say to my noble friend that there are three elements to this aspect of the Bill, which the amendments address, which seem to me incomprehensible. The first is that, if one is running a private business and is going to make a major change in the way it is run, one has a pilot scheme that one evaluates—preferably independently—and then decides whether or not it has worked. I do not understand how a Conservative Government who believe in private enterprise have not learned this from the private sector. It seems to me that you do not behave like this. You have a pilot scheme, you have it independently assessed, you announce the results and then you discuss what those answers mean.

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So I have a problem of comprehension to start with. It is an important problem, because the second difficulty I have is that I find it pretty unacceptable in this country that people should have to prove that they are suitable for renting a flat before they are allowed to do so. I do not find that very attractive. I am one of those who have always believed in identity cards, which I think would be convenient for everyone. But this Government do not believe in identity cards and have tried to argue all the time that they are not necessary. However, we are now creating a sector, a section of the community, which in fact has to have an identity card. I object in principle to the concept that some should have it and others should not.

Central to that is the issue that, however one likes to dress it up, it is likely that landlords will be more suspicious of people of an ethnic minority or with a foreign accent than they will be of those who speak correct English with the crystal accents heard in this House. I do not think that many of us who have spoken today, even those with self-confessed “odd” surnames, would be refused rented accommodation, because landlords would not expect us to be unable to prove our suitability for that flat.

9.30 pm

The third thing that I find pretty incomprehensible is that we are supposed to be trying to increase the amount of accommodation in Britain. We are short of accommodation. When I was a Minister with responsibility in this area, I was the first to try to encourage people to let rooms in their homes. I believe that one of the most unacceptable things to have happened recently, if I may say so, is the way in which the Opposition have espoused the cause of people with extra rooms being charged for them without remembering all those who are excluded from housing because people are living in underoccupied premises. I take the view that large families should have a first call on housing and I am pleased that the Government have done something about that. Paying the spare room subsidy should certainly be continued, because I care about the provision of housing, particularly for families.

Historically, a lot of single people would have lived in someone else’s house. That used to happen very widely, even in my young manhood. When you came down from university, you had a room in someone else’s house if your own home was not in the area where you worked. That arrangement largely disappeared and we have tried to find ways of encouraging people to use the spare rooms in their homes.

I can think of no greater discouragement than the provisions in the Bill. I do not understand how, on the one hand, we can exempt people from a significant amount of taxation to encourage them to let rooms in their house and, on the other, have a system in which people worry, even more than they do already, about letting a room in their house.

Those are the three reasons why I find what is proposed incomprehensible. There is another reason which is not about incomprehensibility, because I understand it. I do not like having a society that lays this kind of responsibility on landlords or, indeed, on anyone else. I want a society which is not about sneaking on one’s neighbour. Unless there is a really

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strong case for doing so, proved by a pilot scheme and independently assessed, I do not believe that it is acceptable to ask people to carry out this kind of investigation. I say that because, having represented constituencies for many years, I know that racism is endemic, and it is very easy to make it more widespread. It is very simple to make people suspicious of those of a different colour. Therefore, we should be leaning in the opposite direction from the way in which this legislation seems to lean.

I hope that my noble friend will realise that, as he has heard from these Benches, it is not just the Opposition or the Cross Benches, or those with a particular connection to this issue, such as Liberty, who are concerned; there is a fundamental concern about this legislation and a proper test is required. I say to the Minister that if there is a pilot scheme which is independently evaluated and is shown to have a real effect on illegal immigration, I will go along with it because it will be a worthwhile step. However, until we can prove that, it seems to me that the disadvantages and the things that make it incomprehensible to me demand that we look at this issue again. We must make this pilot scheme work before we roll it out.

Lord Best (CB): My Lords, I disagree with an awful lot of what the noble Lord, Lord Deben, said, and in particular his comments on the so-called bedroom tax. But we will not go into that at this hour of the night.

During the passage of the Immigration Bill 2014 through the House of Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, made some important concessions from the original drafting. One of those was to set up the pilot scheme that turned out to be in the West Midlands. I was subsequently asked to chair the consultative group that would follow the pilot scheme and see whether all was well or everything fell apart as a result of this measure. I jointly chair this with the Immigration Minister, James Brokenshire, and we have been meeting monthly or bi-monthly for the past year or so following the story as it has unfolded.

This has not been a trivial exercise. I assumed when I was joint chair with the Minister that he would come in at the beginning of the meeting, shake everyone’s hand and then clear off. It has not happened like that at all. The Minister has attended every meeting from beginning to end. My role has been very subservient to that, but it has given me an insight into how this pilot has worked out. I have also been to the West Midlands, met various landlords and talked to them about how they worry about these things. From that perspective, let me therefore report back on the pilot and the things have been going on in the Home Office.

There has been quite a considerable investment in this. A YouGov survey was carried out in the fairly early stages of the pilot. It was not awfully large, but then none of the surveys has been very large. It definitely indicated that landlords were saying how reluctant they were to get involved, that it was a nuisance, a bureaucratic nightmare and how they were more likely to turn people away if they suspected something from their accent or whatever. They said all those things. “Grumpy landlords” was the message coming back.

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To take an important ingredient of that, discrimination, the pilot set up by the Home Office looked at the area of the West Midlands where the right to rent was being implemented and also looked at a comparison area elsewhere. I am not meant to say where the other area was. We kept it a secret so that the people there did not know they were being looked at in this particular way. But we had a series of mystery shopping exercises in which people phoned with funny accents or with the Oxford English referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, and saw how they compared. In the comparison area, the discrimination existed as well as in the right-to-rent area. I am afraid that this does indeed prove that people—landlords and agents—take discriminatory attitudes towards the people whom they might accept as tenants. But it did not show that where right to rent had been introduced, the landlords behaved any differently than in the comparator area.

We did discover that some of the documentation that could prove that you were indeed entitled to be in this country was hard for landlords to understand and get their heads around. At the end of the process—and we only just have the final version—we developed a right-to-rent guide with pictures showing how documents relating to various aspects of identity from different countries looked for real. You would have to be pretty stupid not to be able to find in the guide the document that you are checking, if it exists. If landlords doubt whether the documentation is indeed genuine, they should—it would be unwise not to—phone the Home Office helpline.

We have asked Home Office officials what kind of resources are going into this helpline and how real it is. They have been extremely fast about answering calls, often within minutes. But if the scheme goes national, is the Home Office going to be able to fulfil the commitment that if a landlord or agent has not had a definitive response within 48 hours, the answer will have to be, “Yes, you can go ahead”? The Home Office is given 48 hours to say whether a particular person is here legally or not. If it does not get around to giving that answer because it is too busy, after 48 hours a landlord is absolutely in the clear to let to that individual. We wanted to make sure that the staffing was up to muster and that the helpline was properly serviced—and it is.

The steering group includes representatives from the landlord organisations who have been on both the main group and on sub-groups which have been looking at the discriminatory code and our code of conduct as well as at the evaluation exercise. We have had people from the Residential Landlords Association, the National Landlords Association and bodies that represent tenants’ interests. Shelter has joined, while Crisis has been there since the beginning. We have the GLA and the four local authorities in the West Midlands. These have been big and articulate meetings where people have been able to make the case and say the things they wanted to say.

We have been concerned throughout that the message would not get through. We need to communicate the fact that there is a right to rent and that both landlords and tenants have got to expect this little process to happen, as indeed it does for employers. Let us remember that this is only a parallel to employers being required

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to check the status of people who come to them for a job. We wanted to know that the communications exercise has been undertaken seriously. There has been a respectable budget for this work. A pretty good website has been set up so that people can see pictures of all the documents they need. There is social media networking using the landlords associations and showing the codes of conduct. Here I declare my interest as chairman of the Property Ombudsman. We have changed our code and we are publicising that. We have to get it out through the landlord networks, which have been co-operative.

From the beginning to the end, absolutely no one, either landlords or tenants, has welcomed this scheme. It is an imposition on them. But it has been an imposition since the passing of the 2014 Act and people are getting used to the idea that it is part of what you do before you undertake a letting. Landlords already need to take references because they want to know that people are going to be able to pay the rent into the indefinite future. They want to know that people really are who they say they are. Passports are regularly required by letting agents, so someone would already not get much further without one. The extra documentation may make life a bit easier for people now that it is clear what designates an individual as being in this country legally or illegally.

When we get to the penalties for offences, I am again interested because rogue landlords are a major problem in all of our big cities. There are people who exploit the tenants who come to them, and in particular they can exploit those who are not here legally. So far, these landlords have not been deterred from doing all kinds of horrendous things, so I welcome the Home Office having joined in and taking an interest as a major additional enforcement agency when it comes to knocking on the doors of landlords who are letting appalling properties at high rents and definitely exploiting the occupiers of those properties. The Home Office has been joining in with local authority enforcement officers, who have often felt rather bereft of the powers they need. They have found that landlords who have been behaving very badly come away from the magistrates’ court having been fined £500 and writing that off as a business expense because they are taking £5,000 a month for a house that is grossly overcrowded and where people are being treated abysmally.

Having the Home Office there adds another dimension to this. It is a powerful extra ally for those of us who are very much opposed to rogue landlords up and down the country, and I welcome its presence. This partnership between the Home Office and local authorities is now a hallmark. When people from the different local authorities in the West Midlands were asked how they felt the exercise had gone at the end of our last meeting, the comment was that there is now a new kind of partnership between the Home Office and local authorities at the local level in areas where they have been targeting rogue landlords.

9.45 pm

Yes, no one wanted extra bureaucracy to have to go through, and this is another hoop and it is not convenient. I opposed it the first time around but we have to learn to live with this additional measure. The Government

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got their legislation through, and the right to rent is part of the legal system. The evaluation that has gone on in the West Midlands is quite difficult to make definitive from beginning to end—we have not had many months in which to do this, as Governments always go faster than one would like, and one would like a pilot with even more expenditure on it—but I can say, from having watched this on the inside, that this has been taken extremely seriously. Yes, another few months of seeing whether we could learn more might have been good, but there have been significant changes in the way in which we have packaged the arrangements, including the codes, the publicity and the documentation. Along the way, the requirements have changed. As far as I can tell, landlords who did not like it when the YouGov survey, sponsored by Shelter, came out in the early days now understand that this is what they are going to have to do and that it is not so bad after all.

In terms of big fines and going to prison, it is absolutely clear that no one who makes an innocent mistake is going to be hounded. The Minister has said that. The Minister in this House said earlier that rogue landlords who are serial offenders, and who persistently break the law and could not care less about the legislative framework in which they operate, will now have the Government coming down on them like a ton of bricks. This is not about people doing their best and making a mistake. We had a meeting at which we discussed fraudulent and very beautifully and carefully prepared documents. Some people may think, “Aha, we can fool the landlord”. If they should not really be there, was the landlord at fault? No one is thinking that that is what the law is about. It is about the big-time criminal elements within the landlord sector.

Without ever thinking that this was a great piece of legislation and that it was a burden on everyone concerned, I have to say that the Government have taken it very seriously. Having sat through all the meetings on the pilot, I am satisfied that, for better or worse, we can live with this.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): After the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Best, I am tempted to say that I invite the noble Baroness to consider withdrawing her amendment at this stage. The noble Lord gave an authoritative and insightful perspective on the process. As this is the first time that we have come to residential tenancies, for the benefit of the Committee I should put on the record that my wife owns properties that are rented in the private sector. It is not something that is required to be listed in the register but, out of courtesy to the Committee, I make your Lordships aware of that.

Amendment 148 would extend the existing requirement on the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice that specifies what a landlord or agent should or should not do to avoid contravening the Equality Act 2010. It would then relate to all protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act. Amendment 151 would require that, before the offences of leasing premises in this Bill are commenced, the Government should lay before Parliament a report of the impacts of the restrictions on illegal migrants accessing the private rented sector which were introduced in the Immigration

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Act 2014 in relation to discrimination and the ability of those lawfully residing in the UK to access rented accommodation where they have neither a passport nor a driver’s licence.

Amendment 159 would require an evaluation to be made of the effect of the measures in the first phase area. This would have the effect of delaying any extension of the right-to-rent measures in the Immigration Act 2014 from the first phase area in the West Midlands until at least 1 December 2019. The Government take their duties to have due regard to the need to eliminate all forms of discrimination very seriously. The Government have published the policy equality statement and the evaluation of the right-to-rent scheme. The evaluation found no hard evidence of discrimination where the right-to-rent scheme had been commenced, or, indeed, when that area was compared against others, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, outlined. The evaluation also found no evidence that people who lacked a passport or driver’s licence suffered additional barriers.

The Government have given the fullest consideration to the findings of the evaluation and worked with the landlords consultative panel to ensure that the rollout is taken forward, bearing in mind the lessons learned. There is a list of acceptable documents for the right-to-rent checks, which sets out a broad and comprehensive set of options. This can be used by prospective tenants who do not possess a passport or driving licence to provide evidence of their right to rent. It has recently been revised further in consultation with bodies representing landlords, agents, local authorities and the housing charities Crisis and Shelter.

The code of practice that has been published addresses the concerns raised when the Immigration Act 2014 was passed that the right-to-rent scheme might inadvertently result in increased discrimination on the grounds of race. It provides guidance to landlords and agents in avoiding such discrimination. The Government do not believe that there is potential for the right-to-rent scheme to result in increased discrimination on other equality grounds.

Amendment 159 is at variance with the Government’s concerns that the measures should be implemented across the country with the minimum of delay. The Government are already committed to extending the scheme across England on 1 February and the order extending the scheme from that date has already been laid before Parliament.

In implementing the scheme, the Government have engaged with a panel of experts comprising representatives of landlords’ and agents’ associations, homelessness groups and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, as well as local authorities in the areas concerned. We are confident that we have designed measures that will meet the intended objectives.

Having put those remarks on the record, I come to the points raised in the course of the debate.

Baroness Sheehan: Would the Minister talk about whether he thinks a sample size of 23 people who are visibly from an ethnic minority is a sensible basis on which to base this evaluation?

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Lord Bates: I will of course come to that. I realise that there are some very detailed questions and I am certainly not skipping past them, but I wanted to put on record the Government’s response to the amendments before turning to the matters raised in the debate.

There are some interesting points here, the first of which is that, while this scheme has been rolled out into the private sector, the requirement to prove identity has been in operation in the social sector. It was introduced by the Labour Government in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. It provides a duty on local authorities to check that those entering social tenancies have a right to be in the UK. Indeed, it goes further and places a duty on local authorities to notify the Home Office where they come across people who do not have a right to be in the UK. What is new is that that requirement is being applied to the private sector.

On the criticism of the independence of the office of evaluation—a point made by my noble friend Lord Deben and a number of noble Lords—the Home Office Science evaluation had scrutiny of the consultative panel co-chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Best. It might be helpful for the Committee to have on record the members of the landlords consultative panel, co-chaired by James Brokenshire and the noble Lord, Lord Best. The representatives included: the Association of Residential Letting Agents; the UK Association of Letting Agents; the Residential Landlords Association; the National Landlords Association; the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors; the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills; the Department for Communities and Local Government; the Equality and Human Rights Commission; the boroughs of Sandwell, Dudley and Walsall; the National Approved Letting Scheme; Birmingham and Wolverhampton city councils; Universities UK; and Crisis.

Lord Deben: I did not criticise this as not being an independent group. My point was that the work should go on for longer before it is assessed, perhaps by the same group. It is not a question of complaining about the independence of the group; I fear that there has not been sufficient time to be able to draw the kind of conclusions which have been drawn. I think that is precisely what the noble Lord, Lord Best, indicated—that it would have been better to have had a longer period. All I was suggesting was that if you had a longer period and then had the independent assessment that would be better, given what a serious matter this is.

Earl Cathcart: I have a reservation. The Minister said that this is being done at the social housing level. However, it is relatively easy to get the message across to that sector because you just write to all the councils and tell them what it is. You cannot write to all the landlords because nobody knows who all the landlords are. There is no national register of landlords. I believe that is where the confusion has arisen in the pilot area, where 65% of landlords—two-thirds—do not understand the code of practice on preventing illegal immigration or the code of practice on avoiding discrimination. The message has not got to the landlords. When the Government roll this out, I wonder how the Minister proposes to get the message out to all landlords right across the country.

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Lord Bates: I am very happy to take that further. First, it is worth pointing out that landlords already undertake a number of checks. It is standard for them to check people’s identity to determine whether they are who they say they are. They take up credit references. It is standard to take up references from previous landlords to determine whether the tenants are suitable people. They require proof of employment. Therefore, a number of checks are already required. Establishing that somebody has a right to be in the UK and has the appropriate documents should be done already under best practice. However, I shall address some of the practical points about how we communicate this change.

I return to the point about the robustness of the research because that was raised by a number of noble Lords. A wide range of research tools have been used, including 17 online surveys with 539 responses. They were just part of the exercise. There were 12 focus groups and 36 one-to-one interviews. In addition, a total of 332 mystery shopping encounters were completed. The evaluation has been overseen by the consultative panel to which I referred. The Home Office has not made claims about how representative the tenants’ survey was as it was administered via mailing lists and web links, and therefore we do not hold detailed responses on that. Research was carried out with landlords’ letting agents. The landlords’ survey had 137 completed responses, 114 of which related to landlords with properties in the phase one area. The tenants’ survey had 70 completed responses, 68 of which related to tenants in the phase one area. As regards the robustness of the research, multiple methodologies were used to understand the impact of the scheme in its first six months between 1 December 2014 and 31 May 2015. It reached multiple stakeholder groups—I know that is the concern of my noble friend Lord Cathcart—of landlords, letting agents, housing associations and other voluntary and community sector organisations, including local authorities. I can also provide further details about the research if that would be helpful.

10 pm

I turn now to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, on subletting and lodgers. Tenants who are allowed to sublet and householders taking in lodgers—the point raised by my noble friend Lord Deben—and who conduct the right-to-rent check will be treated as the landlord under the scheme. Tenants of housing associations or other types of supported or provided housing should make sure that they are allowed to take in lodgers. If lodgers are not covered, it would create a loophole in the right-to-rent scheme.

On the point that was raised by my noble friend Lord Cathcart about foreign-sounding names, the Government have made it clear that the right-to-rent scheme is not directly against migrants, but a small minority of illegal migrants. Landlords should ensure that they conduct right-to-rent checks on all adults who have let property. The Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission assisted in drafting the code, which is helpful in this regard. It was published in October 2014 and is titled Avoiding Unlawful Discrimination when Conducting ‘Right to Rent’ Checks in the Private Rented Residential Sector. It sets out who is covered

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by the code and also specifies the nature of the discrimination that we are focusing on here and relates particularly—a number of noble Lords raised this—to race. It relates, in Great Britain, to Part 2, Chapter 2, and Part 4 of the 2010 Act and, in Northern Ireland, to Part 3 of the 1997 order: landlords must not discriminate against potential tenants because of race or on racial grounds. Race and racial grounds include colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins. Case law has established that members of particular religious groups, such as Jews or Sikhs, also form racial groups for the purposes of equality law. It should also be noted that, in Northern Ireland, the 1997 order covers the Irish Traveller community. Race discrimination may be direct or indirect. There are also prohibitions against race-related harassment and victimisation.

I turn to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Deben on using spare rooms. The right-to-rent scheme and the provisions of this Bill are not about illegal migrants only; they impact on measures to provide accommodations for those who are lawfully here. I think that this is a wider point—there are issues of unemployment or homelessness and it is right that people who are legally here in the UK should be the ones who have first call on employment and on properties to rent and to provide accommodation.

In terms of the unacceptable burden of checks, landlords are not being asked—

Lord Deben: Can I come back to single rooms that are let in a house? I have said to the Minister that I am perfectly happy to go along with him if I could know that we have looked at this particular issue. As far as I understand, we have not got very much evidence about the interaction between this legislation and people letting rooms in their own house. Do we know how many people have been interviewed on this? Do we know that it does not have the effect that I fear it has? If he can show that to me I will withdraw entirely but I just want to know and I am not sure that the evidence is there.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: To save the noble Lord from jumping up and down, our concern is that this could affect some people who have a perfect right to be here, such as British citizens—this is part of the point that the noble Baroness was making about people who are homeless. Vulnerable and disadvantaged groups—I talked about women fleeing domestic violence—may simply not have the evidence. A landlord who is in a hurry, and if there is great competition for space, is more likely to take the person who has all the documentation right at hand. It is not just between people who are not supposed to be here and people who are, because actually other groups are vulnerable to the unintended discriminatory consequences as well.

Lord Bates: I hear that. I am making the point that private sector landlords, in doing their due diligence on the person they are renting to, will already require a great deal of detail or proof of who they are and that they have a right to be here. It would surely be in their own interests. If they were letting out their property to someone who had no legal right to be here, they might find that that person disappears and they are left out

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of pocket. This is eminently sensible in terms of due diligence on the behalf of landlords, as well as being widely consistent with making it more difficult for individuals who are here illegally to operate, in terms of bank accounts, driving licences and employment. The evaluation found very little evidence that British citizens with limited documentation were experiencing problems as a result of the scheme.

With regard to the unacceptable burden of checks, landlords are being asked to take responsibility for ensuring that prospective tenants have a right to rent in the UK by carrying out simple document checks; where necessary, in a small number of cases, making a report to the Home Office. This supports the work of the Government to make it more difficult for illegal migrants to reside here unlawfully and to stop them accessing services to which they are not entitled.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, mentioned domestic abuse. She said that victims who do not have documents will struggle. In August 2015 the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, announced a £3 million fund for 2015-16 to address any gaps in the provision of specialist accommodation-based support for victims of domestic abuse.

The noble Lord, Lord Deben, asked who should be checked. The answer is any adults who will be taking up the accommodation as their main or only home in the UK. This means all adult occupants, not just those who may be the named tenants.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, asked about evidence of stolen documents. If a document is stolen, a letter from a UK police force confirming that the holder is the victim of a crime and personal documents have been stolen, stating the crime reference number and issued within the past three months, would be acceptable.

I have covered the point on domestic violence. The Home Office will be aware of who is applying for leave to remain under paragraph (289A) of the Immigration Rules as a victim of domestic violence. It will refer to the national referral mechanism to ascertain who has been the victim of human trafficking. Permission to rent will not be denied to such persons.

In answer to another point made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, the landlords’ survey included a broad range of landlords with different sizes of properties and portfolios. Focus groups also included small-scale, informal landlords, including those renting a single room. I was asked about fees. The report noted:

“However amongst the focus groups with informal tenants it was suggested that the charging of fees by some agents was common practice. This was not due to the Right to Rent scheme, but had been a long-standing practice—especially in areas where demand exceeds supply”.

I think that I have covered the points about homelessness and students. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, that we have worked with Crisis and Shelter in developing the list of acceptable documents for the right-to-rent checks.

Baroness Sheehan: I want to put more about the evaluation on record. We have heard a lot from the noble Lord, Lord Best, about his experience on the evaluation

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committee, but Crisis was also a member of that Home Office panel, and its assessment is very different. It is very concerned that,

“the harsh penalties for landlords who fail to evict tenants who don’t have the correct immigration status will compound the effect of the previous Immigration Act and make landlords much more ‘risk averse’ and less likely to rent to people who may not have easily recognisable documentation such as homeless people, as well as leading to increased discrimination against foreign nationals and people of black and minority ethnic backgrounds”.

I also had a meeting with the Residential Landlords Association, which said that its fears had been allayed. It was really quite concerned about its members who rented to students and that large student accommodation would be exempt. So while I know that landlords’ concerns have mostly been put to rest, let us please not forget the concerns of people who are dealing with the more vulnerable groups, such as the homeless and the not so well-off immigrants.

Lord Bates: That is an important point. Students are of course exempt because their right to be in the UK will have been checked by their university in granting them accommodation. The fact that they are exempt is because those checks are happening, and the social sector is exempt because the checks are happening there. All we want is for those checks to happen in the private sector as well.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark: Can the Minister say a bit more about who is doing the evaluations? The points that the noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, and the noble Lord, Lord Best, have made clearly could not be further apart.

Lord Bates: In that respect I might suggest that the partial solution which we came across for our last debate, which was on overseas domestic workers, was to look at organising a meeting in between Committee and Report. However, it would probably be more useful for the House to have the noble Lord, Lord Best, at such a meeting if he were willing to meet with colleagues on that basis. We would certainly be happy to facilitate one to explain more about the process, but we have tried to be as transparent as possible about this. It has been a long trial and there has been a thorough evaluation. It will also continue to be under review because this is not the completion of the process; we are simply talking about moving to the next stage of rollout, which is to England. There will be further opportunities for evaluation thereafter. I hope that, with those suggestions, I might have prevailed upon the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment at this stage.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I will want to go back and read what the Minister had to say about protected characteristics, so I will not spend time on that. I am not surprised that he does not agree with my Amendment 159—that is self-evident.

I would not for a moment accuse the Government of not being transparent on this. It is no secret at all that his party, in the last Government, did not want to have a pilot but to roll the scheme out right across the country immediately. We have information which has

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been the basis of the argument against rolling it out further. The points made by the noble Lord, Lord Deben, are unanswerable.

10.15 pm

The noble Lord, Lord Best, said that there were big, articulate meetings—I am sure they were—but nevertheless a number of us have been briefed by people who attended those meetings saying that they support our amendments and asking us to resist further rollout and, indeed, criminalisation.

The Home Office itself acknowledges that this was a very short pilot. The sample was not big or representative, and included a lot of students, who, as the Minister says, are in a very different position. Most of the tenants were white and most of them did not move, so were not able to contribute their experience. The Minister referred to social tenancies by way of comparison, but I would have thought that was a very different market, where speed was not an issue in agreeing a tenancy. I find it quite difficult to compare them in that way.

I accept that agents charge fees, but the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants seems to have found not only the old practice of charging tenants fees but that they have used this as a basis for charging further fees.

Finally, no one wants to help rogue landlords, but the resources should be put into tackling the rogue landlords, not through a scheme such as this, and the penalties should be for exploitation.

We will undoubtedly come back to this at the next stage, but of course for the moment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 148 withdrawn.

Amendment 148A

Moved by Lord Howard of Rising

148A: Clause 13, page 9, line 28, at end insert—

“( ) The landlord does not commit an offence under subsection (1) if the landlord—

(a) has taken reasonable steps to verify the identity and immigration status of the person or people with whom the landlord has concluded the residential tenancy agreement; and

(b) has no reasonable cause to believe that any other person who meets the first and second conditions is residing at the property.”

Lord Howard of Rising (Con): My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 150 and 150A. I declare an interest as the owner of properties which are let to long-term tenants.

I find it a bit rich that landlords should risk imprisonment for housing an illegal immigrant when it is the Government’s failure in their duty to protect the borders of this country that has resulted in the illegal immigrant being here in the first place. I fully understand the difficulties in controlling our borders, which will inevitably lead to errors, but should the person responsible for the error go to prison? If those responsible for allowing illegal immigration should not go to jail, why should a landlord? I am afraid

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that I do not share the optimism of the noble Lord, Lord Best, that the power will not be abused at some stage.

New Section 33A says that if any illegal immigrant resides in a property, it will be a criminal offence by the landlord regardless of whether or not that individual was the person to whom the premises were let. Amendment 148A seeks to restrict the criminal offence to those checks which would be reasonable for a landlord to carry out and which are set out in the Landlords Guide to Checking Immigration Documents, issued by the Home Office. I can understand that landlords should check the person taking the property, but can the Minister say how in practical terms it is possible for a landlord to check on each person residing in the property once it has been let? Is the landlord supposed to keep a permanent watch? What about the case where a house with a number of bedrooms has a drive and trees and is thus concealed from view?

Can the Minister suggest what reasonable steps could be taken to ensure that the person who has legally rented the premises is not allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the house? Any person renting a house legally who then wishes to house illegal immigrants is hardly likely to announce their intention when taking the property. It will be totally impractical for any landlord to monitor the ongoing use of the property and whether the person renting it has illegal immigrants to stay.

Proposed new Section 33A(7) states that a post-grant contravention is an offence. Essentially, this says that if a person becomes disqualified it is an offence for that person to continue to occupy the premises. How is the landlord expected to know if a person has become disqualified? Will the authorities notify the landlord?

Amendment 150A is to avoid Clause 13 from being retrospective. The draft right-to-rent code of practice issued by the Home Office clearly states at paragraph 3.2:

“The Scheme applies only to residential tenancy agreements first entered into on or after the date on which the Scheme is implemented in the area where the property is located.

A landlord is not required to take any action in relation to residential tenancy agreements entered into before that date, or which are renewed after that date if the renewed agreement will be between the same parties and there has been no break in the tenant’s right to occupy the premises”.

Amendment 150A would bring the Bill into line with the guidance being issued by the Home Office and avoid the unfairness of retrospective legislation.

The issue of discrimination has been mentioned this evening, and I come back to it only in relation to Amendment 148A. It is touched on in the draft right-to-rent code of practice, where it states:

“Whether or not a person … has permission to stay in the UK and has a right to rent is a matter of fact that can be verified. Only the listed documents should be used to reach a decision on whether the person has a right to rent”.

How does this apply to persons who might come to stay at the property unbeknown to the landlord? If my amendment is not included, to prevent a landlord being guilty of a criminal offence without being aware of it, the Bill will create the bias towards discrimination that has been talked about this evening.

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The checking service is a method of confirming whether documents are correct—again, this has come up this evening. Can the Minister indicate the likely response time for the service and whether there will be charges for those using it, as the noble Lord, Lord Best, asked?

If it was simple for landlords to do what is being asked, why are the authorities not already monitoring illegal immigrants more effectively? It is not unreasonable for landlords to play their part in helping with the problem of illegal immigration, but what they are asked to do should be reasonable and proportionate. Landlords being subject to imprisonment for something over which, in practical terms, they can have little or no control is not reasonable. I point out that the people most affected by this will be that huge army of very small landlords who do not have agents to act for them, and who will be unable to follow what is happening to a property that they have rented out which may be in a completely different part of the country. I beg to move.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, before I speak to my Amendment 150, supported by my noble friend Lord Howard, I would like to support his two amendments. The first is Amendment 148A. As drafted, the Bill has no defence for a landlord who has done their best to check the immigration status of a tenant, or for a landlord who is caught out by an unscrupulous tenant. They are merely reliant on the Home Office not prosecuting them in such circumstances. They will still have committed the offence, which will put them in breach of many mortgage companies’ conditions. I therefore support the amendment, as it will provide greater protection for landlords who are deemed to have committed a criminal offence even if they have done all that they can to confirm the status of the tenant.

My noble friend’s Amendment 150A is important because the Government have not yet been clear on whether the right-to-rent checks apply to existing tenancies. Checks part-way through or on renewal of a tenancy will leave landlords and agents with tenants who may then be deported; this will probably lead to a large number of random reports if tenants ignore correspondence or decline to provide documents. I support this amendment, as it provides clarity about when landlords will be expected to undertake the checks.

Amendment 150 in my name is supported by my noble friend Lord Howard and reads:

“A person does not commit an offence under subsection (1) or (7) where they are proceeding diligently to evict an adult who is disqualified as a result of their immigration status from occupying the property of which that person is a landlord”.

As we have already heard, Clauses 13 to 15 make it an offence for a landlord to fail to check the immigration status of tenants who are subsequently found to be in the country illegally. In such circumstances, landlords face being fined up to £3,000 or imprisoned for up to five years. This builds on the Immigration Act 2014, which requires landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants; the 2014 Act contained only the threat of civil penalties for landlords, and it is the Government’s plan for the checks to be rolled out across the country from February this year. That was debated at length under the previous grouping.

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As the Bill is drafted, when a landlord is notified by the Secretary of State that a sitting tenant does not have the right to rent in the UK, that landlord is deemed to have committed a criminal offence even before the 28 days that the Bill allows a landlord to evict such tenants have ended. It could well be that this was the result of a landlord being caught out by forged documents that they could not possibly have been expected to detect. It could well be that those same forged documents enabled the illegal immigrant to get into the country in the first place, as my noble friend said, but I do not believe that the immigration officers who allowed the immigrant into the country are deemed to have committed a criminal offence or are fined £3,000 or imprisoned for up to five years—so why the landlord? As a landlord, I do not see how I can possibly spot a forged document if immigration officers cannot, with all their sophisticated equipment.

10.30 pm

Lord Green of Deddington (CB): Is the noble Earl aware that most illegal immigrants in Britain came legally and therefore that there is no reason why they should have been detected on arrival? They came legally and have overstayed.

Earl Cathcart: No, I am not aware of that.