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House of Lords

Monday 21 March 2016

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Chelmsford.

Introduction: Lord Price

2.39 pm

Mark Ian Price, Esquire, CVO, having been created Baron Price, of Sturminster Newton in the County of Dorset, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Gardiner of Kimble and Lord Curry of Kirkharle, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Oaths and Affirmations

2.43 pm

Baroness Hanham took the oath, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Health: Neural Tube Defects


2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Rooker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will bring forward measures of preventative medicine to reduce the numbers of stillbirths, abortions and live births of babies with serious lifelong disability due to neural tube defects.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, the Government are looking at all aspects of preconception health and preventive medicine. We currently have no plans to introduce the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid. We plan shortly to engage with relevant stakeholders to identify other measures that can promote good preconception health, including how to redress the low blood-folate levels of women, which can lead to neural tube defects.

Lord Rooker (Lab): The Minister’s Answer is clearer that some of the others, but we now know that the answer is no; that is what he has told us. English Ministers are knowingly doing nothing, basically. They know that half of all women who become pregnant are taking supplements, and only a small percentage of them actually take the correct amount. Moreover, does the Minister know that some food manufacturers are starting voluntarily to reduce the folic acid in their products, which they were going to do on the basis of mandatory levels being introduced following scientific advice? The Government are therefore relying on 80% of pregnancies being sponsored abortions as a management tool. That is the reality of what we are dealing with in England at present. Is this not like English Ministers having a polio vaccine and refusing to use it?

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My final point is this. Does the Minister accept that it has never really been made clear that there is a direct and indisputable link between neural tube defects, lifelong serious disability in babies who are born alive and folate vitamin deficiency? It was the UK that told the world this in 1991, and 83 other countries have thanked us by using the policy to reduce the number of abortions and babies born with lifelong disabilities. The Minister should be ashamed of the situation he has been forced into by his colleagues.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I am not going to argue the science, because the link between folate levels and neural tube defects is fairly well proven. Although our decisions should be informed by scientists and doctors, I do not think that they should be determined by them. The balance between individual responsibility and state responsibility is best left to political judgment.

Lord Rennard (LD): My Lords, given that the Minister accepts the link between a lack of folic acid in the diet and neural tube defects, why will he not look again at the advice from, for example, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, the Food Standards Agency and the BMA that we should be putting folic acid into food products, as is done in many other countries, including the United States of America?

Lord Prior of Brampton: Fortifying bread with folic acid is not a silver bullet that would cure all babies with neural tube defects. The estimate is that it would have an impact on between 15% and 30% of babies. Some 965 babies suffer from neural tube defects a year, so we are talking about fortifying flour for the whole population in order to reach about 120 babies.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con): My Lords, is the Minister aware that we have debated this issue many times and that the view around the House has been almost unanimous that something should be done to deal with this problem? Why, therefore, is it not done? On a previous occasion, I clearly remember someone saying that if you do not want the supplement you can have bread that is specifically made without the additives. In that way, the ordinary population can be catered for. Of course, women need the supplements before they get pregnant, not afterwards, when it is already too late.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, speakers in this House have by and large very much supported the views of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker—I entirely accept that. But I do not think that the case has been made outside this House perhaps as strongly as it has in other areas. If we are going to change the way we produce white bread in this country, a much stronger and broader case has to be made.

Baroness Hayman (CB): But, my Lords, it is not just in this House, is it? It is in the Scottish Government, who I understand are now laying out plans to introduce fortification. They are supported by the Administrations in Northern Ireland and in Wales. Why is England taking this isolationist view when across the world it has not been taken? Is it correct that Sir Nicholas

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Wald, the leading scientific expert in this field, was granted an audience with the Minister for Health in Scotland, but not in England?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I cannot answer the latter question, but I will try to find out and write to the noble Baroness. She is right that Scotland is considering this and looking at the practical issues around implementation. She is right that other countries in the world—I think 50—have done this, but many others have not, including all European Union countries.

Lord Turnberg (Lab): My Lords, I realise that the noble Lord is in the hands of his scientific advisory committee and cannot say anything without it, but I ask him to draw to its attention the fact that it may be using outdated research evidence if it believes that adding the small amounts of folic acid to bread has the same metabolic effect as taking 1 milligram of tablet a day. It does not. The very remote possibility that there is danger in taking 1 milligram of tablet a day is eliminated completely if you add it to food and take it during the day. Will he draw that to the committee’s attention and ask it to think again?

Lord Prior of Brampton: I will certainly draw that point to the attention of the SACN. It would be surprising if it was not already aware of that fact, but as I said I am addressing not really the science but whether it is right or proportionate to fortify bread for everybody to reach such a small number of people.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, the noble Lord made it clear that this is a political decision, for which we should be grateful. He also made it clear that the Government have decided that it is not going to happen. But does he accept that a 30% improvement is actually a large, positive outcome? The fact is that the voluntary approach that this Government have been wedded to is simply not working. If the answer is no, and if the voluntary approach is not working, what, then, will the Government do?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the evidence given by the SACN is that it affects between 15% and 30%. My honourable friend in the other House, Jane Ellison, is bringing together a round table of all stakeholders interested in preconception health to discuss this matter.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland (CB): My Lords, does the Minister think that the resistance to this is in the general public or among the food producers? My discussions with many young women across the country do not give me the impression that it is among the general public. If it is among the food producers, of course they would be resistant if it does not benefit their profits. Where does the Minister think that attitude is, and can he advise us where we should put our energies in order to change it?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, I am not aware that the food industry is opposing the introduction of folic acid into white bread flour, but I will investigate that and write to the noble Baroness.

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LGBTI: Human Rights Conference


2.53 pm

Asked by Baroness Barker

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representatives they intend to send to the forthcoming 2016 Global LGBTI Human Rights Conference to be co-hosted by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Government of Uruguay in Uruguay.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Anelay of St Johns) (Con): My Lords, the composition of the UK’s delegation at the conference in July is not yet finalised. It is expected to include selected officials with experience of working on LGB and T human rights issues, for example from DfID and the UK’s mission to the United Nations in Geneva. The chargé d’affaires at the British embassy in Montevideo will also attend.

Baroness Barker (LD): I thank the noble Baroness for that answer. Under the previous Government, DfID built up a great deal of expertise on handling sensitive issues across social, political and religious lines. This conference is an opportunity to leverage that expertise with other international donors and the private sector. Will the noble Baroness tell us what the Government plan to announce at the conference regarding the implementation of DfID’s new approach to LGBT rights?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am not able at this stage to say what is going to be announced as far ahead as July. As the noble Baroness will realise, these matters are usually announced at the event itself. But I can say, to assist her, that DfID has assured me that it recognises that the realisation of human rights underpins sustainable development and that across its work it will seek to protect the human rights of LGB and T people and ensure that all groups are able to share in the benefits of development regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. That will underpin the announcements it makes in July.

Lord Cashman (Lab): My Lords, I have to express some concern that there is no clarity about who is responsible for LGBTI issues, either within DfID or at the Foreign Office. Given this very important conference taking place in Montevideo, I ask the Government to reconsider their position and follow the lead given by President Barack Obama and the Labour Party and appoint a global LGBT envoy—or, at the very least, a Minister to lead on these important issues.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I lead on issues of equality and human rights at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and I have the great advantage of knowing that, around the world, there are 267 Foreign and Commonwealth Office posts and that the heads of those missions, whether they be ambassadors or high commissioners, play a very strong role in promoting equality and human rights, paying particular attention to LGBTI issues. I might add that during my visits last week to Colombia and to Panama I saw this at first hand.

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Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD): It is comforting to hear the noble Baroness commit the Government to human rights. Can we be certain that when it comes to considering the application of Turkey for membership of the European Union there will be a similar, wholehearted commitment, all in accordance with the Copenhagen criteria?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. We have made it clear to Turkey that accession to the European Union comes only to those countries that abide by human rights rules. Of course, Turkey would have to do that. We are concerned about some of the human rights violations which have taken place, particularly with regard to freedom of expression. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister made that clear at recent meetings.

Lord Lexden (Con): How much priority are the Government giving to their objective of securing the decriminalisation of homosexuality in the many countries where it remains against the law?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My noble friend is right to raise this. The UK Government believe that laws to criminalise consensual same-sex relations are wrong and should be changed and this underpins the work that we do, both as Ministers and throughout our posts around the world. We have, of course, carried out a lot of lobbying on this and I am very pleased to see that Mozambique recently changed its penal code so that “acts against nature”, which had previously been widely interpreted as homosexuality, have now been decriminalised.

Lord Harries of Pentregarth (CB): Would the Minister say that there were some positive results from the recent Commonwealth conference, and will she ensure that those who go to the next conference take those positive results with them?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: Indeed. That is a very important point. Both my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, David Cameron, and my noble friend Lady Verma, the DfID Minister, raised these issues at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In fact, my noble friend Lady Verma held a side event on these very issues. I have undertaken to take these matters forward at the Human Rights Council and in the United Nations.

Lord Scriven (LD): Will the Minister advise the House whether, since the 2015 general election, as part of the official development assistance programme, a budget has been allocated specifically to LGBT issues? If so, what is the criteria for bids against that budget?

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, funding from the Government with regard to promoting equality of action comes not only from DfID but from other sources: for example, from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. I explained earlier that DfID has ensured that equality for LGBTI people will underpin the work it does generally and will always be considered when funds are to be disbursed. There is no specific hived-off part of the funds, as far as I am aware—if I am wrong I will, of course, write to the noble Lord—but

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I point out that this year the Foreign Office has doubled its Magna Carta fund for human rights and democracy to £10.6 million, which is the most we have ever had. I understand that bids are already coming in for LGBTI projects.

Lord Fowler (Con): My Lords, would it not be a good idea if a government Minister from either DfID or the Foreign Office attended this conference as well as officials? I say this because no Minister from either department turned up at the last two world AIDS conferences. That was a great pity.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I will certainly take back my noble friend’s view to the FCO for consideration. I am, of course, aware that because this event is being co-hosted by the Governments of the Netherlands and Uruguay, their Ministers will be there. As far as I am aware, other attendees are intended to be officials but I will take further advice on that.

NHS: 111 Service


3 pm

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the safety and reliability of the National Health Service 111 service.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Prior of Brampton) (Con): My Lords, NHS 111 is a vital service helping people to get medical advice quickly and easily. It has received more calls this year than the same period in 2014-15 but continues to perform well overall. The Care Quality Commission has announced that it will inspect all NHS 111 providers by September 2016. The CQC will assess whether the services are safe, caring, effective, responsive to people’s needs, and well-led.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab): My Lords, is not the problem that when the excellent NHS Direct service was replaced, very many experienced nurses ceased to work for the new 111 service and were replaced by call handlers with a few weeks’ training who have to follow instructions on a computer rigidly? The evidence is that there have consequently been misdiagnoses. One ambulance trust fiddled the response time for 999 calls routed through 111 to meet the targets. There have been a number of personal tragedies as a result. Therefore, in addition to the CQC’s inspection, will the noble Lord institute a review of the safety of 111 and return to having qualified nurses handling the calls?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the decision to stop NHS Direct was, of course, taken in 2008, when I think the noble Lord was in post. He shakes his head, so perhaps he was not, but the decision was taken in 2008, before this Government were in charge, if you like. The new system uses the NHS Pathways algorithms developed by the Royal College of GPs, on which the BMA and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health sit, so we have considerable confidence in the algorithms used. We will also increase the number of

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clinicians. I accept the noble Lord’s point that we need to have more clinicians answering these calls rather than call handlers, as he puts it. It is our intention progressively to increase the number of clinicians in these 111 hubs.

Lord Kakkar (CB): My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of University College London Partners. What assessment did the Government make of the training needs of the individuals who were to deliver the 111 service prior to its introduction, and what determination have the Government made subsequently of the appropriateness of that training?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, as I said, the decision to set up 111 was made back in 2008. The operation of 111, which includes the training and the capabilities of the people working in it, are carefully monitored by the CCGs—which commission 111 services by the licence under which 111 operates the NHS Pathways algorithms—and, of course, by the CQC.

Lord Allen of Kensington (Lab): My Lords, is the Minister confident that the NHS England workforce development plan will ensure that no chief executive or senior NHS staff can support covert operations, as we saw with South East Coast Ambulance Service, which affected up to 20,000 people? Is the Minister confident that this will be put in place?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware of the very severe problems at South East Coast Ambulance Service. The chairman has resigned. The chief executive is, I think, on gardening leave at the moment. NHS Improvement is very clear that it needs to sort out the management structure in that ambulance service.

Baroness Humphreys (LD): Will the Minister explain how the 111 service will be improved to ensure that ambulances for life-threatening conditions arrive in a timely fashion and are not delayed or cancelled by 111 call handlers?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, the 999 service runs in parallel with the 111 service. If you have an emergency, you should ring 999; if you have an urgent request you should ring 111 and a decision will be made then on whether to call an ambulance. Interestingly, of the 27% of people who ring 111 who would otherwise have gone to A&E, only 8% are actually referred to A&E.

Lord Campbell-Savours(Lab): My Lords, the Minister’s response is astonishing. Has he not been reading in the national media the repeated reports of a breakdown in the service all over the country? Has he not read these reports? I am astonished by his responses.

Lord Prior of Brampton: There have been a number of terrible tragedies. The most recent of these was William Mead, a very young baby who died as a consequence of not getting the right treatment quickly enough. NHS England has done a root-cause analysis. Some of the problems lay within 111 but others were with the out-of-hours service and with diagnosis by

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the GPs concerned. The noble Lord is wrong to say that the 111 service is not operating well throughout the country. Some 90% of all those who use 111 believe they get a good service from it.

Lord Patel (CB): My Lords, what suggestions does the Minister have for improving the performance of the 111 service?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, there are two things which we need to do to improve the 111 service. First—and this is in response to part of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt—we need to have more clinicians within the 111 hubs. Secondly, people need to have access to the patient’s electronic summary care record so that they can see what has gone on, before coming to a final judgment.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, the Minister referred to 90% satisfaction. How many people are involved in the other 10%? It does not strike me that 90% is acceptable.

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, 100% is clearly the only acceptable level but, realistically, it would be extremely difficult to get to that. Referring back to the charge of complacency, we recognise that significant improvements need to be made to the 111 service, but it can be a vital part of the way that we deliver urgent care in Britain.

Lord Clark of Windermere (Lab): My Lords, we all accept the Minister’s commitment to the NHS. He has just stated that improvements to the service need to be made. When are they going to be made?

Lord Prior of Brampton: My Lords, it may sound trite, but we need to make continuous improvement in all aspects of the NHS. We can never be satisfied with where we have got to. Interestingly, the licensing arrangement which underpins the NHS Pathways—the algorithm developed by the Royal College of GPs—has within it an audit to ensure that continuous improvement is being made.

Food Safety: Glyphosate


3.08 pm

Asked by The Countess of Mar

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the European Union Ombudsman’s finding of maladministration by the European Commission over pesticides, published on 22 February, and given that several EU countries including France, the Netherlands and Sweden have indicated that they will not support an assessment by the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) that glyphosate is harmless, whether they support the EFSA view that that chemical should receive a licence for a further 15 years.

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen (Con): My Lords, the Government support pesticide use where scientific evidence shows that this is not expected to harm people or to have unacceptable effects on the environment.

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UK experts participated in the European Food Safety Authority’s assessment of glyphosate and support its conclusions, particularly that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The Government therefore support the continuing approval of glyphosate. If glyphosate is approved, we will review the authorisations of glyphosate products, to ensure that they meet current standards.

The Countess of Mar (CB): My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. Is she aware that the World Health Organization’s IARC has found glyphosate to be a probable carcinogen? Research over the last 20 years has found that it is genotoxic, cytotoxic, is an endocrine disrupter and is a powerful chelator—in other words, it blocks out the essential minerals and trace elements from our food.

The European Union looked only at glyphosate, whereas the World Health Organization looked at the commercial formulation and found that some of the additives make it 10,000 times more powerful as a poison than the original glyphosate itself. The authorisation in this country, by the Chemical Regulations Directorate, is for the commercial formulation. Will the noble Baroness ask the directorate to look very carefully at the distribution of glyphosate and perhaps restrict it, like other organophosphates, to professional agricultural and horticultural use and remove it from domestic use?

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen: I thank the noble Countess for her Question and I know she has been at the forefront of looking into all pesticides. If the European Commission approves glyphosate, the UK will be required to reassess every product containing the substance, and these products will get new authorisation only if they fully meet current safety standards. But I should add that there is a hold-up with the licensing process. The European Chemicals Agency is to come out with a report next year and several member states have stated that they would like to see that report before licensing glyphosate. If there is not a vote before June, glyphosate will not be licensed and it will be withdrawn over a period of time to allow manufacturers to replace it.

Viscount Ridley (Con): My Lords, given that laboratory tests show that caffeine is 10 times more carcinogenic than glyphosate, that glyphosate is non-volatile and non-persistent, and that it has made a significant contribution to eliminating hunger and malnutrition from large parts of the world, and indeed to improving the environment through no-till agriculture, will my noble friend the Minister encourage the European food standards agency to stick to its guns?

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen: What my noble friend says is true. There are arguments for glyphosate. It is highly effective. It adds to the yields. You need to sow less, which leaves more headland, hedges, et cetera, for the environment. What my noble friend says is certainly true.

Lord Greaves (LD): My Lords, there is a dispute among scientists about glyphosate. As I think the noble Countess alluded to, the International Agency for Research on Cancer last year said that products

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containing glyphosate are “probably carcinogenic to humans”. Is it the case, as is being alleged, that some of the research that the European food standards agency is relying on has not been published or peer-reviewed? Should not such research studies and reports be in the public domain so that all those who are experts can look at them and assess them?

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen: UK experts certainly participated in the EFSA’s detailed review of the health data. The EFSA concluded that,

“glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic hazard”.

and we agree with that conclusion. A wealth of studies is taking place. There have been huge studies in America and studies in various places in the world. From all these studies, the majority of experts concluded that there was very little evidence for an association between glyphosate-based formulations and cancer.

Lord Naseby (Con): Is my noble friend aware that the branded product in the UK for use in gardens has been on the market since the 1970s? Is it not unbelievable now, with the evidence from Europe, that this product, in its slightly diluted format for people to use in their gardens, can possibly be causing any real problems?

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen: What my noble friend says is true. Each pesticide has specific conditions of authorisation, which are set out on its label. The level of safety must be achieved without reliance on training or special equipment. As my noble friend says, for domestic use glyphosate is very much diluted and comes mainly in trigger packs, which means that it is very safe for use.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch (Lab): My Lords, in the light of the conflicting research which I think has been acknowledged exists on this matter, is not the common-sense approach to apply the precautionary principle, given the potential danger? Should we not only take immediate steps in any way we can to limit the use of glyphosate but make sure that the public are much more aware of the potential threat to their health, while the ongoing research and licensing process is reviewed?

Baroness Chisholm of Owlpen: If the European Commission approves glyphosate, all member states will be required to reassess every single product that contains it. These products would get new authorisation only if they fully meet current safety standards. We will not know what is going to happen until we know more about whether the European Commission will vote before June. If it does not vote before June, the licence will not be allowed in this country.

Arrangement of Business

3.16 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab): My Lords, I am sorry to detain the House, but I wish to draw your Lordships’ attention to today’s business, last Thursday’s business, tomorrow’s business and Wednesday’s business, as well as business on 11 and 13 April. The eagled-eyed will have spotted that they have one item in common:

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the Housing and Planning Bill. I know we are in the middle of a housing crisis, but this is overkill. Today’s business concludes with the Housing and Planning Bill, and it is said that the government Chief Whip intends the House to sit until midnight and is prepared to do the same tomorrow.

This cannot be right. Four consecutive days on one Bill—what precedent is there for such a process? The Companion is clear about business intervals and about concluding at 10 pm, and we have generously stretched that, probably too far, on many occasions so far. Noble Lords need to know that this part of the usual channels does not agree to this as a way of working. Our office offered the Chief Whip four different ways of managing the business which would have avoided this unfortunate car crash, but none of them was accepted. The current plan makes it impossible for opposition parties to do their job properly. It is well-nigh impossible for our research staff to assist. We have only one staffer supporting our shadow Ministers, while the Government have an army of civil servants as back-up, and even then the poor Minister gets so tired that she cannot give us answers.

Can the Chief Whip please consider this issue urgently and give the House an assurance that the Government will not do this again? Can he assure the House that they will not do this on Report? Finally, can the government Chief Whip ensure that in the future his office has a more realistic view of how long difficult, incoherent, inchoate, poorly drafted and badly thought through Bills take in your Lordships’ House? We stand ready to be helpful, but we can be helpful only if the conditions exist in which we can do that work.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): My Lords, I think the noble Lord has strayed slightly into a critique of the Bill rather than focusing on the substance of his objection, but I am grateful for the advance notice he gave me that he wished to raise this matter. Because he and I have been discussing this for perhaps three or four weeks—it certainly seems quite a long time—he will know that we have had to try and find ways of accommodating this slow-moving Bill in the Government’s programme.

There have been extensive discussions in the usual channels, and I have been very grateful for the co-operation that I have had. We have discussed the Committee and Report stages of the Bill—the noble Lord referred to some dates for Report on the Bill. As a result of those continued discussions, we have provided an additional, eighth day tomorrow, 22 March. Following the good progress we made on the Bill last week, for which I am grateful to noble Lords, we agreed in the usual channels that we would table the Bill for Wednesday as well. We aim to allow the House to have proper time to perform its role in scrutinising this Bill. This scrutiny will continue after the Easter Recess on Report. I know that my noble friend has undertaken to make available a great deal of information, which the noble Lord has highlighted. It is proper that that is for discussion when the Bill itself is discussed.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I want to make one thing clear. I did not agree it, but I certainly acknowledge that the noble Lord put this forward as a

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way of doing the business. I do not think that it is right that the House does business in this way. There is plenty of time in which we can consider the Bill; we do not need to push it so far and so fast that it makes it impossible for our side to do our job, and well-nigh impossible for the Minister to perform her duties.

Scotland Bill

Third Reading

3.20 pm

Lord Taylor of Holbeach (Con): My Lords, I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Scotland Bill, has consented to place her interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.

Before the House begins the Third Reading of the Scotland Bill, it may be helpful for me to say a few words about Third Reading amendments. In line with our procedure on Third Reading amendments, the Legislation Office advised the usual channels last week that the amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, and the further amendment in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, and the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, on the Marshalled List for today’s Third Reading, fall outside the guidance. On the basis of that advice, the usual channels, who met today, have agreed to recommend to the House that Amendments 1 and 2 should not be moved. However, I expect my noble friend to address the issue raised by those amendments in his opening remarks on the government amendments in the same group. I hope that this approach will commend itself to the House, which is the ultimate arbiter in these circumstances.

Clause 2: The Sewel convention

Amendments 1 and 2 not moved.

Amendment 3

Moved by Lord Keen of Elie

3: Clause 3, page 2, line 21, at end insert—

“The subject-matter of section 43(1AA) of the Representation of the People Act 1983.”

The Advocate-General for Scotland (Lord Keen of Elie) (Con): My Lords, before turning to the government amendments in this group, I should like to address some points that noble Lords have previously expressed in relation to Clause 2. This clause is to implement the provision in the Smith commission agreement that the Sewel convention should be put on a statutory footing. The Smith commission agreement did not suggest any change in the effect of the convention. The clause recognises that this Parliament will not normally legislate on a devolved matter without the consent of the Scottish Parliament, but the convention recognises that the decision whether to legislate is for this Parliament to take.

I have noted the points made by noble Lords who have made clear in previous discussion of this clause their view that the word “normally” is not a word

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sufficiently precise for a statutory restriction. Of course, we are not seeking, and nor are we able, to impose a restriction on parliamentary sovereignty, and it has also been made clear in discussion that the word is suitable for indicating how a discretion will be exercised. This clause is clearly intended to indicate that the discretion of Parliament to legislate for devolved matters will continue exactly as before and that it is not intended to subject that discretion to judicial control. I would add that the words “it is recognised” that appear in Clause 2 also reflect the continued sovereignty of the United Kingdom Parliament and that it is for Parliament to determine when a circumstance may be considered not normal. This is not a matter that the courts could meaningfully engage with.

I turn to a number of technical amendments that we have tabled to Clauses 3 and 5 of the Bill. Noble Lords will recall that we gave notice on Report that we would table these amendments, which are necessary to ensure that the clauses in the Bill relating to elections work as intended. Under the Bill, and in line with the Smith commission agreement, the timing of Scottish parliamentary elections is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, subject to the provision that Scottish parliamentary ordinary general elections may not be held on the same day as a UK parliamentary general election, a European parliamentary general election or ordinary local government elections in Scotland. We have tabled amendments to Clause 3 to improve the drafting of the part of the reservation relating to the timing of ordinary local government elections in Scotland. These amendments do not change what is reserved, but rather clarify the drafting to ensure that the reservation achieves the intended outcome—that an ordinary local government election in Scotland may not be held on the same day as ordinary general elections for the Scottish Parliament.

In addition, we have tabled amendments to Clause 5 of the Bill to improve the drafting of the new provisions to be inserted into Section 43 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. These provisions relate to the reservation of the timing of ordinary local government elections where they clash with the date of an ordinary general election to the Scottish Parliament, and provide a mechanism for the Scottish Ministers to change the date of the local government elections where such a clash occurs. The amendments improve and clarify the drafting of the provisions providing a mechanism for setting an alternative date.

Amendments 3 to 9 are technical amendments, which will ensure that there is clarity in the clauses in the Bill relating to elections and that they operate as intended. I beg to move.

Lord McCluskey (CB): My Lords, I accept that Amendments 1 and 2 could not be moved, and will not be moved by me or by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness. However, in the light of the Minister’s statement, I make a brief comment. It sounds to me very like a Pepper v Hart type of statement, designed to guide a court, when a court sits down to decide on an ambiguity in the interpretation or application of the provision. I am not at all sure that it will work, but it is no doubt the best that the Minister could come up with, even with the assistance

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from behind him of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who is unfortunately unable to be here today. It does not solve the problem, but it is better than nothing.

The very fact of making the statement appears to be to concede the point that we were all making, that the provision in the clause is just a shibboleth, because Pepper and Hart statements have no locus at all unless in a court of law when a statement is invoked to assist the interpretation. However clear the statement is, it is not binding on the court, which has a duty to apply the words of the statute to determine what it means. However, I welcome it, while regretting that the Government did not pick up on the amendment proposed by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, which would have solved the problem within the statute itself, and we would not have needed this. However, in the light of the Government’s attitude, we have to leave it there.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness (LD): My Lords, following on from the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, it was with some considerable regret that I agreed not to move Amendment 2, part of which I shall come back to in a moment. I welcome the Minister’s statement as far as it goes, which is not very far. I agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, that it is an attempt at a sort of Pepper v Hart statement, but I make two observations on that. First, for Pepper v Hart to come into play, there has to be an ambiguity that has to be resolved. If, in fact, there is no ambiguity—and I am not sure whether the absence of something that has been debated in Parliament and expressly rejected by the Government could amount to an ambiguity as they have made it very clear that they do not wish for Devolution Guidance Note 10 to be part of what is on the statute book—I am not sure that Pepper v Hart would come into play.

3.30 pm

Secondly, the point would be conceded that there would be litigation. It may be litigation that the Government could conceivably win. Who knows? Once the genie was out of the bottle and the case was in court, a number of things could happen, which is the why the amendments, which have been debated previously—the amendment which the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, put down for today but has not moved and the amendment in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Stephen—make it very clear that the application of this clause,

“shall not be questioned in any court of law”.

That would have settled it. It would not even get to the stage of a case being raised. The wording that we used was taken from the Parliament Act 1911, and 105 years is reasonably good test of time as to its effectiveness.

I note what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen, said about “normally” and that he said that the exercise of the legislative consent Motion will continue exactly as before, but I want to push him to be even clearer, because by using the words in the statute, which were used by Lord Sewel in 1998, the implication must be that that is all that is covered by the statute in fulfilment of the Smith commission recommendation. In fact, the Government seem to be trying to take this as narrowly as they can.

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Therefore, it is arguable that we have a two-tier legislative consent Motion convention. There are the Sewel words, which are in statute, and the provisions that have triggered legislative consent Motions since the outset of the Scottish Parliament, and are found in Devolution Guidance Note 10, which are not in statute. Does Clause 2 have legal meaning? In which case, does the Minister accept that there are two tiers of legislative consent Motion? What are the implications of that? Or is Clause 2 legally meaningless, a bit of legislative window dressing, in which case why have we spent so much time debating it? Will he clarify which it is? Is this meant to have some legal meaning or not? If the courts were asked about this, it is not unreasonable for them to think that Parliament, having spent hours debating it, meant something to be said. How does he expect that would be interpreted?

Will the Minister address the concerns that have been reflected in the evidence to the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee of the Scottish Parliament, which produced its final report on the Scotland Bill on 11 March? These concerns reflect the interaction between legislative consent Motions and future legislation on the repeal of the Human Rights Act and the possible establishment of a British Bill of Rights. There was some concern that the Government might be trying to provide themselves with a loophole to get out of any means to get the Scottish Parliament to agree to things they might bring forward in their much-heralded and long-awaited reforms to human rights legislation.

Indeed, in May last year at the launch of the report by the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law, A Constitutional Crossroads: Ways Forward for the United Kingdom, the very distinguished Professor Adam Tomkins, who was a member of the Smith commission and advises the Secretary of State for Scotland on constitutional matters, speculated whether a legislative consent Motion would be needed in the Scottish Parliament to repeal the Human Rights Act, but appeared very clearly to take the view that if any British Bill of Rights contained new rights infringing on the Scottish Parliament’s legislative powers or Scottish Minister’s executive powers, a legislative consent Motion would be required, no doubt by reference to Devolution Guidance Note 10.

The Minister can make it very clear and allay all these concerns from the Dispatch Box in the next few minutes by saying that it is certainly not the Government’s intention to, as it were, thwart the Scottish Parliament having a legislative consent Motion if one were required under DGN10 in the event of a British Bill of Rights that would confer new responsibilities within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or new legislative responsibilities on the executive competence of Scottish Ministers. These matters may not lead to litigation, but they could well do. In recent times, we have seen that the Trade Union Bill and the Immigration Bill, both currently before your Lordships’ House, have produced disagreements between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government, so the question is by no means academic.

The final point, which is a new one, is on the words “devolved matters”, which appear in this clause. We are particularly disappointed that the clerks did not

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see fit to think that this fell within the rules for Third Reading. I certainly give notice that I will take this to the Procedure Committee, because if something happens between Report and Third Reading, surely it is reasonable that the House has an opportunity to consider it. What has happened here is that we have had the final report of the relevant Scottish Parliament committee, which specifically recommended that the words “devolved matters” should be clarified. It says:

“Furthermore, the Committee also seeks clarification from the UK Government on the legal meaning of the term ‘devolved matters’”.

I think I am right in saying that those words do not appear anywhere in the Scotland Act at the moment. Reserved matters are defined in Section 30(1) and by reference to Schedule 5, but of course there are other matters not within the competence of the Scottish Parliament that Section 29 of the Scotland Act sets out, and in so doing it brings in Schedule 4 of the Scotland Act. I would be interested if the Minister took this opportunity to give us a very clear understanding of what the Government mean when they use the words “devolved matters” in the Bill. It is a term that, as I understand it, has no legal definition at the moment, yet it clearly could be of some importance. I am sure that the Minister will welcome an opportunity—albeit that he could not do it in response to an amendment—to help the House by defining what the Government mean by “devolved matters”.

In conclusion, it is very regrettable that the Government have made no attempt whatever to move on these issues, despite some very compelling arguments. These are serious matters that are ripe for some constitutional conflict. If that happens, the Government have brought that upon themselves.

Lord McCluskey: The noble and learned Lord talked about the likelihood of litigation. Is he aware—I am sure he is—that the Human Rights Act itself is extremely productive of legislation at all levels of our courts in Scotland and elsewhere? Therefore, if the Government proceed with their intention to introduce a domestic human rights Act, and that has a direct effect upon the Scotland Act and the Human Rights Act in Scotland, then there is bound to be litigation that in turn will raise the question of the meaning of this so-called clause.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: As I said, these are not academic issues but very real ones. The Human Rights Act could certainly give rights to them as indeed could measures in the Trade Union Bill. They would not necessarily be issues between Governments; they could be issues that impacted on other public bodies in Scotland, for example. That is why it is regrettable that the Government have not been more forthcoming and willing to look at the proposals that we want to put on the statute book.

Lord Cormack (Con): My Lords, both noble and learned Lords have made powerful points. I do not wish to make anything other than a very brief intervention, but I have amendments, strongly supported both in Committee and on Report, concerning the word “normally”. I am extremely sorry that the Minister has not really met that point. It has been made with

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great eloquence by noble Lords learned in the law, and it was made by those of us throughout the United Kingdom who share the concern of the two noble and learned Lords who have just spoken. I am sorry that their amendments have not been deemed admissible. Of course they have done entirely properly in not seeking to move them, but this is an unsatisfactory Bill and we are in an unsatisfactory situation.

I put it on record that I remain extremely concerned about the use of this very loose word “normally”. I believe as a layman that it is clearly something that could be justiciable. I know not what will happen, but I fear that we are not putting on the statute book something that recognises what noble Lords in all parts of this House have recognised. In my opinion this is a flaw in the Bill, and it has been demonstrated as such by many people. I am sorry that the Minister has not felt able to move on this issue.

Lord Hope of Craighead (CB): My Lords, when I spoke on this matter on Report, having tabled an amendment which dealt with the issue in slightly different terms from those proposed by Amendments 1 and 2 on the Marshalled List, I said that I would come back to the issue at Third Reading. But, on consideration of the various rules and practices, I decided not to renew my amendment in recognition of the fact that it would not be proper to bring it forward in those terms.

I am grateful to the Minister for the statement he has made, which goes a little way to addressing the problem. But I feel very strongly that this is an example of a missed opportunity, which could have been taken to clarify exactly what the Sewel convention is, to remove some of the problems to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, referred, and to deal with the complications raised by the use of the word “normally”.

As I stressed on Report, my concern was to preserve the sovereignty of Parliament, which the Minister mentioned in his brief address. The problem with the method he has chosen is that it opens up the possibility of a challenge to the sovereignty of Parliament, which is the greatest danger of all, because it puts at risk the enforceability of legislation where the spectre, if I should put it this way, of the Sewel convention may be hanging over it. I understand that the Minister has gone as far as he believes he can—but, like others, I regret that he was not able to go further.

Lord Stephen (LD): My Lords, it seems that the Government had an important decision to make on this issue. Did they want the Sewel convention, or the legislative consent convention as it has now become known, at least in the Scottish Parliament, to continue as a convention or did they want to convert it into statute? In truth, the answer is that they are making a mess of that decision. In a sense they are trying to do both, and in doing so they are creating bad legislation. They are continuing the convention—we have been told that and I certainly hope that that is the case. I hope that all legs and all elements of the convention will continue to be operated between the Scottish Parliament and the UK Parliament, the Scottish Government and the UK Government. But the Government have decided to take one rather limited and narrow—although, I accept, important—part of

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the convention into statute, and to do so in as limited and as loosely worded a way as possible, with words such as “normally” and with new expressions such as “devolved matters” that have not previously been used or defined in statute.

I now believe that the use of these words and the introduction of this vagueness has been quite deliberate on the part of the Government, to make it as ill-defined and declaratory as they possibly can. Why are they doing that? They are doing it to technically comply with the Smith commission’s recommendations, but this is not in the spirit of the Smith commission and it is not being done in a clear, sensible or coherent way. In summary, it is not a good way to legislate. If the Government’s excuse is that this is what the Smith commission told them to do, frankly, that is not a good enough excuse, because they can depart from the Smith commission—they have done so on the issue of abortion, for example—and the Smith commission was not perfect in every respect. On this issue it referred to only part of the Sewel convention—a mistake that I think the commission would readily admit to.

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We should therefore try to get this right in legislation. When the UK Parliament legislates on devolved matters, we should refer not only to the Scottish Parliament but to a situation where consent is given by the Scottish Parliament to the UK Government altering the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament or the executive competence of Scottish Ministers, because that is the full legislative consent convention. Is that serious? Yes, I believe that it is. The noble Lord, Lord Norton of Louth, who is the constitutional expert on these matters—not only in the Conservative Party but, in many respects, for the whole of this Chamber—highlighted the problem in Committee, saying that,

“I am quite clear that we really cannot proceed with Clause 2 as presently worded. As I say, either we have a convention or we have legal certainty in statute. I do not think we can try to have both”.—[Official Report, 8/12/15; col 1495.]

Yet that is exactly what the Government are trying to do. There has been no change whatever from the Government: no variation, no compromise and no amendment.

Since the Second Reading debate on 8 December, more weight has been added to the argument against the Government’s position. My noble and learned friend Lord Wallace of Tankerness has already referred to the Scottish Parliament’s report. Very recently—on 11 March—the Devolution (Further Powers) Committee of the Scottish Parliament produced a 210-page document that looks at the proposals in the Scotland Bill, and in particular at Clause 2. That this sort of weighty, well-considered document has come forward at this late stage is complete justification for considering the amendments tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace and the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey. The committee’s report has a section on the legislative consent convention which makes it clear that that is the correct term for the Sewel convention, as we have said before. With the exception of the Smith commission and the UK Government, it seems that that term has fallen into desuetude. The Bill should therefore refer to the legislative consent convention.

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Professor Neil Walker, who is the Regius Professor of Public Law at the University of Edinburgh, stated in evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Committee:

“I think that ‘Devolution Guidance Note 10’”—

which, we should remember, is a 1999 devolution guidance note, so the UK Government have been somewhat slow to catch up—

“has to continue to apply, because it specifies a convention that applies regardless of what the law says. If we are to reduce conventions to law, it would certainly help if we did so fully and not just partly”.

I hope that those words from the professor echo some of the comments I have already referred to, in particular the words of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, because this is exactly the point the noble Lord made. It was also made by my noble and learned friend Lord Wallace, and by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Hope and Lord Mackay. My noble friend Lord Steel, a former Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament, has confirmed the same point and it is my point, too.

In its conclusions and recommendations the Scottish Parliament Committee stated that the UK Government’s approach, as currently drafted, has,

“the potential to weaken the intention of the Smith Commission’s recommendations in this area”.

It wished all strands of the convention to be covered by the Bill and noted its disappointment at the lack of a response from the UK Government on this issue. It regretted that no changes have been made by the UK Government. It stated its view, which is shared by the Scottish Government, that the Scotland Bill still falls short and that this failure to fully incorporate into statute all strands of the legislative consent convention, as set out in Devolution Guidance Note 10, will only cause difficulties in the future.

That is also the view of many noble and learned Lords from around the Chamber. Some of them have considerable parliamentary and ministerial experience; others have very considerable legal and judicial experience. But sadly the Government, of course, know better, and we find ourselves where we are today.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD): My Lords, it may be stretching the tolerance of the House for a fifth Scottish lawyer to join in this discussion, so I will confine myself to two issues. The first is Pepper v Hart. It is well worth understanding just how limited the application of that doctrine may be. If the noble and learned Lord the Advocate-General is looking for an illustration of the approach recently taken by the Court of Session, he will find it in the case of British Petroleum v Edinburgh and Glasgow licensing boards.

Secondly, this is about the most political piece of legislation that one could possibly imagine. Within its terms is the opportunity for great political disagreement. It seems to me that the way in which the Government are now proceeding will in some respects justify that disagreement by leaving open an important porthole for those who wish to challenge the will of this House and indeed of the other place.

Lord Keen of Elie: My Lords, I am obliged for all the contributions from your Lordships in respect of this matter. I will not seek to repeat the arguments that

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were rehearsed so fully in Committee and on Report but I wish to make some observations.

The Smith agreement was explicit in its reference to putting the Sewel convention on a statutory footing, and that is what has been done—essentially as the noble Lord, Lord Stephen, noted—in a declaratory sense.

Mention has been made repeatedly of the case of Pepper v Hart. I am not going to go there in any detail, but the starting point for that case is ambiguity. A number of noble Lords indicated that there was no ambiguity. I am inclined to agree with that—but not necessarily for the same reasons. However, it appears to me that if there were room for ambiguity then of course Pepper v Hart might come into consideration.

Reference was made to the LCM—the legislative consent Motion—process and the suggestion that it should be incorporated into the clause. With respect, the LCM is a process of the Scottish Parliament, not of this Parliament—it is what the Scottish Parliament does in response to us applying the Sewel convention—and therefore it would not be appropriate to bring it into Clause 2.

There is then the question of what is or is not a devolved matter. This point—and indeed the difference that I have with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace—is perhaps highlighted by the amendment that he originally proposed. The last part of that amendment says:

“For the purposes of subsection (8), the words ‘devolved matters’ means any matter not reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament under this Act”.

With respect, the Scotland Act 1998 is a great deal more sophisticated than saying that all matters listed in Schedule 5, which are reserved, are the only matters not requiring the consent of the Scottish Parliament. It entirely ignores the fact that, for example, it is not within the competence of the Scottish Parliament to modify any of the protected enactments listed in Part 1 of Schedule 4 to the Scotland Act.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: Rather than read out his brief, will the noble and learned Lord acknowledge that I said that parts of Schedule 4 also exclude matters from being within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament? If I have not, with my own resources, got the amendment right, can the noble and learned Lord, with all the great resources that he has in his office—I know the expertise that he has there—say what definition he would give of “devolved matters”?

Lord Keen of Elie: There is no strict requirement to go into the definition of “devolved matters” at this stage, but it is perfectly clear from the amendment that the noble and learned Lord originally intimated that he contemplated it listing only the matters in Schedule 5 to the Act. I appreciate that in making observations in this House he qualified that statement, but the point is that the question of what is reserved goes well beyond Schedule 5 and includes all those protected enactments in Part 1 of Schedule 4.

The point that I was going to come to is this: one of the protected enactments is the Human Rights Act. This Government were elected upon a manifesto to

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address the Human Rights Act and to amend its terms by way of a Bill of Rights. That matter will be addressed in due course, but this is not the time or the place to consider what the implications of that may or may not be in the context of all the devolved Administrations in the United Kingdom. I would not consider it appropriate to go there.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: I am not asking the Minister to tell us what is going to be in it but, if a proposed new British Bill of Rights confers new responsibilities on Scottish Ministers, does he believe that is a matter to which Devolution Guidance Note 10 would apply and that the United Kingdom Government would respect it as such and expect a legislative consent Motion in the Scottish Parliament? He can clear this matter up if he is prepared to say yes to that. If he is not, we can only suspect the worst.

Lord Keen of Elie: There is no reason to suspect the worst. What we have to do is await the relevant Bill of Rights. Then, when we have considered its terms, we shall see whether it does or does not intrude upon matters covered by DGN10. If it does, then DGN10 will be addressed, as it always has been. There is a clear and consistent record of the United Kingdom Parliament and this Government proceeding in accordance with DGN10 in the context of devolved issues. I do not anticipate, and have no reason to anticipate, that that will change in the future. However, I am not going to comment on a Bill that is not before this House and the terms of which have not yet been finalised.

In these circumstances it appears to us that Clause 2 is sufficient for the purpose of expressing, essentially, a declarator of the Sewel convention in accordance with the Smith commission agreement.

Lord Purvis of Tweed (LD): Before the noble and learned Lord sits down, although that was perhaps his final point from the Dispatch Box on this, he said in response to my noble friend Lord Stephen that this is now stating in a declaratory way that the Sewel convention exists. However, it is worth reminding the House that paragraph 22 of the Smith commission report said:

“The Sewel Convention will be put on a statutory footing”,

not that it will be declaratory that it exists.

Amendment 3 agreed.

Amendment 4

Moved by Lord Dunlop

4: Clause 3, page 2, leave out lines 30 to 33

Amendment 4 agreed.

Clause 5: Timing of elections

Amendments 5 to 9

Moved by Lord Dunlop

5: Clause 5, page 6, line 11, leave out “(1ZA)” and insert “(1AA)”

6: Clause 5, page 6, line 12, leave out from beginning to first “The” in line 13 and insert “After subsection (1A) insert—

(1AA) ”

7: Clause 5, page 6, line 13, leave out “date specified by” and insert “day specified in or fixed under”

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8: Clause 5, page 6, line 14, leave out “date is the same date as” and insert “day is the day of”

9: Clause 5, page 6, leave out lines 16 to 22 and insert—

“(1AB) Where subsection (1AA) prevents the poll being held on the day specified in or fixed under subsection (1), the poll is to be held on such other day as the Scottish Ministers may by order specify.

(1AC) An order under subsection (1AB) is subject to the affirmative procedure.”

Amendments 5 to 9 agreed.

Clause 40: Roads

Amendment 10

Moved by Lord Dunlop

10: Clause 40, page 43, line 11, at end insert—

“( ) In paragraph (d) of that reservation, after “the Road Traffic Act 1988” insert “, except so far as relating to the parking of vehicles on roads,”.”

Lord Dunlop (Con): My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 11 to 16 and 19 to 21. As I indicated on Report, a number of technical amendments are necessary to the roads provisions. Amendments 10, 11, 13, 16 and 20 are technical amendments and complement the amendment that the Government brought forward on Report on the issue of responsible parking. That amendment, which commanded cross-party support on Report, gives the Scottish Parliament the power to legislate for parking vehicles on roads, an issue that is of interest to many people in Scotland. That amendment now appears in the Bill at Clause 40(4). Following helpful discussion between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Government, these technical amendments will bring full clarity to the power. I will briefly set out the effect of each of these amendments.

Amendments 10 and 11 amend the amendment made on Report, which gave power to the Scottish Parliament to make provision for parking on roads. Amendments 10 and 11 make clear that on-street parking is excepted from the reservation of the subject matter of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and is not a general exception from all road transport reservations.

Amendment 13 removes a reference to the regulations made by Scottish Ministers being subject to the negative procedure. The reference is unnecessary as it is subsequently replaced by Amendment 20, which amends the Road Traffic Act 1988 to stipulate that regulations relating to parking made by Scottish Ministers will be subject to the negative procedure.

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Amendment 16 transfers the functions of the Secretary of State under the Road Traffic Act 1988 in relation to parking of vehicles on roads in Scotland to Scottish Ministers so far as is exercisable within their devolved competence. It does this by changing references to the Secretary of State to “national authority”, which for these purposes is Scottish Ministers. Amendment 16 also includes a provision that will require the Secretary of State for Transport to consult Scottish Ministers if making regulations relating to parking of vehicles on roads in Scotland.

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I can assure the House that the amendments, while necessary, do not alter the substance of the policy. They do not provide any further powers but simply seek to ensure that the implementation of the powers is effective. As I explained on Report, irresponsible parking has been of concern to many people across Scotland, and I am glad that we have been able to bring clarity to the legal position.

Amendments 12, 14 and 15, to which I alluded on Report, ensure that the functions being transferred to Scottish Ministers in relation to speed limits and road signs in this Bill are aligned with the powers being transferred to the Scottish Parliament. They are also consistent with the functions being transferred to Scottish Ministers for parking. Amendment 19 preserves the effect of amendments previously made to the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 by the Scotland Act 2012.

These amendments therefore ensure and clarify that the Secretary of State continues to be responsible for, for example, exempting vehicles used for the reserved purpose of defence from parking and speed limits and road signs in Scotland. The Secretary of State will need to consult Scottish Ministers before exempting such vehicles. Scottish Ministers will have powers to make provision by virtue of the Bill for road signs, parking and speed limit exemptions to the same extent that the Scottish Parliament can legislate for these same policy areas. Amendment 21 is a minor drafting correction to an amendment made on Report which will enable the Secretary of State to make provision in connection with reserved matters. I beg to move.

Lord McAvoy (Lab): My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing these amendments. We particularly welcome those relating to pavement parking and recognise that the others are largely technical in nature. We are therefore more than happy to support them.

The amendments on pavement parking reflect amendments which this side of the House tabled both in the other place and in Committee in your Lordships’ House and which were welcomed honourably by the Minister. The work of the organisations, Living Streets and Guide Dogs Scotland, was invaluable and I extend my thanks to them.

I know that in the grand scheme of things the amendments might be regarded as minor, but they are important to a big section of our community. Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, especially people with sight loss, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people. People with sight loss are particularly affected, as they can be forced into oncoming traffic which they cannot see. A survey by Guide Dogs Scotland showed that 97% of blind or partially sighted people encounter problems with street obstructions and some 90% of them had experienced trouble with a pavement-parked car. Pavements are not designed to take the weight of vehicles, and cars cause paving to crack and tarmac to subside. This damage makes pavements uneven, creating a trip hazard for pedestrians, particularly blind and partially sighted people. I know that the cost of repairing pavements is a parochial issue, but it is a burden for local authorities, which in Scotland are under particular pressure as a result of government cuts—SNP Government cuts, I

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hasten to add. We are therefore glad that the Scottish Government now have the necessary legislative competence to put measures in place to prevent this happening. I repeat my thanks to the Minister and welcome the amendments.

Lord Steel of Aikwood (LD): My Lords, before the Minister responds perhaps I could repeat a point I made in Committee about Clauses 40 to 42 and Schedule 2, and the amendments that the Minister has rightly laid before us today. I am emboldened to do so by a phone call from the noble Lord, Lord Sanderson of Bowden, who is a former constituent of mine. He wanted me to make it clear that there was never any risk of him voting for me, but on this issue we speak with one voice.

Those of us who live in the borders, whether on the Scottish or the English side, are naturally concerned about the growth of what appear to be quite minor changes in legislation concerning parking, traffic signs, speed limits, vehicle regulations and even the drink-driving laws. There is a danger that these regulations will become self-aggrandising. We have different regulations just for the sake of having different regulations. We find ourselves having to make journeys by road that cover both jurisdictions, and it is extremely confusing if there are too many regulations that differ. The point I want to put to the Minister is this. He referred several times to discussions between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Government. Can we be assured that those discussions will continue so that we can seek to minimise the differences in regulations on each side of the border?

Lord Dunlop: I thank the noble Lord, Lord McAvoy, for his comments and support. This was an issue that the party opposite raised in Committee and the Government are pleased to have been able to address what has been a long-standing lack of clarity in the law. With regard to the noble Lord, Lord Steel, yes of course I can assure him that discussions will continue between the Department for Transport and the Scottish Government. A theme that has run through all our debates on this Bill is the need for close intergovernmental co-operation. That is something which I feel strongly about, given my responsibility for these matters, so anything I can do to improve those intergovernmental relations, I will certainly do.

Before we move to the final group of amendments, as we near the conclusion of the Bill I want to take this opportunity to thank noble Lords for all their work, in particular all those who have moved amendments or spoken to them, and who have taken the time to meet me and my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General to discuss their concerns. I would also like to thank the Constitution Committee, the Economic Affairs Committee and the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee for their very careful consideration of this Bill. Indeed, I thank my noble and learned friend the Advocate-General, who is no longer in his place because no doubt he is preparing for the Immigration Bill to come, and my noble friend Lord Younger of Leckie for all their support. Finally, I thank officials from across Whitehall who have provided invaluable support throughout the process. We have covered a lot of ground and many subjects, and their support is much appreciated.

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Noble Lords have provided robust challenges at times; I recognise that opinions have been divided on aspects of the Bill and I respect the strong views that are sincerely held. Your Lordships’ House has fulfilled its customary role of providing a thorough and penetrating scrutiny of the legislation. I said at Second Reading that I thought it was a precondition of earning the trust of the Scottish people, after the independence referendum, that we should keep the promises that were made during that referendum. That is exactly what this Bill does, as well as making the Scottish Parliament more financially accountable. I am particularly grateful to the Front Benches opposite for their support. It recognises that the promises made during the referendum were joint ones.

There was much talk during the independence referendum of Project Fear, and I think that it has already been observed elsewhere that the fears raised by the supporters of the union have proved all too justified while the fears put about by those arguing for separation have proved to be groundless. They have proved to be groundless because we have delivered on the promises we have made. I think that we have established beyond any doubt that pulling Scotland out of the United Kingdom could never satisfy the Smith no-detriment principle, and in its heart of hearts I suspect that the leadership of the SNP knows it.

Political discourse in Scotland is already changing as a result of the Bill. Now we must move the debate on from what the powers are to how they are used. I am confident that the new Scotland Act will prove an enduring settlement, strengthening Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.

Lord McAvoy: My Lords, I echo a lot of what the Minister said. There was a lot of contention and division in our country during the referendum following the vow, thanks to the Daily Record, and the Smith commission, about which a lot of mistrust was put about as to the final conclusions of how we would deal with it. I am proud of the part that my party and its members played in arriving at these conclusions. We have shown Scotland that the people who do not wish to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom can deliver, by all accounts, the demands and wishes of the Scottish people to have more powers for the Scottish Parliament without necessarily separating from our friends and colleagues throughout the rest of the United Kingdom.

Collectively, this House, despite some rumbustious moments, some slight scepticism and very heavy scrutiny, has fulfilled its role in passing the Bill and ensuring that it is a better Bill than when it came here. We will send it back to the other place and hopefully it will be accepted there.

Westminster as a Parliament has delivered the wishes of the Scottish people. We can regain their trust, despite the cynicism put about at the time of the referendum. Collectively—although there have been various differences, which no doubt will continue—I have no doubt that we have delivered for the people of Scotland and we can look them in the face.

Amendment 10 agreed.

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Amendment 11

Moved by Lord Dunlop

11: Clause 40, page 43, line 14, leave out subsection (4)

Amendment 11 agreed.

Clause 41: Roads: traffic signs etc

Amendments 12 and 13

Moved by Lord Dunlop

12: Clause 41, page 44, leave out lines 34 to 37 and insert—

“(a) in relation to a function so far as exercisable within devolved competence, within the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998, means the Scottish Ministers;

(b) otherwise, means the Secretary of State;”.”

13: Clause 41, page 45, line 10, leave out subsection (24)

Amendments 12 and 13 agreed.

Clause 42: Roads: speed limits

Amendments 14 and 15

Moved by Lord Dunlop

14: Clause 42, page 46, line 30, leave out “relevant” and insert “national”

15: Clause 42, page 46, line 39, leave out paragraph (g)

Amendments 14 and 15 agreed.

Amendment 16

Moved by Lord Dunlop

16: After Clause 42, insert the following new Clause—

“Roads: parking

(1) The Road Traffic Act 1988 is amended as follows.

(2) Section 20 (parking on verges etc: definition of “heavy commercial vehicle”) is amended as follows.

(3) In subsection (5) for “Secretary of State” substitute “national authority”.

(4) At the end add—

“(8) In subsection (5) “national authority”—

(a) in relation to a function so far as exercisable within devolved competence, within the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998, means the Scottish Ministers;

(b) otherwise, means the Secretary of State.

(9) Before making any regulations under subsection (5) in relation to vehicles used on roads in Scotland, the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers.”

(5) Section 41 (regulation of construction, weight, equipment and use of vehicles) is amended as follows.

(6) In subsection (1) for “Secretary of State” substitute “national authority”.

(7) After subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) In subsection (1) “national authority”—

(a) in relation to a function so far as exercisable within devolved competence, within the meaning of the Scotland Act 1998, means the Scottish Ministers;

(b) otherwise, means the Secretary of State.

(2B) Before making any regulations under this section in relation to the parking of vehicles on roads in Scotland, the Secretary of State must consult the Scottish Ministers.””

Amendment 16 agreed.

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2085

Amendment 17

Moved by Lord McCluskey

17: After Clause 70, insert the following new Clause—

“The Barnett Formula

Within 30 days of the date on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State shall publish as a memorandum, supplementary to the agreement between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government on the Scottish Government’s fiscal framework, a document containing a full description of any agreement reached between the governments relating to the future of the Barnett Formula or its application, amendment, reassessment or replacement in the future, including any agreement as to when any such change is intended to be considered by the two governments in the future.”

Lord McCluskey: My Lords, I promise to be brief. I have been in this House just short of four decades and I have noticed that the easy way to empty the House at the end of Oral Questions is to read out the name of a measure that contains the word “Scotland”. In raising the matter that the amendment raises, I also realise that, to get a collective groan from around the House, the words “Barnett formula” are a pretty good start.

I do not want to repeat any of the arguments made. My one purpose in raising the amendment, which I think speaks for itself on what it seeks, is to assist the people of Scotland to understand the truth of the manner in which Scotland’s public expenditure is to be financed following the arrangements made under the fiscal framework. I do not think that very many people in Scotland have grasped what has happened. Indeed, there has been no opportunity to discuss the matter in the other House before the Bill is passed. My only purpose in moving the amendment is to encourage the Government to produce a publication of the kind requested that shows the truth of that financing so that we can all go out, talk about it and stick it in the face of the superb SNP propaganda machine, which feels no obligation to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

I would have sat down at that point, but because the Minister has made some general remarks of a kind that would normally have been made, in my early days here, on the Motion that the Bill do now pass, I simply say that I am unhappy with the Bill. It subordered the United Kingdom Parliament to a group of 10 Members of the Scottish Parliament, who took eight or nine weeks to produce a document. Since May last year we have been obliged to spend our time implementing the Government’s version of that document. I do not think that all the proposals in the Smith commission report were fully thought through and, of course, Ministers in this House were plainly given a brief to accept no amendments. They did particularly well in dealing with that difficult brief, but I do not think that their position was a very sound one.

One of our purposes was to give the other House an opportunity, before the Bill passed into law, to discuss the fiscal framework. I repeat what the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, often said, which is that the other House should have been given that opportunity.

4.15 pm

Lord McAvoy: I am sure that the noble and learned Lord will recall, in speaking about the role of the

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United Kingdom Parliament, that my noble friend Lord McFall of Alcluith suggested that the Government should deliver annual reports to both the UK and Scottish Parliaments on the progress of the fiscal framework discussion and the devolution settlement in general. This was surely an important development.

Lord McCluskey: I shall conclude by saying that I acknowledge that that is exactly correct. It was an extremely worthwhile proposal and I am thankful that, one way or another, as the months and years pass by, we will be able to get the whole truth out about what has happened in relation to this settlement.

Lord Higgins (Con): My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, says that he has been involved in these matters for some 40 years. I have been involved, at one end of the building or the other, for 50—33 at the other end and 18 or so at this end—dealing to a large extent with financial and Treasury matters, but I have to say that I cannot recall any financial issue, in either House, that has been dealt with in such an inadequate way as the legislation that we have in front of us. The fiscal framework, which is at the heart of the Bill, has still not been debated at all in the House of Commons. We had a very truncated debate in Committee, with no debate on the fiscal framework, and very limited debate thereafter.

The Minister referred, in the debate on the previous group, to the promises made in the course of the referendum campaign. He described them as joint promises, but they were made, of course, with absolutely no consultation. The so-called vow was made during the referendum campaign and the statement by the Prime Minister was made the morning after the referendum took place. The deal that has been struck perpetuates a grossly unfair balance for those paying taxes and involved with financial matters in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and perpetuates the very substantial subsidy that is given to Scotland. Members of Parliament have not had any opportunity whatever to debate this. One must hope that their constituents will hold them to account when the details begin to sink in to the consciousness of the public at large in the parts of the United Kingdom other than Scotland.

The noble and learned Lord’s amendment is very much to be commended. We are stuck with the Barnett formula, which we all know the late Lord Barnett himself decided was obsolete long before his lamented departure. The reality is that we are now going to go on doing this with virtually no prospect of the matter being changed again in five years’ time or beyond. That is a dreadful situation as far as taxpayers in the rest of the United Kingdom are concerned. I certainly support the noble and learned Lord’s suggestion that we at least ought to know the details of what has been agreed.

Lord Cormack: My Lords, a constant theme in your Lordships’ House is that the other place has inadequate opportunity to scrutinise legislation thoroughly. When we say that, we always then go on to say that in your Lordships’ House things are different. In this case, they are not. It is nothing short of disgraceful that the

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other place has not had an opportunity to debate the fiscal framework. Twenty-nine of us put our views on that on the record when we had a Division a few weeks ago, but it was a vain gesture.

I speak as a Member of your Lordships’ House who feels proud of our reputation for scrutiny and our ability to look at Bills forensically and to get change by either passing more amendments or, more regularly, by getting the Government to recognise that points of substance have been made and that alterations of substance should follow. In this case, that has not been possible.

It is deeply regrettable that that is the case. I make no personal criticism of my noble friends on the Front Bench; they are men of great charm and ability. However, they have been working under orders and have not been able to respond to points of real weight and substance because the brief has not allowed them to do so. In so many ways, this is a one-off Bill. I trust, above all, that in the context of scrutiny it will remain a one-off Bill.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, I thought that the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Dunlop, in replying to the last amendment, when he thanked everybody, were more suitable for the Bill do now pass debate. However, although I did not take part in that discussion, I would not wish in any way to lessen the appreciation I express on behalf of my colleagues to those who have helped to get the Bill to its present state, not least the Bill team, with some of whom I have worked in the past and know of their exceptional quality and hard work. I particularly thank the Minister, who with his customary courtesy has gone out of his way to meet us, engage with us and discuss issues with us—regrettably, not always to any effect from my point of view, but no doubt from his point of view it has been very effective. That is very much appreciated.

Aspects of this process have not been at all satisfactory. The short period that we had in which to look at the fiscal framework was not satisfactory. The Bill could be in a better state than it is and perhaps more favourably reflect the spirit of the Smith commission. The House has not done much to respect, or even give proper consideration to, the points made by the Scottish Parliament’s committee that looked at the Bill. Those are matters of regret and do not augur well for having mutual respect and trying to improve the relationships between the institutions of the Westminster and Scottish Parliaments. But that is where we are.

This amendment addresses the Barnett formula. The Minister referred to the vow in his wind-up speech. I happen to believe that the referendum was won in spite of rather than because of it. However, it is important that we celebrate the fact that we won the referendum and are not facing independence day on Thursday of this week, with one dreads to think what consequences.

I note that, when I stood where the Minister stands now, the most difficult question I ever had to answer in one of these debates came from the noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, who referred to the vow. It says:

21 Mar 2016 : Column 2088

“We agree that the UK exists to ensure opportunity and security for all by sharing our resources equitably across all four nations to secure the defence, prosperity and welfare of every citizen”.

It goes on to refer to the,

“continuation of the Barnett allocation for resources”.

I was asked how I could square the equitable sharing of resources with the continuation of the Barnett formula. I struggled to find an answer. I will allow the Minister to find his.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas (Con): My Lords, when the Calman commission sat, the most important principles that it was trying to support were equity and accountability; this echoes what the noble and learned Lord has just said. I remind the House that on 7 September 2004, the day the Scottish Parliament opened at Holyrood, the Reverend Charles Robertson, minister of the Canongate church, was first to speak during the regular time for reflection. He reminded us of the previous uses of the site for the newly-built Parliament. It had been a house of refuge, a soup kitchen for the destitute and Scotland’s largest independent geriatric hospital, not to mention the site of a profusion of well-known and much-loved breweries. Given this history, it is perhaps not surprising that, on that day, the then First Minister, the noble Lord, Lord McConnell, urged MSPs to “raise their game”.

This legislation—the amendment relates to the heart of it—will bring about major changes in the powers and competence of the Scottish Parliament as, for the first time, the majority of funds that the Scottish Government spend will come from revenues raised in Scotland. When the prevailing philosophy has been a culture of spend, spend, spend, popularity is relatively easily won. That will now change as tough decisions will have to be made on how services will be financed.

There seems to be some uncertainty about who observed:

“With great power comes great responsibility”.

Some attribute it to Voltaire. In a debate in the other place in 1817, William Lamb, later Prime Minister Lord Melbourne, made an exhortation to the press. He begged leave to remind them of their,

“duty to apply to themselves a maxim which they never neglected to urge on the consideration of government—‘that the possession of great power necessarily implies great responsibility’”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 27/6/1817; col. 1227.]

Similarly, on the same subject, Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill said:

“The price of greatness is responsibility”.

What Churchill meant was that anyone who aspires to greatness must also be willing to shoulder the accompanying responsibilities. His advice still holds good today.

Lord Dunlop: My Lords, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, said, the Barnett formula has been the subject of significant debate during the passage of the Bill and has been raised in various statements and at other opportunities. I do not propose to go over well-worn ground, but I recognise the strong views that the formula evokes, particularly in this House. As has been said at other stages in the Bill’s progress, the retention of the Barnett formula is a manifesto

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commitment not just of the Government but of all three of the main UK parties. It will therefore continue to determine changes to the block grant resulting from changes in UK government departmental spending.

However, as my noble friend Lord Selkirk noted, the significance of the Barnett formula will be reduced, as over 50% of the Scottish Government’s budget will, in future, come from taxes raised in Scotland. As has been said before, the size of that budget will be determined increasingly by changes in Scottish taxes.

The amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord call for a memorandum to be published within 30 days of the Scotland Act passing, providing additional detail on the future of the Barnett formula. We are already delivering the intent of these amendments. On Friday, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury placed in the Libraries of both Houses a supplementary technical annexe to the fiscal framework agreement. This sets out in detail how Barnett will operate in future, alongside the adjustments for new tax and welfare powers. Much of the detail of how Barnett operates is already published in the Statement of Funding Policy, which was last updated in November. The details of how the devolution settlement operates are also set out at each fiscal event.

In addition, we have listened to the views expressed in this House about transparency and reporting. The UK Government and the Scottish Government have agreed to report annually on the operation of the fiscal framework. Finally, in response to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee, the Treasury has undertaken to look at how the whole operation of the Barnett formula can be made more transparent. We on this side of the House fully expect scrutiny to continue beyond the passage of the Bill and therefore I urge the noble and learned Lord to withdraw his amendment.

4.30 pm

Lord McCluskey: My Lords, I can be brief indeed. I am encouraged by what the Minister has said. Indeed, I have been encouraged by the remarks of other noble Lords who have supported me. The noble Lord, Lord Selkirk of Douglas, mentioned the concept of responsibility. I believe that it is our responsibility, having been fortunate enough to be here and to be informed about the details of what has been happening, to use what influence we can in Scotland, and indeed in the rest of the United Kingdom, to make known the truth about all the circumstances surrounding this settlement. I shall do my best. In the mean time, encouraged by what I have heard, I beg leave to withdraw.

Amendment 17 withdrawn.

Clause 71: Commencement

Amendment 18 not moved.

Schedule 2: Roads: consequential and related provision

Amendments 19 to 21

Moved by Lord Dunlop

19: Schedule 2, page 80, line 25, leave out paragraphs 8 and 9 and insert—

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“8 (1) Section 86 (speed limits for particular classes of vehicles) is amended as follows.

(2) For “national authority” in each place substitute “relevant authority”.

(3) Omit subsection (9).

9 In section 88 (temporary speed limits) for “national authority” in each place substitute “relevant authority”.”

20: Schedule 2, page 84, line 30, at end insert—

“Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52)

In section 195 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (regulations) after subsection (4) insert—

“(4ZA) Regulations made by the Scottish Ministers under section 20(5), 36(5) or 41(1) are subject to the negative procedure.””

21: Schedule 2, page 87, leave out lines 20 to 26 and insert—

“(a) make any provision under section 87(1)(b) of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 that could be made by the Scottish Ministers, and

(b) in connection with any provision made by virtue of paragraph (a), make any provision under any of the traffic signs powers mentioned in paragraph 33(3) that could be made by the Scottish Ministers.”

Amendments 19 to 21 agreed.

4.32 pm


Moved by Lord Dunlop

That the Bill do now pass.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I do not want to detain the House for more than a moment, but the passing of this Act by the House today is a major step in the history of Scotland. Donald Dewar was fond of repeating that devolution was not an event but a process, and so it has proved to be—and I have no doubt will continue to prove to be. This Act completes a process begun correctly in the original Scotland Act 1998. However, as I said at the time, that Act created a Parliament with substantial powers over expenditure but no responsibility for raising any of the money that it spent. This change is therefore of major significance and brings us closer to a quasi-federal relationship in Britain—closer in fact to the ideas in the Solemn League and Covenant way back in 1643.

In his magisterial new book Independence or Union, Professor Tom Devine says that his own preferred choice in the referendum,

“would have been to support a more powerful Scottish Parliament via some form of enhanced devolution. That opinion was in the end not available in the wording of the referendum. Many of those who thought like me were effectively disenfranchised”.

That is what we have delivered and I believe that it now accords with the views of the majority of Scots, recognising as they do that we had a lucky escape in the referendum following the collapse of the global oil price.

That is nothing new. We have always been interdependent in these countries. One of our greatest Secretaries of State, Tom Johnston, put it thus during the great depression:

“What purpose would there be in our getting a Scottish parliament in Edinburgh if it has to administer an emigration system, a glorified poor law and a desert?”.

We needed the strength of the United Kingdom then and we need it now. This Act creates an obligation and indeed an expectation that our two Governments will

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act together in the best interests of our people. That means that Ministers such as George Osborne need to abandon silly anti-nationalist rhetoric when dealing seriously with annual budgets and that the SNP need to stop blaming London for every one of its own shortcomings. Scottish people expect better than that and this Act provides a sensible foundation for the way forward.

I have one final thought. We in this House have been able to adjust and improve the Bill since it left the Commons. We have had to do that without the assistance of the SNP, which continues its absence from this institution. I hope that that may change, not least so that it can join in the efforts to reform this Chamber and make it even more of a sounding board for the United Kingdom as a whole.

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Immigration Bill

Report (3rd Day)

4.35 pm

Amendment 116A

Moved by Lord Dubs

116A: After Clause 62, insert the following new Clause—

“Unaccompanied refugee children: relocation and support

(1) The Secretary of State must, as soon as possible after the passing of this Act, make arrangements to relocate to the United Kingdom and support 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from other countries in Europe.

(2) The relocation of children under subsection (1) shall be in addition to the resettlement of children under the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.”

Lord Dubs (Lab): My Lords, ever since I tabled this amendment, I have been surprised at the level of interest, and above all support, from the wider public over the need to do something for unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. I declare an interest at the outset, as I arrived in this country in the summer of 1939 as an unaccompanied child refugee. This country at the time offered safety to some 10,000 children. It is thanks to Sir Nicky Winton, who helped to organise Kindertransports from Czechoslovakia, that I got here at all—I almost certainly owe my life to him. In tribute, last week a postal stamp was produced in commemoration of his achievements, and I saw photographs of the stamp with the Home Secretary when it was launched.

I also happened to meet Theresa May at a birthday party at Nicky Winton’s house in Maidenhead a few years ago. She was of course his MP and paid many tributes to him. I cannot help but feeling that he would be gratified if this House were to adopt this amendment today. In May, there is to be a memorial event for Nicky, who died last year at the age of 106, and it would be fitting if this amendment were on the statute book by that commemoration. Some years ago he expressed concern to me about unaccompanied children—in this case from the Horn of Africa—and wondered at the time whether similar schemes should be put in place. Although I cannot discount my personal experiences, the case for this amendment does not

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depend on them. There is a much stronger case for the amendment than what happened to me all those years ago.

Once in a while, there are major challenges that test our humanitarianism, and Europe’s refugee crisis is surely one such challenge. But within that, there is a need to do something about unaccompanied child refugees in Europe. They are believed to be mainly Syrian, although I am sure among them there are also some Afghans and Eritreans. There is estimated to be some 24,000 such children in Europe at present. Save the Children, which has been particularly involved in making these estimates, has suggested that the UK’s share should be something in the region of 3,000. I stress of course that we must deal with children who have claims for asylum under the 1951 Geneva Convention—there may be others in Europe, but they are not the subject of this amendment.

These children are in a vulnerable state. Some apparently have disappeared and there are fears that they may have become the victims of child traffickers and perhaps forced into prostitution or slave labour. According to the Italian Ministry of Labour, of the 13,000-plus unaccompanied children who arrived in 2014, some 3,700 have disappeared. In 2015, nearly 6,000 are unaccounted for. Is it not a dreadful thing that children have just disappeared in modern Europe? In any case, the winter is not over. In many parts of Europe, children may be sleeping rough, without adequate food or water. Many may be in Greece or Italy, but some are elsewhere, perhaps even in the Calais and Dunkirk areas.

I think that there are clear signs that the British people want to respond, and many have offered to be foster parents. It just so happens that early this afternoon, I received an email, which I should like to quote from. It says, “Please keep fighting for the rights of the refugee children who are unaccompanied. It is very distressing how these children are having such a dreadful time to just survive. England has plenty of room for these children and, just to show our humanity, our doors should be open to them. I would be happy to offer a place of safety for one or two, as I have been a foster parent many years ago. The best of luck today.”

I believe that that is a typical response; I have certainly had such responses, and I am sure that many others have as well. I am confident that a widespread appeal by the Government and local authorities would achieve a positive response from people. Not everyone who wants to be a foster parent is qualified to do so, and we would have to set the highest possible standards, as we would for all other children in local authority care, to ensure that anyone wanting to foster is qualified to do so.

We have heard a lot about pressure in Kent, and I accept that Kent as a county has had difficulties, but I believe that there would be a response all over the country that would meet the need identified in the amendment. We do not want to put children and young people into care homes. Clearly, the aim of the amendment is that such children should be fostered and properly cared for, as were many of those on the Kindertransport, unless they already have relatives in this country, when the right course would be for them to be with them.

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Local authorities have a key part to play in all this. Of course, they may need some extra help: it depends on the pressure on any individual authority. Let me stress that these children should be additional to the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. I accept that that is a good scheme—a bit small, but it does useful work. I think that 1,200 have already come in under that scheme and we are talking about 20,000 over the next four or five years.

The amendment deals with a different need. The figure of 3,000 is small, but would make an important contribution to helping a vulnerable group. It is surely right that we in this country should take a fair share of the responsibility. I hope that other countries in Europe would also share in doing that.

I have tried to understand the Government’s objection to the amendment. I thank the Minister for several conversations with him; indeed, I have had a conversation with the Home Secretary as well; and I appreciate the frank exchange of views that we were able to have. The Government believe that if some of the children currently in Europe were allowed into this country, that would exert a pull factor and many more would arrive. That seems to be the nub of their argument against the amendment.

I do not think that there is that much hard evidence to support that belief, but in any case, the consequence of doing nothing for these children who are now in Europe must be much more serious than the possibility that an amendment such as this would attract others to follow. We are dealing with a desperately important crisis at the moment; that is the key to the amendment.

I am currently a member of one of our European Union sub-committees, and we are considering naval operations in the Mediterranean, especially Operation Sophia. Those operations are certainly saving the lives of people crossing from Turkey or Libya. To the extent that they do so, they lessen the risks of the sea crossing, so one could argue that they are also a pull factor, but that is no reason not to save the lives of people at risk in the sea, and no one suggests that those naval forces should cease their life-saving operations.

We are dealing with a refugee crisis in Europe of such magnitude that, frankly, the number in the amendment is rather small, and I have had people ask me: “Why so few?”. Some people in European countries have family members in this country. The amendment is not intended to cover those children: provided that they can be identified, they already have the right to come under existing arrangements. The priority must surely be: what is in the best interests of the children? Some may already have parents or close relatives in another European country, and it would clearly be in their best interests to join them there, wherever they are.

In the House of Commons on 25 January, the Minister James Brokenshire said—and I think that the quote summarises the purpose of this amendment:

“The Government are clear that any action to help and assist unaccompanied minors must be in the best interests of the child, and it is right that that is our primary concern”.—[Official Report, Commons, 25/1/16; col. 39.]

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4.45 pm

In 1938-9, there was a crisis in Europe, as many Jewish children in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia were helped to escape to safety on the Kindertransport. At that time, most countries—in fact I think all countries—refused to help. Britain was the only country that said that it would help; we set the lead at that time and set a standard that I hope we can follow today. We said that it could be done and, as a result, thousands of children thank Britain for this humanitarian gesture. Many of them have developed successful careers here and made an important contribution to this country, and I think that the children that we are talking about in this amendment will go on to make a contribution that is also important to this country.

I have one other thought. Let us not insist that these young people will not be allowed to stay here beyond the age of 18. That is not the subject of the amendment, but it must be implicit that anything that helps those children should surely not say, “And when you’re 18 we’ll throw you out”. In the best interests of those children, it might be that they should be allowed to stay. We cannot just turn them out to a country to which it might not be safe to return.

Noble Lords may not all be aware that just off the central Lobby there is a plaque in which the 10,000 children who came to this country on the Kindertransport gave their thanks to the people of this country. I was there when the plaque was put up, and it is an important thing to say—that people who are given safety are also grateful to this country. It was not just children from central Europe; some Basque children were also allowed to come here, following the bombing of Guernica.

It is only a few months ago that Sir Nicky Winton died, aged 106. He was the person who saved many children from Czechoslovakia. I would like other children who are in a desperate situation at the moment to be offered safety in this country and be given the same welcome and opportunities that I had. I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I, too, speak with a little, although rather different, experience of this matter. The church in Colchester, in the diocese where I serve, is at the forefront of welcoming refugee families to this country and is a wonderful example of what can be done when local government, the local church and local community work together. It is not just about welcoming people but about integrating them into a community. What we have started to do with adults and families we must urgently do with unaccompanied refugee children. As we have heard, it is estimated that there are 24,000 of them in Europe at the moment, many living on the streets and very vulnerable to trafficking, prostitution and other forms of modern slavery. This is the thick end of the wedge of the humanitarian crisis that we are facing, and it is an obvious and very identifiable need that we could do something about.

Why 3,000? Well, that feels like a fair share for the UK to take in terms of our size and place in Europe. This was debated in another place on 25 January, and the Government undertook to work with UNHCR to resettle unaccompanied refugee children from conflict regions and to set up a fund for this work. But of

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course this does not quite amount to an undertaking to bring unaccompanied children here, which is why this amendment is so important and why I am so happy to put my name to it.

The Government are concerned that, if we take unaccompanied refugee children, their families might claim asylum for family reunification at a later date. Yes, this might happen—but against this, we must look at the plight of these 24,000 children right now. The church, therefore, with others asks the Government to work with UNHCR to bring refugee children who are in extreme risk to the UK in addition to the other pledges that we have made. The hard truth is that at the moment there are no refugee children like this from Europe being resettled in this country.

Clearly, if this were to happen, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, mentioned, the availability of foster parents will be an important issue. But I assure noble Lords that this is another area where the church, other faith groups and other charitable bodies stand ready, able and willing to help. Just last week, I was with a priest in Rayleigh who has fostered two children. One is a boy of 14 who is seeking asylum in this country, having escaped conscription in Eritrea for an unspecified and unlimited period. I spoke with him and was amazed at how, even after a few months, he is integrating into British society and feels that he has a future. There are also charities such as Home for Good which help with the work that we could do. Like the Kindertransport in 1938, we, too, could be part of a story of hope and generosity for children abandoned, bereft, perplexed and in danger in Europe today. This is a small but beautiful thing that we could do.

Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB): My Lords, like the right reverend Prelate I am a signatory to this amendment. I am delighted to be able to offer my support to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who made a compelling and eloquent case in support of Amendment 116A.

In opposing this, the Government have used various arguments. One is that you cannot distinguish between groups that suffer, but all of us who think about that for very long know that it is at best a disingenuous argument and at worst an unworthy one. The noble Lord referred to the other argument that the Government use about so-called pull factors. In the case of children, surely that cannot outweigh all the points that the noble Lord has just advanced.

Then there is the question of numbers. I was looking today at the total number of refugees who have come to the United Kingdom and the total number who have come out of Syria. Some 4.8 million refugees have come out of Syria over the past five years. Turkey is currently hosting some 3 million refugees, and we will no doubt hear more about this later in the Statement that will be given to the House. Before anybody else suggests that this country is being swamped, just look at the numbers: 5,845 Syrians plus 1,337 under the vulnerable persons scheme is 0.15% of the total. So to ask just for 3,000 unaccompanied minors to come into this country is far from being unreasonable.

In Committee on 3 February, I asked the Minister about a report which had appeared in the Daily Telegraph and Observer newspapers which reported the comments of Brian Donald, Europol’s chief of staff. He said:

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“It’s not unreasonable to say that we’re looking at 10,000-plus children, who are unaccompanied and who have disappeared in Europe ... Not all of them will be criminally exploited; some might have been passed on to family members. We just don’t know where they are, what they’re doing or whom they are with”.

He said that 10,000 was likely to be “a conservative estimate”.

Arising from those shocking and disturbing figures, I hope that the Minister will tell us when he comes to reply what discussions the Home Office has had since 3 February with Europol about the children who have disappeared and what percentage Europol believes to have been unaccompanied. If thousands of child migrants have simply vanished in Europe while we have argued about how many angels you can fit on the top of a pin, it will be a lasting stain on our collective reputations.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also referred to foster parents. I hope that when he replies the Minister will tell us what discussions he has had with local authorities about promoting fostering arrangements for these children. For obvious reasons, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, also referred to the Kindertransport. The reputation of politicians and diplomats from that era is redeemed by the extraordinary bravery and determination of men such as Sir Nicholas Winton, the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg and Eleanor Rathbone, “the refugees’ MP”, as she was known. This year is the 70th anniversary of her death.

In 1938, after Kristallnacht, she established the Parliamentary Committee on Refugees. Two years later, on 10 July 1940 in a six-hour debate, she intervened on no fewer than 20 occasions to insist that Britain had a duty of care to the refugees being hunted down by the Nazis. She said that a nation had an obligation to give succour to those fleeing persecution—in her words,

“not only in the interests of humanity and of the refugees, but in the interests of security itself”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 10/7/40; col. 1212.]

In words that have an echo in the debates we have been having during the course of this Bill, she wrote that discussions about asylum seekers and refugees,

“always … begin with an acknowledgement of the terrible nature of the problem and expressions of sympathy with the victims. Then comes a tribute to the work of the voluntary organisations. Then some account of the small, leisurely steps taken by the Government. Next, a recital of the obstacles—fear of anti-Semitism, or the jealousy of the unemployed, or of encouraging other nations to offload their Jews on to us”.

It is hard not to see the parallels. The debates about the Kindertransport continued in Parliament until literally hours before war broke out. In 2016 we should do no less than those who preceded us.

The amendment would require the Secretary of States to relocate 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in European Union countries to the United Kingdom. These vulnerable young people have already had traumatic experience of the chaos and violence of war, the abandonment of hearth and home, horrendous journeys and separation from families, with some placed into the hands of smugglers and people traffickers and some facing exploitation of every kind. They are entitled to international protection and to respect for their rights as refugees—even more so than adults. Surely the lifeboat rule must apply.

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Nelson Mandela once said:

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.

Many of us will be dead when these children come to maturity, but they will never forget, as the noble Lord who moved this amendment has never forgotten, the values that made their futures possible. I am very happy to support an amendment that says the very best about the values of this country.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD): My Lords, as one who signed the amendment, I am delighted to follow the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Alton. The heart beats strongly on this issue, but it has to beat strongly in the future as well. I imagine that as the years go by, with all sorts of issues such as climate change, war and famine, we will be discussing this issue time and again. We must somehow sort out our approach in the long term, and this is an opportunity to do so. It is an opportunity to say to 3,000 children, “You are welcome in our country”. It is an opportunity to show the world that we are not going to be dragged kicking and screaming into receiving refugee children but that we are happy to do so.

It is seven or eight months since Save the Children started its appeal for 3,000 child refugees, and now we have the chance to bring it into being. What an opportunity for us in the House of Lords today to say, “Yes, we welcome children”. The message will be carried to the Commons, and I do not see that they will be able to resist joining in with that welcome.

Alternatively, we could be hesitant and obstructive and say no, but I do not know what would influence anyone to vote against this amendment. Why should anyone go into the Not Content Lobby against children? Your Lordships had grandfathers, grandmothers, mothers and fathers—surely we can look at other children who are less fortunate than our own and say, “Yes, you are welcome, and we in the House of Lords will raise the banner of hope”. That will demonstrate that we are determined to tackle this problem, not only to Dunkirk, Calais and other places but also to the future.

Let us be brave. Let us have a unanimous vote of welcome today. We do not have to vote against this. We do not just have to say no. I do not know how on earth anyone who is a parent, a grandparent, an uncle or an aunt will be able to say, “We are going into the Lobby to stop these children coming over”. I am delighted to be able to support the amendment.

5 pm

Viscount Hailsham (Con): My Lords, I take a different view from the noble Lord who has just spoken, although I have a great deal of sympathy for the underlying sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for example—I agree with much of what he and the right reverend Prelate said. But there is a difference between making an obligation mandatory, as is contemplated by the amendment, and exercising the discretion of government. There may very well be a good case for the Government to admit much larger numbers of unaccompanied children than is provided for under the existing scheme, and I would have no objection at all to that number

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being 3,000 or more. However, I object to it being mandatory, because it deprives the Government of any discretion.

The House needs to keep two things in mind. First, if you admit children who are not accompanied at the moment of admission, you expose the country to a whole range of further applications by those who are related to them; and if you make it mandatory, you have deprived yourself of the ability to regulate that flow. The second, and different, point is the pull factor. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for example, is not right to disregard that. We have seen the consequences of Chancellor Merkel’s statement, which resulted in a very great pull factor. My own fear is that if the House made this obligation mandatory, that would encourage people to send their children from where they now are into Europe, unaccompanied, in the hope that they would take advantage either of this provision, if it is carried, or of a future provision which they might envisage being carried forward. I am not against the concepts and arguments which have been very eloquently expressed by noble Lords, but I am against making it mandatory.

Lord Carlile of Berriew (LD): My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in sharing the feeling behind this amendment, and I congratulate him on moving it. He is one of many distinguished examples of people who have contributed a lot to this country since they arrived here as part of the Kindertransport.

I want, if I may, to mention my own sister. She was born in 1937 in southern Poland and is my only sibling—in fact, she is my half-sibling; her mother died in Auschwitz after four and a half years as a prisoner there, but that difference in parentage has never affected us. I am afraid that I frequently telephone her and remind her how much older she is than me. Over the period of our lives together she has frequently reminded me of what she suffered as a child who did not have the opportunity to take advantage of the Kindertransport. Throughout the Second World War, from the time her mother was taken by the Nazis, she fled from persecution. She moved from place to place, and although people who had feelings for her tried to protect her, she did not have that carapace of parental protection which most of us have enjoyed and which to a great extent was enjoyed by the Kindertransport children. A few years ago she was able to have published her memoirs of the time between her third birthday and the end of the war, such as she remembers it. It is there for all who wish to read it and it is a searing story.

If by this amendment we can save one child from the sort of experience that my sister went through or save the children of one family from the feeling of being lost in an uncaring world, at no real disadvantage to this country, we should do it. Nothing in this amendment would disadvantage this country. If the Government wish to carry out a cost-benefit analysis, they need only to carry out a similar cost-benefit analysis of the Kindertransport children. These 3,000 children would be a jewel in this country’s crown and would appreciate what this country had done for them, like my sister appreciated what it eventually did for her when she was able to come here as an eight year-old in 1946.

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Baroness Sheehan (LD): My Lords, I pay tribute to the wonderful speeches that we have heard today. Your Lordships’ House is a truly remarkable place. When I last spoke on this matter in Committee I cited the case of three unaccompanied refugee children and a dependent adult trapped in Calais, in whose favour the Upper Tribunal had ruled in January this year. The ruling that they be allowed to join their family in Britain forthwith was made under a clause of the Dublin III regulations that permits family reunification. It acknowledged that the proper process of applying through the French authorities had been followed, but that that process had failed and the children faced up to a year fending for themselves in the Calais camp while the French Government’s request to the British Government to take charge languished, as these cases are wont to do in the dysfunctional French immigration system.

The initial euphoria on the part of those children has ebbed away as they await the outcome of our Government’s sad decision to appeal the finding. That is the reason I support the laudable amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Although it is not necessary to enshrine in law our request that 3,000 of the 26,000 unaccompanied refugee children currently in Europe be allowed sanctuary in Britain, it is clear that the Government, despite their earlier protestations that they will look into the matter, have set their face against it.

Last Friday I was in Calais again. In the wake of the recent demolitions, I wanted to meet the heroic volunteers who have done so much to keep some of the most desperate people alive in wretched conditions through this winter. The Governments of France and Britain make much of the “pull factors”—as though making the atrocious conditions just that little bit more humane will be a magnet. However, the millions of people on the move are not fleeing their homes, their livelihoods and their communities for a better life in the West. As one Syrian told me recently, what they are leaving behind used to be so much better than anything they can hope for in Europe; but they have no choice. Among these refugees are children, some travelling without adult protection—some left home on their own, because parents could afford smugglers’ fees for only one; some children’s parents died on the journey or became separated from them. The best estimates are that there are some 28,000 refugee children fending for themselves in Europe, and 10,000 are now unaccounted for. Some of those children have family in Britain. With a will, using the safe and legal routes available to us, we could fast-track the assessment and processing of these child refugees and give them sanctuary. Lord knows, we have many able and willing volunteers ready to house them.

A census carried out in Calais just before the demolitions showed there to be 423 unaccompanied child refugees in the camp. Surely it is time for the Government to accept their moral obligation to look after those children with a legal right to come to Britain, and set up processing centres? Safe and legal routes is the right way to thwart the smugglers—not partaking in tortuous contortions of international law and returning refugees from whence they came.

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It is my belief that in years to come all of us in Europe—save possibly with the exception of the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel—will look back at this period in our history and hang our heads in shame. A small piece of redemption would be to accede to this request to give sanctuary to 3,000 children, alone in Europe.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab): My Lords, I want to respond briefly to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. In September, Save the Children made the proposal to bring 3,000 children to this country. Six months have passed and the Government have chosen not to exercise their discretion to do so. We have heard strong arguments as to why we should welcome those children here and, because the Government have chosen not to exercise their discretion in that respect, my noble friend Lord Dubs is putting forward this amendment to make it mandatory. We can wait no longer. Every day we hear of children being exploited and abused, and whose mental and physical health is deteriorating. Let us use this opportunity.

Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB): My Lords, perhaps I may also say something in response to the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. The short answer to the very practical point that he made is for the Government to come forward with an alternative that does not tie them to taking in 3,000 children on the understanding that, if the amendment is accepted, they will be under a moral obligation to do something very similar. One argument that the Government have raised is that this may encourage other children to be put on boats and sent over. That may be but, if the Turkish agreement is to be of any use, one hopes that everyone will then go back to Turkey, certainly from Greece. However, there is a chance that that will not happen.

What really worries me—and I am obviously not the only one to be worried—is the plight of the very young children. The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, talked about Calais. I understand that at least one child there is only nine. However, I am concerned about children under 14 and especially children under 12. They are particularly at risk not just from people traffickers but from those who would enslave them. Speaking as the co-chairman of the parliamentary group on human trafficking, I can say that there is a real problem with these children. Ten thousand-plus have gone missing. How many have gone into the hands of those who will use them for prostitution, benefit fraud, thieving and even forced labour?

We absolutely must do something to stop those children being victims. They are already victims by being in Europe if they are unaccompanied, but they are in danger of becoming slaves. As many have said much more eloquently than me, we have an obligation to look after at least some of them. As has already been said, we have a noble record of looking after children who are at great risk.

I admire the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for putting forward this amendment and I support it in principle entirely. I have the feeling that the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, does not object to the proposal; he just objects to its mandatory nature. Therefore, I put in a plea to the Government. As I have already said, if

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they do not like the way in which the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is expressed, the very short answer to that is to bring forward a government amendment at Third Reading and they would have the whole House behind them.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con): My Lords, if I may say so, the noble and learned Baroness made a very important point. I imagine that there is a particular concern on all sides of the House about the very young children, but the problem is that, as I understand it, the amendment would apply to anyone up to the age of 18. That goes far too wide, particularly when the de facto age of maturity—or whatever the legal position is—has come down significantly. Therefore, I ask the Minister whether the Government might consider looking at an arrangement of this kind for children up to the age of, say, 12. I believe that as currently drafted, applying to children right up to the age of 18, the amendment goes far too wide. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will consider the Government coming forward with a statesmanlike compromise.

5.15 pm

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (CB): My Lords, of course our hearts go out to unaccompanied children, especially the younger ones and particularly those under the age of 12—these are children who have somehow managed to find their way to an EU country. However, one thing rather concerns me about the provision as drafted, and it is this: ex hypothesi, the refugee children in other countries in Europe to whom this provision applies are already entitled to asylum in whichever EU country they already are. If we are to bring in some mandatory provision of this sort, for my part, I suggest that the requirement for them to be “refugees” be dropped. If the clause is restricted, say, to those under the age of 12 or to younger children, for them, frankly, the difference between being a refugee strictly entitled under the refugee convention and an economic migrant is vanishingly small.

Lord Judd (Lab): My Lords, I have the good fortune to know my noble friend Lord Dubs personally as a great friend, and we have worked together on many issues. The thing about Alf—if I may refer to him colloquially, because I cannot think of him in any other way—is that he has never forgotten what happened to him and, throughout his life and his whole career, he has been guided by what action that demands of him as a member of society. This is not a one-off by my noble friend Lord Dubs; this is another indication of the man who has put this forward.

I have listened to the legal arguments and complexities that are again being raised. However, I believe unashamedly that from time to time in life, and in politics, there comes a moral imperative, and when there is a moral imperative it is not just to speak; it is to act. My noble friend Lord Dubs has given us an opportunity to act and give substance to our words.

However, this must be seen against the frightening background. In the world at the moment, there are 19.5 million refugees, which is around 2.9 million

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more than in 2013. Of those, 5.1 million are Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. Who is looking after these refugees? Who is hosting them? The overwhelming majority—86% of the world’s refugees—are cared for by developing countries that are desperately impoverished themselves, with many of their citizens not knowing what it is to live life as we live it. Think of that, and then think of this small action that we are being challenged to take today by my noble friend Lord Dubs. Beyond the refugees, there are of course all the internally displaced people—millions again.

This action gives hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, put it so eloquently. It is an indication of what, if we have any morality at all, that morality demands. It also means that we have to face up to the reality of the world. With climate change and all the conflict in the world, this problem will continue to grow. If we take this action, as I hope we do today, it must spur us on to consistent action as a nation in leading an international response to the global challenge that is increasing in size and complexity all the time.

The Earl of Listowel (CB): I wonder whether it is too far-fetched to think that there might be an element of self-interest in this. My mother has often talked to me about what it was like for her as a five year-old girl being evacuated from Croydon in south London to the Midlands during the Second World War. It was a very difficult experience for her and, of course, many of our children were sent off to the United States at that time for their own safety. We face an uncertain Europe. Perhaps one day we might need to turn to the United States or Canada to look for help for our children, and they might turn to us and ask, “Well, what did you do for the children arriving in Europe when they needed your help?”. If we do not stand up now and show ourselves to be willing to accommodate these young people, it will make it harder for us when we are in desperate need and want the support of other nations to say, “We need your help for our children. I know that it is a bit far-fetched, but it is not impossible and it has happened in the past.

Baroness Neuberger (LD): My Lords, I support the amendment and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, on moving it. My uncle came here at the age of 13—he had failed the 12 year-old cut-off point—as a semi-unaccompanied refugee from Nazi Germany; my mother was an adult when she came. I want to say something about the courage of the British Government at that time. When we talk about not wishing to accept the amendment, we should think about just how brave were the British Government against other Governments who did not wish to show such generosity and kindness in the late 1930s and in 1939 itself. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, paid tribute to Sir Nicky Winton, but, wonderful as he was, he was not alone—there was Trevor Chadwick, who worked with him. There were also British diplomats around Europe, particularly in Germany and in Austria, who played a major role in helping Jews and left-wingers get out of Germany and Austria. I pay particular tribute to Robert Smallbones, Arthur Dowden and the MI6 spy, Frank Foley, who does not receive enough tribute.

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The reason for supporting this amendment is not only the moral one—it is the least that we can do—but something about what Britain is and what Britain should be and setting some kind of example. We could do it in the 1930s. Why cannot we do it now?

Lord Green of Deddington (CB): My Lords, this is a very difficult issue. The heart indeed speaks strong and it beats particularly strong, it seems, in this Chamber, but we also have to think it through a little. I entirely understand the good intentions behind the amendment, and nobody is better placed than the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, to propose it and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to speak to it. I would be perfectly content to support a Motion calling for HMG to accept a larger number of children and their families from the refugee camps elsewhere in the region. It is not a question of cost; it is a question of need and one that we should be ready to meet.

My concern is that the amendment refers specifically to unaccompanied children in Europe. These children are already in Europe and are initially the responsibility of the Governments in the countries where they find themselves. The idea seems to be that we, the UK, should take a fair share of these children, who indeed find themselves in terrible circumstances. But there is a risk, which we cannot dismiss—it is a serious risk—that in doing so we will make a bad situation even worse. We are not dealing here with a finite number of children—it is no use saying, “There are 24,000 children; we will take 3,000 of them”. We are dealing with a situation in which the families concerned have come to the view that if they can only get their children into Europe, they will be looked after, and as a secondary consideration they themselves might be able to follow them up later.

To my mind, the follow-up adults are not the issue, rather it is the risk that still more children will be put at very serious risk. A well-intentioned action could have the perverse effect that many more thousands of children will be sent off to face the terrible conditions that have been described. If so, we would not be solving the problem, and indeed we might be exacerbating it. That is why I believe that the Government are right to take refugees from the region, but not from Europe. It is unsatisfactory, but it is perhaps the least bad outcome. We have to consider this carefully. A point which has frankly been ducked in this debate—I think only one speaker has mentioned it—is the risk that this will generate very large numbers of children being put at risk and make a bad situation worse.

Lord Scriven (LD): My Lords, I rise to make two brief points. The first is in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, who talked about anyone over the age of 12 not being vulnerable. I find that a quite incredible thing to say, not just in the sense that 13, 14 and 15 year-olds are vulnerable, but because when we talked about votes for 16 and 17 year-olds in your Lordships’ House, people on those Benches were saying that 16 and 17 year-olds were not mature. So there is a form of hypocrisy here in terms of the age of those who are seen as vulnerable.

My second point is that it is a complete nonsense to suggest that this amendment from the noble Lord,

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Lord Dubs, would act as a pull factor. It suggests that parents and children are sitting in a war-torn part of the world and suddenly say that because 3,000 children have been accepted into the United Kingdom they are going to send their children here. People are fleeing because they fear for their children’s lives and their own lives, not because of some rational thought about what is being said in the sanitised, oak-panelled walls of this Chamber.