Since the introduction of community support officers there has been a worrying, yet entirely predictable, creep in their powers. The additional powers in the Bill will be the third extension of those given to CSOs since their introduction in July 2002. All these extensions have taken place in the absence of any empirical evidence as to the utility of the exercise of their existing powers or any evaluation of the effectiveness or efficiency of the service they are delivering.
We were in support of the appointment of community support officers when it was first discussed but we oppose the additional powers which would be conferred on CSOs by Clause 118. This view is derived from focus group research conducted by the Police Federation into the experiences of police officers working with CSOs. The Government have no empirical evidence of the utility of the powers the CSOs already have. The Home Office evaluation of the use of powers to detain signally failed to measure utility despite being directed by the terms of reference to do so.
We are very concerned about the power creep that is happening, with more and more powers for CSOs being tagged on to any convenient piece of legislation. While the Police Federation accepted that CSOs should be given the power to search following detention, the clause goes far further, effectively giving them the power to stop and search for alcohol and tobacco and, by extension, for drugs. CSOs should not get involved in potentially highly confrontational situations by warning people who may well carry weapons to protect themselves, their drugs or the money they are carrying. I beg to move.
I understand the basis upon which the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, speaks in support of the amendments, but we do not agree with him. Let me explain why.
Community support officers have been in place for a little over two years and in that time they have proved extremely successful as an additional resource in improving the visibility of the police and tackling the anti-social behaviour that blights communities. Precisely because of their more limited role, training and powers they are not subject to the degree of abstraction to other duties that their more highly trained constable colleagues must face.
Increasingly, the agenda on neighbourhood policing is shifting towards a team-based approach that deploys together police officers, CSOs and sometimes neighbourhood wardens. We believe that we have made the case—and I am happy to make it again—for some additional powers to be designated on CSOs at the discretion, I emphasise, of chief constables to deal with the routine situations that they face regularly on the streets.
The interim report of the national evaluation of community support officers published in December of last year, alongside other evaluations, such as the University of Leeds' study Patrolling with a Purpose published in October 2004, all point to the success and popularity of CSOs. To quote just a few examples: in Northumbria, satisfaction with the police rose by 32 per cent in areas where CSOs patrol; in Westminster, 86 per cent of respondents to a public survey had seen a CSO; and in Leeds, personal robbery fell by 47 per cent in areas in which CSOs patrol.
So their introduction has been key to the introduction of neighbourhood policing currently gathering pace, allowing communities sustained contact with dedicated local policing teams. It has not—as is often alleged—threatened the role of the constable. We have delivered 13,000 more police officers since 1997 and have introduced measures to tackle bureaucracy and get police officers on to the frontline.
We are seeking to make a few changes to the existing powers of CSOs to give chief constables the flexibility to choose from a wider menu of powers according to local need. The provisions are not designed to blur the distinctions between police officers and community support officers. Instead, the new powers make practical changes to allow CSOs to deal more effectively with the type of situations they routinely face as part of their high visibility patrolling role. For example, CSOs already have the power to deal with beggars who behave in an anti-social manner but have no specific power to deal with passive beggars. The Bill makes that change, allowing CSOs to deal with all types of begging.
The new powers are also carefully limited and designed to keep CSOs out of confrontational situations. For example, they will be enabled to enter off-licences to investigate licensing offences but in pubs, where the risks are higher, CSOs will be required to enter only in the company of a constable.
Similarly, the Bill gives CSOs the power to seize drugs in situations where they come across them. It would not make sense for a CSO to find some cannabis on a young person when searching for alcohol or tobacco but to be powerless to remove it. Specifically, the Bill does not enable CSOs to go searching for drugs proactively, as that is a power suitable only for sworn constables. The new powers for CSOs in the Bill are there to give them practical help in tackling anti-social behaviour but have been crafted in such a way as to recognise the boundaries of the CSO role. We understand absolutely why the noble Lord wishes to see a clear distinction between community support officers and constables, and we agree with him.
Striking Clause 118 from the Bill or removing paragraphs from Schedules 8 and 9 would deprive chief constables of the opportunity to designate CSOs, as well as other designated staff and accredited persons, with a useful range of powers. We believe that the new powers for CSOs will add considerably to their effectiveness in our communities. In these circumstances, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw the amendment. I know that this issue has taxed him and others on the Liberal Democrat Benches, which is why I have taken a little time to explain why we think that they need not be so concerned.
I thank the Minister for her explanation. This is a matter of serious concern to the Police Federation, and I think that that is where the explanation is due. I hope that its members will be able to read the Minister's explanation in Hansard tomorrow. If they come back, the Home Office may have a tougher job than I have here. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
moved Amendment No. 125:
Page 190, line 16, at end insert—
"After paragraph 1 insert—
:TITLE3:"Power to require name and address
1A (1) This paragraph applies if a designation applies it to any person.
(2) Such a designation may specify that, in relation to that person, the application of sub-paragraph (3) is confined to one or more only (and not to all) relevant offences or relevant licensing offences, being in each case specified in the designation.
(3) Subject to sub-paragraph (4), where that person has reason to believe that another person has committed a relevant offence in the relevant police area, or a relevant licensing offence (whether or not in the relevant police area), he may require that other person to give him his name and address.
(4) The power to impose a requirement under sub-paragraph (3) in relation to an offence under a relevant byelaw is exercisable only in a place to which the byelaw relates.
(5) A person who fails to comply with a requirement under sub-paragraph (3) is guilty of an offence and shall be liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale.
(6) In its application to an offence which is an offence by reference to which a notice may be given to a person in exercise of the power mentioned in paragraph 1(2)(aa), sub-paragraph (3) of this paragraph shall have effect as if for the words "has committed a relevant offence in the relevant police area" there were substituted "in the relevant police area has committed a relevant offence".
(7) In this paragraph, "relevant offence", "relevant licensing offence" and "relevant byelaw" have the meaning given in paragraph 2 (reading accordingly the references to "this paragraph" in paragraph 2(6)).""
We think it is important that chief constables should be able to choose whether or not CSOs should have the power to detain for 30 minutes according to their policing strategy for the local area. Prior to the commencement of the power of detention in all forces, chief constables outside the six pilot areas designated their CSOs with the power to require name and address without the power to detain attached. A number of chief constables do not wish to designate their CSOs with the power to detain, but find the power to require name and address useful on its own.
The amendments ensure that, following the commencement of the detention power, chief constables can continue to designate the power to require name and address without also designating the power of detention. This gives chief constables the flexibility to tailor the powers of CSOs to the needs of the local area and, as such, I hope that this will be welcomed by Members on all sides of the House. I beg to move.
moved Amendments Nos. 126 to 135:
Page 190, line 18, leave out sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) and insert—
"( ) For sub-paragraph (2) substitute—
"(2) A designation may not apply this paragraph to any person unless a designation also applies paragraph 1A to him.""
Page 190, line 27, after "(3)" insert—
"(a) for "sub-paragraph (2)" substitute "paragraph 1A(3)",
Page 190, leave out lines 34 to 36.
Page 191, line 1, leave out "the designation" and insert "a designation under paragraph 1A"
Page 191, line 2, leave out "sub-paragraph (2)" and insert "sub-paragraph (3) of that paragraph"
Page 191, line 14, leave out "(5)(b)" and insert "(5)—
(a) omit paragraph (a),
(b) in paragraph (b)"
Page 192, line 15, at end insert—
"( ) Omit sub-paragraph (7).
( ) At the end add—
"(8) The application of any provision of this paragraph by paragraph 3(2), 3A(2) or 7A(8) has no effect unless a designation under this paragraph has applied this paragraph to the CSO in question."" .
Page 192, line 47, at end insert—
"In paragraph 3 (power to require name and address of person acting in anti-social manner), in sub-paragraph (2), for "sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph" substitute "paragraph 1A(3)"."
Page 193, line 19, leave out "sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph" and insert "paragraph 1A(3)"
Page 193, line 23, at end insert—
"In paragraph 4 (power to use reasonable force to detain person)—
(a) in sub-paragraph (2)(b), after "paragraph" insert "1A or",
(b) in sub-paragraph (3), for "paragraph 2(2)" substitute "paragraph 1A(3)"."
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 136 not moved.]
moved Amendments Nos. 137 to 140:
Page 194, line 20, leave out "sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph" and insert "paragraph 1A(3)"
Page 194, line 21, leave out "that paragraph" and insert "paragraph 2"
Page 195, line 18, leave out "sub-paragraph (2) of that paragraph" and insert "paragraph 1A(3)"
Page 195, line 20, leave out "that paragraph" and insert "paragraph 2"
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 141 to 144 not moved.]
Schedule 8 agreed to.
Schedule 9 [Additional powers and duties of designated persons]:
[Amendment No. 145 not moved.]
Schedule 9 agreed to.
Clauses 119 and 120 agreed to.
Clause 121 [Harassment intended to deter lawful activities]:
[Amendments Nos. 146 and 147 not moved.]
Clause 121 agreed to.
Clause 122 [Harassment etc. of a person in his home]:
[Amendments Nos. 148 to 153 not moved.]
Clause 122 agreed to.
Clause 123 agreed to.
Clause 142 [Interference with contractual relationships so as to harm animal research organisation]:
moved Amendment No. 153A:
Page 103, line 23, at end insert—
"but paragraph (b) does not include an act which is actionable on the ground only that it induces another person to break a contract with B."
Amendment No. 153A has the effect of narrowing the scope of the new Clause 142 by stating specifically that peaceful advocacy of economic actions against companies that are connected with animal research organisations will not trigger an offence. The amendment ensures that an offence can be triggered only by methods of persuasion that are themselves unlawful, which has always been our intention.
The Joint Committee on Human Rights observed in its seventh scrutiny report that Clause 142 was capable of capturing lawful protest actions and we are therefore taking this opportunity to ensure that the scope for the clause to be so used against such actions is removed. We believe that the right to make lawful representations is a cornerstone of democratic society. I beg to move.
My Lords, I confess that several years ago I became chairman of the only committee since 1870 to advise Parliament on how Acts of Parliament should be drafted. In those days there was never any question of references to A, B, C and D, and so on, within the statutes. That is a habit that has been growing, and I implore the Government to drop it, for two reasons: first, because it departs from the usual use of our language and, secondly, because Acts of Parliament must be understood by all the people, and not all people will understand when those references to A, B, C and D and so on are introduced. I really feel that it is a habit that we should get away from.
My Lords, of course, I hear what the noble Lord says, and I give proper deference to his long experience. However, many people say that they find Bills drafted in this way easier to understand, particularly the layman, who may not be as conversant as the noble Lord with the construction and interpretation of statutes. I hear what he says, but this seems to be a perfectly felicitous way in which to deal with the matter for the ordinary man and woman in the street.
I believe that we may now have a little problem, as we have now agreed the clause before the Minister had the opportunity formally to move her amendments. The Minister might by my intervention have been given time perhaps to recollect that fact. I would like to be of the greatest assistance, if there is any way in which we can undo what we have just done.
moved Amendment No. 155:
Page 104, line 14, after "in" insert ", or who provides financial assistance to,"
There are two amendments that have the effect of extending the list of persons connected to animal research organisations contained in Clause 143, to include funders of research. Funders, including the Association of Medical Research Charities, have told us that they believe that they should have the same status in the new legislation as the customers, suppliers and employees of animal research organisations, as they have been targeted by unlawful action by extremists and feel that pain as equally as others who have been so subjected. A number of noble Lords made the case for such an amendment during Second Reading on
I should tell the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the reason why I hesitated was that the Deputy Chairman did say formally moved, which would have meant that the amendment would have gone through without my saying what I have just said. The temptation was there, but the noble Baroness was absolutely right to bring proceedings to a halt because this was a measure that the whole Chamber wanted to see in the Bill, and it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge, with a little pleasure, that it is now there. I beg to move.
moved Amendment No. 156:
Page 104, line 22, after "in" insert ", or who provides financial assistance to,"
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Clause 143, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 144 to 146 agreed to.
Clause 124 [Hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds]:
[Amendment No. 157 not moved.]
Clause 124 negatived.
[Amendments Nos. 158 to 162 not moved.]
Schedule 10 [Hatred against persons on racial or religious grounds]:
[Amendments Nos. 163 to 180 not moved.]
Schedule 10 negatived.
Clause 125 [Offence of trespassing on designated site]:
[Amendments Nos. 181 to 189 not moved.]
On Question, Whether Clause 125 shall stand part of the Bill?
I gave notice of my intention to oppose the Question that Clause 125 stand part of the Bill. I am very concerned that this clause, which creates a new criminal offence of trespass in a designated area, is likely to be passed in this House tonight—indeed, I think that is fairly certain—and be enacted in statute yet it has not been debated at all in either House of Parliament. I took the trouble to check what occurred in the other place. There was no discussion of the measure in Committee or on Report, yet this clause creates a new criminal offence. It could be regarded as an encroachment upon our civil liberties. It is at least incumbent on the Minister to justify the reason for this clause appearing in this Bill at all.
It was suggested on Second Reading in your Lordships' House that possibly the sweepings from the Home Secretary's cupboard had somehow found their way into this Bill. There was a discussion about whether that was a gallimaufry or whether it was a portmanteau. Either way, the suggestion was made by other noble Lords that the clauses—because Clauses 126, 127 and 128 also relate to this—have appeared as if by magic, and yet they are gravely in danger of being enacted without any parliamentary scrutiny whatever.
I am very well aware that in making my first intervention ever in your Lordships' House on the scrutiny of legislation I have picked a spectacularly bad time; the day that the general election is called, when there is clear agreement between the major parties in this House to hurry through this Bill. I sense impatience in the Chamber tonight to proceed with some expedition, but I would be grateful if the Minister would explain the justification for taking those powers, so that it is on the record in this House and for the public outside.
A number of organisations with which I am connected have raised their concerns, which were expressed briefly in the Second Reading debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Gibson of Market Rasen. The Minister did reply to her, but it was in the nature of a two-sentence reply that merely said that this had been recommended by some committee. I hope that a fuller explanation can be offered tonight.
The noble Lord has no reason to apologise for delaying the Committee on this important matter, which I referred to, albeit briefly, in my Second Reading speech. That brevity does not reflect any lack of concern. I too have received briefings not only from the Ramblers' Association but from the Open Spaces Society. I sympathise fully with the Ramblers' Association in its first comment that it had not anticipated by looking at the title of the Bill, either short or long, that there would be anything in the Bill that would directly affect them, and so it was at a late stage that it cottoned on to the implications of the clauses.
Having had discussions on this matter with the Government, it is my belief that the Government have no intention at all of penalising what one would consider to be the rambler who enjoys peaceful exercise in the countryside. The noble Lord is the right person to have raised the question of clause stand part. I took the opportunity to look at his maiden speech, and I now realise his expertise as a mountaineer, one of the few that I have ever seen. On a modest scale I also enjoy walking; I do so regularly on Crown land where I pay to park and use the privileges. I am also aware that if I sought to leave that particular Crown land to go onto other land where I am not supposed to go at present—or indeed after the Bill goes through—there would not be any notices to let me know that I was going into the wrong area.
The clauses have been brought forward for the right reasons, and the noble Lord is right to invite the Minister to explain the purposes behind them. I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to indicate to the Committee the kind of sites that the Government anticipate will be covered by this new criminal trespass. I am sure that none of us want to be in the situation where the normal enjoyment of the countryside would be prevented by the provisions, and I do not believe that that will be the result.
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, for her correct outline of the Government's position. The noble Baroness and other noble Lords will know that I have written in response to a proper concern expressed by the Ramblers' Association about the Government's intention. I reassure my noble friend that although this matter has been dealt with late in tonight's deliberations, that is not because of any lack of care.
It may assist my noble friend and other Members of the Committee if I say, briefly, that Clauses 125 to 128 should be seen in their proper context. They respond to the Armstrong report of July 2003, following Aaron Barschak's intrusion at Windsor Castle on
That is the background against which the provisions should be seen. I am aware that concern has been expressed that the powers are too wide-ranging and could be used to designate large areas of Crown land to which the public have access. I take this opportunity to reassure the Committee, including my noble friend, that that is categorically not our intention. The offence created under Clause 125 will be limited to a small number of sites which will be designated by order under subsection (2). In making designations under the powers, the Secretary of State will be mindful of the need to provide a proportionate response to the potential for intrusion at a small number of sensitive sites, such as Buckingham Palace, Parliament and elsewhere.
It is very unlikely that members of the public will be denied access to any land which they currently enjoy. I have responded to my noble friend Lord Judd, who raised the issue in terms of trespass on behalf of the Ramblers' Association. I wrote to him on
I commend my noble friend Lord Haworth if this is his first incursion into our deliberations on a Bill. I hope that it has not put him off, and we will welcome him even more warmly on all other occasions.
I had rather assumed that the orders would be negative, because all that they would do is identify the specific sites deserving of certain protection. When we debated the issues in 2003-04, Members of this House properly expressed great concern—I particularly remember the noble Lord, Lord Renton, doing so—that we were not doing enough to make sure that the sites were properly protected. The provisions are to make sure that particularly sensitive sites get the protection that they merit. That is the limit, so a negative resolution would be the proper way to determine that the sites were the ones that had been so identified.
moved Amendment No. 192:
Page 92, line 41, leave out "for the purposes of this section" and insert "in a public place in the designated area"
Government Amendments Nos. 192, 193, 196, 197, 199, 200, 201 and 248 respond to the concerns expressed about the requirement to give at least six days' notice of any demonstration. The Government recognise that there should be provision for a shorter notice period of 24 hours in exceptional circumstances. For example, a demonstration may be organised as a response to an event which could not be foreseen. Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, seek to remove any requirement on the organisers of demonstrations to give any notice of their intentions to the commissioner.
The purpose of these provisions is to allow the commissioner to consider the circumstances of a demonstration and its likely effect on the work of Parliament and the security of the area around it. He can then set conditions which are appropriate and proportionate. The commissioner must be able to do this in advance. The Government have recognised that there may be occasions when demonstrations are organised as a response to events which could not be foreseen. We have shortened the notice period to 24 hours in exceptional circumstances, but we do not believe that we should remove the notice period completely.
Regarding Amendment No. 198, which replaces,
"disruption to the life of the community" with,
"serious disruption to the life of the community", we must be able to ensure that those who work around Parliament are able to carry on their business without disruption and that the commissioner is able to place conditions on demonstrations to prevent this disruption. The Government believe that serious disruption is too high a threshold for demonstrations around Parliament and, given the importance of this area, the police need to have the ability to control all disruptive demonstrations.
Government Amendment No. 201 allows the Metropolitan Police to give authorisation for a demonstration by fax or e-mail if organisers agree. This is particularly relevant if an organiser is unable to give six days notice for the demonstration. The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, opposes the whole of Clause 134. This clause follows the provisions of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, which ban the use of loudhailers in the streets at night. The new clauses ban the use of loudhailers in the vicinity of Parliament at any time except for certain specified purposes, such as in an emergency.
The Government included these provisions to reduce the disruption which loudhailers cause to the work of Parliament. This issue was raised in the Procedure Committee in the other place, which in its report on Sessional Orders and resolutions recommended legislation on the use of loudhailers. The work of Parliament must be able to continue. Noise from loudhailers is particularly disruptive and the Government believe that those who demonstrate around Parliament are able to make their views known without resorting to loudhailers.
Finally, Amendments Nos. 204 and 205 seek to reduce the maximum extent of the designated area to which the controls on demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament apply. We are aware of concerns about the designated area taking in Trafalgar Square, and the House may be assured that, in exercising the order-making power in Clause 135, we will ensure that Trafalgar Square is excluded. Those are the two areas that both Benches opposite saw as the main thrust of concern. As a result, demonstrations could continue there without the need for prior notification from the Commissioner. I hope that that meets the noble Lord's concern on this point. I would love to see him smile. I beg to move.
I shall certainly smile with that small mercy from the Minister, which, in particular, excludes Trafalgar Square from the demonstration provisions. I should remind her that I never thought that I would see the day—given that I used to march outside Parliament in my younger days, as did many members of her own party—that new Labour would actually prevent people from demonstrating in the square outside this place.
I shall express my concerns about the severe restriction on peaceful protest proposed by these clauses. In the light of the protection that has been given to political speech in Article 10 of the convention, we are particularly concerned at measures that seek to inhibit public protest on the doorstep of parliamentary democracy. It is an unpleasant irony that, should this provision become law, freedom of expression will be most at risk in the one area where it should be most protected.
Under existing legislation, the police may place conditions on processions if they reasonably believe that the purpose of the organisers is to intimidate or if the procession may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community. We therefore question whether these further restrictions are necessary to achieve any legitimate aim. In fact, we are unclear as to the aim of the provision. If it is to regulate static assemblies, as opposed to processions, by allowing the police to impose conditions in the interests of public safety and so on, we believe that that could be achieved in a more proportionate manner.
There are a number of issues here. In relation to Amendments Nos. 193 and 194, we appreciate the move made by the Government from six days to 24 hours, but that still does not allow for continuous protest in the vicinity of Parliament. Business in Parliament can change very quickly and, in the event, there may not be 24 hours in which it is reasonably practical for someone to notify the Commissioner.
With regard to Amendments Nos. 195 and 198, we believe that the Commissioner should not be able to impose conditions on demonstrations on the grounds of disruption to the life of the community unless the disruption is serious. Any large-scale demonstration will almost inevitably cause some disruption. We are concerned that, without the amendment, the legislation will permit disproportionate restrictions on protests.
We oppose the Question that Clause 134 stand part because we believe that a total ban on the use of loudspeakers in a designated area is a disproportionate restriction on freedom of expression. It is arbitrary as to the area and could have unintended consequences.
With regard to Amendments Nos. 204 and 205, we believe that, if these provisions are retained, the area should be designated, and I believe that the Minister has now accepted that. However, if that is not practical, the maximum radius should be reduced generally to cover Parliament and its surroundings rather than large parts of central London. Now that Trafalgar Square is excluded, will Waterloo Station, which I suspect falls within the 1 kilometre range that we were talking about, also be excluded? For that reason, we propose that the centre of the area should be Parliament itself rather than Parliament Square. Those are our concerns and I hope that, by tomorrow, the Minister will see fit to make some changes for the betterment of this clause.
I shall comment briefly on this group of amendments. I welcome, in particular, the commitment given by the Government with regard to Trafalgar Square. I think that that is a proper response to the debate that was held in another place and to the concerns expressed there.
The noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, is absolutely right in stressing how important it is that British citizens should have the right to make their views known at the very doors of Parliament. The Front Bench view is that the Government have met our concerns about the original proposals by the amendments that they have tabled today and that therefore they are still enabling proper demonstration to be made.
I have certainly been reminded by organisations such as Global Women's Strike that there is a vital need for them to have the right to come to Parliament Square—indeed, they would say to use loudhailers as well. They remind me that, on occasion, they have lobbied Members of another place by post and have not received a single response. Therefore, they feel that they can make themselves heard only in a physical way by coming here with a loudhailer, and I can well understand that view.
As this is free-vote territory, I am allowed as a Front-Bencher to say that I have always felt it an important right for people to ensure that I hear what they say. Even if I do not agree with what they say, I shall certainly try to go on listening as long as I have breath to do so—not that one needs breath to listen.
I am glad that the Government have brought forward this amendment, but we have to be very careful, particularly now, that we do not send the wrong message to the voters outside. We are asking them to vote in a general election to send people to Parliament. Then we are saying to them, "Okay, you have elected us now, don't bother to turn up to see us in great numbers". I think that is such a pity.
For hundreds of years we have been able to demonstrate in front of Parliament and speak to the people who govern us, and now, because one fellow made a nuisance of himself for a few months, we are restricting the rights of the general population, the general voters. I believe it is a great pity, despite what the Government have done which is to be welcomed, to send a message to the people that restrictions on Parliament are to be tightened yet again.
When I was elected to Parliament in 1970 everyone could come through the doors of this place and the House of Commons without let or hindrance. That has changed to the extent that they have to be searched, they have to wear badges, and now we are saying that they have to give notice if more than a handful of people want to come to demonstrate and tell us what they think.
I absolutely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Stoddart and Lord Dholakia, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about the importance of being able to protest. These provisions specifically allow that still to take place. The Commissioner must allow demonstrations. This is simply an opportunity to impose conditions.
We are not preventing demonstrations; we are not preventing peaceful process. All that is still possible. We are not inhibiting the public's ability freely to express their views. We all enjoy the benefit of hearing them and hearing them very clearly. We have put some reasonable, proportionate limits on the exercise of that quite proper right. I hope that nothing that we put in this Bill will in any way inhibit proper demonstrations so that the voice of the people of this country can be heard. I am glad that the young noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, who was traipsing the streets in this regard, has found his proper place on the Benches of the House.
moved Amendment No. 193:
Page 93, leave out line 17 and insert—
"(1A) The notice must be given—
(a) if reasonably practicable, not less than 6 clear days before the day on which the demonstration is to start, or
(b) if that is not reasonably practicable, then as soon as it is, and in any event not less than 24 hours before the time the demonstration is to start."
[Amendment No. 194, as an amendment to Amendment No. 193, not moved.]
On Question, Amendment No. 193 agreed to.
Clause 130, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 131 [Authorisation of demonstrations in designated area]:
[Amendment No. 195 not moved.]
moved Amendments Nos. 196 and 197:
Page 93, line 36, leave out from "district" to end of line 37 and insert "by the time specified in section 130(1A)."
Page 93, line 38, at end insert "to which the notice relates"
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 198 not moved.]
moved Amendments Nos. 199 to 201:
Page 94, line 35, leave out "divergence from the particulars" and insert "failure to comply"
Page 94, line 36, leave out "failure to comply" and insert "divergence from the particulars"
Page 94, line 41, at end insert—
"( ) If the person to whom the notice required by subsection (6) is to be given has agreed, it may be sent to him by email or by facsimile transmission at the address or number notified by him for the purpose to the Commissioner (and a notice so sent is "in writing" for the purposes of that subsection)."
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Clause 131, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 132 to 134 agreed to.
moved Amendment No. 202:
After Clause 134, insert the following new clause—
In section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 (c. 27) (weapons subject to general prohibition) after subsection (1A) insert—
"(1B) A person commits an offence if, without lawful object or reasonable excuse or the permission of the Secretary of State, he has in his possession in any public place, or purchases or acquires or imports into the United Kingdom, or manufactures, sells or transfers any imitation firearm.""
In retrospect, moving this as an amendment after Clause 134 does not look entirely logical. However, since the purpose of Amendments Nos. 202 and 203 is simply to raise the issue in the hope of getting some assurances that further work will be done on the matter by the Government, I am not too worried about their putative placing in the legislation.
Amendment No. 202 would prohibit the sale, manufacture and importation of imitation firearms and Amendment No. 203 would do the same for airguns. The purpose of the amendments is that although the Government have substantially restricted people carrying imitation weapons and the sale of airguns, I do not believe that in either case enough has been done.
On imitation weapons, apart from the fact that many of them can be converted into real and very dangerous weapons, there is the real problem that people carrying an imitation firearm, if it looks like a real firearm, will require the deployment of armed police. There may then be an incident in which someone is shot and it then turns out the gun was a toy or an imitation weapon. The consequences are very serious in every way. That clearly is unfortunate.
If you encourage that, it adds to a situation in which you are glorifying weapons. So I would very much like to see us move on that point, particularly as crimes involving imitation guns are increasing and rose by 18 per cent in the past year. Indeed, I understand that if you were to extract offences involving imitation firearms from the figures for gun crime, you would find that gun crime in this country had gone down. So I certainly believe that we should be making progress on that issue.
On airguns, in my speech at Second Reading I referred to the tragic case of Andrew Morton. He was a two year-old child from Easterhouse in Glasgow, who was shot in the head with an airgun pellet and subsequently died. In case people feel that that was an isolated incident, a few days before the South Wales Echo reported a situation in which a sniper targeted four bus passengers, including two children, waiting at a bus stop in Pentrebane. When the police arrived they were seen to confiscate an air rifle but witnesses were surprised that no one was arrested.
The day before the Sunderland Echo reported a case in which a six year-old boy almost blinded a 12 year-old girl with a shot from a ball-bearing gun. On the same day the Sheffield Today reported an incident in which a pensioner was shot in the head by a pellet fired from a ball-bearing gun as she walked home from a Sheffield bus stop.
The reality is that whatever changes have already been made, too many of these weapons are available. They are too readily available and my belief is that the Government should take steps to make it much more difficult to buy, obtain and to use them. I beg to move.
I am not too enthusiastic about Amendment No. 202, but I warmly endorse Amendment No. 203 as a result of personal experience. About 10 months ago my wife and I returned from the country to find that some yob had fired what looked like a .22 bullet through the ground floor window of our London house. Police later told us that it almost certainly came from a ball-bearing gun, but it undoubtedly caused just as much damage as any .22 bullet would.
Weeks later we were still picking extremely sharp and painful shards of glass out of the carpets and the furniture—shards which had been driven fully 15 or 16 feet into the room. The ball-bearing gun was obviously fired, because they could not get into the garden, from a distance of 12 or 13 feet from the window. That is quite a range. So there is clearly nothing innocuous—as I confess I used to believe—about a ball-bearing gun. They are dangerous things and I think that the noble Lord is absolutely right to bring forward this amendment.
The Government share my noble friend's concern about the misuse of imitation firearms and air weapons. We sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Monson, on his very distressing incident. We realise that such guns can be very damaging. There is already a range of controls to tackle their misuse, which we have recently strengthened. Last year we raised from 14 to 17 the age limit for owning air weapons and made it an offence to possess an imitation firearm or an air weapon, whether loaded or not, in public without lawful or reasonable excuse.
My noble friend's amendments would further tackle the problem of misuse through prohibiting the possession, purchase, acquisition, manufacture, sale, transfer or importation of imitation firearms and air weapons—except the prohibition would not apply where a person had a lawful object or reasonable excuse for having one. That would not be effective in preventing irresponsible people obtaining those things. The sale of imitation firearms and air weapons is not limited to registered firearms dealers; they can be bought and sold by anyone, including privately. Imitations include harmless items such as children's toys, which are sold by general retailers. It would not be difficult for anyone to offer a reasonable excuse for buying an imitation or an air weapon, for example, by presenting themselves as a collector or target shooter, and few vendors could check a purchaser's stated reasons.
As I have mentioned, it is already an offence to possess an imitation firearm or an air weapon in public without reasonable excuse. That means that part of what my noble friend's amendment seeks to achieve is already catered for. Whether any further controls are necessary, and what they should be, is best considered as part of the Government's current review of firearms law.
We have consulted on how the controls might be improved, and we are considering the many views that we have received. That process provides the best means of deciding what measures would be most effective and proportionate in tackling the misuse of imitation and air weapons. I hope that that reassures my noble friend that the Government are actively addressing the problem. I hope that he will not press his amendments but I empathise with why he has made them. I reassure him that the Government are looking at the issue and have expressed concerned about it.
I am grateful to my noble friend for that reply and am pleased that these issues will be looked at as part of the review of firearms law. Although the restrictions that the Government have introduced on carrying such weapons in public are extremely welcome, we must now look at their more general availability and the fact that, once somebody has such a weapon or imitation weapon, the temptation to take it out and to use it is rather too great.
I accept the arguments made about the difficulties of an amendment that refers to prohibiting the sale of such weapons unless there is a lawful object or reasonable excuse. I accept that that may be much too wide in all such instances. But I hope that, as part of the review, the Government will look at ways in which we can stifle the production, sale, manufacture and distribution both of air weapons, to which the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has referred, and of imitation weapons, which, when unlawfully displayed in public, can lead to a situation in which firearms officers are deployed, potentially putting all sorts of people at risk as a consequence.
I am grateful for the assurances that have been given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 203 not moved.]
Clause 135 [The designated area]:
[Amendments Nos. 204 and 205 not moved.]
Clause 135 agreed to.
Clauses 136 and 137 agreed to.
Clause 138 [Anti-social behaviour orders etc: reporting restrictions]:
On Question, Whether Clause 138 shall stand part of the Bill?
Clause 138 changes the situation when youth courts are dealing with publicising an anti-social behaviour order. Currently, personal information on children subject to proceedings should be released only when there are exceptional circumstances. The clause reverses that position: publicity will be given unless exceptional circumstances prevent it.
The Minister will know that all the main organisations that work with children would like to see this controversial provision dropped from the Bill. I shall mention just Barnardo's, the Children's Society, the National Children's Bureau, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Save the Children and Voice for the Child in Care. That is a formidable alliance with years of experience of and contribution to the care of children in this country. I am sure that it is a matter of great regret to the Minister, as it is to me, that the Government find themselves taking measures that are in total opposition to the views of those valuable and respected organisations and that no compromise has been possible.
There are many arguments against the measure. I have considered the measure in conjunction with the Government's latest guidance on publicising the personal details, including photographs, of those who receive anti-social behaviour orders. I am afraid to say that I found it a chilling document.
There is a human rights objection to the provision. It is against the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, by which the Government are bound. There are also ethical objections. It is a sad state of affairs when society wants children and young people from the poorest and most deprived families to become pariahs and the butt of community hatred, vigilantism and "shop-a-yob" newspaper coverage—all for matters that are not even criminal.
I am as opposed to anti-social behaviour as, I am sure, is the Minister and as are the children's organisations that I mentioned. They spend much of their time working to ensure that children do not grow up anti-social. It is a major argument against the provision that it will make it likely that anti-social behaviour will increase. It will create a pariah group of young people who will wear their notoriety as a badge of honour, sever their ties with respectable society and join the street gangs that are, unfortunately, becoming more prevalent. Because of the Internet and its search engines, the effects of the provision on those young people and their families will last for many years. Once their names are known and can be typed in, their histories will be there for all to find out.
On the grounds that it will commit an abuse of children's rights and is unethical and likely to be counter-productive in our efforts to reduce anti-social behaviour, I oppose the clause.
I strongly support my noble friend Lady Stern. I shall endeavour to be brief, but my first concern is that there was no debate on the clause in the other place. Although the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, raised a question about that at Second Reading, the Minister made neither specific response to that question nor any reference to the issue during the Second Reading debate. We will now have curtailed scrutiny of the Bill.
It is not particularly a party political matter; there is no great controversy among the parties about it. However, as we heard, those who work with children are very concerned. Yet, there will be only this evening's discussion and a brief discussion tomorrow, with no chance for correspondence with the Minister, no opportunity to reflect and no chance to consult the relevant organisations. That is my first concern.
"We asked [her] whether the practice of naming and shaming could be justified in light of concerns of child safety. She told us that publicity was crucial for community confidence, and commented that 'if there are good reasons for not having publicity then the courts always have the power to impose reporting restrictions'. She also confirmed that there was no current research looking at the effects of publicity on those involved".
"She also confirmed that there was no current research looking at the effects of publicity on those involved".
During the passage of the Anti-social Behaviour Bill two or three years ago, I pressed the Government repeatedly for research into the impact of that controversial measure on those children and families. To the best of my knowledge there has been no such research carried out by the Government. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend Lord Chan whether he would give a medicine to a child without knowing what the side effects would be on a vulnerable child. That is my second concern.
"Every Child Matters is a comprehensive programme of reform for children's services".
"Every Child Matters, although based in the Department for Education and Skills, requires co-ordination and joined-up working with other Government departments . . . In particular, the Youth Justice system and the immigration system currently operate in ways which can be seen to undermine the aims of Every Child Matters. These tensions need to be tackled at Ministerial level if the Government is to convince us that every child really does matter equally".
The noble Baroness earlier referred to the problem of professionals working in silos. Perhaps she will explain the Government's programme to encourage co-operative working between agencies—education, health and criminal justice, for example. But how can those agencies have confidence to work as a team? To many people involved in health and social services, publishing the names of such vulnerable children—without even bothering to investigate the implications that such publication has for those children and families—is highly irresponsible and possibly highly detrimental to the welfare of those children.
I quote further from the Select Committee's report on anti-social behaviour, which states:
"However, we conclude that the Government's strategy is being undermined by different philosophies, methods and tactics amongst key players. In particular, we were disappointed to hear that some social services departments, local educational authorities, Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services, Youth Services and children's non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are often not fully committed to local [anti-social behaviour] strategies. The failure to attend meetings of Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships is just one symptom of this. Yet many perpetrators of ASB, both young and adult, are also the very people with complex support needs and therefore with whom these organisations are already, or should be, working".
That is highly regrettable.
A psychiatrist with whom I spoke two weeks ago was treating a girl who, while undergoing treatment, had to move her home because her identity had been publicised widely in the neighbourhood. How can health professionals work closely with the criminal justice system if they have difficulty with whether the criminal justice system puts the interests of the child as a high priority?
Rod Morgan, head of the Youth Justice Board, is responsible for the work of youth offending teams and the state of children in prisons. I have heard him recently expressing deep concern about the naming and shaming of children. If the argument for having publicity is to empower local communities so that they know something is being done, frankly, complainants should be told that something is being done as regards the incidents about which they have concerns.
We have already heard today about the increased number of community officers working on the beat. They know the kids in their communities about whom action needs to be taken. They can be informed without necessarily releasing names and photographs to the press. It is then extremely difficult to work positively with either the children, their families or their carers.
In conclusion, while I apologise for taking so long, it deeply concerns me that this important area will not receive the scrutiny it certainly deserves. First, as I said earlier, there has been only a brief debate on it, followed by a short discussion in this House. Secondly, there has been no research into the consequences of publishing such information about vulnerable young people and families, whatever they may have done, as the noble Baroness was good enough to recognise earlier, and I thank her for that. Thirdly, surely the close co-operation and work of agencies will be undermined if their values seem to be in such conflict with one another.
I beg the Minister to think again about this clause and to consider bringing it back on another occasion when we have had time to reflect on a matter which affects some of the most vulnerable children and families in our society.
It is always a delight to support the noble Baroness, Lady Stern. The noble Baroness is absolutely right: the proposal is contrary to our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will seriously impair the welfare of children and their opportunities for rehabilitation. That is the point I made in my speech at Second Reading. We are also concerned that it will not deter many children from anti-social acts as many will enjoy the notoriety, while for others their anti-social behaviour is a manifestation of mental health or other difficulties which cannot be solved in this way.
We are strongly opposed to the proposal in this clause to reverse the presumption withholding from the public the identity of a child accused of breaching an ASBO. The current legislative presumption that a child subject to criminal proceedings should not be identified enshrines the principle set out in Article 40 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It provides that:
"State parties recognize that the right of every child alleged as, accused of, or recognised as having infringed the penal law to be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child's sense of dignity and worth, which reinforces the child's respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of others and which takes into account the child's age and the desirability of promoting the child's reintegration and the child's assuming a constructive role in society".
Article 40 also states that:
"State parties shall ensure that children alleged as or accused of having infringed the penal law shall have the guarantee that their privacy will be fully respected at all stages of the proceedings".
This provision therefore infringes the United Kingdom's obligations under international law. Publication of a conviction for breaching an ASBO can be seen as more prejudicial to a child than the publication of an ordinary conviction since it indicates that they are regarded as a menace to their society. Local media cover ASBO proceedings. We believe that this provision will seriously impair the welfare of children and their opportunities for rehabilitation.
We have looked seriously at the issues surrounding naming and shaming which we consider to be counterproductive. In some cases, public identification and publicity can glorify bad behaviour and act as a badge of honour. Anecdotal reports from projects show that young people who have had their ASBO publicised have been stigmatised within the community. This impedes community relations and the young person's future job prospects. It can also impact on the whole family, including younger siblings. Equally, for those who do want to make a fresh start, for whom being caught and reprimanded has had an effect, the impact of negative publicity about them can only prolong their problems in engaging with their community more positively. People who may never have even known or met them will know them only as troublemakers.
Let me quote the words of a parent of a young person on an ASBO:
"I had to move out of one area to another because of the ASBO conditions. The leaflets stated where we had moved to. This didn't seem fair as the ASBO was given in a different area and we had moved for a fresh start".
Recent figures from the Youth Justice Board show that breaches of ASBOs are resulting in a rise in those young people being sent to custody. Ten young people who have breached an ASBO are sentenced to custody every week. Children and young people are effectively being set up to fail in meeting the ASBO conditions imposed on them. When they do fail, the system finds them guilty of a criminal offence. Clause 138 then suggests that everyone needs to know about the failure—but to what end?
Although I am not in a position at this late stage in the Bill to be able to offer support to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, if she wishes to excise this clause from the Bill, I have a great regard for what she said. She has the disconcerting habit of speaking good sense all the time. It is quite off-putting.
I certainly agree that there are great concerns about the clause. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, was right to point out that this matter was not debated in another place. More than 40 per cent of the clauses were not debated. Some were merely repetitive and so it was not a matter of concern, but this area would have benefited from proper scrutiny.
Like the noble Earl and the noble Baroness, I, too, welcome the fact that I have received briefing from the Children's Society which is as lucid as ever.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, I have been a magistrate and I have chaired youth courts. I am aware of the need for sensitivity in sentencing young people and in dealing with any breaches of those sentences. I was brought up on the meat and drink of the fact that one did not publicise the young people involved in any proceedings in whatever capacity.
I looked cautiously at the provisions when they came before us. I am much intrigued by the quote of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, from the report of the Select Committee in another place. I have not seen that report. Obviously I will now have to read it properly. It is true that it is too late, but I will read it.
The noble Earl indicated that when the Minister in another place, Hazel Blears, gave evidence, she said that there would have to be good reasons for having no publicity. That concerns me because the Explanatory Notes give an assurance that the court will retain discretion to apply reporting restrictions. Furthermore, on page 100, line 9, the drafting of proposed new subsection (10E) requires that the court,
"shall give its reasons for doing so".
So we seem to be leaping from complete anonymity to reversing the burden of whether or not there should be publication. There is the assurance, "Do not worry, the court has discretion and it does not have to publicise", but suddenly, according to the Minister in another place, that discretion can be exercised only for good reasons.
That then begs the question of what happens if a court determines that it is a good reason that young people shall not have their names published at all. Does that exercise of its discretion become an abuse of the discretion because one may not have a rule about how one exercises discretion? I remember many an old argument on that matter.
Difficulties could arise out of this because who will catch the courts at it? Who will report on how often each court exercises its discretion? Who will judge whether the reasons given by a court are good reasons? Will it be the role of the CPS? Will it then take action—and, if so, what action—as a result? These are genuine concerns and it is disappointing that we are in a situation where it is so late that it is unrealistic for those concerns properly to be addressed.
I also find it somewhat uncomfortable that we are penalising young persons by publishing their details, almost as a matter of right, when the Bill gives extensive protection and anonymity—and rightly so—to adults involved in very serious crime who are turning Queen's evidence and giving assistance. That is an inconsistency in our approach to dealing with criminals.
Members of the Committee will know that how we deal with young people is an area of law in which I take an acute personal interest. It is important to see these provisions in the context of all the others that inure to the benefit of children in terms of their protection. I refer to Sure Start projects, diversion projects and the work done by DCMS, the Department for Education and Skills and the Home Office. I refer also to the holistic approach encouraged by all parties and partners that work with and for children when it comes to drug intervention, substance misuse, parenting orders, local criminal justice boards, national criminal justice boards, crime and disorder reduction partnerships and the Youth Justice Board. All those concentrate on the support, diversion, rehabilitation and reorientation of children who are disadvantaged by living in dysfunctional homes or failing to meet developmental, educational and other milestones. That work is of the utmost importance.
So, too, is dealing with anti-social and disruptive behaviour which is outwith the norm that the ordinary citizen, the ordinary community, should reasonably be expected to tolerate. I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, feels the force of that, as do others, including the charities which have to deal with children in this framework. We are very much in the same place in this respect.
I want to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, about discretion. The important thing is that we have all put a huge amount of effort into trying to make sure that those professionals, including the lay and professional judiciary, who are entrusted with the care and determination of these issues in relation to children have the appropriate level of training, expertise and commitment to this area so that they well understand the balance that has to be struck. We commend the amount of work that has been put in by the Judicial Studies Board in the training that it is to undertake with not only the professional judiciary but the lay magistracy.
The exercise of the discretion by the court remains. If the court feels that there are proper reasons that publicity should not be given, then such a course of action is at the court's instigation. That duty, which is also a burden, is not being taken away from the judge. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, asks how we would monitor that. Each case turns on its facts; the noble Baroness will know from having sat as a magistrate that no two cases are identical. Where the court is entrusted with the exercise of discretion, it will have to say why it came to that view. We would expect all members of the judiciary, whether lay or professional, not to behave precipitously, irrationally or irregularly but to behave properly and give good reasons for the determinations they make. That is a safeguard in relation to how these matters will be dealt with.
Currently a juvenile can breach an ASBO and that breach cannot be made known to the local community. That is because Sections 39 and 49 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 provide that a juvenile identity cannot be revealed in criminal proceedings. That would apply to the breach of an ASBO because it is a criminal offence. To allow such a position to continue would undermine the effectiveness of ASBOs and communities are entitled to know that if an ASBO is breached action will be taken. That can only be achieved if reporting of the offence is allowed. It is interesting that under these provisions the making of an ASBO could be publicised but the breach could not be. That would be a curious situation.
I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, says about wearing these issues like a badge of honour. However, a great deal of concentrated time—which is not often talked about—has been put into behavioural contracts. On many occasions, behavioural contracts are much more effective for the sort of child who is at the very low end of offending behaviour. Also, although those contracts do not get publicity, I can assure noble Lords—I do not have the specific figures, but I am happy to write to the noble Baroness—that there are very many more behavioural contracts than anti-social behaviour orders.
We must accept—and this is an uncomfortable thing to accept—that there is a small cadre of children to whom these provisions will apply, but the court will have the ability to differentiate between those children who will continue to need the sort of protection that does not allow them to have a badge of honour and those to whom these provisions should properly be applied.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, rightly raised the issue of what further work should be done in relation to ensuring that these provisions are working well. The noble Earl will be aware that the joint Home Office, ACPO and Youth Justice Board guidance on anti-social behaviour orders and youth justice, which was published on
Regrettably, on many occasions, these children are very well known to residents where they live because the nature of the behaviour that they undertake has made them well known. It is important for there not to be rumour about these children about where they are supposed to be and what they are not supposed to be doing. The rumour and tittle-tattle that can go on in relation to these matters can be just as damaging—if not more so—than knowing precisely what parameters the court has set, to give people certainty. Of course, these issues must be dealt with in a proportionate and balanced way.
I understand that there is a limited amount of time to respond to noble Lords on this issue tonight. I had the advantage of speaking to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, today at the open meeting that we held in relation to this Bill. I am sorry that many more people did not attend, but I would be very happy to write a more detailed response about what we are doing to support children, how we anticipate the partnership working and what sort of support there will be—there are intensive supervision programmes that can go hand in glove with an anti-social behaviour order. Orders can target not only behaviour but identify the help that children need to overcome some of these difficulties. I would be very happy to write in a more co-ordinated way to noble Lords in relation to this matter. I hope that I will be able to do so before we meet tomorrow, but that noble Lords will forgive me if I cannot quite manage it. I will do my very best. I invite noble Lords not to press this amendment.
I thank the Minister for her lengthy response at this time of night, and I am sorry to try the patience of the Chamber a little further, but could she explain how sensible decisions can be made about publication of the information if one has done no research into the impact over several years of the publication and identification of these children on the children and their families? Does the Minister recognise that there is a definite lacuna here, if one is going to make sensible policy in this area in future?
I look forward to the Minister's response to that point, or perhaps she would like to put a note about that in her letter of response for tomorrow.
I will do that. I have indicated what we did on
I apologise for intervening once more, but how can the new guidance be well informed if it is not informed by research on the impact of what is effectively naming and shaming these children? I welcome all the efforts that the Government have made in this area, and we all recognise that there have been tremendous steps forward in the youth justice field since the Government introduced the Youth Justice Board. However, on this particular point, if I may say so, the Government appear to be dragging their feet in terms of looking carefully at the matter. The policy seems to be driven forward by a Home Office priority in tackling anti-social behaviour—which is very important indeed—but the Government seem to have downgraded in that effort the importance of the interests of individual children.
I apologise for pressing the Minister so hard on this point, but I feel passionate about it. I am sure that the Minister does too, but she has a huge agenda in front of her. I apologise to the Chamber for detaining it further.
I have tried to be as clear as I can about the importance of this issue. I have said that we have reviewed the evidence. We are looking at anti-social behaviour orders and all the other intensive intervention programmes that we have undertaken at the same time. It is very difficult to disaggregate which part is actually responsible for which effect, because we have driven down crime. Crime has dropped by 30 per cent across the piece.
In relation to youth justice, we have had some very positive responses with regard to the intensive intervention programmes and the parenting orders. Quite often, a whole series of issues have to be brigaded together, which enables you to make the step-change in relation to a child's behaviour. It may be educational support, health intervention, social service intervention, rehousing the family, parenting orders in relation to the parents and changing the environment in which the child lives—and there may also have been criminal proceedings and an anti-social behaviour order. How one disaggregates which bit had the effect is very difficult to say, but we are judging outcomes.
The outcome is not just a punitive one in terms of the community. If one looks at the Criminal Justice Act 2003 and the targets that we have set ourselves for the reduction of recidivism, narrowing the justice gap, bringing more offences to justice, raising confidence and all those aspirational targets, which are currently being met, the prospect for children is an awful lot brighter than it has hitherto been. This clause is a tiny contributor to that; it is not a panacea and it is not the whole picture. It will not cure all. For some children and some communities, it will be very helpful, but I do not put it any higher than that. It has to be set against the background and context of all the other work that we are doing across government to ensure that children's futures, particularly those of disadvantaged children, are far better today, as a result of the eight years of hard, committed work that this Government have given to children, than they have ever been before.
I am very grateful to the noble Baroness. I do not for one minute doubt her commitment. I remind her that the document entitled, Anti-Social Behaviour Orders—Use Of Publicity issued on
"1. Statement of principles . . . publicity should be expected in most cases".
"publicity should be expected in most cases", are in bold type in case anyone had any doubts. I think that I heard the noble Baroness say that that document would be revised after the Bill became law. I hope that I heard her say that and I shall certainly expect to see that in Hansard tomorrow.
I am very grateful to those who have spoken on this matter. Initially I felt very guilty at keeping noble Lords here so late. But having heard what everyone had to say I feel that it was very worth while. It will give a lot of encouragement to all those organisations out there which feel very, very deeply about how wrong this is. I must say that I agree with them. I think that we are doing something here which is extremely wrong. However, in view of the circumstances I withdraw my opposition.
I shall be very brief. I promise that this will be my final contribution today.
We are extremely concerned by the proposal in Clause 139 to allow local authorities to contract out their functions in relation to anti-social behaviour orders. Applications for orders that restrict the fundamental liberties of citizens should be handled by public bodies which are fully accountable and are the bodies responsible for dealing with public safety and crime reduction in their areas. Private bodies may have a financial incentive for seeking orders against people and are not sufficiently accountable. We see no legitimate reason for the inclusion of this provision.
I have taken up many cases of vulnerable young people with suicidal tendencies. I would not wish to see them contracted out to outside bodies. The state that takes the decision to deprive people of their liberty should look after them. That is the criticism which I have of this clause. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to it.
Section 1 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 provides power for a "relevant authority" to apply for an anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) in respect of any person aged over 10. This clause amends that section by inserting a new Section 1F to allow contracting out of local authority ASBO functions.
"Contracting out", which is often referred to as "delegation", means that all the local authority's decisions relating to the discharge of a function are put into the hands of another person who then becomes the authorised decision-maker responsible for the discharge of that function on behalf of the local authority.
New Section 1F will enable the Secretary of State to make an order which may specify a person to whom local authorities may contract out all or part of their ASBO functions. Local authorities must have the flexibility to make appropriate local decisions to ensure that their functions are carried out as effectively as possible, not least tackling anti-social behaviour. The ability to contract out all or some of their ASBO powers to other bodies, organisations, or agencies, may assist authorities in their management of strategic and operational functions.
We want local authorities to be able to make local decisions about how to deliver their ASBO powers. However, this must be balanced with the need to make sure that those entrusted with these powers can be expected to be capable of exercising these functions responsibly. The new Section 1F requires that the bodies or types of bodies to whom local authorities may contract out all or part of their ASBO functions should be defined in an order made by the Secretary of State.
There may be some instances where local authorities or the Secretary of State may wish to restrict the circumstances in which the specified bodies are able to discharge the contracted out ASBO functions. The clause allows both the Secretary of State and the local authority to attach conditions when contracting out ASBO functions and allows for the order to specify whether the local authority contracts out all or simply some of those functions. The order will allow the local authority to specify general, geographic or case-specific arrangements when contracting out. I know that the noble Lord is anxious about that. Local authorities will have the discretion whether to contract out ASBO functions to those persons specified in the order, and they will retain the power to discharge the ASBO functions in their own right, regardless of whether they have also entered into a contracting out arrangement.
To help ensure that those included in an order made under the proposed power are capable of exercising the functions responsibly, subsection (5) provides that such an order may be laid only after consultation with representatives of the National Assembly for Wales where relevant, local authorities, and other persons as are considered appropriate. We have put in quite a lot of safeguards. I hope that the noble Lord feels reassured with that explanation. I urge the Committee to allow Clause 139 to stand part of the Bill.
moved Amendment No. 208:
After Clause 149, insert the following new clause—
"DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION ABOUT INSURANCE STATUS OF VEHICLES
(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for and in connection with requiring MIIC to make available relevant vehicle insurance information to PITO for it to process with a view to making the processed information available for use by constables.
(2) "Relevant vehicle insurance information" means information relating to vehicles the use of which has been (but no longer is) insured under a policy of insurance, or security in respect of third party risks, complying with the requirements of Part 6 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 (c. 52).
(3) The regulations may in particular—
(a) require all relevant vehicle insurance information or any particular description of such information to be made available to PITO,
(b) determine the purposes for which information processed from such information by PITO may be made available for use by constables, and
(c) determine the circumstances in which any of the processed information which has been made available for use by constables may be further disclosed by them.
(4) In this section—
"information" means information held in any form,
"MIIC" means the Motor Insurers' Information Centre (a company limited by guarantee and incorporated under the Companies Act 1985 (c. 6) on 8th December 1998), and
"PITO" means the Police Information Technology Organisation.
(5) Regulations under this section—
(a) may make different provision for different purposes, and
(b) may contain any incidental or supplementary provision which appears appropriate.
(6) The power to make regulations under this section is exercisable by statutory instrument; and a statutory instrument containing regulations under this section is subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament."
I shall be much briefer than I had anticipated. This amendment and Amendment No. 209 have cross-party agreement, and I hope, following the election, that they might form part of an appropriate Bill. One in 20 vehicles on our roads are uninsured, which means that there is a much higher concentration in certain areas. Those vehicles have more collisions than insured vehicles, leading to a £30 increase to our premiums.
Amendment No. 208 would provide a readily accessible database available to police officers and in particular through automatic number plate recognition units. That would quickly reduce the number of uninsured vehicles on our roads. Amendment No. 209 would provide the facility of evidential roadside breath testing which, through its operation, would reduce drink driving. Research indicates that deaths and injuries on our roads involving drivers over the limit are increasing. The amendment would increase the likelihood of such drivers being caught. I beg to move.
My name is attached to these amendments. I merely rise to thank the noble Viscount for tabling them and bringing them to our attention. Like him, I hope that we have the opportunity after the election, whatever the result of that election may be, to ensure that those matters are properly considered, as they deserve to be.
The amendment seeks to insert into the Bill provisions already in the Road Safety Bill. Clearly, it would have been preferable to have seen that Bill enacted in the current Session. However, as that will not now happen, I would be content in principle for the two clauses to be imported into this Bill.
As the Committee will be aware, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has commented that in the case of the new clause to be inserted by Amendment No. 209 there may be a risk of incompatibility with Article 5 of the ECHR. If my noble friend Lord Simon will agree to withdraw his amendments, I will today table revised amendments for Report stage tomorrow that will address the Committee's concerns. Consequential amendments are also required to Clause 174. I should add that as a result of the loss of Clause 18 of the Road Safety Bill, I shall also be bringing forward an amendment to provide for an exemption from speed limits for SOCA staff when discharging agency business.
Although it is 10 minutes to 11 p.m., I hope that I will at least have given noble Lords who stayed to this time some reason for smiling.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendment No. 209 not moved.]
Clause 150 [Payments by Secretary of State to police authorities in relation to the prevention, detection and enforcement of certain traffic offences]:
[Amendments Nos. 210 and 211 not moved.]
Clause 150 agreed to.
Clause 151 [Payments by Scottish Ministers to police authorities etc. in relation to the prevention, detection and enforcement of certain traffic offences]:
[Amendments Nos. 212 and 213 not moved.]
Clause 151 agreed to.
Clause 152 [Publication of local policing information]:
[Amendment No. 214 not moved.]
Clause 152 agreed to.
Clauses 153 and 154 agreed to.
Schedule 12 agreed to.
Clause 155 agreed to.
Schedule 13 agreed to.
Clause 156 agreed to.
Schedule 14 [Abolition of Royal Parks Constabulary: Supplementary]:
[Amendments Nos. 215 and 216 not moved.]
Schedule 14 agreed to.
Clauses 157 and 158 agreed to.
Schedule 15 agreed to.
Clauses 159 to 166 agreed to.
Schedule 16 [Private Security Industry Act 2001: Scottish extent]:
moved Amendment No. 217:
Page 234, line 34, at end insert—
"In section 3 (conduct prohibited without a licence), after subsection (3) insert—
"(3A) In the application of this Act to Scotland—
(b) before making any order under subsection (3) the Scottish Ministers are to consult the Secretary of State.""
Schedule 16 amends the Private Security Industry Act 2001 to extend the remit of the Security Industry Authority and introduce regulation of the private security industry to Scotland. Currently the 2001 Act gives a power to the Home Secretary to designate, by order, which sectors are to be licensed and when. The amendments will give that order-making power to Scottish Ministers after consultation with the Home Secretary.
Amendment No. 224 will give the Scottish Ministers powers of commencement in relation to the provisions of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 as they relate to Scotland after consultation with the Secretary of State. The amendment ensures that the commencement powers as regards the 2001 Act are consistent with Clause 173. I hope that I have pre-empted any concern that might have been expressed by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose. I beg to move.
moved Amendment No. 218:
Page 235, line 19, at end insert—
" In section 21 (access to enhanced criminal record certificates), the existing words "from (ga) a licence" to the end become sub-paragraph (i) and after that sub-paragraph add—
"(gb) a licence under the Private Security Industry Act 2001 to engage in any such licensable conduct (within the meaning of that Act) as will or may involve, or relate to, activities which paragraph 4A of Schedule 2 to that Act applies (taking precognitions)"."
In spite of the Minister's words, I have a few other questions on the application to the private security industry in Scotland. With the leave of the Committee, I would like to address Amendments Nos. 225 to 229 at the same time as Amendment No. 218, because I am told that there is a public interest element in them.
Amendment No. 218 extends Section 21 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 to include precognition agents, because Schedule 15 to the Bill amends the 2001 Act and extends the provisions to Scotland. This schedule extends the regulatory function of the security industry to include inter alia precognition agents. The Law Society of Scotland welcomes this aspect of the Bill, as it will ensure that a range of consumer protection mechanisms will be available for those witnesses who are interviewed by precognition agents.
Precognition agents can in the course of their employment come into contact with child and vulnerable witnesses. The society therefore believes that precognition agents should be subject to enhanced disclosure checks when applying for a licence with the Security Industry Authority. This would also ensure conformity with other provisions contained in the legislation directed at enhancing child protection. The amendment seeks to achieve this. Amendment No. 226 is consequential.
Amendment No. 225 provides that trainee solicitors in Scotland will be exempt from the provisions of paragraph (4) of Schedule 2 to the Private Security Industry Act 2001. The Bill does not define "solicitor" and, accordingly, the definition given in the Solicitors (Scotland) Act 1980 would apply—namely, that a person enrolled with the Law Society of Scotland would be the only one qualified.
As currently drafted, only advocates and solicitors in Scotland would be exempt from the provisions of paragraph 4 of Schedule 2 to the Private Security Industry Act 2001. First-year trainee solicitors and some second-year trainees who have not be admitted by the Law Society of Scotland would not, therefore, be able to conduct the investigations outlined in paragraph 4 of Schedule 2, without being required to register with the Security Industry Authority. Part of the training currently given to trainee solicitors may involve work in this area.
An important part of the training involves how to precognosce witnesses and prepare cases for court. This training is given by solicitors who are enrolled with the society and who supervise the trainees concerned. The society suggests that the exemption given to solicitors and advocates should be extended to trainee solicitors. This will ensure that trainees receive comprehensive training. I beg to move.
I share the noble Duke's desire to protect children and vulnerable adults, so I understand why these amendments have been tabled. However, they do not achieve the effect desired either by the Law Society of Scotland or by the noble Duke.
Clause 158 of the Bill amends Part 5 of the Police Act 1997, which governs access to criminal records for employment vetting purposes and repeals the provisions which the amendment seeks to amend. Clause 158 changes the way in which eligibility for enhanced disclosure is governed and under those provisions it will be for the Scottish Ministers to determine, by order, the categories of persons eligible to apply for an enhanced disclosure.
In making regulations under Part 5 of the 1997 Act, I am sure that Scottish Ministers will take account of the representations put to them by the Law Society of Scotland in relation to particular groups, including precognition agents. So the route that the noble Duke and the Law Society want is there in the Bill.
Amendments Nos. 225 and 228 seek to exempt trainee solicitors who are carrying out precognitions, or undertaking private investigation work, from the requirement to obtain an SIA licence and would bring them into line with the exemptions for qualified solicitors and advocates. While I share the noble Duke's concern that trainee solicitors should be provided with full and comprehensive training, we do not agree that these amendments are required to ensure that.
When developing the detailed arrangements for the regulation of private investigators and precognition agents, I am sure that the SIA will liaise with the Law Society of Scotland to take into account the need for trainee solicitors who are planning to work in these areas to receive the necessary training without imposing any unnecessary regulatory burdens.
Amendment No. 229 is also unnecessary. A door supervisor's licence is a particular type of SIA licence designed to regulate people who have responsibility for security and conflict management in places such as pubs and clubs. Such a licence would not be necessary for a security guard working in an off-licence. A security guard employed under contract at an off-licence would require an SIA security guard licence, which would address the specific training requirements for this group of people. Furthermore, it would be an unnecessary regulatory burden to impose these additional requirements on off-licensed premises in Scotland only.
I hope that I have been able to explain why the amendments are not necessary, although I understand why the noble Duke raised them.
moved Amendments Nos. 219 to 224:
Page 235, line 39, at beginning insert "an order or"
Page 235, line 41, after "containing" insert "an order or"
Page 235, line 42, after "Ministers" insert ", other than an order under section 26(2),"
Page 235, line 43, leave out "and"
Page 235, line 45, at end insert "; and
(f) in subsection (5)(b), at the end add "(or where the order is, or regulations are, made by the Scottish Ministers, as the Scottish Ministers think fit)""
Page 236, line 1, leave out from beginning to "after" and insert—
"11 In section 26 (short title, commencement and extent)—
(a) after subsection (2) insert—
"(2A) In the application of this Act to Scotland—
(a) the reference in subsection (2) to the Secretary of State must be construed as a reference to the Scottish Ministers; but
(b) before making any order under subsection (2) the Scottish Ministers are to consult the Secretary of State."; and.
(b) in subsection (4),"
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendments Nos. 225 to 229 not moved.]
Schedule 16, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 167 [Orders and regulations]:
[Amendment No. 230 not moved.]
moved Amendment No. 231:
Page 126, line 41, at end insert—
"( ) any order under section 50;"
In moving Amendment No. 231, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 232. I shall be brief. These two amendments give effect to the one recommendation in the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee's report on Part 1 of the Bill. The Government are happy to accept the committee's view that the order-making power in Clause 50 should be subject to the affirmative resolution procedure. I beg to move.
moved Amendments Nos. 233 to 236:
Page 239, line 20, at end insert—
|"Unlawful Drilling Act 1819(60 Geo. 3 & 1 Geo. 4c. 1)||In section 2, the words ", or for any other person acting in their aid or assistance,".|
|Vagrancy Act 1824 (c. 83)||Section 6.|
|Railway Regulation Act 1842(c. 55)||Section 17.|
|Companies ClausesConsolidation Act 1845(c. 16)||In section 156, the words ", and all persons called by him to his assistance,".|
|Railways ClausesConsolidation Act 1845(c. 20)||Sections 104 and 154.|
|Licensing Act 1872 (c. 94)||In section 12, the words "may be apprehended and"."|
Page 239, line 21, at end insert—
"London County Council(General Powers) Act 1894(c. ccxii) In section 7, the words "and any person called to the assistance of such constable or person authorised".
|London County Council(General Powers) Act 1900(c. cclxviii)|
|In section 27, the words "and any person called to the assistance of such constable or officer".|
|Licensing Act 1902 (c. 28)|
|In section 1, the words"apprehended and".|
|In section 2(1), the words "may be apprehended, and"."|
Page 240, line 17, at end insert—
|"Criminal Justice Act 1967(c. 80)||In section 91(1), the words "may be arrested without warrant by any person and"."|
Page 240, line 19, at end insert—
"Ministry of Housing and LocalGovernment Provisional OrderConfirmation (Greater LondonParks and Open Spaces)Act 1967 (c. xxix)
In Article 19 of the Order set out in the Schedule, the words "and any person called to the assistance of such constable or officer"."
On Question, amendments agreed to.
moved Amendments Nos. 238 to 241:
Page 242, line 30, at end insert—
|"Football (Offences) Act 1991(c. 19)||Section 5(1)."|
Page 242, line 33, at end insert—
|"Transport and Works Act1992 (c. 42)||Section 30(1) and (3).|
Page 242, line 47, column 2, at end insert—
|"Section 155.Section 166(4).Section 167(7)."|
Page 243, line 48, at end insert—
|"Offensive Weapons Act 1996(c. 26)||Section 1(1)."|
On Question, amendments agreed to.
[Amendment No. 241A not moved.]
moved Amendments Nos. 242 to 247:
Page 245, line 30, column 2, at end insert—
|"In Schedule 2, paragraph 2."|
Page 246, line 14, at end insert—
|"Anti-terrorism, Crime andSecurity Act 2001 (c. 24)||Section 39(8)."|
Page 247, line 45, column 2, after "4," insert "paragraph 2(5)(a) and (7), and"
Page 248, line 17, column 2, at end insert—
Page 248, line 20, column 2, leave out "paragraph 281(2)" and insert "paragraphs 12 and 281(2)"
Page 248, line 39, at end insert—
|"Prevention of Terrorism Act2005 (c. 2)||Section 9(9)."|
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 18, as amended, agreed to.