Wales Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 10:15 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales 10:15 pm, 7th November 2016

My Lords, I shall deal with that briefly before I resume. I recall my noble friend raising this at Second Reading and I will write to him. The devolved arrangements that I think he is referring to in relation to some of the city regions in the United Kingdom, specifically in England, do not involve devolution in the way that it is being talked about here. They do not establish separate lines of authority within national boundaries, for example. I will write to him with details on that but I think that the form of devolution is rather different in that respect.

There are factors that I think I should touch upon in relation to why policing is being retained within the England and Wales system under the Bill. First, policing is inextricably linked with the criminal justice system. It is a key component. The criminal justice system’s priorities and ways of operating have a direct impact on other parts of the criminal justice system and vice versa. This can be seen, for example, through quality of evidence gathering and the mutual role played in crime prevention and reducing reoffending. Secondly, existing governance and partnership arrangements provide a significant level of integration and autonomy. The establishment of police and crime commissioners has already devolved policing to the local level. Thirdly, there would be cost and complexity in separating out the existing national structures and arrangements. Fourthly—although admittedly this is a factor that is more easily accommodated—police forces in England and Wales are responsible for tackling a range of crimes and other threats that go beyond the boundaries of a single police force.

At the national level, the strategic policing requirement which applies to police forces in England and Wales sets out the threats which are considered of particular national significance. These include terrorism, organised crime, public disorder, civil emergencies, cyberattacks and child sexual abuse. These threats can require a co-ordinated or aggregated response in which resources are brought together from a number of police forces. Devolution could lead to a weakening of both the regional and national response to these serious crimes. In short, the devolution of policing could lead to a disjointed criminal justice system, adding costs for both the people of Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Amendment 49 would remove the reservation in relation to anti-social behaviour. This would remove our ability to legislate to prevent and address anti-social behaviour through coercive methods such as the tools and powers introduced by the 2014 Act. The subject matter in the Act is intended to reserve coercive responses to anti-social behaviour generally, whatever its form, rather than the detail of the specific orders contained in the Act. The whole approach to anti-social behaviour set out in the Act is intended to encourage the police, councils and other partners to work together to deal with problems quickly. The legislation provides local agencies with a range of different powers and measures and it is for front-line professionals to develop jointly solutions which address the causes of the behaviour and protect victims and communities.

I will listen carefully to the arguments made in this debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, seek through Amendment 50 to devolve responsibility to the Assembly for private security. I appreciate the view that private security should be a devolved rather than a reserved matter. I understand those who question why bouncers in, say, Merthyr, Swansea or anywhere else in Wales should be regulated on an England and Wales basis but there are sound reasons why private security is a reserved matter.

First, the security industry is regulated in England and Wales by the Security Industry Authority, an effective regulator which provides consistent standards across borders. In an inherently mobile industry it promotes consistency, maturity and professionalism through, for example, the approved contractor scheme. The licensing regime operated by the authority provides reassurance that those who work in the private security industry have the appropriate qualifications and training and have been subject to rigorous criminal records checks.

Secondly, there are close links between private security and the police, particularly in relation to the night-time economy. The Security Industry Authority has an investigative arm which, in co-operation with the police and other government bodies, tackles criminality in the private security sector, including organised crime. All Security Industry Authority-approved qualifications also include counterterrorism awareness, for example, in looking out for hostile reconnaissance, and the industry is playing an increasingly important role in being the eyes and ears to potential terrorist threats. These current arrangements work well.

Amendment 51 seeks to remove the reservation for the sale and supply of alcohol and the provision of entertainment and late night refreshment. These activities are regulated under the Licensing Act 2003 and the proposed paragraphs preserve the current devolution settlement in respect of all matters covered by that Act. Regulated entertainment includes live and recorded music, plays, films, indoor sporting events, boxing, wrestling and dance performances.

“Late night refreshment” is defined in the 2003 Act as the sale of hot food and hot drink to the public between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am. The Act includes certain exemptions where the premises are not used by the public, such as the provision of refreshments to guests staying at a hotel, or the provision of refreshments by an employer to an employee.

The 2003 Act provides a framework for licensing based on the promotion of four licensing objectives: the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm. As such, alcohol licensing is inextricably linked to policing and the criminal justice system; while they remain reserved, alcohol licensing should also continue to be reserved. Maintaining consistency across England and Wales prevents cross-border issues that would be likely to occur as a result of opportunities to exploit differences in licensing laws either side of the border.

Alcohol licensing is devolved in Scotland and in Northern Ireland. The situation there is different because policing and criminal justice are also devolved, thereby allowing them to legislate to prevent and tackle any issues which may arise.

Amendment 55 would devolve responsibility for the Pubs Code and Pubs Code Adjudicator. The Pubs Code regulates the relationship between tied-pub tenants in England and Wales and the six pub-owning businesses that operate 500 or more tied pubs. The Pubs Code Adjudicator is in place to enforce the code. The adjudicator is largely financed by a levy on these six pub-owning businesses. The levy covers administrative overheads, as well as many of the operating costs of individual cases. The cost of setting up a separate system to regulate the tied pubs owned by these businesses in Wales would require either a levy set at an unaffordable rate or a very large public sector subsidy. It may also be possible to operate a levy on Welsh pub-owning businesses, such as Brains Brewery, that fall well below the threshold for the current statutory Pubs Code.

Amendment 56 seeks to remove the reservation that deals with the supply of heat and cooling. It is important to be clear that the reservation is concerned with policy on heat supply, which is analogous to the supply of every other type of energy. Heat is strategically significant and represents almost half of our energy use and around a third of carbon emissions. The reservation of heat supply is not about fuel poverty, energy efficiency or building regulations; it is about supplying heat through policies such as the renewable heat incentive, the heat networks investment project, the combined heat and power quality assurance scheme, and innovation support through initiatives such as the smart systems and heat programme.