My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, for very effectively introducing the amendments. I also thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan, for their powerful contributions, in their different ways. I will have much more to say about the College of Policing code of ethics and the culture in the police service when we debate the amendments on the duty of candour.
I agree with other noble Lords that debating this issue at this time of night is not appropriate. I do not believe there was a conspiracy to make this debate happen late in the evening, but it was open to the Government Chief Whip not to begin this group at this time of night, but to debate it the next day—and I believe he should have done that.
On the substance of the amendment, the last non-statutory inquiry into the police—by the Daniel Morgan independent panel—took, as the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, said, more than eight years to complete, because it did not have the powers of a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act, and because, as we have heard, it faced obstruction by the police, leaving important questions still unanswered. The Macpherson report—the inquiry into the tragic death of Stephen Lawrence—took less than two years, and had a fundamental impact on policing. If the Government do not accept Amendment 102, we must assume that they want an inquiry that drags on for years and does not answer the fundamental questions. It is as simple as that.
For the protection of police officers and members of the public, those arrested should not be placed into a vehicle or taken into premises unless there are at least two officers present. Not only would Amendment 108 reassure women and girls, but it is also basic common sense. Similarly, Amendment 109, requiring the Secretary of State to issue codes of practice in relation to the transportation, as well as the detention, of people by the police under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, is necessary. What could the Government’s objections possibly be? Perhaps we are about to find out.
My Lords, I congratulate all noble Lords and noble Baronesses who have spoken so far in the debate. I shall focus on Amendment 102, which is incredibly important. The speeches by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove, Lady O’Loan and Lady Bennett, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, have all, in their own ways, made important points to the Government.
The question for the Government is whether they will listen and respond to that, or whether they will just say, “This is the decision we have made, and whatever arguments are put to us, we’re not going to change”. This is one of those moments when they do need to respond. They need to change, and to listen to the arguments that have been made right across this Chamber and beyond—and, no doubt, by many of the people who will be listening. The reason I say that is that the statutory inquiry called for in Amendment 102, moved by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti, has at its heart the need for the restoration of public confidence and trust.
There are seismic moments in our country: events that demand a response that goes beyond normal politics, beyond the normal debate between parties—events that demand a response from this country’s Parliament, its representatives both in this Chamber and in the other place, that meets the significance of what has happened. It cannot be that we simply say that we will have a Home Office-led inquiry, and that is okay. How will the public see that? How will individuals see that? How will the people who have responded to the horror, as we all have, of what happened to Sarah Everard, see it? This touched the nation’s conscience, the nation’s inner being. It wants us to respond to that and surely, at the very least, we should say that we will undertake a statutory inquiry, because that is the way the confidence of the public can be restored. It is the way we can ensure that, as we move forward, the public can be reassured that that confidence and trust can be restored in the state, in its broadest sense—not just Parliament but the organs of the state: the justice system, the police, and all those who have responsibility because of what we legislate for here.
The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, made what I thought was the crucial point—the one that an ordinary member of the public, frankly, from whatever part of the country, whatever their occupation, would make. What happens to that inquiry if a witness says, “I am not coming” and that inquiry is obstructed? What happens if the Home Secretary says, “It is a very important document but we cannot release it because it is sensitive”? What would the Government’s Home Office-led review be able to do if a witness refuses to attend, if the release of a document is refused, if the police, for example, refuse to co-operate? Answer from the Government there is none, other than a vague platitude: “We expect that co-operation to happen; we expect that to take place; we expect all the documents to be released.” A statutory inquiry, however, would have no such problem. There could be no obstruction, no documents withheld, because that is the point of a statutory inquiry. In the court of public opinion, let alone any other court, people will say, “Why are they not doing that? What possible reason is there for the Government not to respond in that way?” I do not understand it.
I am a Labour Peer, a Labour politician. That does not mean that I think everything the Conservative Government do is terrible; but sometimes, it does not matter where you are on the political spectrum—you have this sense of incredulity, of disbelief. Why is the system refusing to do the obvious? Why is the system not responding in the way that anybody would expect it to, in the face of the horror of what happened to Sarah Everard? We cannot undo the past, but we can make the future. I think that people would expect nothing less from us, nothing less from this Chamber, than that we say in response to the horror of what happened that the public demand a statutory inquiry that compels co-operation, documents and witnesses. There are all the other arguments that go round and round, all the other arguments that can be made, but that is the nub of it.
I say to my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti that this is one of the most fundamentally important amendments we have discussed on this Bill. Of course, there will be women—daughters, young women, girls—who want this, but there will also be a lot of men, if not the vast majority, who will be demanding that statutory inquiry for the women and the girls of this country. We all want it.
I want the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, and any woman in here to feel safe leaving this Parliament and walking the streets.
I think the public would expect a statutory inquiry. I expect a statutory inquiry and I believe the vast majority of Peers would as well. The Government may set their face against it, but I hope my noble friend will put it to a vote. We can test the opinion of the House and see where that takes us if the other place is caused to think about it again. The women and girls of this country, as well as the country itself, deserve a statutory inquiry, and we should vote for it tonight.
My Lords, I share noble Lords’ frustration that at a minute past midnight I am standing up to respond. I do not think anyone could accuse me of filibustering or frustrating any processes today. It was very unfortunate that we did not start this Report stage until nearly 4 pm because Members were discussing procedure. It is very frustrating that we are discussing such an important topic so late at night.
That said, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for raising this incredibly important issue, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, for sharing the experiences of her time as chair of the Daniel Morgan inquiry. I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, my noble friend Lady Newlove, and the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, for the opportunity that I have had to discuss this issue with them. It is so important that Sarah’s family and the public understand how a serving police officer was able to commit such a senseless crime so that we can stop it ever happening again and restore confidence in our police forces. I think all noble Lords want that.
This is the opportunity to look at any systemic flaws in vetting or issues around policing culture that were highlighted in the amendment. We expect that the separate inquiry established by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, being led by the noble Baroness, Lady Casey, into the culture and standards of the force will feed into part two of the Home Office-established inquiry.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about witnesses giving evidence, the police forces for which Sarah’s murderer worked will be witnesses to this inquiry, and we expect them all to comply with it. Since February 2020, when we amended the law, police officers have been under a duty to co-operate as witnesses with investigations, inquiries and formal proceedings under the revised standards of professional behaviour. Failure to do so could amount to misconduct and lead to disciplinary action—something which, during the Daniel Morgan inquiry, was unfortunately not available.
The form of part 1 of the inquiry has been discussed with Dame Elish at length, and she agrees that a non-statutory inquiry is the best option to enable her to operate swiftly, allowing greater flexibility to gather evidence relating to Sarah’s killer’s policing career, without formal set-piece hearings. It is imperative for Sarah’s family and the public that we get answers as quickly as possible—I do not think that anyone demurs from that. This will enable Dame Elish to start part 2, looking at policing more broadly, in short order after the conclusion of part 1, which I know the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, seeks to achieve.
Also agreed with Dame Elish is that, should she feel that she cannot fulfil the terms of reference operating on a non-statutory basis, and should official advice concur, it can be converted. I am not sure that the Sky News quote entirely reflects the Home Secretary’s words. That point about the conversion is set out in the terms of reference, and it is not only that: I can advise the House that, in coming to a decision on whether to convert the inquiry into a statutory inquiry under the Inquiries Act, the Home Secretary will be strongly guided by the views of Dame Elish. So, to quote the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, we are not saying, “No, we have already decided”. We have not. Under the Inquiries Act, the Home Secretary is required to consult the chair on any decision to convert the inquiry, and the chair’s views would be expected to hold considerable weight. I hope I have been able to satisfy noble Lords on that point.
I understand the noble Baroness’s point that confidence in the police among women, particularly younger women, has been rocked by Sarah’s murder and other cases that are coming to light—I share those views. This is analogous to the impact that the failings in relation to Stephen Lawrence’s tragic murder had on black communities. I understand how powerful it was for Sir William Macpherson to hold the Metropolitan Police to account in public over 20 years ago and I agree entirely that women deserve answers and, moreover, assurance that they are safe in the hands of the police.
I do not think, however, that we should be tying the hands of Dame Elish and the Home Secretary on the scope or nature of part 2 before part 1 has even started in earnest. It is important that these considerations can be informed by Dame Elish’s emerging findings from part 1; the work of the noble Baroness, Lady Casey; and the policing inspectorate’s thematic inspection of vetting and countercorruption. Only then can we ensure that part 2 looks at the critical issues for policing and does so in a way that allows those affected, including victims, to have their voices heard.
I reassure this House that the Home Secretary will consult Dame Elish on the scope of part 2 and the form that it should take to proceed efficiently, effectively and with the confidence of those whose trust in policing has been eroded. Specifically, Dame Elish’s view and official advice will form the basis of whether the Home Secretary will put part 2 on a statutory footing.
The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, has prayed in aid the experience of the noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, with the Daniel Morgan inquiry but, since the evidence-gathering phase of that inquiry, we have—as I said earlier—introduced a duty of co-operation on police officers, which means that failure to co-operate with an inquiry or similar could now be a disciplinary matter, with dismissal being the ultimate sanction possible. There are now sanctions that were not available before.
Amendment 108 seeks to address legitimate concerns that individuals, particularly women and girls, may have at the prospect of being arrested or transported in a police vehicle by a lone officer. The noble Baroness is absolutely right to highlight how important it is that police officers use their powers of arrest legitimately and in line with statutory guidance, and to recognise how public confidence in the police has been shaken by the appalling circumstances of Sarah Everard’s murder. I understand the concerns raised by this case, and the Government have been very clear that they intend to take action as a result. However, the law does not take a detailed view on the way officers use their powers, as long as they are doing so lawfully and legitimately. I do not want to see officers’ discretion over the legitimate use of their powers restrained in ways that could lead to individuals escaping justice or evidence being lost, as could be the case if officers were legally prohibited from transporting arrested individuals alone.
As for Amendment 109 and the noble Baroness’s proposed addition to the PACE codes—which she now attributes to the noble Lord, Lord Carlile—to cover transportation of arrested persons, I will commit to keep this suggestion under consideration when we next undertake amendments to the code. I am aware that some forces, including the Met, have issued guidance to their officers for situations where they may need to approach a member of the public while operating alone. This is only the beginning of this conversation, and there will be more for all forces to do to ensure that the public, and women and girls in particular, have confidence in the way officers use their powers as they carry out their vital—
I apologise for interrupting the noble Baroness, and I am grateful for what she has just said, but I want to go back to a previous point, if I may, because I think we would like an answer to the question I am going to pose at some point in her speech.
During the course of her comments earlier, the Minister said—and I think this was a little bit of movement—that the Home Secretary would be “strongly guided” by the views of Dame Elish Angiolini on whether the second part should be converted to a statutory inquiry. My question, and it is really a legal question for which I apologise, is this: if Dame Elish makes a reasonable request for conversion to a statutory inquiry and unreasonably the Home Secretary refuses that reasonable request, would that refusal then be subject to judicial review, and do the Government recognise that to be the case? I am sure that the question I have posed is a typical barrister’s question, in that I know the answer to it, but it would be nice to hear from the Minister that that answer is recognised because it may make a difference to the attitude of some noble Lords, as to how they view this issue, if it comes to a Division of the House.
In my limited legal knowledge, a judicial review questions the process rather than the decision, so I am sure a judicial review could be sought on the process by which the Home Secretary refused, despite the advice of the inquiry chair. I think it is important to bear in mind that the Home Secretary has chosen Dame Elish because she has confidence in her, and the way in which they work together through this inquiry process will be absolutely crucial, not only to its outcome but to the confidence of both women and the public in general. That is, I think, the answer that I could give at this point. The noble Lord is looking a little bit doubtful.
I apologise for intervening again. I have got my second wind; it is now tomorrow, which is not commendable. It is a simple question: is it recognised by the Government—and it may be that the Minister would have to take advice on this, which I recognise she might get from the noble Lord sitting next to her—that an unreasonable refusal by the Home Secretary would be, potentially at least, judicially reviewable?
The noble Lord is talking in theory. Anything is possible. I cannot say whether, in the circumstances of the Home Secretary’s refusal and Dame Elish’s advice, the outcome would be reasonable or unreasonable, but it is important that we go into this with the Home Secretary very clear that she will be guided by Dame Elish. That is the thing to take away from this.
I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment. Should she wish to test the opinion of the House, I would invite noble Lords to reject the amendment.
My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who stayed, even those who may have stayed under sufferance—I hope they will forgive me and understand how important this issue is to so many people beyond SW1.
Of course I have been in two, three and 15 minds about how to handle this, not least in the light of the previous vote on the adjournment, but I have to go back to the substance. I have to pay due respect to the speeches of the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan. I am not sure, in the light of their testimony, that I could suddenly pretend to be the grand old Duke of York—it is one thing to take your Whip on an adjournment vote. I believe in my heart that there will one day be a full-blown statutory inquiry into the wider issues that have just been highlighted by this horrific case. Noble Lords will have to tell their colleagues, friends and family how they voted when they first had the opportunity to do this. I have seen this time and again in my adult lifetime, with Governments and politicians resisting and resisting, and eventually, maybe years later, the argument for justice and the rule of law becomes irresistible.
On two points that the Minister made by way of reassurance, I am glad that there is now the new ethical duty for police officers to co-operate, but it is a disciplinary matter that would ultimately be in the hands of the police to deal with. If the police officer who does not want to co-operate, as is often the case, decides to retire, the ultimate sanction of dismissal will hardly give comfort. What if they are at the senior-most levels of policing in their non-co-operation? That cannot be equated with the power that statutory inquiries and judges have to compel witnesses or they are committed for contempt.
As for being “strongly guided” and “taking into account”, it is not the Minister’s fault, but there was an opportunity for the Home Secretary to announce that Dame Elish would have the final word on this, and we have not even gone that far. We are “strongly guided”, but we are not going to give this decision to Dame Elish, for whatever reason.
With respect, I do not think that we have gone far enough. I know that I may go down in flames, but I have to speak clearly to people outside this House. I have to do this out of respect for the noble Baronesses, Lady Newlove and Lady O’Loan. I want people to know that we stood for them, for the rights of women and girls in this country, and indeed for the reputation of the many decent police officers, including those whom we see here every morning and night when we come and go. We owe it to their honour. The right thing to do is to have a statutory inquiry, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.
Ayes 33, Noes 90.