Baroness Williams of Trafford debates involving the Department for International Development during the 2019 Parliament

Planned Deportation Flight to Jamaica

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 10th February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will repeat in the form of a Statement the response to an Urgent Question given by my honourable friend the Immigration Minister in the other place. The Statement is as follows:

“Thank you, Mr Speaker. Righting the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation has been an absolute priority for this Government. People who arrived in this country as little more than infants, who had built lives and raised families here, were told that they were no longer welcome. This should never have happened. It was a terrible mistake by successive Governments and by the Home Office. Since these injustices came to light, the Government have moved swiftly to give those affected the certainty they need.

That is why we set up a task force to help people confirm their status. I can confirm that over 8,000 people have been granted some form of documentation, including over 5,000 grants of citizenship, under the scheme. We have also launched a compensation scheme, to redress the financial hardship suffered by those left unable to work or to access other support systems. To ensure nothing like this ever happens again, the former Home Secretary commissioned an independent lessons learned review.

In recent days, news coverage has referenced extracts of a draft report that were leaked in June last year in the context of a planned deportation charter flight to Jamaica. I am not going to comment on leaks, but let me be very clear: the lessons learned report has not been suppressed. The report is yet to be submitted to Ministers by the independent adviser, Wendy Williams. It will be for the Home Secretary to publish her report once it has been received. It is vital that we allow Wendy Williams the time and space to produce her report without political interference. When it is available, the Home Office is committed to publishing it as soon as is practically possible and will take its findings, and any recommendations, very seriously.

With regard to tomorrow’s charter flight, the Home Secretary is required by law to issue a deportation order for anyone who is a serious or persistent foreign national offender. It does not matter which part of the world they are from, whether it is the United States, Jamaica, Australia or Canada; it is criminality, not nationality, which counts. It is a legal requirement, as set out in the UK Borders Act 2007, introduced under a Labour Government. Just to remind the right honourable Member for Tottenham, he was a member of that Government and did not, as far as I recall, raise objections at the time to its provisions.

We cannot breach the Act, and we will not allow foreign nationals who are convicted of the most serious offences, including rape and child sexual abuse, to remain in Britain. Tomorrow’s flight is about keeping the public safe. It cannot and should not be conflated with the wrongs suffered by the Windrush generation.”

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer given in the other place to an Urgent Question earlier today. When will the Windrush lessons learned review be published? Why are there delays in getting this report to the Home Office? Can she tell the House what the Government’s position will be when the report is published if it comes to light that, as a consequence of recommendations in the report, individuals on the flight tomorrow, or on other deportation flights, include people in categories that would not be recommended for deportation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As the noble Lord will know, I cannot pre-empt what the report will say, nor would he expect me to. As to when it will be published, the lessons learned review was commissioned by the Government but we would not wish to interfere in the process and tell Wendy Williams when to hand it over to us. However, as I outlined in the Statement, when we get the report, there will be a full government response.

Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD)
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My Lords, the lessons learned review may well throw up the question of those who came to this country as infants and are therefore more British than they are foreign. Yesterday, on the “Andrew Marr Show”, the Justice Secretary was asked whether the Windrush generation are British, and he said yes. But when asked why some of these people were being deported, he then said, “Because they are foreign nationals.” I think there is some confusion there.

Will the Minister tell us specifically whether reports are true that those facing deportation tomorrow include the vulnerable and those with medical conditions, such as a former UK soldier who was medically discharged and a blind man who has been told that his elderly grandmother can take care of him? Reports from those who have tried to legally represent these people claim that there are potential victims of human trafficking among the 50. Can the House be reassured that victims of human trafficking are not among them? What assessment has been made of those with disabilities and medical conditions, who are vulnerable, of their fitness to fly and whether they should be deported? Should there not be a proper assessment before they are deported tomorrow?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank the noble Baroness for those questions. None of them is a British citizen. Those who have been detained and will be removed on the flight are not eligible for the Windrush scheme. It is right—in fact, we are legally obliged—to deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. That ensures that we keep the public safe. As the noble Baroness will probably know, the Home Office removes tens of foreign national offenders each week, applying the same consideration and with the same legal recourses as in these cases. She is absolutely right to point out instances of human trafficking. It will all be done in the round when assessing a decision to deport. She is also right about mental health issues: we have a duty to consider some of those human rights considerations when we deport people.

Lord Bishop of Southwark Portrait The Lord Bishop of Southwark
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My Lords, following on from the previous question, will the Minister consider whether or not it is appropriate for this country to seek to deal with the offences and aftermath of those brought up here as children, rather than expel them to countries of which they know little, save in the most exceptional circumstances?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, all those who will be on the charter flight are foreign national offenders convicted of serious offences. They have had their cases fully reviewed to ensure that no outstanding legal barriers would prevent their removal from the UK. Careful assessment is made of the Article 8 claim of a foreign national offender who is subject to deportation to a family and/or private life, including the length of time that they have lived in the UK, which is an important consideration, but not the only one when weighed against their offending.

Lord Boateng Portrait Lord Boateng (Lab)
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My Lords, the UK Borders Act 2007, which relates to foreign nationals, is subject to the European Convention on Human Rights and other treaty obligations. The National Audit Office has found, and Ministers have accepted, that the quality of the Home Office’s decision-making has at times been less than satisfactory. Can the Minister assure the House that in each and every one of these cases, consideration has been given to the UK’s responsibilities under the Human Rights Act? Can she assure us that Ministers have personally reviewed each and every one and taken into account the known recommendations of both the National Audit Office and the independent reviewer as to the importance of making sure that care is taken in these decisions, given that more than 40 British children will be deprived of parents as a result of the Home Office’s decision in this case?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I assure the noble Lord that all those considerations will be taken into account. Each case will be gone through to ensure that the right decision is made, because we are making life-changing decisions for these people. This is not a flippant decision to make. The noble Lord is absolutely right to raise that issue to ensure that we are rigorous in making decisions on who we will deport. Do not forget that these are serious criminals.

Lord Lilley Portrait Lord Lilley (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend and the Government are right to take a robust line with foreign criminals, but it must be at least doubtful how foreign people are if they have been here for an awfully long time and they probably thought that they were British citizens. Why is there such a contrast between the Government’s robustness on this issue and their failure immediately to deport people who come across the channel from safe countries on the continent who are manifestly foreign and have no legal right to be here? Why do they go through a lengthy process of considering whether they have any right to be here when they manifestly do not?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend asks a very valuable question. Most of the people we deport go to the EU. He is also right to point out that it is very difficult to deport people to some countries. We would, of course, not deport people to places where they would suffer human rights abuses.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD)
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My Lords, new guidance came out in May 2019 from the Home Office on Article 8 being applied to such cases. How does a child who came over here aged five, committed a crime at 17, possibly through being recruited by a gang, has all his family in the UK and is on the plane to be deported meet with that guidance?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, as I said, human rights considerations are in play for anyone we decide to deport. These people are not British citizens. The Labour Government laid out in 2007 what would happen when such people committed such crimes. The Home Secretary is obliged to abide by the law that they have to be deported.

Lord Boswell of Aynho Portrait Lord Boswell of Aynho (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, while I very much welcome the Minister’s readiness in contrition to learn lessons as and when they develop, can she give the House an assurance that that same attitude will persist for the administration of the settled status scheme that is now under development as part of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord makes a really good point. The scheme is a constitutive, as opposed to declaratory, scheme. We had the Windrush generation in mind when we did this so that identity assurance status is in play for every single one of those people who become British citizens under the EU settlement scheme.

Extradition (Provisional Arrest) Bill [HL]

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords & 2nd reading (Hansard) & 2nd reading
Tuesday 4th February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I start by making clear what this Bill does not do. It does not change our extradition process or any of the existing safeguards in extradition proceedings. It does not make it more or less likely that a person will be extradited. It does not in any way affect the current judicial oversight of the extradition process or the character of the court proceedings themselves. Nor is it concerned with the UK’s extradition relationships with other countries or the recent case of Anne Sacoolas. It is concerned only with how suspects enter the court system. The only thing that this Bill changes is when and how a fugitive wanted for a serious offence by a trusted country is brought before the UK court.

Currently, when UK police have a chance encounter with a suspect who is wanted by a non-EU country, they cannot arrest them. The officer is required to walk away and obtain a warrant from a judge, only to try to relocate that individual later to make the necessary arrest. This means that fugitives known to the police to be wanted for serious offences remain free on our streets to abscond or offend. In 2017, an individual wanted by one of the countries in the scope of the Bill, for the rape of a child, was identified at a routine traffic stop. Without the power to arrest, the police had no power to detain him then and there. That individual is still at large.

This Bill will change that. It will ensure that fugitives identified by the police or at the UK border can be arrested immediately. They can be taken off our streets and brought before a judge within 24 hours. This ability for the police to arrest these fugitives as soon as they are encountered will prevent them escaping and evading justice or harming the UK public. The usual way in which police officers become aware of an international fugitive is the circulation of alerts through Interpol channels. Interpol alerts from all countries are now routinely available to UK police and Border Force officers. This circulation of Interpol alerts has created a situation whereby a police or Border Force officer might encounter an individual whom they can see, by performing a simple database check, is wanted for a serious offence by another country. These front-line officers need the power to act immediately on this information to keep our citizens safe.

Many countries, including most EU member states, afford their police the power of immediate arrest on the basis of Interpol alerts. The Bill will create a limited version of that power, with appropriate safeguards. It will apply only to alerts from countries that do not abuse Interpol systems, that respect the international rules-based system and that have criminal justice systems we trust; and only to alerts relating to sufficiently serious offences.

The need for this immediate arrest power is clear. Noble Lords will no doubt be aware that the European arrest warrant carries an immediate power of arrest for individuals wanted by EU member states. Last year, over 60% of the EAW arrests made by the Metropolitan Police were the result of a chance encounter. Without a similar immediate power of arrest for people wanted by non-EU countries, known fugitives walk free. I will give noble Lords a further example. In 2016, UK authorities were alerted that a fugitive wanted by a country in the scope of this Bill, for crimes involving sexual offences with a minor, had entered the UK. He could not be arrested there and then, although the police did obtain a warrant. However, that suspect was not arrested until he was re-encountered in 2019. For those three years he was at large on our streets. We cannot allow that situation to continue.

I turn to the provisions in the Bill. The Bill proposes a power for UK law enforcement officers to arrest an individual on the basis of an international arrest request, typically an Interpol alert, without a UK warrant having been issued first. The new power will apply only where the request has been issued by a specified country. These countries are ones in whose criminal justice systems and use of Interpol alerts we have a high level of confidence. Initially the power will apply to requests from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It will also apply only where an individual is wanted for a sufficiently serious offence, one that would be a criminal offence in the UK and which could result in a custodial sentence of three or more years.

It is not front-line police officers who will have to decide whether an Interpol alert is from a specified country or for a sufficiently serious offence. The National Crime Agency receives Interpol requests and it will identify which alerts have been issued by a specified country and for a sufficiently serious offence. The NCA will then certify those alerts as carrying the power of immediate arrest. These certified alerts will be clearly distinguishable on the databases available to police officers and Border Force officers. Those officers will be able to tell which alerts relate to individuals who are eligible for arrest. This process will ensure that the power is used appropriately and as we intend it to be.

The arrested person must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest. Thereafter, this legislation does not change any part of the subsequent extradition process. The safeguards that exist in extradition proceedings, set out under Part 2 of the Extradition Act, will continue to apply. For example, the person will not be extradited if doing so would breach their human rights, if the request is politically motivated or if they would be at risk of facing the death penalty.

Without this power, a potentially dangerous individual who is known to the police can remain at liberty on UK streets, able to offend or abscond. The new power will see people who are wanted for a serious crime by a trusted country, and who may be a danger to the public, off our streets as soon as they are encountered. We will continue to strengthen our security with like-minded security partners across the globe. In future, additional countries whose criminal justice systems and use of Interpol systems we trust can be specified within the legislation, if both Houses approve.

Our commitments to human rights protection and the rule of law remain unchanged. The arrested individual will be in front of a judge within 24 hours of arrest, and the existing safeguards afforded to each and every person before the UK courts for extradition will remain as now. We are not removing any of this judicial oversight from the extradition process; in fact, we are not making any changes at all to extradition law. We are making changes to police powers of arrest for international fugitives.

As a global leader in security, we want to make the best use of our overseas networks and international tools. The new power will enable us to do so. The Government are committed to doing all that we can to protect the public, and the Bill is directed to that end. I beg to move.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords across the House for their very good contributions to this debate. We should not forget that without this new power a potentially dangerous individual encountered by the police, whom they establish is a fugitive, might remain at liberty on UK streets, able to offend or abscond before they can be arrested. I can confirm that in both the cases I voiced today the individuals were encountered by chance; the police did not have the power to arrest them and had to let them go.

I am sure everyone in this House will agree that we should unite across parties to give the police the power they need to protect the public, while always ensuring that the appropriate safeguards are in place. My noble friend Lord King and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, described in great clarity not only the changing face of crime and the huge demands on the police but the international aspect of crime in all its forms.

Several noble Lords have voiced concerns that this Bill is an attempt by the Government to replicate the capability of the EAW. As I hope I have explained, this is not the case. The new power is about only how wanted individuals enter the court system, not how the courts will conduct their extradition proceedings. I emphasise that, with or without access to the EAW, UK police officers are unable immediately to arrest these fugitives wanted by countries outside the EU without first going to the court for a warrant.

The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, rightly raised the future of the EAW post transition period. The UK will approach the negotiations on these issues with practicality and pragmatism. The political declaration calls for practical operational co-operation, data-driven law enforcement and multilateral co-operation through EU agencies. The detail of this agreement will be a matter for negotiation, but it does not just apply to the EAW. It applies to several other instruments of the EU. I absolutely acknowledge his concern.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked whether the EAW would continue to be enforced during the transition period; they talked specifically about Germany, Slovenia and Austria. It applies during the transition period, but where a member state cannot for reasons related to the principles of their national law surrender an own national to the UK during the transition period, they will be expected—as they have been—to take over the trial or sentence of the person concerned. UK policing and courts have extensive experience of working with these countries to ensure that justice is carried out. By way of background, since 2009 five German nationals, one Austrian national and no Slovenian nationals have been extradited to the UK from those countries. We are well used to the situation. It is nothing to do with this Bill. The power of provisional arrest is for Part 2 non-EU countries.

The noble Lord, Lord Hannay, asked about replacing other aspects of the EAW. He asked whether the power will replicate other aspects of capability from the EAW such as the expedited extradition process. It will not. This new power is similar to the EAW only in so far as it provides for an immediate power of arrest. It does not change the subsequent extradition proceedings or the role of the Home Secretary in extraditions, which are dealt with under Part 2 of the Extradition Act. The person who has been arrested must be brought before a judge within 24 hours of arrest—although I take the point of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Clark, that if it happens on a Saturday night it might be a bit more than that—and the subsequent extradition process remains as it exists now.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and my noble friend Lord King of Bridgwater asked two equal and opposite questions: why now, and why not before now? Interpol data is now routinely uploaded to UK systems to make it available to front-line law enforcement officers. This means that the UK police might encounter an individual who, by performing a simple database check, they can see is wanted for a serious crime abroad. That was not previously the case. As I said, within the current system, the police are unable to arrest the individual immediately. There is an obvious gap, we have responded to that with the Bill, and Interpol is now available to front-line police.

A couple of noble Lords asked about reciprocity. Why is the power being extended to cover countries that will not arrest on the basis of an Interpol notice issued in the UK? Why is there not a reciprocal arrangement? We need to be clear that under the Bill we are creating powers for the UK police, not obligations to the countries concerned. The Bill will enable UK police officers to protect the public more effectively. It is about ensuring that UK police officers have the power to remove dangerous individuals from our streets before they can abscond or offend, not about bringing more wanted individuals back to the UK from other countries. Were this new power restricted to operating on a reciprocal basis, police officers could be put in a situation of encountering a dangerous individual on the street but being unable to arrest them due to the legal provisions of another country, and that does not make any sense.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked what safeguards there are to show what steps the NCA has taken. It is a requirement of the Bill that the NCA issues a certificate setting out the category 2 territory, confirms that it is a valid request, certifies that it has reasonable grounds for believing that the offence is a serious extradition offence, and that the conduct is sufficiently serious that the certificate must be given to the arrested person as soon as is practicable after that arrest. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, talked about sentences such as 10 years for theft. In fact, this not only applies to prison sentences of at least three years but, as I said, it applies to sufficiently serious offences. Offences such as stealing a bike or shoplifting would not satisfy that second point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about human rights considerations. It is right that noble Lords interrogate this point, but the Bill is purely about shifting the point at which the police can intervene and arrest a wanted person. It in no way reduces the safeguards that must apply to any subsequent extradition proceedings considered by the court or the Home Secretary. Judicial oversight will continue as it does now after any arrest. The courts will continue to assess extradition requests as they do now, to determine, for example, whether extradition would be compatible with the individual’s human rights or whether the person would receive a fair trial. If they would not do so, extradition would be barred. That would include things such as the prison conditions that they might face and of course the death penalty, which the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, raised.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked about the triage process. First, it applies only to specified countries; countries with a poor human rights record are not in scope. The addition of any other country will require the consent of both Houses of Parliament. Secondly, it applies only to sufficiently serious offences; the power will be available only in relation to offences that would be criminal in the UK and for which an offender could receive a prison sentence of at least three years.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Clark of Calton, my noble friend Lord Inglewood and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, asked whether we already have the power to get an emergency warrant in urgent cases under the current mechanism for provisional warrants—basically, do we not already have the correct provisions in place? Crucially, however, under the current mechanism the police must already be aware that the individual is in the UK. It is not relevant here, as this legislation is concerned with chance encounters. The Bill creates an additional, different mechanism, which deals with these chance cases.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Clark of Calton, my noble friend Lord Inglewood and the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, interrogated again the necessity for the Bill because of the numbers that might be involved. Obviously, it is a new power, so there is no accurate way to predict how many people it will apply to, and there is no quota, which makes this the right thing to do for security and public safety. It is about ensuring that UK police officers have the power to arrest dangerous individuals whenever they come across them on the street, to prevent them offending or absconding. However, I am clear today, as I was yesterday, that one dangerous fugitive on the streets of the UK whom we cannot arrest is one too many.

On some of the figures we have now, as of 31 December last year, over 4,000 Interpol alerts were in circulation from the countries specified in the Bill. Not all will be for fugitives in the UK, and not all will meet the seriousness criteria for this new arrest power. However, they include requests relating to terrorism, rape and murder, and if any of these wanted fugitives enter the UK or are encountered by police on UK streets, the police would not currently be able to arrest the individual. One dangerous fugitive is one too many.

The other question about necessity relates to the point made by my noble friend Lord King, which I echoed, on the international nature of crime now.

The number six in the impact assessment has been interrogated widely. It is not an indication of the number of dangerous individuals who would be arrested under this power; it is an analysis to assess the economic impact on the wider system. It is not a prediction of arrest numbers; that is to misunderstand the analysis. We cannot quantify how many opportunities to arrest dangerous fugitives have been missed because they have been missed. We can quantify the 4,000 Interpol alerts currently on the UK systems from specified countries; of course, the police would not have powers to arrest without the Bill.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford
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I put it to the noble Baroness that the statement in the impact assessment seems pretty clear. It says:

“The policy is expected to result in 6 individuals entering the CJS more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.”


That seems pretty simple. How can it mean anything but that?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am clarifying why that is not the case but if I am not clear, I will write in further detail to noble Lords before Committee. I am aware that time is pressing and I have a few more points to cover.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Clark, mentioned the lack of judicial scrutiny. That will come after the 24-hour period through the courts.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, talked about abuse of Interpol channels. International organisations such as Interpol are critical to our vision of a global Britain and international law enforcement co-operation beyond the EU. Interpol provides a secure channel through which we exchange information on a police-to-police basis for action. The UK continues to work with Interpol to ensure that its rules are robust. The former chief constable of Essex was recently made the executive director of policing services for Interpol—the most senior operational role in that organisation. Also, a UK Government lawyer was seconded to the Interpol legal service to work with it to ensure that Interpol rules are properly robust and adhered to by Interpol member states. I know the issue to which the noble Lord refers, but I hope that this gives him some comfort.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb
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My question is crucial to my understanding of the Bill. If it not a replacement for the European arrest warrant, can the Minister confirm that the Government will not add the list of EU countries to the list we have already?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I said that it is not a replacement for the EAW, but of course the Government can make that request of Parliament. I was going to come to that point a bit later; in fact, no, I think I answered it. The Government can request Parliament, through the affirmative procedure, to add countries.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick Portrait Lord Hannay of Chiswick
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I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness but I simply do not understand why she spent a huge amount of time telling us that this has nothing whatever to do with the European arrest warrant—that it has no relevance and is not in the same context. She has told us that again and again. Why on earth did this point elude police officers who wrote about this measure? Why did it elude a large number of extremely well-informed—much better informed than me—people in this House who think it relevant? I simply do not understand why she is so determined to say so. All my questions, which she has not answered, were designed to get a positive answer, which would increase support for this measure—for example, if she said that it was a step that would enable us, in certain circumstances, where we have definitively lost the European arrest warrant, to do things that might then enable us to have reciprocal arrangements with other members of the European Union. She has not said a word about the security negotiations with the European Union.

Nobody asked that this measure should not be reciprocal; I did not and neither did any other noble Lord. We asked whether we will use this legislation—these powers—to persuade the other members of the European Union that we need a solid reciprocal arrangement if, by any chance, we get to the end of this year and such an arrangement has not been negotiated. Can the Minister explain why she is so keen not to refer to any of these issues?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I hope that I talked about the other EU instruments we are negotiating on; I think I did so at the beginning of my closing speech. I was asked about reciprocity twice, which is why I answered. I also stated quite clearly that it was our intention to do this with or without our membership of the European Union, which is why the Bill was put forward. I am not trying to deny anything about the European arrest warrant; all I am saying is that we are doing this with or without our European Union membership because it is a gap in our capabilities regarding category 2 countries.

Lord King of Bridgwater Portrait Lord King of Bridgwater
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My Lords, as I understand my noble friend’s position, she is not going to stand at the Dispatch Box and say that she is sure that all the negotiations that are now going to be conducted will go wrong. For a Minister to admit that in the House of Lords would be a remarkable headline, and if I may say so, her position is exactly right. At the moment, we hope that we will travel happily and arrive successfully. If we do not, then the Bill will come into play and obviously it will make sense.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thank my noble friend for being much clearer than I can be. The whole point is that we have identified a gap. The police now have access to the Interpol red notice system, and we should use it to pick up international criminals who are walking our streets.

I have gone over my time, and because of the interventions I cannot respond to the further points noble Lords have made. I shall answer those points in a letter, and I will follow up on any further questions. On that basis, I beg to move.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Grand Committee.

Operation Midland

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 3rd February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect the review of Operation Midland by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary to be completed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, HMICFRS is not reviewing Operation Midland. On 3 October last year, the Home Secretary directed Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services to undertake an inspection to determine the extent to which the Metropolitan Police service had learned the lessons of Operation Midland. Fieldwork has now been completed and the report is expected to be finalised and published by the end of March.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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Is it not shocking that not a single police officer has been called to account for the catalogue of errors laid bare in Sir Richard Henriques’s report on Operation Midland, while some of those involved have been promoted to high rank? Why do the Government persist in rejecting the Wiltshire police and crime commissioner’s calls for an inquiry into Operation Conifer, the botched investigation of allegations against Sir Edward Heath—largely financed by the Home Office—whose shortcomings so closely resemble those of Operation Midland?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, Operation Conifer has been scrutinised and it followed absolutely the procedures it would have been required to undertake. Its outcome, while not satisfactory at all to some of Sir Edward Heath’s friends and family, has certainly been fully and rigorously tested.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab)
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My Lords, in addition to Carl Beech, two other people who have not been named publicly lied to the Midland inquiry. Why were those two people not named and did either of them make accusations against Lord Janner that were unjustified allegations?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, those who have not been charged are rightly anonymous; your Lordships’ House is very clear that we should not name people before charge. Whether people are named after they have been through a court process would be a matter for the courts.

Lord Beith Portrait Lord Beith (LD)
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My Lords, in these two cases there was a catalogue of errors and a lack of judgment. While it is important that Governments do not interfere in the investigation and prosecution of crime—anyone who needed reminding of that had only to watch the TV drama about the Stephen Ward case, which illustrated it vividly—what we do expect from government is to ensure that a procedure is in place to learn lessons from monumental failure, so that we know what those lessons are, and then to ensure that they are acted on.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, that is precisely why the Home Secretary asked HMICFRS to carry out an inspection to determine the extent to which the Met had learned the lessons of Midland.

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con)
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My Lords, could my noble friend explain the nature of the further review that the Home Secretary has ordered? Is it for Sir Thomas Winsor to carry out, or for some other body? It is not entirely clear at what it will be aimed and what the purposes are.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I can tell my noble friend that it is an HMICFRS review. I do not have the name of the individual who might carry it out, but I can certainly find that out for him.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, I think that many will be puzzled by the Government’s Answer to the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lexden. All information from Carl Beech—serving 18 years for perverting the course of justice—regarding Operation Conifer, into Sir Edward Heath, was provided to Wiltshire Police by the Metropolitan Police’s investigation, Operation Midland. That is now the subject of a second report, review or investigation—whatever it may be—initiated by the Home Secretary. Bearing in mind the alacrity with which investigations into Operation Midland are initiated, and the similarity and close links between the subject matter and some key figures covered in both Operation Midland and Operation Conifer, why do the Government refuse to do what they have the power to do and set up a proper inquiry into Operation Conifer? Who is someone trying to protect, or trying to damn, by not holding such an inquiry?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I have said many times at this Dispatch Box that the Government would not set up an inquiry, and that Wiltshire Police could do so if it wished—it has decided not to. On Carl Beech and Conifer, I should clarify that his allegations about Sir Edward were considered at the time by the senior investigating officer in Operation Conifer to have undermining evidence, and a decision was taken not to pursue them further in that case.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend the Minister has repeatedly said on the Floor of this House that the Government will not set up the sort of inquiry for which the noble Lord opposite has just asked yet again, but never has my noble friend been able to convince this House why.

--- Later in debate ---
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I have explained it many times and I know that I have not convinced this House why. It would be a matter for the police, who are operationally independent of government. It would be up to them if they wanted to carry out an inquiry. As I have said, Operation Conifer has been scrutinised over several layers, and it seemed a very robust and thorough inquiry.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, what is the point of having powers if the Government refuse to use them?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As I have just explained, the Government would not usually instigate an inquiry in this sort of situation. It would be up to the police to do so, should that be appropriate.

Lord Pannick Portrait Lord Pannick (CB)
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The Minister has said several times that lessons have been learned. What are those lessons and how have they been implemented?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I said at the beginning that HMICFRS was undertaking an inspection to see whether lessons had been learned from Operation Midland. That report is due out at the end of March.

Lord Marlesford Portrait Lord Marlesford (Con)
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My Lords, do the Government not realise that it is not acceptable to this House or to the country that Sir Edward Heath’s reputation should be trashed and no attempt made to have a judicial review, which would be independent and respected, into the circumstances of Operation Conifer, bearing in mind that the chief constable who was responsible for it was subsequently retired in disgrace from another force?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Where I think I can agree with my noble friend—with the whole House, in fact—is that if false allegations are made against someone, it not only damages their reputation but undermines public confidence. In an instance of false accusation, it may be appropriate to support a prosecution for attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Net Migration

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 3rd February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government how they plan to reduce net migration in the current Parliament.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, as outlined in the Government’s manifesto, we will shortly set out plans for a new immigration system that will give us full control over who comes in and goes out of the UK and will lead to an overall reduction in numbers.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington (CB)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. I declare my interest as president of Migration Watch UK. I am afraid that I do not have a booklet to wave, but I speak for 30 million UK adults who wish to see immigration reduced.

Lord Green of Deddington Portrait Lord Green of Deddington
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Read all about it on our website, and you will see how we got that figure. Last week, the Migration Advisory Committee made some recommendations that, on its own admission, would result in 16 million jobs becoming open to worldwide competition. Clearly a rapid increase in immigration is a considerable risk, as indeed has happened on a number of occasions, so will the Government, as a precaution, take powers to introduce a cap should that prove necessary?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, we will introduce a new, points-based immigration system, and of course we will have the immigration and social security co-ordination Bill later this year. Noble Lords will know that reviewing legislation, having introduced it, will be at the top of the Government’s mind when they look at their overall priority of bringing the numbers down.

Baroness Lister of Burtersett Portrait Baroness Lister of Burtersett (Lab)
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My Lords, what assessment has been made on provision of care if net migration is reduced? There is real concern in the care sector, as well as in the health sector, that it could cause problems if the noble Lord’s aim of reducing net migration were achieved in that sector.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is fair to say that the Government want to import the skills needed for the gaps in the market. We are looking to reduce low-skilled migration overall but will introduce a points-based system focused on skills and talents. That combination will mean that overall numbers will come down, I hope.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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What assumptions have the Government made about people leaving the UK—in other words, emigration, which is a component of net migration?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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There is now net positive migration, which has been pretty much steady over the last few years, so we are not currently seeing net emigration.

Lord Singh of Wimbledon Portrait Lord Singh of Wimbledon (CB)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that a sure way to reduce potential immigration is to consider refugees fleeing from local conflicts, which is made horrendously worse by the intervention and bombing carried out by Russia and the western powers?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord will agree that, as a country, we are absolutely committed to giving people our safety and refuge where they need it and are fleeing war-torn countries. That goes to our values as citizens, and it will continue.

Lord Bishop of Durham Portrait The Lord Bishop of Durham
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My Lords, while the MAC’s recommendation to reduce the salary cap to £26,500 is welcome, does the Minister agree that there has been a failure to recognise regional differentiation and areas of employment like social care where the levels of pay are much lower? That has not been taken adequately seriously by the MAC.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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There have been several looks at the shortage occupation list. In fact, there does not tend to be a terribly big regional variation between the needs of Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales: the list is pretty similar across the nations. Of course, someone taking up a job in Scotland through a regional shortage occupation list could then just migrate further south if such a system were introduced.

Lord Lansley Portrait Lord Lansley (Con)
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My Lords, what conclusion do the Government draw from the fact that my home city of Cambridge is one of the places in the country with the highest level of inward migration and the city with the highest level of employment in Europe?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As my noble friend will agree, Cambridge is a city with a huge number of people doing research and innovation, and with the best university in the country, I would say—apart from Oxford; I do not want to irritate anyone from Oxford. That is why Cambridge attracts such inward migration within the UK.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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Despite the Minister’s assiduously giving an impression to the contrary, will she confirm that the only reason the net migration figure has not been much lower since 2010 has been a—many would say correct—government policy not to reduce net migration from non-EU countries, over which the Government have had control, which has been higher than net migration from EU countries? Will she also confirm that the only reason that net migration might not be lower in future is exactly the same as has applied to net migration over the past decade: a de facto government policy decision that it would not be in Britain’s interests to go down that road?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The Government are absolutely clear that we want the brightest and best to come to work and live in this country. Following our exit from the European Union, non-EU citizens will be treated just the same as EU citizens.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno Portrait Lord Roberts of Llandudno (LD)
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My Lords, if we want a cap on net triggers, what about a cap on what is happening in Syria, in Afghanistan and in terms of climate change? These are things we must respond to, if we have any heart at all. Will the Minister go along with this: we must prepare for increased numbers instead of reduced numbers?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I do not know to which cap the noble Lord refers. We certainly have some very ambitious targets for the people who need our refuge and support from that region. The Prime Minister has already pledged that the UK will take 5,000 refugees from the broader region than just Syria, in this year alone, which is a very generous offer.

Terrorism: Contest Strategy

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 3rd February 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, I thank everyone who has spoken in this debate, and I particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Harris, for securing it, coming as it does today, the most unfortunate of days, following the attack in Streatham. I am sure all our thoughts are with the victims who were injured. I join other noble Lords in thanking the police, who ran towards a man who they thought might be wearing a suicide vest. Our police are the bravest in the world.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, I hope we can come out of this debate with a clear sense of purpose, and I will do my best to provide that clarity. I join the noble Lords, Lord Anderson, Lord Harris and Lord Kennedy, in praising the work of Figen Murray and her team. Her son Martyn Hett was one of the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena attack in 2017. I was here when the Westminster attack happened and, like the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, I could not believe my bad luck when I was in Manchester when that happened.

To answer head-on the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who wanted absolute clarity up-front in my speech, I shall quote the Security Minister on his support for Martyn’s law. He said:

“The Prime Minister, Home Secretary and I are all 100% behind Figen and are working to improve security measures at public venues and spaces. We are working quickly to come up with a solution that will honour Martyn’s memory and all of those affected by terrorism. I am pleased that last week Manchester City Council announced new licensing rules,”—


the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, referred to this—

“but we are committed to going further and making Martyn’s Law a reality for all public venues across the UK. I am committed to working with Figen and others to ensure that we are all safe at the public venues and spaces we enjoy.”

On that note, the first duty of the Government is to protect the public. Contest is the UK’s comprehensive counterterrorism strategy. It places importance on ensuring that the whole of government, police, local authorities, the private sector, communities and, indeed, individual citizens work in partnership, using all the tools we have available, to counter the threat from terrorism. I shall quote the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, here because he talked about proportion and balance. As he said, it is also important to protect our freedoms and that this is not all about terrorist attacks. We are talking about different types of threats, all of which affect people’s lives. To address the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, different interventions will be required for different threats, places and buildings.

The attacks of 2017, the attack at Fishmongers’ Hall and the horrors at Streatham yesterday were an absolute tragedy. The Government have carefully considered where more can be done to ensure that we effectively engage with and provide advice to all responsible parties. Today, of course, that seems all the more pressing.

Since 2017, counterterrorism policing has developed a programme of sectoral and regional engagement days to provide the latest advice and guidance to those responsible for crowded places. It has developed new and revised training and awareness products for staff at crowded places and, in conjunction with the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure—CPNI—it has produced a range of new advice and guidance, including an extranet accessible by trusted stakeholders. The Action Counters Terrorism awareness course is a recently developed e-learning awareness training programme freely available to all online, and I encourage noble Lords to try it.

Engagement with crowded places stakeholders is undertaken by counterterrorism security advisers—CTSAs—who provide advice, targeted awareness-raising sessions and training courses to site owners, operators and staff, and, as noble Lords have mentioned, local authorities. Further efforts made with public authorities include establishing regular engagement with local authority chief executives and others in key strategic positions to plan and prepare for threats at the local level and share best practice. The CPNI has developed the security considerations assessment, which supports businesses in reducing their vulnerability to attack. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, working with CTSAs and the CPNI, has updated and revised the National Planning Policy Framework and guidance to emphasise the role the planning system plays in ensuring that appropriate security measures are in place to help mitigate terrorist threats.

The Government have also been working closely with industry to develop new and innovative screening technologies for use in crowded places, and we are working with Pool Reinsurance to develop a new information-sharing platform. The £9.6 million project is being funded by Pool Reinsurance and is a ground-breaking collaboration between business, industry and the public sector that will make the country safer by providing secure expert advice and training to businesses and public sector organisations to help them develop their counterterrorism approaches.

Some specific points were made about different aspects of this issue. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile, talked about LFR—live facial recognition—being a possible tool in our armoury. Of course, as he said, it is not a panacea, but for specific threats on specific occasions, it might be an additional tool. He and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about how you now naturally expect a bag search when you go to the theatre, as I experienced last week.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, asked when the report of the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation will be published. The answer is that it will be published in due course. The Government will carefully consider the recommendations and we will update the House. However, that does not answer the noble Lord’s question about whether we will be able to see the report.

Lord Stunell Portrait Lord Stunell
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I think that the point is that, if it contains relevant information, we should have it in preparation for the legislation that is due to be brought forward in 70 days.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich
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If I have remembered the legislation correctly, it requires the report to be published on receipt. If it was received in October, why has it still not been published?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am suitably chastised; I shall go back, ask that question and update both noble Lords in writing. On the independent review of Prevent, I take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, who is very modest about his knowledge of Prevent. I understand that the next steps are being considered, but I take the point that there is an end date to this. The Government intend to look at options for taking this work forward.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, asked about places of worship. The Government, of course, funded security training for mosques during Ramadan in 2019. We have committed to a fifth year of the Places of Worship Protective Security Funding Scheme and we are developing security training for places of worship of all faiths. We will also open a funding consultation on what more can, and should, be done to protect faith communities.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris, asked about schools. Through the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, we introduced the Prevent statutory duty, which requires local authorities, schools, colleges, universities, health bodies, prisons and probation services, as part of their day-to-day work, to prevent people being drawn into terrorism. We keep the guidance issued to organisations on this duty under review to ensure that it is fit for purpose in this changing world.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey
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I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, particularly as time is getting on, but that is about the Prevent duty. I was talking about Protect, and whether guidance could be given to schools so that one of their governors could take over that responsibility—just as they do over safeguarding—to ensure that appropriate measures are in place and teachers know what would happen were the school to come under attack, whether from a terrorist or somebody else, as the noble Lord, Lord Anderson pointed out.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I thought the noble Lord had asked about a Protect duty but I sent a note to the Box and got an answer back about Prevent. Obviously, all schools have a duty of care to their children but I will have to get back to the noble Lord on the question of offering advice and guidance on protecting children. I did think that I might not have answered his question. He raised the issue of primary legislation in the form of a Protect duty. In the London Bridge report, Prevention of Future Deaths, the coroner notes that careful work would be required to ensure that any such statutory duty were effective.

I want to assure noble Lords that, as the Security Minister wrote earlier this month, this work has the full support of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, and we are working quickly to come up with a solution that will honour the memory of those affected by terrorism as well as other threats. We continue to engage with interested parties as this work progresses and hope to make a further announcement in due course. On the question of whether I will support the Bill being introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Harris, I would like to see it before making any comment. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate.

House adjourned at 8.38 pm.

Facial Recognition Surveillance

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(2 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat in the form of a Statement the Answer given by my honourable friend the Minister for Crime, Policing and the Fire Service in another place on facial recognition surveillance. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, this Government are backing our outstanding police to keep our streets safe. We are delivering on the people’s priorities by cutting the crime blighting our communities. That means supporting the police and empowering them with the tools they need. We have already pledged 20,000 more officers, new powers and the biggest funding increase in a decade.

Embracing new technology is also vital, and we fully support the use of live facial recognition. This can help identify, locate and arrest violent and dangerous criminals who might otherwise evade justice. Live facial recognition compares the images of people passing a camera to a specific and pre-determined list of those sought by police. It is then up to officers to decide whether to stop and speak to those flagged as a possible match. This replicates traditional police methods, such as a spotter at a football match. The technology can make the search for suspects quicker and more effective, but it must be used strictly within the law.

The High Court has found there is an appropriate legal framework for the police use of live facial recognition. This includes police common-law powers, data protection and human rights legislation, and the surveillance camera code. These restrictions mean that sensitive personal data must be used appropriately for policing purposes and only where necessary and proportionate. There are strict controls on the data gathered. If a person’s face does not match any on the watchlist, the record is deleted immediately. The innocent should have nothing to fear. All alerts against the watchlist are deleted within 31 days, including the raw footage, and the police do not share the data with third parties.

The Metropolitan Police Service told me about its plans in advance. It will deploy the technology where intelligence indicates it is most likely to locate serious offenders. Each deployment will have a bespoke watchlist made up of images of wanted people, predominantly those wanted for serious and violent offences. It will also help the police tackle child sexual exploitation and protect the vulnerable.

Live facial recognition is an important addition to the tools available to the police to protect us all and to keep murderers, drug barons and terrorists off our streets.”

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer given to the Urgent Question in the other place today. The Government have promised to empower the police to safely use new technologies within a strict legal framework. The announcement of automated facial recognition has been made before such legislation has been introduced and seems to be on the basis of a court ruling that is being appealed.

Further, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires that intrusions, however justified, are in accordance with the law. With those points in mind, can the Minister confirm when the Government will introduce the necessary legislation, and can she further confirm that the technology will not be used until that legislation has been passed?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, this was recently tested in court and the High Court found that the police were operating within the law, so we do not feel that there is any need for further legislation at this point. However, I understand that the decision is being appealed, so that is probably about as far as I can go today.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I confess to being rather baffled by the Government’s agreement to this. Only in September, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner said in the context of live facial recognition technology that the UK risks becoming a

“ghastly, Orwellian, omniscient police state”

with

“potential for bias in the data or the algorithm.”

The Information Commissioner expressed deep concern in her last report and in her reaction to the Met’s deployment. She said:

“We reiterate our call for Government to introduce a statutory and binding code of practice for LFR as a matter of priority.”


The Home Office’s own Biometrics and Forensics Ethics Group has questioned the accuracy of live facial recognition technology and noted its potential for biased outputs and biased decision-making on the part of system operators. The Science and Technology Committee recommended a moratorium in its report of just over a year ago. When the Minister responded to me in an Oral Question about the watchlist, that was not reassuring either: the watchlist is extensive. Is the answer not a moratorium as a first step, to put a stop to this unregulated invasion of our privacy? I commend to the Minister in that context my Private Member’s Bill, due to have a First Reading next week.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I wish the noble Lord’s Private Member’s Bill all the very best when it comes to your Lordships’ House—without pre-empting, obviously, its outcome.

As for inaccuracy, LFR has been shown to be 80% accurate. It has thrown up one false result in 4,500 and there was no evidence of racial bias against BME people. I should point out that a human operative always makes the final decision; this is not decision by machine.

Lord Marlesford Portrait Lord Marlesford (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the lamentable decline in security on our streets and elsewhere makes it essential that every modern technique to increase security is used. Will the Minister agree to a seminar or something so that those noble Lords who are particularly interested in this subject may be given a briefing in some depth?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That is a very constructive suggestion. I am happy to arrange a briefing on this technology for any noble Lords who wish to have one.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, I declare an interest, as I have issued judicial review proceedings against the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police regarding the use of facial recognition technology, about which I have a huge number of concerns. I would have thought that the Minister would herself be concerned about its inaccuracy. I do not recognise the figures cited. I have a host of other trials, which the police undertook, where it failed abysmally. It just does not work and is surely a waste of police time. For example, at a Welsh rugby match, there were 10 alerts on the system for a wanted woman; none was accurate. This is an utter waste of police time until the manufacturer gets the systems right.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness will understand if I do not discuss her ongoing JR against the Home Office. I do not know where the noble Baroness got her accuracy figures from. On the point about bias, the Met’s original trials found no statistically significant differences in identifying different demo- graphics, and Cardiff University’s independent review of South Wales Police’s trials found no overt discrimination effects. I repeat the figures I gave earlier: there is a one in 4,500 chance of triggering a false alert and over an 80% chance of a correct one, but I would be interested to see where the noble Baroness got her figures.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I strongly welcome the Government’s approach to this matter, but why is facial recognition an acceptable form of identity in the case of surveillance in combating crime yet it, and other personal identifiers, are unacceptable in the case of a national identity card, which could be equally important in combating crime?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I like the way the noble Lord got the identity card in; I was wondering when he was going to deploy it. The Question is on AFR, which we can use to identify criminals because it is a unique biometric, which an identity card may not necessarily be. I am not going to get drawn on identity cards today, but I congratulate the noble Lord on managing to get them in.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I take the Minister back to my noble friend’s question about the Information Commissioner’s Office statement in October 2019, which said:

“We reiterate our call for Government to introduce a statutory and binding code of practice for LFR as a matter of priority.”


Why are the Government putting the cart before the horse and allowing live facial recognition before a statutory, binding code of practice is in place?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
- Hansard - -

I agree with the noble Lord that the ICO criticised some areas. However, last Friday it acknowledged a number of improvements. LFR is used for a policing purpose; it is used to detect serious criminals and might be used to find missing people. The framework in which it operates includes common-law powers, data protection, human rights legislation and the surveillance camera code.

Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, is it not important to make a distinction between the use of modern technology to assist in the possible identification of an offender and its evidential status? That distinction is very important.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend is of course absolutely right.

Lord Harris of Haringey Portrait Lord Harris of Haringey (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, given that these techniques are used not just by police forces but by many private sector organisations, will the noble Baroness give us a very clear assurance that we will not face a situation in this country where our police and security forces are operating in a more restrictive environment than private sector organisations?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord makes a very good point and I think I know to which cases he is referring. The police must be able to use the technology available for policing purposes, but within the framework I have just discussed.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford (LD)
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My Lords, the ICO statement of last Friday reiterated the call for the Government to introduce a statutory, binding code of practice, so there has been no change since October. Can the Minister tell us whether she believes the comment in the Statement, “The innocent should have nothing to fear”? Is she proud of that comment by the Government? It really is a complete red herring in terms of data protection and privacy rights.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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No, I reiterate that statement.

Health: Alcohol Abuse

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe
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To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have to produce an effective strategy for dealing with alcohol abuse in 2020.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, we are working to reduce alcohol-related harms with the NHS long-term plan, the prevention Green Paper, support for children of alcohol-dependent parents and action to tackle alcohol-related violent crime. Together, this work constitutes an effective package to address alcohol abuse. We are not planning a stand-alone strategy.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe Portrait Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the reply but not its content. It is very disappointing. Last year the Government were moved to produce a strategy on drugs, which hopefully will be effective. However, the problems with drugs are minimal compared to the problems with alcohol. Does the Minister recall that in 2011, the coalition Government produced a widely welcomed strategy on alcohol? It fell apart in 2015, primarily because the Government could not carry the drinks industry with them. We had a responsible deal which proved to be irresponsible. Are we not going to face the same problems again? Unless the Government bring the threads together to produce a strategy with real teeth, nothing will change.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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We now have in place a wide-ranging approach that negates the need for a separate, stand-alone alcohol strategy. We have announced a new addictions strategy and will roll out the electronic monitoring of alcohol abstinence requirements for those whose offending is fuelled by alcohol.

Baroness Hollins Portrait Baroness Hollins (CB)
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My Lords, research conducted by the University of Sheffield estimated that reintroducing the alcohol duty escalator, which increases alcohol duty annually by 2% above inflation, would save 4,710 lives and prevent more than 260,000 crimes in England by 2032. Would the Minister consider discussing the wider impacts of alcohol duty with the Chancellor before the March Budget?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Public Health England is monitoring how minimum-unit pricing has worked in Scotland and considering the impact of such a policy, which is similar to what the noble Baroness is talking about.

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington Portrait Baroness Jenkin of Kennington (Con)
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My Lords, all the evidence shows that when people have the right information, they make better choices. Most people are not aware, for example, that a slice of cake has the same number of calories as a glass of wine. All food and drink products except alcohol must have nutritional information on the packaging. Given that these are empty calories, and given the rise in obesity and related diseases, do the Government have any proposals to change this?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Under EU regulations, companies do not have to put the calorie content on any drinks with an alcohol volume above 1.2%. I utterly agree with my noble friend that, if people knew how many calories they were consuming in just a glass of wine, they might think twice about how many glasses of wine or other drinks to have. A fact for today is that some canned cocktails contain the equivalent of six Krispy Kreme doughnuts’ worth of calories.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, 20 people a day die as a direct result of alcohol and 24,000 a year die where alcohol was a factor. Does the fact that the Home Office is responding to this Question about an effective strategy for dealing with alcohol abuse mean that the Government regard this as a matter for which the Home Office is the lead department, rather than it being a health issue for which the Department of Health and Social Care should take the lead? Why is the Home Office responding to this Question, rather than the Department of Health?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord makes a valid point. Alcohol harm has a cross-government response, involving departments such as health, education and the Home Office. If we do not work together, we will diminish our responsibilities as a Government. In the troubled families programme, which is led by MHCLG, alcohol and substance abuse contribute to an awful lot of the problems in some of the families it deals with.

Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD)
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My Lords, I was going to ask almost exactly the same question. Misuse of alcohol and drugs is often the result of suffering and hurt in people’s lives, which is an issue of health and welfare, not of Home Office enforcement. What are the Government doing to improve people’s well-being, tackle poverty and discrimination, and address the causes of substance misuse, rather than simply the symptoms?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I will try to answer the question differently. The noble Lord points to the wide variety of harms that alcohol causes—the economic cost is something like £21 billion a year. We can see the involvement of alcohol abuse when looking at domestic violence—later this year, we will be considering the domestic abuse Bill—and the effect it has on children. The children of alcoholic parents must suffer terribly, and of course poverty is one of the effects of alcohol.

Lord Hogan-Howe Portrait Lord Hogan-Howe (CB)
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My Lords, I am pleased that the sobriety scheme is being rolled out, but it would help to hear a timeline for it. People may be aware of one benefit of the sobriety scheme. It came from South Dakota in America, where district attorneys, sick of seeing people die on the roads, introduced compulsory testing every day for a year. It led to a huge reduction in the number of people killed on the roads, but also the amount of domestic violence because, when the drunk drivers got home, they had been assaulting their partners. We experimented with this in the Met and it worked well, but I am concerned that the certainty of outcome is not as clear in our scheme because, should someone fail the test, we move them to the courts rather than insist on one day’s imprisonment. Will the Minister update us on the scheme and say whether we are prepared to look again at the penalty imposed at the conclusion of a positive test?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am afraid that I do not have an update on the scheme for the noble Lord, but I concur with everything he said. I will write to him with an update and place a copy of the letter in the Library.

Asylum Claims: Child Trafficking

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 16th January 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Doocey Portrait Baroness Doocey
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the Home Office’s policy on the processing of an asylum claim when an applicant says they have been the victim of child trafficking.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, just under half of all child trafficking victims identified in the UK are British citizens and are not subject to immigration control. If a child is thought to be a victim of trafficking, their safety and welfare will be addressed as a priority. Where an unaccompanied child is thought to be a victim of trafficking, their asylum claim will usually be processed after a conclusive grounds decision on whether they are a victim of trafficking.

Baroness Doocey Portrait Baroness Doocey (LD)
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I thank the Minister for her response, but is she aware that where an individual police force fails to investigate a complaint of child trafficking, the Home Office is using the fact that the police did not investigate to discredit the victim and as a reason not to grant asylum? The victim is therefore left without any support and is denied justice. Their only option is to battle it out through the courts. Could the Minister say whether this is Home Office policy?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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It is certainly not Home Office policy that a child who has been trafficked should not receive the support they so need through the various agencies that can support them. In fact, if that child is an unaccompanied child, they will be in the care of a local authority, from which they will have all the support they need.

Lord Touhig Portrait Lord Touhig (Lab)
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My Lords, the United Nations reports that one migrant child goes missing or is reported dead every single day. At the end of this month, together with colleagues from both Houses, I will take a report through the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on protecting vulnerable migrant children. Does the Minister agree that we can show the best of being British: that, although we are leaving the European Union, we can take a moral lead if we can tell our European colleagues that this Government have accepted the Dubs amendment?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, I agreed with the noble Lord almost until the end. We can show our European partners what our record looks like on taking children who need our refuge and support. Yesterday, I gave the history of what we have done and set out what we intend to do. Next year, we intend to take 5,000 people through resettlement schemes. I am proud of our record; we are an example to all the states in Europe.

Lord Bishop of Worcester Portrait The Lord Bishop of Worcester
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Will the Minister update the House on any progress that is being made on the provision of independent guardians and advocates for victims of modern slavery?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As the right reverend Prelate may know, independent child trafficking guardians are currently operational in a third of all local authorities in England and Wales, and we currently remain committed to the rollout nationally.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, what would a victim of child trafficking have to demonstrate to satisfy the Home Office that they are a victim?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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Usually, a victim of child trafficking is an extremely traumatised individual; that should be evident. I am sure there are assessments of vulnerability. In particular, the circumstances in which a child arrived in the UK might indicate that they are a victim of child trafficking. It may also, however, be established through the course of their seeking asylum here that they are a victim of trafficking. It does not always come out initially.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD)
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My Lords, like the right reverend Prelate, I want to ask about the progress of the scheme for independent child trafficking guardians, following the Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner saying that we should

“ensure that all child victims of slavery are fully supported towards safety.”

The role of the guardians is of course to support. In October, I asked the Minister whether the piloting and valuation of the scheme was going so slowly as to jeopardise the full rollout which was recommended by the recent independent review. Can she reassure me in any way that the Government have not put this into the long grass and are not seeking, by piloting for such a long period, to avoid the full implementation of the scheme?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Baroness is right to raise that point. Of course, most schemes are subject to a piloting process to enable us—as the noble Baroness says—to evaluate them and make sure they are working well before full rollout. I can confirm that that is the situation and that we anticipate full national rollout pending the full evaluation.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB)
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My Lords, will the Minister return to the answer that she gave to the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, about the Dubs amendment? Although the Government say—I believe the Minister—that they do not intend to change the policy, many of us are therefore bewildered that the amendment incorporated by your Lordships’ House into the legislation will be removed. If there is a Division here next week, many will have to vote with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, because they want to see that policy retained in law. Will the Minister go back to her colleagues, especially to the Home Secretary, explain the situation in which many here now find themselves and seek to find a way to prevent a Division being necessary?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord is absolutely right that the policy has not changed. Our commitment to include Clause 37 in the Bill shows our commitment to unaccompanied child refugees seeking family reunion. We have already been in touch with the Commission about how that reciprocity would work going forward.

Lord Laming Portrait Lord Laming (CB)
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My Lords, will the Minister do all she can to persuade police forces to restore the specialist child protection teams, many of which have been withdrawn and seen their work handed over to general policing at the expense of the well-being of children?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I concur with the noble Lord that safeguarding has to be at the heart of what all public services provide, particularly for the police, because it may not be initially evident that a child is traumatised after being trafficked. I will certainly take that point back.

Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Thursday 16th January 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women, what plans they have, if any, to put forward a representative to the Committee.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the UK is fully committed to fulfilling its obligations under CEDAW and the Government recognise the important role played by CEDAW in holding state parties to account in implementing the convention. As with all UN bodies, the Government consider a range of factors in deciding whether to propose a UK representative formally and will continue to consider future vacancies that arise.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD)
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My Lords, Mrs Thatcher herself ratified CEDAW 40 years ago but we have not sent a representative since 1982. This deprives other members of our input and deprives us of our ability to offer our expertise towards resolving challenges, such as the amicus brief submitted by the BackTo60 campaign for pensions justice for women born in the 1950s. The Government have until 6 March to nominate someone. Will the Minister do all she can to ensure that we fulfil this right and obligation?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I fully support what the noble Baroness outlines. It might give her comfort that the FCO has prioritised support for the UK nominations to the Human Rights Council and the International Criminal Court in 2020. She will also know that the chances of success are low without a significant campaign, particularly as CEDAW vacancies tend to be oversubscribed. All that said, the FCO has committed to support the GEO in backing a UK nomination for the 2022 CEDAW elections.

Baroness Gale Portrait Baroness Gale (Lab)
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I thank the Minister for her replies, but I do not think it is very encouraging. Is the Minister aware that UK women’s NGOs have lobbied for the development of a shortlist of suitably qualified women who could be nominated by the FCO to such bodies as CEDAW? Can she say whether that list has been drawn up and, if so, how these women have been nominated? Can she do all in her power to rectify the problem of not nominating—although she has indicated that we could do so by 2022—so that in future we can ensure that the UK will be represented at international bodies such as CEDAW, bearing in mind that to date we have never nominated and it was signed by the UK in 1981? I am sure she agrees with me that there are many suitable, qualified women in the UK who could be nominated.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, there are so many suitable women in the UK—not least the talent in your Lordships’ House—that I think we would struggle to come up with a shortlist. While I completely support the tenor of what the noble Baroness says, it is important to point out that CEDAW members serve in their personal capacity and do not represent the member states that nominate them. I still take her point completely on board.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes Portrait Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con)
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My Lords, I served for many years as the British member on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. It is very important that we continue to be represented there, as we have not always been able to, because we were the first country to bring up violence against women. Since we brought that to the agenda, it has been continued and carried on. Without our input, the smaller countries would not have felt that they wanted to admit to this, which later they did. Have we continued to press to be represented on the commission?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I hope my noble friend will be pleased to note that in 2018 I attended the Commission on the Status of Women. I found it incredibly useful, and our voice was very influential with a number of states.

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness’s question. If and when our Government decide that we should have representation on the committee or on any other international bodies, will she and her Government make sure that it reflects the diversity of women in our country?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As I said, we have so many women to choose from, not least from your Lordships’ House. I am sure that the woman chosen will be the best woman for the job.

Baroness Hussein-Ece Portrait Baroness Hussein-Ece (LD)
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My Lords, the United Nations recommended that the UK should take steps to promote positive diversity and gender diversity in public campaigns and particularly in the media. What steps might the Government be taking to address the overt racism and misogyny present in our increasingly toxic tabloid media and online, as we have seen in recent weeks towards a woman of colour who had the temerity to marry into the Royal Family?

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I agree that there is increasingly co-ordinated and effective opposition to women’s rights generally. It is something that I discussed while I was at the UN commission. As for growing racism in the media towards a member of the Royal Family, I am aware of one or two comments, but I am not aware of a mass of racial opposition to any members of the Royal Family.

Baroness Crawley Portrait Baroness Crawley (Lab)
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Does the Minister know that there is a petition by women’s NGOs, which over 10,000 people have signed, for us to have representation on CEDAW from 2020? Does she agree that it is very important that we increase our influence at the UN while we are losing it at the EU?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I was not aware of the petition but, as I said, just because you are nominated does not mean that you are nominated for your country. You are nominated as an individual. Our influence is quite significant, even without the nomination, but I take on board that helpful comment about the petition.

Extinction Rebellion: Prevent Programme

Baroness Williams of Trafford Excerpts
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the decision by Counter Terrorism Policing South East to include Extinction Rebellion on a list of extremist ideologies to be referred to the Prevent programme.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, CT Policing South East is quoted categorically as saying that it does not classify Extinction Rebellion as an extremist organisation, and its inclusion in the document was an error of judgment. Extinction Rebellion is not considered an extremist group under the 2015 definition of extremism; the Home Secretary has been clear on this point.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab)
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I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that clarification, but of course the damage has been done. How can anyone, even if they make a mistake, consider a peaceful demonstration by thousands of people, mostly children—including some of my family—worried about the future of the planet as extremist ideology? I suggest that the Minister instead adds to a final list the climate change deniers and the oil companies funding them.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, they too have their right to free speech in this country—a point that goes to the heart of the noble Lord’s original Question. CT Police South East was quick to say that it had made an error of judgment. People do make mistakes.

Lord Dholakia Portrait Lord Dholakia (LD)
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Does the Minister accept that lawful demonstrations are an essential part of our democracy? Extinction Rebellion is a non-violent campaign and to equate it with proscribed organisations is unacceptable. Prevent has already received critical reviews from our Muslim community and this incident has not helped. Will the Minister publish the full criteria taken into account when considering proscription of this nature so that these could receive the full scrutiny of Parliament?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord will appreciate that we do not discuss how the Home Secretary comes to decisions on proscription, but she does so on the vigorous legal advice provided to her at the time. Extinction Rebellion was on a list of those with an extremist ideology, as opposed to a terrorist ideology. However, CT Police South East has accepted that this was wrong.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend accept that, while it is right that the police have acknowledged their error of judgment, demonstrators made an error of judgment when they glued themselves to trains, stopped people going about their normal business and interfered with people going to visit the sick in hospital? There are errors of judgment on both sides and we should emphasise that.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend makes a good point. Many errors of judgment were made in some of the protests. He is right that not only were people prevented from seeing sick relatives in hospital, some of their relatives died before they could visit them. CT Police South East has done the right thing and my noble friend is right to point out some of the issues that the public faced during those protests.

Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab)
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My Lords, at what level in the police was this counterterrorism document, for which an apology has now been given, cleared as being appropriate? Was the Home Office in possession of a copy of that document, or aware of its content, prior to it being exposed in the Guardian? If the answer is that it was cleared at a police regional or area level and the Home Office knew nothing about it, surely it is wrong that a document of that kind—containing the guidance it did about a campaign, not about a terrorist organisation—does not require clearance at a senior level, at least in the police, to ensure both appropriateness and consistency of approach across the country?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the assessment was made under the local area CT plan, which is independent of the Home Office. Obviously it came to the attention of the police and, as I said, they have accepted their error of judgment.

Viscount Ridley Portrait Viscount Ridley (Con)
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My Lords, notwithstanding what has been said today, is my noble friend aware of a Policy Exchange report prepared by two people—one the former head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command—called Extremism Rebellion? It argued:

“The police response to law-breaking by demonstrators must be far more proactive in enforcing the laws that relate to public protest, preventing Extinction Rebellion and other political activists from embarking on illegal tactics that cause mass disruption and significant economic damage.”

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend is right. The public order issues around these protests were significant, particularly to the people of London, Bristol and elsewhere. As he said, they caused great disruption to people’s lives.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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The right to protest is inherent in our British constitution, such as it is, and this sort of error by the police—it is great that they have acknowledged it—should not happen. Does the Minister think that younger people who have put themselves out on the streets to protest may have less trust in the police than ever now?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I do not think so, but the noble Baroness is right that the right to protest is enshrined in our values in this country. Nobody, I think, is disputing people’s right to protest, but a line is crossed in terms of protests and public order offences when that right to protest infringes on people’s everyday lives.

Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab)
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My Lords, on the occasions when mistakes were made when I was in the Home Office, it was often at a very junior level. I will never forget a youngster in tears when a report was published that had not been cleared. I had to assure her that it was the person who had failed to supervise her, not her, who should be on the line. I commend the Minister for her openness and her willingness to put this matter straight. There is a very big difference between labelling people as extreme because they happen to be on the streets promoting a just cause and measures taken by a very few that lead to anarcho-syndicalism. If we can distinguish between the two and use the legitimate law to deal with the latter, it would be a fine thing.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As always, the noble Lord makes a very sensible point, and I thank him for it. We have to make those distinctions.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend recall that it is a fundamental part of our democracy that Members of both Houses are able to come here to vote and enjoy free passage? Does she recall that last year these people were responsible for preventing disabled people getting to and from this House? That is unacceptable and why we used to pass sessional orders instructing the Metropolitan Police to ensure that that happened.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My noble friend is right. People were prevented from coming here to vote and had to use trains where they usually would have made their journey to work using buses. It made life more expensive for them. My noble friend is right to point out that demonstrations cannot disrupt people’s everyday lives in the way that they did.