Lord Bethell debates with Leader of the House

There have been 4 exchanges between Lord Bethell and Leader of the House

Wed 25th March 2020 Coronavirus Bill (Lords Chamber) 15 interactions (2,292 words)
Mon 22nd July 2019 Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill (Lords Chamber) 14 interactions (1,013 words)
Mon 8th July 2019 Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (942 words)
Wed 31st October 2018 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (598 words)

Coronavirus Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Bethell Excerpts
Wednesday 25th March 2020

(5 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Leader of the House
Lord Russell of Liverpool Portrait Lord Russell of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, first, I strongly support the very sensible amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton. As I think we all know, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, said so eloquently yesterday, myriad people are very worried about what is going on and are concerned that things will happen to them but their voice will not be heard. The Government have enough to worry about, so, from their point of view, it seems very sensible to have a review process in which an organisation such as the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations acts as a sort of funnel, pulling together all the myriad concerns that many of us seek to represent today through a single forum which can communicate regularly with the Government —it would be a two-way process. It seems eminently sensible to make sure that the people who are most worried feel that they are being heard and that there is a dialogue.

Secondly, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. The variety of powers that local authorities will be required to have—particularly in relation to children in care, children going through adoption or fostering, and child carers—is incredibly important. If they are worried, think what that is doing to the people they are caring for. Therefore, I feel that clarification in that respect would be enormously helpful.

Lord Bethell Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health and Social Care (Lord Bethell) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I start by welcoming this amendment, which in its spirit and intention is utterly sensible, thoughtful and right. I would like to speak on it in a way that reassures the House that the intention of the amendment and the many speeches in the Chamber today are exactly aligned with the way government is thinking and in which we have sought to build the Bill.

I also echo the many noble Lords who have mentioned the speech by the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson. Who could not have been moved by both the emotional way in which she explained herself and the very real and tangible anxiety of people—particularly in the disabled community, but anyone who depends on local authority services—who must feel incredibly vulnerable and worried that their affairs may not be given the priority they deserve, and may feel exposed and anxious about the future? That testimony was incredibly powerful and moving. It was taken to heart.

I also say a big thank you to all those who have engaged with us as we have drafted the Bill at pace, both at a senior level from major organisations such as the LGA and smaller ones and stakeholders. I assure the House that we absolutely are listening to groups that have concerns about provisions for their stakeholders. We have our ears open. The Government’s whole “protect life” strategy is shaped around an absolute priority of trying to save the lives, affairs and futures of the most vulnerable in our society. These provisions are here not because we want to leave anyone behind but because we want to enable local authorities to make the decisions they need to in order to make a fair, pragmatic and sensible distribution and prioritisation. It is our hope that these provisions will never come into play and that the commitment of resources we have made into the local authority area will see a generous and sensible provision for all those most vulnerable in society.

I will take just a moment to outline a few provisions that are in place, to reassure the House that we are not in any way removing all safeguards. For instance, I assure noble Lords that the Care Quality Commission will continue to provide independent expert regulation of health and care providers. It has already announced arrangements for a proportionate approach to ensuring standards of care over the coming period. We have published an ethical framework to provide support to ongoing response planning and decision-making. This sets out a clear set of principles and behaviours when challenging decisions on how to redirect resources where they are most needed and how to prioritise individual care.

We are working closely with the sector on additional guidance to ensure that procedures and prioritisation of needs operate in the best way possible during this period. The emergency Coronavirus Bill also contains provisions allowing the Secretary of State to direct local authorities to comply with the guidance we issue.

Legislation underpinning our crucial safeguarding arrangements to protect vulnerable people from neglect or abuse remains in place. That was a point that many noble Lords made very well yesterday. We are leaving all statutory duties relating to deprivation of liberty safeguards fully in place.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Hussein-Ece, Lady Thornton and Lady Uddin, all raised the question of carers. I assure the House that we totally agree with the intent of the amendment. We need to ensure that users and carers retain a clear voice in the coming period and are able to make their concerns known. Our guidance on the Care Act changes will cover this. A national steering group is leading the sector’s preparations for Covid-19; it includes both user and carer representatives.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, quite rightly raised the question of commitment to democracy and oversight. I assure the House that we absolutely embrace the ongoing functioning of Parliament. While I cannot speak for the House authorities and their arrangements for Parliament, I can speak for the health department. We are introducing technology there, such as video data and home-working, at pace. We are seeing a generational transformation in working practices in the last fortnight. These arrangements have been embraced, and I expect them to be embraced in other parts of the workings of the House.

We will also continue to report on the eight-weekly cycle. The noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, and others emphasised the importance of monitoring. We will put in place structures for providing the correct kind of monitoring.

The noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, rightly emphasised the importance of civil society, which is absolutely key, while the noble Lord, Lord Hain, emphasised the importance of volunteers. I reassure the House that the Bill contains extensive arrangements for a volunteer army to be recruited in a safe, orderly and accountable way and for funding to be put in place for volunteers. The Chancellor has announced generous and important provisions for charities; the noble Lord, Lord Hain, is entirely right that they have seen their donations dry up. They need support and provision if they are to play an important role against this contagion.

I completely understand the intent of the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven. We have spoken offline about his concerns, which I have taken back. I reassure him that we have worked closely with the LGA and, in its dialogue with us, its emphasis has been on financial commitment rather than changes in the law. We have made a substantial £1.6 billion commitment but we will keep the question of legal changes under review.

The noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, mentioned PPE, which although it lies to one side of this amendment is of concern to us all. I reassure the Chamber that a massive global procurement programme is in place. Distribution of existing PPE stocks is happening via the Army. A hotline has been issued to all front-line workers in the NHS and social care. We are moving fast and impactfully on that situation.

Lastly, we should not overlook Wales. The Welsh parliament has considered every question of this Bill and has signed off its legislative consent Motion. I am extremely grateful to Vaughan Gething, the Minister for Health and Social Services in the Welsh parliament, for his support.

For those reasons, I ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton - Hansard

I thank the Minister for that comprehensive answer. I also thank all the House for its supportive remarks on this amendment.

I say to my noble friend Lord Adonis that the two things we are talking about—the accountability of Parliament and our need to monitor these things, and the voice of the users and people at the receiving end of care, or non-care—are not in conflict. We need to be doing both, of course.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hussein-Ece, was quite right to point to vulnerable children and their care. My noble friends Lord Hain and Lord Blunkett were also absolutely correct about the importance of civil society in getting us through this crisis.

My noble friend Lady Pitkeathley is not here, but she is listening to us. She texted me to say, “Thank you for mentioning carers”. Of course in all this, the carers —people who are at home, many of them quite elderly themselves—are caring for people who will be at the sharp end of what comes next. We should not forget that.

I found two things very useful. First, the noble Lord, Lord Russell, mentioned the NCVO’s role in this, and he is absolutely right. Secondly, and finally, the Minister mentioned that the Government will produce guidance on the enactment of these clauses. This has to be done quickly but I put in a plea: that the voices we have talked about in this short but pertinent debate should be heard in the construction of that guidance, too. On that basis, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton - Hansard

My Lords, I attempted to put my name to this amendment. For some reason, presumably because the Public Bill Office staff are all working from home, it did not quite get through. The Government need to give this very serious consideration indeed.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

My Lords, I completely recognise the good intentions of this amendment and the desire to protect women in an awkward situation at a difficult time. I also recognise the strong stakeholder views given to me by the royal college, Marie Stopes and others, but it is the Government’s priority to ensure that women who require abortion services should have safe, high-quality care and that abortions should be performed under the legal framework already set out by the Abortion Act.

It is vital that everyone, regardless of their views on abortion, be assured that this Bill’s provisions work alongside existing priorities of legislation, including abortion legislation. As I have described a number of times from this Dispatch Box, the powers in this Bill are solely and entirely to meet the needs of tackling this current pandemic. It is in that spirit that the Bill has moved so quickly through the House and that we have had such strong multi-party support for it.

The safety of women remains our priority, but it is vital that appropriate checks and balances remain in place regarding abortion services, even while we are managing a very difficult situation such as Covid-19. We have worked hard with abortion providers, including the Royal College of Obstetricians, and listened to their concerns, but there are long-established arrangements in place for doctors to certify and perform abortions, and they are there for good reason. We do not think that it is right that midwives and nurses are suddenly expected to take on expanded roles without prior consultation, proper training or guidance in place.

The coronavirus outbreak is a global issue. We are not the only country having to make difficult and uncomfortable changes. All over the world, clinicians and service users are coming to terms with extremely difficult workloads and workarounds to normal procedures. We are doing an enormous amount to help the NHS cope. We are doing this to protect life and to protect the NHS, but we expect doctors to work flexibly during this time. That means that certification can still take place in a timely way. It should not delay women receiving treatment. There is no statutory requirement for either doctor to have seen or examined the woman, as I described at Second Reading yesterday. Assessment can take place via telemedicine, webcam or telephone. Guidance from my department is crystal clear about that. The doctor can also rely on information gathered from other members of their multidisciplinary team in reaching a good-faith opinion. However, we do not agree that women should be able to take both treatments for medical abortion at home. We believe that it is an essential safeguard that a woman attends a clinic, to ensure that she has an opportunity to be seen alone and to ensure that there are no issues.

Do we really want to support an amendment that could remove the only opportunity many women have, often at a most vulnerable stage, to speak confidentially and one-to-one with a doctor about their concerns on abortion and about what the alternatives might be? The bottom line is that, if there is an abusive relationship and no legal requirement for a doctor’s involvement, it is far more likely that a vulnerable woman could be pressured into have an abortion by an abusive partner.

We have been clear that measures included in this Bill should have the widespread support of the House. While I recognise that this amendment has some profound support, that the testimony of the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, was moving and heartfelt, and that the story of her witness from Lincolnshire was an extremely moving one, there is no consensus on this amendment and the support is not widespread. Abortion is an issue on which many people have very strong beliefs. I have been petitioned heavily and persuasively on this point. This Bill is not the right vehicle for a fundamental change in the law. It is not right to rush through this type of change in a sensitive area such as abortion without adequate parliamentary scrutiny. For example, there has been widespread support for measures such as permitting cremations to proceed on the basis of only one medical certificate. We simply do not have the same widespread support to make similar recommendations on the certification of abortions. For that reason, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Barker Portrait Baroness Barker - Hansard

Can the Minister concede that we are tabling this amendment because of how the NHS and medical services are affected by the Bill. We are not asking for any change in the criteria for abortion. We are asking simply for the process of the administration of decision-making to change.

That is being done right across the whole of the health service. The Minister has explained that telemedicine is being rolled out at a surprising rate. I do not understand why an experienced clinician or a midwife cannot make the judgments that he was talking about via video. They see women all the time and they will be able to make the same judgments. I do not understand that. If the Government do not accept this proposal, I ask him to accept that they should at least be under an obligation to continue to meet very regularly with the Royal Colleges and the organisations involved in this situation day to day, and they should be willing to come back with the power to make this change under a separate piece of legislation—because if, in seven weeks’ time, there is a clear pattern of women being failed, we cannot let it continue.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

I completely recognise that the noble Baroness’s intentions are totally and 100% benign. She has the interests of the women concerned at heart. That intention is completely clear to me and I utterly endorse it. Where there is a difference of opinion and where we have taken a huge amount of advice—we have worked with the scientific advice in the department —is in the fact that the changes being offered are a fundamental change to the way abortions are regulated and administered in this country. Those regulations and administration arrangements have been worked on for years and are subject to an enormous amount of consensus. Her point on monitoring the situation is exactly the one that the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, made earlier. I commit the department to monitoring it. We will remain engaged with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and other stakeholders. She is absolutely right that we can return to the subject with two-monthly reporting back, and it can be discussed in Parliament in the debates planned on a six-monthly basis.

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin - Hansard

I say this with the sincerest due respect. The Minister will be aware that there are huge concerns about the power to have just one doctor decide whether a body should be cremated, especially in the light of the crisis becoming more intensive and critical.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

The noble Baroness’s concerns are noted.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle - Hansard

My Lords, before I get to the procedural part I will refer the Minister to some of his own words. He referred to the Government’s desire to ensure that everyone should have safe, high-quality medical care. In this area in particular, given that the option has been given to provide alternatives, that is something that the Government will be judged against, and I hope that he will be able to live up to his promise. However, it is with a heavy heart that I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Break in Debate

Baroness Uddin Portrait Baroness Uddin - Hansard

My Lords, I too beg the indulgence of the Committee. I have raised this point on a number of occasions; I am raising it now with respect to the powers within the Bill relating to necessity and proportionality, particularly as regards matters of dignity in death and what may happen in the unforeseen circumstances that thousands of deaths occur among the faith communities, and cremation may be decided upon due to the lack of burial spaces and storage facilities. I am suggesting that Schedule 28 affects our human rights obligations.

I am requesting, therefore, on behalf of the many hundreds of individuals who have written to me, including faith leaders and organisations, that the Government remove from paragraphs 13(1) and (2) in Part 4 of Schedule 28 the words

“have regard to the desirability of disposing”

and replace them with “dispose”, and then delete from paragraphs 13(1)(b) and 13(2)(b) the words

“in a way that appears”

so that the necessary guarantees are provided in the legislation, which will be required to provide assurance to the relevant faith communities.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, and all those who have signed up to this amendment have made incredibly important points that the Government utterly confirms. I reassure the Committee that this Bill is very clearly focused on the present danger of SARS-CoV and the Covid-19 disease. If there is any other virus—and even if this virus mutates— we will need a new Act or at least to amend this one.

The Government are 100% committed to protecting and respecting human rights. We have a long-standing tradition of ensuring that rights and liberties are protected domestically and of fulfilling our human rights commitments. That will not change. We have strong human rights protections, with a comprehensive and well-established constitutional and legal system. The Human Rights Act 1998 gives further effect in UK law to the rights and freedoms contained in the European Convention on Human Rights. Nothing in this Bill contradicts that.

I reassure a number of speakers—including but not limited to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, and the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy—that there is nothing in this Act that allows the Government to breach or disapply the Human Rights Act or the Equality Act. The Bill itself is fully compliant with the Human Rights Act and the Government have certified this on the face of the Bill— in fact, I signed it myself in accordance with Section 19. Pursuant to Section 6 of the Human Rights Act, every exercise of power by a public authority under this Bill is already required to be compliant with the Human Rights Act. I further reassure the House that, at all times, this Government will act with proportionality.

I am advised by legal counsel that the amendment is potentially both unnecessary and unhelpful. If we accept it, it might imply that the Human Rights Act and Equality Act do not apply in this way in other Bills or Acts that do not feature this sort of provision. For that reason, I suggest that the amendment should be withdrawn.

Baroness Ludford Portrait Baroness Ludford - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for what he said, which gave considerable reassurance—up to the last sentence or two. I was permitted by the Public Bill Office to table this amendment, so I am therefore slightly surprised at his reporting of the advice he has had from legal counsel. Obviously, I have to take note of what he said. No doubt they have greater legal minds than mine, although I note that the noble Lord, Lord Anderson, co-signed my amendment. I am a little taken aback by what the Minister said, but I none the less welcome the rest of his response. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Lord Bethell Excerpts
Monday 22nd July 2019

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Leader of the House
Lord Blunkett Portrait Lord Blunkett (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I will also speak to Amendments 6 and 10 and will endeavour to be brief. Rather than repeating myself later, I will set out here why it is important that this amendment should be in the Bill. I suspect that I will have a slightly more uphill struggle than on the amendment we debated before the Statement, but I hope not, because I am seeking consensus. Once again, I am deeply grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, and other noble Lords on this and subsequent amendments.

We have to have some understanding of why it is important to have some essential elements written in the Bill rather than in letters from present or past Leaders of the House, or reassurances from the Dispatch Box. It is patently obvious that nobody knows who the Minister will be from Thursday onwards. I suspect—I have written about this—that there may be an election sooner rather than later, so elected Members in the other House do not really know who will be there. As far as we are concerned, the grim reaper can determine whether we are here or not rather rapidly.

On staff servicing the sponsor body and members of the sponsor body who are not in either of these Houses, it is obvious that going for promotion, or leaving for another job or another part of the country is part of life. Therefore, the notion that a letter of assurance or a word or two from the Dispatch Box, or even, importantly, the trust we place in existing sponsor body members and staff is not worth the paper it is written on or the emotion it uses. Who knows who will be here by the time we decant and, certainly, by the time we return?

I place on record that none of what I am going to say disparages either the commitment or the appreciation of Ministers or sponsor body members, or Liz Peace and her team; I have nothing but respect for their work, their good offices and their words. However, we need to ensure that the electorate, who are already totally disillusioned with politics and Parliament, feel that this has something to do with them. As we discussed on the consensual amendment on the economic benefits to accrue from the restoration and renewal programme, if we can get them, so on the political gains that can be made: there is the need to gain consent. That is why these amendments endeavour to ensure that the Bill, whoever is in this House and serving on the sponsor body, and the direction they give to the delivery authority, make it absolutely clear what Parliament’s will is.

What is Parliament’s will? Is it determined by ephemeral Ministers or by a letter that may or may not have been sent months or perhaps years before? Is the will of Parliament to be determined only when the delivery authority eventually comes back with a scheme that, frankly, will not be amendable anyway, because it will have been put together as a package? We may be able to choose whether we have a slightly more or slightly less expensive scheme; I hope that we will go for something more than the lowest common denominator. If we do not, people will be even more aggrieved at the billions we are spending if it is just about electronics and pipework, and a little bit of restoration. These amendments are intended to be a positive way to ensure that the sponsor body is able to understand the will of Parliament, expressed by the Bill, which is, seriously, the only way in which Parliament can reflect the true will of this House and the other place on this prolonged project, and do so with consensus.

It is important that public engagement at every level on these and later amendments supports our intentions—I think that all of us have the same intentions; they cannot be otherwise. I have said to Ministers that if the amendments tonight and subsequent amendments were already in the Bill, would anybody feel that they had to take them out—would there be a move to do so? The argument is that this confines the sponsor body in some way and that it is determinist, preventing it having flexibility in the way it proceeds and what it does. None of the amendments prescribes, because I have deliberately watered them down; none of them is deterministic or confines the sponsor body and the future delivery authority in any way whatever. They reinforce and send a message out to the public that we care about the engagement with them; we want them to understand what is taking place in their name, with their money—to ensure that that reaches out, as Amendment 10 says, to the regions, and that we do so with the support of future generations.

I will say one other thing about the nature of Parliament as well in reaching out and selling the restoration and renewal programme to the public. Does anybody seriously believe that the sponsor body is not inherently part of Parliament? It responds to Parliament, and as we discovered in the Joint Committee, its methodology is very much about the estimates committee and the commission, but it is part of and represented from this House and the other House on the sponsor body. Essentially, it is part of the parliamentary process. However, it cannot simply hand over promoting and communicating the restoration and renewal programme now and in the future to the public. It must have a role in doing so. People have said to me, “This isn’t the role”, but it is in the letters of the former and current Leaders of the House that were sent to the sponsor body and circulated to us all that we do not need to bother putting something in the Bill, because it is the role of Parliament to sell the Bill. If we look at the attendance on the restoration and renewal Bill in this House tonight, or the engagement in the House of Commons, does anybody seriously believe that the 600 or 650 Members of the other House, depending on the boundary changes, will spend their time going out, explaining, engaging and selling this programme to the public? Your Lordships must live in a different world if you believe that, and if you do not, you should support the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I speak in support of the amendment and share the views of my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett.

To me, the principles of this massive investment are that of course it is about the engineering, heritage and security of the House, the comfort of Peers and Members of the House of Commons and their ability to do their jobs, but the most important legacy will be to contribute to the rebuilding of trust between Parliament and the people. It is not uncommon for infrastructure projects of this size to have important secondary benefits without which they can be deemed a failure.

Break in Debate

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis - Hansard

Actually, he was Chancellor of the Exchequer when a large part of the work was being carried out. I assure my noble friend that Gladstone took a keen interest in the allocation of the public finances; my noble friend and I can correspond on this matter afterwards.

The amendment moved by my noble friend seems at one level to be a statement of the obvious but, on another level, the fact that it needs to be stated is of some importance in itself. The two changes that he essentially wishes to make are: to enlarge the sponsor body’s duties to include promoting to the public the work of R&R; and to add to the sponsor body’s duties consulting not only Members of each House but members of the public. That should not need to be said; it ought to be obvious that that should happen. However, there are two reasons why this is important. First, I do not think that the Government are racing to accept the amendments; I am looking at the noble Earl. If so, there must be some reason why. It is precisely because the actual duties will be expanded in a way that the Government think will be distracting to the sponsor body. Why would the Government regard them in that way? They impose additional duties.

However, those duties—the noble Lord, Lord Bethell, was completely right about this—are exactly what we would and should expect of the sponsor body in two respects. First, it is a matter of self-interest: the body is going to spend a lot of money—the figure of £4 billion has been touted before but, from my intimate knowledge of how infrastructure projects go, I think that we can safely assume that it will be significantly larger. When the inevitable controversy comes, as it will, about the cost, overruns, delays and everything else, the sponsor body, your Lordships and the other House of Parliament need the ultimate protection possible, which must surely come from having engaged with the public and having proper public promotion and displays. Westminster Hall needs to be full of displays about the work that will be undertaken and we need the visitor centre to do the same. That is important. Secondly, part of the justification for the spending on this work is that it will enhance public access significantly.

To extend the point about what happens at the end of restoration and renewal, not having proper citizenship education is part of the problem. My noble friend Lord Blunkett has done more than any other Minister—in history, I would venture to suggest—to put citizenship at the core of what we teach in schools. It is hugely important. However, we still do not pay nearly enough attention to it. In particular, we do not make visiting Parliament, engaging with parliamentary institutions and meeting parliamentarians a systematic part of secondary school education, as it should be. Since the Germans’ massive renovation of the Bundestag’s beautiful old buildings in Berlin—at the behest of British architects, as it happens—they have had comprehensive programmes for schools and schoolchildren proactively to visit Berlin, tour the German parliament and meet their parliamentarians. We do not do that here. Even with all the expansion we are talking about, the creation of a visitor centre and all that, it all depends on people wanting to come here, whereas we should be proactively engaging. This problem goes to the wider issue: the further one goes from London, the more disengaged people feel from their parliamentary institutions, not least because they hardly have any contact with what goes on here. Their schools are much less likely to come here.

I am struck when I meet school parties—some I show around; many I just meet when I am walking around the Palace—and ask where they come from. They disproportionately come from London and the area immediately around. Why? Because if you have to proactively seek to come here and cover expenses and things of that kind, it will particularly be private schools—we come back to this issue—who will come here. We have to end this. We are now in a massive Brexit crisis because of the massive alienation between a large part of our people and our parliamentary institutions.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

The noble Lord makes the point well, but I think he is too limited in his analysis of the problem. It is not just that schoolchildren do not understand the parliamentary democracy they live in. They do not see for themselves the opportunities that lie in the Civil Service and other forms of public service. There is a massive disengagement between schools and universities and the whole ethos of public service. There is a good argument that that kind of personal contact with Parliament would do a huge amount to invigorate a sense of public service that is missing at the moment, particularly in the schools to which he refers—schools outside London and non-grammar, non-independent schools.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis - Hansard

My Lords, I agree with every word the noble Lord has just said.

What I would like to see in this Bill—as noble Lords know, I always try to push things to extremes—is a duty on the sponsor body to see that, once the restoration and renewal work is completed, there are facilities and arrangements in place for every schoolchild in the country, during the course of their secondary education, to visit the Houses of Parliament, have a tour and get the opportunity to see the work we do.

Break in Debate

Baroness Byford Hansard

My Lords, my name is added to Amendment 12. In the Joint Committee, we said that it was easier to see what restoration was about, but the renewal part exercised quite a bit of our time. In other words: what sort of Parliament did we want and what sort of involvement with democracy did we want? We have talked about the outreach programme and the educational facilities, and I shall not anticipate my noble friend Lord Bethell in moving his amendments. I felt surprised at that stage that not enough thought had been given to renewal and its opportunities. I have no qualms about mentioning that again when the noble Baroness, Lady Scott, is in her place, because I know that she is well aware of the hopes that the shadow body has—but the Bill does not place enough emphasis on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, spoke about technology. In 10 or 20 years’ time, we will be able to communicate in a totally different way from the way we do now. We talked about the outreach programme run by the Lord Speaker, where individual Peers go out to schools and schools come here. With modern communications, that can be done virtually; there is enormous scope for us to relate to the general public in a totally different way. I will say no more on that because we had good discussions earlier—but I will say that it would be a shame to miss the opportunities in the Bill, and I support the amendments in this group.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

My Lords, I also support the excellent amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett. There are two amendments in my name in this group. They are practical, nitty-gritty measures, but I hope that they will not be brushed off for that reason, because they are important. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, put it very well in his comments: engagement on R&R will not happen until the options are fully understood and one gets the feeling that one is making informed choices.

It is imperative that those options are clear from the outset, and we do not know what the options on educational facilities and participatory democracy are at the moment. I am hopeful for the Wallace/Adonis café—I look forward to drinking my latte there—but that anecdote has become a metaphor for our vision. There is simply no information or a clear, thoughtful prognosis on what could be done with the building. There is talk of glass ceilings over the courtyards and someone tells me that we can clear out the ground floor, but I have no practical knowledge of whether these things are at all possible. My amendments would apply to the Bill after Clause 4, but they address Clause 2(2)(b), which commands the sponsor body to,

“make strategic decisions relating to the carrying out of the Parliamentary building works”.

To do that, it is absolutely imperative that the body has, at least in outline, an idea of what could be done to further the educational facilities and participatory democracy.

We are talking about intellectual leadership here. I know that the Bill is largely about the administrative structures of the bodies involved, but other considerations are also important. We talked about culture and hard-baking public consultation into the way in which this project conducts its business. I have found that, in major infrastructure projects, the intellectual leadership is often—and quite rightly—with the engineers and project managers, whose thoughts are dominated by the practical considerations of budgets, timetables, M&E, air conditioning and the physical practicalities of getting the job done. Here, we are talking about something that is softer but still important. If we leave the intellectual leadership of this project to the people who govern the practicalities, these important considerations will not be baked into the project at an early stage.

Noble Lords will be familiar with me urging for major investment in public consultation. However, to carry out that consultation, you have to understand a little about what kinds of practical options there are for enhancing the educational facilities and access to the House. That is why it is worth while investing in the budget for the right professional services to put together a clear report on the options in these two areas. I strongly recommend that they be written into the Bill.

Lord Norton of Louth Portrait Lord Norton of Louth - Hansard

My Lords, I will speak briefly. I have no problem with Amendment 12—the lead amendment—or Amendment 18 in the name of my noble friend Lord Bethell, but I am afraid that I have my doubts about Amendments 13, 14 and 19. I think that they will place a burden on the sponsor body with which it will not be able to cope, because it would have to decide what it understood by “major political and constitutional reforms” before any reforms have taken place.

Coming back to my earlier comments, we need an adaptable space that can be fitted with changes that Parliament itself may wish to make to meet the demands made of it and to engage with those outside it. As Amendment 13 stands, there is a problem with referring to,

“major political and constitutional reforms”,

without stipulating what one means by that. Similarly, in that amendment and my noble friend’s, there is a reference to, “inclusive participatory democracy”. If that is going to stay in the Bill, the definitions section will have to be amended to explain what that actually means for the benefit of the sponsor body.

So I think there are problems with the stipulations in these amendments. I understand where my noble friend the Minister will be coming from in responding to them. A lot more work would need to be done; otherwise, the danger is that the amendments will confuse rather than clarify.

Break in Debate

Lord Wallace of Tankerness Portrait Lord Wallace of Tankerness - Hansard

My Lords, the purpose of this amendment is that the sponsor body should nominate from among its members a Member of the House of Commons and of the House of Lords to be its principal spokespersons in their respective Houses. This was considered by the Joint Committee looking at the Bill. It thought it a worthwhile thing to do but said that it should not be in primary legislation. Indeed, I would not necessarily want to press the amendment, but this is a useful opportunity for us to be updated on where we are and on the thinking on how we will report back to this House and the Commons on the sponsor body’s work.

As I understand it, the Leader of the House of Commons and the noble Baroness, Lady Evans, wrote to the shadow sponsor body with the Joint Committee’s findings and asked specifically about the importance of having a political figurehead for the programme. It replied:

“We note that analogous arrangements already exist in both Houses, with the spokespeople for each Commission responding to oral and written questions”,

and it anticipated that the sponsor body would,

“be invited to consider and agree its preferred approach to the appointment of spokespeople in the autumn, ahead of its transition to the substantive stage”.

It occurred to me on more than one occasion this evening that it might have been helpful if we had a spokesperson from the shadow sponsor body to tell us where it had got to on various things. My noble friend Lady Scott of Needham Market, who has had to leave, has sought to do that in a personal capacity. I am not criticising the fact that it has not happened—we are still at a shadow sponsor body level—but one can foresee situations where issues will arise. It would be helpful to have someone at Oral Questions, answering Written Questions or debates in your Lordships’ House, or making Statements and reporting back, just as the Senior Deputy Speaker comes to the Dispatch Box to present reports and respond to them.

I understand that the question of how we deal with this issue might have gone, or is going, to the Procedure Committee. The purpose of the amendment is to get on the record how the House anticipates it might deal with it, so that we can have somebody who comes to your Lordships’ House—and for that matter to the House of Commons—to update us and, to some extent, to be the face of the sponsor body and to answer for it. I beg to move.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell - Hansard

My Lords, I will first say a few words in support of the excellent amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace. It makes complete sense to have someone in the Chamber who is able to explain to us the proceedings and progress of the project whom we can ask questions of. To have that in the Bill makes sense. I would welcome the Minister’s comments on how that could be achieved.

My amendments have a different purpose, which is to get the voice of the public on the sponsor body from the outset. There is some flexibility in its current composition, described in Part 1 of Schedule 1: the sponsor body will have between seven and 13 members, between three and five of whom will be external members, including a chair. Between four and eight will be Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament or Peers will be in the majority, which makes sense. But there is not much room in those numbers for somebody who could perhaps represent the public and champion issues such as access and education. One of them will need to be a chair, whose focus will be on driving the project forward and managing the sponsor body itself. I imagine one might be a leading person from the construction industry, and another might have major project experience or heritage experience. That is why I would like to ask the Minister how the voice of the public could be best represented at a very high level from the beginning, when the brief for this project is being decided and the strategy formulated.

In many ways, there are fewer concerns about the delivery authority. It will have nine members, who will be more broadly recruited, with only two executive directors and the rest non-executive directors. It is really the sponsor body where I detect a bottleneck. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister explained how it could be tweaked to give more access to a voice from the public.

Lord Adonis Portrait Lord Adonis - Hansard

My Lords, the amendment from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, is sensible because it is not otherwise clear in the Bill how the sponsor body will interact with the two Houses of Parliament. Under Schedule 1, there will be a chair who is specifically required not to be a Member of either House of Parliament; then there will be between four and eight persons among the membership who will be Members of this House or the House of Commons. By virtue of the fact that they are here, people will expect them to give accounts of what is happening, but they will have no formal standing. They will not formally represent the sponsor body and it is not clear, for example, how one would put questions to that body.

If we are not careful—this comes back to the 19th-century experience—in order to interact, people will want to get at the chair and the chief exec, who are not Members of either House. A Select Committee will be set up so that it can call them before it and interact with them. However, it would be more sensible if Members of the two Houses of Parliament are required to be members of the sponsor body. It could be rather like the way we interact with the Church Commissioners; I cannot remember whether it is the Second Church Estates Commissioner who is a Member of one House or who represents the Church Commissioners here. Is it the Bishops? Anyway, it is possible to interact directly with them. Having a similar relationship would be perfectly sensible, given how important this body and its parliamentary work will be over more than a decade.

The noble and learned Lord said that he did not intend to press his amendment; what he is actually doing may come from his experience of the work in Holyrood. He may be anticipating exactly the problems and issues we will have. It is as well to get this right in the Bill, rather than having to make significant adjustments and take what might be avoiding action, such as setting up a special committee to interact with the sponsor body because we have no provision for the body itself to have a direct relationship with the two Houses of Parliament.

Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Bethell Excerpts
Monday 8th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock - Hansard

You can say that but you cannot prove it. It is not an exercise in futility. It has happened in other countries and has worked well, so you cannot argue that it is futile. What is being proposed is an exercise in total futility. After all, this House will not have the present composition or the current function for ever—at least, I hope that it does not; I hope that it will change.

Even if we do not move to Birmingham, York or somewhere else, we could still have a purpose-built Parliament in London. It would not help in the redistribution of wealth and power in the countries concerned but at least it would provide a purpose-built building fit for the 21st century. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, spoke about this building providing a Parliament fit for the 21st century, but it does not matter what you do to this building, it will never do that. It will never provide proper disabled access or have proper security.

What are we going to have? I went to a briefing about this with the lady who chairs the shadow committee. We were given an indication that we are going to be decanted for 10 years, moving out in 2025 and moving back in in 2035, so for 10 years we will try to operate as we do at the moment. What will happen to Joint Committees of the two Houses when we are in the QEII centre and the House of Commons is in Richmond House? What will happen to the CPA, the IPU and the all-party groups? What will happen to the informal contacts, which are increasingly essential to the work of this Parliament? What about security when people go between those two buildings? That will not be very easy. I asked about parking but the committee did not know. At the moment there is parking for Members of both Houses but there will not be during those 10 years. I come in on the No. 3 bus, so I am not worried about it, but a lot of my noble friends do not. They drive in and need to find somewhere to park, but that will not be possible. What is going to happen to the Library during the decant period? There is no answer to that. This is an outrageous suggestion. We really have ended up with a dog’s breakfast.

One argument—it was repeated today by the Leader of the House—is that we should look at what happened to Notre Dame. However, the fires at Notre Dame and Windsor happened during restoration and renewal, and the fires at the Glasgow School of Art also happened during restoration and renewal—twice. When people are working in this place we can detect whether there is a danger of fire and we are protected, but fires seem to happen during restoration and renewal, so do not imagine that this will be a solution to that risk. If we are not going to have any new build, why do we have to have this long and cumbersome decant that will cause so many problems? If we are not going to have a new build immediately, let us at least try to make the best of it. Let us make do and mend in this building. It can be done. We could move back to long Summer Recesses. The work could be done in those periods bit by bit. There is no impossibility.

I missed out something earlier when I was talking about building a new Parliament. I do not suggest that in the long term we abandon this building. It could be used more productively, and the work could be done without panic or rush because we wanted to get back into it: it could become a very good museum, a centre for the study of democracy. As my noble friend Lord Maxton has suggested, we could have reconstructions of famous events in political history in each Chamber for people to come in and see. We could have a whole educational opportunity for young people, who we have been talking about, to come in and look at history. As the noble Earl, Lord Devon, said, there is much more to this place than just the Victorian history that Pugin and Barry left us. There is much more to the whole building. I am not sure that as far as Scots are concerned Westminster Hall is the best place to remember our history, but it would still be a very good centre for people to come to.

I urge the people concerned in all seriousness to look at this again. We are heading towards disaster. I am putting my mark here: I predict that whoever becomes Prime Minister, whether Boris Johnson or Jeremy Corbyn—the latter is possible, although whether it is desirable is another matter—when faced with this proposal for billions of pounds to be spent on Parliament when there are so many other priorities, will not approve it. The whole project from now on is doomed.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, it is quite formidable to follow such a worrying speech of disaster and doom, but I would like to return to a more optimistic tone because I for one am very hopeful for this project. Having been involved in the infrastructure industry in the past, I have a great belief in the British ability to deliver major projects. I am filled with hope for what can be achieved in this exciting restoration project.

However, there is one aspect of it that I shall dwell on, as referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Blunkett, in his excellent speech: the question of access and education. It is my belief that the determinant of success—how we will be judged by posterity, our children and the public—is not whether we answer security problems, heritage issues or create a comfortable arrangement for ourselves with our offices. We will be judged on whether this restoration and renewal programme helps to rebuild the connection between Parliament and the people.

There are some incredibly valuable opportunities to do so. Bringing more people on to the estate and having a much better approach to access will do a lot to bridge and heal the current disconnect. There is something really special about having people attending Parliament itself—being in the building and participating in education programmes housed in this building and the buildings nearby. We really have to think about how we can take full advantage of that opportunity.

These are precedents that have been maximised in other places. The Reichstag in Berlin, where the magnificent glass roof designed by the noble Lord, Lord Foster, shines light on to democracy, has a basement with a wonderful educational facility that we should emulate. The Capitol Building in Washington DC had a massive educational facility put in the hill underneath the Senate and the House of Representatives. We should think of that as a great precedent.

Clause 2(4)(f) and (g) make it clear that the sponsor body should ensure that Parliament is accessible to members of the public and that there is an education dimension to the project. However, I am concerned that this is not the full focus of the sponsor body. I was concerned that, on 7 May this year, the parliamentary authorities rejected the very sensible recommendations of the joint committee on the Bill that the sponsor body should have regard to the need to promote public engagement with and understanding of Parliament. For me, that was a great shame and a missed opportunity.

The Leader of the House of Commons and the Leader of this House said in explanation:

“We believe it is the role of Parliament to increase public understanding of its work and therefore do not feel this recommendation should be included in the Bill”.

I am not sure I agree with the logic of this, but we will probably have to live with it. It begs the question of who will champion access and education for this project. Public money will have to spent very wisely and difficult choices made about space, the management of public access, resources and investment. The noble Baroness, Lady Scott, put it very well and asked who will actually fight for this cause. My noble friend Lord Haselhurst put very well the kind of challenges the public face. Who will take responsibility for improving them? Without a clear mandate to put access and education at the heart of the project, I am worried that they will be overlooked.

Secondly, I am concerned about what the objective for parliamentarians will be. If responsibility for access and education is going to lie with Parliament, it is right that we give designers and project managers a very clear signal and something to work towards. I have a specific suggestion that I would like to share with noble Lords. I suggest that Parliament should make the simple commitment that every school student in the land should visit the Houses of Parliament at some point in their school career. After all, young people are key to the revival of political democracy and addressing disillusionment in this country. They are disillusioned at just the time when climate change, AI, migration and the other macro issues we face are at their doorstep.

At present, around 10% of schools visit Parliament and these tend to be richer schools in the south-east. Fulfilling a commitment of the kind I just described—by ensuring, for example, that all year 10 students visit Parliament—would mean some 5,000 young people visiting Parliament each working day. That is nearly 1 million students a year, a big increase on the current figure. Such a commitment would involve logistical challenges, but it would be achievable simply by doubling the number of visitors to the Parliament estate each day. I recommend the research done by Matthew Oakley and Christina Bovill Rose at WPI Economics, who are working on a scheme that expands Parliament’s existing programmes so that they can deliver practical and affordable access and education.

This is not a “nice to have” that we should ponder, and then move on. The dangers of ducking this, of not making such a commitment, are that our renovation plans could appear self-serving, our political alienation will continue and the loss of civic commitment to the British parliamentary system will grow with each generation. My pitch is that the prize is great. If we put the UK’s young people at the heart of renovation plans, we can ensure that this multimillion-pound project comes with a legacy that boosts engagement in politics and democracy and increases diversity across all our country’s political and policy institutions. Doing so would not be cost-free but could have lasting benefits for the country.

Lord Berkeley Portrait Lord Berkeley (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I congratulate all the noble Lords who have got us this far; it has taken a great deal of work over many years. The noble Baroness the Leader of the House mentioned many names and I expect that there are quite a few others. The debate has persuaded me that we need to look separately at the preservation of this building and at what Parliament does and where. As my noble friend Lord Foulkes said, this place could be turned into a very good museum of democracy.

Some noble Lords will have gone to a meeting in Portcullis House several years ago, at which we were first told about the various plans for getting us out of these places—or not, as the case may be. I remember one long-standing Member of the House of Commons, the first to ask a question, said: “Don’t you realise that if we move out of this building, it will be the end of parliamentary democracy?” It is an interesting question, especially now. Maybe we have reached it, maybe we have not, but we need to look at this separately. This is a wonderful building; it could be a museum, as my noble friend said, or we could come back here.

I will talk briefly about two things. The first is the issue of fire, which several noble Lords have spoken about, and the second is access of location. We had a Starred Question on fire in your Lordships’ Chamber about a month ago, after the Notre Dame fire. Subsequently, I had a meeting with some of the officials who do a wonderful job in dealing with fire protection in this building. We have fire detection and sprinklers in the cellar, which is probably the most difficult place, but there are many more problems associated with the roof, not just of Westminster Hall but of these buildings, too. There are three things to look at: detection, extinguishing and evacuation.

It is clear that they are doing pretty well in getting a new system of detection around, even in the roof. Extinguishing fires there is extremely difficult, but the new system, Water Mist, uses much less water and is extremely effective. I suggest that before any construction work starts on this building, a water mist system should be installed for the whole building on a temporary basis, with temporary pipes or whatever. That would be a great protection against a fire during construction. As many noble Lords have said, the biggest risk of fire is during construction. We are a royal palace, and there have already been two royal palaces that have caught fire in the Queen’s reign. However careful everybody is, it can happen, as many noble Lords have said.

If this place is going to be reconstructed as a Parliament, we need to look at evacuation. Have many noble Lords wondered: if the Committee Corridor were completely full of people, which sometimes happens, where is the way out? There is a fire door by the main entrance, but if that is shut because of a fire on the other side, can 1,000 or 2,000 people at the Lords end get out in half an hour—which is apparently the fire resistance of the doors—down two very narrow staircases? It is something to think about. It could happen tomorrow, but if we are rebuilding, we ought at least to ensure that we have proper evacuation facilities, including for people in wheelchairs or with mobility problems, as many noble Lords have said. That all needs to be sorted out before we start.

My final point concerns moving us to the QEII centre, and the Commons to Richmond House. As some noble Lords including my noble friend Lord Foulkes asked, how are we going to get from one to the other, through the mass of tourists that we see, particularly in the summer months? It is not easy. We will certainly not get back in seven minutes to vote, and communications between the House of Lords and the House of Commons will be extremely difficult. I cannot see why nobody has looked properly at the Foreign Office. We do not have an empire, as we did when it was built. I know that the Foreign Office will be loath to get out of their lovely building—maybe we can promise that it can return in 10 years when it is all finished—but at least it would be a bit closer to Richmond House. Maybe there are other buildings as well. We need to make sure that we do not completely separate the Commons and the Lords, because that would not be a good thing at all.

I believe that we should look again at my noble friend Lord Adonis’s suggestion of moving out completely, because in a new building, wherever it is, we could have the education facilities, the public access and everything else that we do not get here. We are rightly concerned about that and it would certainly help the north/south divide if we made everything less London-centric.

Finally, my noble friend Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe is very keen that we consider the possibility of selling off the second-hand bits and pieces from this building if they are no longer used. I think that he is talking about the floor tiles that have been replaced over many years; he thinks that he has a market for them as a souvenir of the old House of Commons or House of Lords. He has asked me to say that he will put down an amendment in Committee to support this idea. It will not fund the new building, but I suppose that it might help.

Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Bill

(Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Lord Bethell Excerpts
Wednesday 31st October 2018

(1 year, 10 months ago)

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Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts Portrait Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I have added my name to Amendment 34. I begin by apologising to the Committee for not having participated at Second Reading, although I have taken care to read the transcript very carefully.

My noble friend Lord Faulks has given a clear and brilliant explanation of the unsatisfactory nature of the law on treason. Not being a lawyer, I shall not attempt to follow, let alone match, his judicial exposition; I shall come at the issue from a completely different angle. Earlier in the Session, I chaired a one-year Select Committee of your Lordships’ House on citizenship and civic engagement. I am pleased to see at least one member of the committee—the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries—in his place; he will be familiar with quite a lot of what I will say.

Our report was published in March and we have received the Government’s response, although we have yet to hold our concluding debate. An underlying theme of our examination of citizenship and civic engagement in the 21st century was to look at the glue that holds our society together. A major topic debated at length by the committee was values: what is the essence of what this country stands for, which needs to be defended? Of course, it was not for a committee of your Lordships’ House to define irrevocably to which values British citizens should adhere. Indeed, we recommended that the Government should encourage a vigorous debate on this issue, but we offered as a “straw man” of the values we should share,

“democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and respect for the inherent worth and autonomy of every person”.

I say in passing that the committee suggested that the Government’s continued use of the term “fundamental British values”, as part of the Prevent strategy, was unfortunate and, in some cases, counterproductive. Since the Government began to use this term, the word “fundamental”—because of its close association with fundamentalism—has assumed greater significance; this issue was raised by my noble friend Lady Warsi at Second Reading. As a result, rightly or wrongly, one section of our population has seen it as directed particularly at them which is an unfortunate development.

Leaving that aside, there are core values; they represent red lines that have to be defended. One of our witnesses, Dame Louise Casey, put it thus:

“You do not pick and choose the laws of this country. The laws that protect religious minorities are the same laws that say I am equal to a man. You do not pick which ones you want. It is not a chocolate box of choice; it is something you have to embrace. If you are uncomfortable with that, I now say that is tough”.

The committee concluded:

“The epithet ‘racist’ has rightly acquired particular force and opprobrium in modern day Britain. Those who seek to continue to promulgate approaches that are not in line with our values, such as the value of equality, have been known to make use of this phrase to rebut criticism of their approach. Where necessary society must be sufficiently strong and confident not to be cowed into silence and must be prepared to speak up. Fear of being labelled ‘racist’ is never a reason for those in authority not to uphold the law, or for citizens not to raise their concerns”.

It is not good enough to look the other way; civic engagement demands more. Whether my noble friend’s amendment is the only—or right—way to help defend these red lines I am not sure. But I am sure that there is an important debate to be had, a debate about the gap—as he referred to it in his remarks a moment ago—and about how we balance our country’s proud record of openness and tolerance with the views of others, often in positions of influence, who openly despise such an approach as weak and wrong and who, given their positions of influence, are able to influence the actions of others and lead them astray. People of influence are able to empower and liberate their followers. This empowerment can be put to good or less good uses. We have seen an example in recent weeks in the United States, with the delivery of letter bombs to prominent citizens whose sole defining characteristic seems to be that they oppose the current Administration.

If there was one key theme from the huge volume of evidence that my committee received, it was that people from all parts of the country and all communities considered that the ground was shifting under their feet, that they increasingly felt rootless and that they wanted to belong. They wondered whether all parts of our society were prepared, in the spirit of compromise and tolerance so essential to the well-being of this country, to subjugate some of their personal preferences and beliefs in the cause of the greater good of society as a whole, or whether, as a result of speeches or actions by those who did not share our values, too many now felt empowered and liberated to attack our society, the state or the Crown and thus, in the broadest sense, commit an act of treason.

To conclude, we took evidence from Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. He addressed us thus:

“If we keep picking the fruits of tolerance and not attending to the roots of the tree, it disappears … tolerance becomes cynicism, cynicism becomes indifference, indifference hardens and we end up going down the road that leads to hate incidents and hate crimes”.

It is to try to avoid this country going down that very sombre road outlined by the Cardinal Archbishop that I have put my name to my noble friend’s amendment.

Lord Bethell Portrait Lord Bethell (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Faulks for moving this amendment. I also thank my noble friend Lord Hodgson for supporting it, and I am glad to support it myself.

Many Peers spoke at Second Reading about the extraordinary changes to warfare, terrorism and espionage, and the growing risk of home-grown participants and recruiters. There is clearly a need for a modern response to these challenges, and I think the Bill does a huge amount to deal with them, but I wonder whether it goes far enough.

On the legal case for a revival of the treason law, my noble friend Lord Faulks and others have put the arguments much better than I can. I also recommend the paper by Policy Exchange, Aiding the Enemy, which has an enormous amount of support from senior figures in the law and the police. However, my angle is slightly different. I am coming at it from the point of view of cohesion and the need in this country to ensure that there is a really strong sense of trust in our communities.

We are living with a huge amount of immigration—something that I am really proud of and glad to see happen. There is an almost post-modern attitude among many people towards even the concept of a nation state, and a sense of “anywhere-ness” among a lot of people. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, argued in 2010 that the law of treason was no longer appropriate because people might feel their strongest allegiance to be towards their religion or even towards Greenpeace. He said that we live in an era when the freedom of the individual is put above practically everything else.

That thinking, I am afraid, has contributed to our becoming embarrassed when talking about big ideas such as treason, betrayal and allegiance. We have lost a sense of what is acceptable and what is not. It is acceptable to criticise your country and to obey your God or to follow the tenets of your ideology, but it is not acceptable to aid one’s country’s enemies in their attacks. I think this confusion has contributed to 900 people, many of them young and naive, fighting for an enemy, and we are now living with those consequences.

I was greatly struck by the story of Kimberley Miners, who travelled to Syria and recently returned. She said of her experience of living with ISIS:

“People have no idea, but ISIS is actively searching Facebook for vulnerable people. People just like me. These people befriended me, I felt accepted”.

I feel a mixture of enormous compassion for her and enormous anger that she could have been so stupid in this decision. I cannot help feeling that, if our citizens and those who chose to live here had a clearer sense of where the boundaries lay, naive young people would not have made such stupid mistakes. We could then sleep with confidence that our neighbours, whatever their views and beliefs, ultimately have a peaceful intent towards their country, and further damage to trust in our communities could be avoided.

By way of conclusion, a treason law should not become a coercive or reactionary measure, and I pay tribute to the thoughtful briefings on the Bill from Liberty and the Open Rights Group, and to the contributions of my noble friends Lady Warsi and Lord Ahmed during Second Reading. But there is social merit in a narrowly drafted measure that makes clear our duty not to aid one’s country’s enemies in their attacks. That is why I am pleased to support this amendment.

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I too support the amendment. When I read it, I was surprised that it did not include the words “take up arms against Her Majesty’s forces” or something to the same effect. It is, as my noble friend pointed out, a procedural point. I gently point out, however, that we in this House have great freedoms of manoeuvre and are able to table amendments that you simply would not be able to in the House of Commons. I hope that, in the end, the provision will include the words “taking up arms against Her Majesty’s forces”. We cannot have UK citizens attacking the UK or its forces in an organised way while still enjoying our way of life and the privileges of living in the UK. How do we think our security services and Armed Forces feel when they realise that a member of the enemy was brought up in the UK?