Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay debates involving the Home Office during the 2019 Parliament

Thu 12th May 2022
Tue 27th Apr 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendments & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 14th Apr 2021
Wed 17th Mar 2021
Mon 15th Mar 2021
Mon 8th Mar 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage & Lords Hansard
Wed 10th Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 1st Feb 2021
Domestic Abuse Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords

Queen’s Speech

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 12th May 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I echo the thanks that have been raised by many noble Lords to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales for delivering the gracious Speech on behalf of Her Majesty, supported by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, in their capacities as Counsellors of State. I am sure that this year in particular we all want to send not just this humble Address but also our warmest wishes and our ever-deepening gratitude to Her Majesty, particularly as we prepare to celebrate the momentous occasion of her Platinum Jubilee, a unique event which it is the privilege of DCMS to help the country to mark. It is also one of the topics that was discussed at a meeting of the Cabinet today in Stoke-on-Trent along with the many ways in which the legislative programme outlined in the gracious Speech will help to make that part of the country and the rest of the UK safer, stronger and more prosperous.

Noble Lords have rightly noted that there are more DCMS Bills in this Session than ever before, and I look forward to spending a lot of time at this Dispatch Box in the company of your Lordships. It speaks to the huge contribution that DCMS and the sectors that it has the privilege of representing have to play in extending the prosperity and well-being of our nation. I pay tribute to its Ministers past and present and to the officials who have worked on the Bills that we will consider this Session so far.

The noble Baroness, Lady Merron, wanted to see even more DCMS measures. I note that the Opposition in another place did not select culture, media and sport as a topic for a debate on the gracious Speech, so I am very glad that we have had the opportunity to make good that omission today in a debate that has reflected, as ever, the breadth of expertise and wisdom of your Lordships’ House. Indeed, I see that today’s debate has attracted the largest number of speakers in any debate on the humble Address, so I will do my best to cover as many as possible of the points that have been raised.

Not for the first time, many of the speeches today dwelt on the role and nature of your Lordships’ House. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Judge, may or may not have been in revolutionary mood, but he was certainly in an existential one, and he was far from the only noble Lord feeling that way. I have had the privilege of being in your Lordships’ House for only two and half years, but this is my third Queen’s Speech and, even in the short space of time that I have been here, I have seen multiple examples of the ways in which your Lordships amend, scrutinise and improve legislation. I had the privilege of speaking on what is now the Counter-Terrorism and Sentencing Act and the Domestic Abuse Act—two important legislative measures which are far better for having gone through your Lordships’ House—so I am not as gloomy as the noble Lords, Lord Paddick and Lord Wallace of Saltaire, and others about the difference this place can and does make. However, I agree with my noble friend Lord Strathclyde that there are also occasions on which your Lordships’ House must accept, however reluctantly, that it has not persuaded another place to think again and must recognise the mandate the elected House has for the legislation it sends this way.

I hope that one such incidence in this Session will be the measures in the Public Order Bill which were noted by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb. The Government fully support people’s right to engage in peaceful protest, and we recognise that that is a cornerstone of our democracy, but guerrilla tactics by a small minority of protesters cause misery to the public, cost millions of pounds in taxpayers’ money and put lives at risk. We cannot have sections of our transport and other key national infrastructure brought to a halt by small groups of protesters. Nor can we have the sort of scenes we saw in the pandemic, when people who were on their way to get their vaccinations or to visit sick relatives were prevented from doing so.

The Public Order Bill will criminalise the dangerous and disruptive protest tactics of locking on and obstructing major transport construction works. A key concern raised by noble Lords in January, when these measures were being considered in the context of what is now the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, was that they had not been subject to proper scrutiny in another place. That place will now have an opportunity to do so. In the meantime, the actions of Just Stop Oil have provided further evidence of the need for these measures.

The noble Baroness, Lady Jones, rightly talked about the long-standing rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights set out that everybody has the right to freedom of expression, assembly and association. However, these rights are not absolute, and they have to be balanced with the rights and freedoms of others. These new measures will balance the rights of protesters with the rights of others to go about their business unhindered. The measures will achieve this by enabling the police to manage highly disruptive protests and, as with existing public order powers, the police will need to act compatibly with the human rights of protesters when using them.

The European Convention on Human Rights was mentioned by a great number of noble Lords in their contributions on the Bill of Rights. I echo the plaudits of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester and others for my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, who showed again with his contribution today his great sense, shrewdness and good humour— things which will be very much missed on the Government Front Bench, but we are very glad to have his continued participation today. He was absolutely right to point out that human rights did not begin in 1998, that the United Kingdom will remain a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights—which was signed and ratified by a Conservative Government—and that convention rights will remain enforceable in our courts.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames, who asked about Article 46. We fully acknowledge our international obligation under Article 46 of the European Convention on Human Rights to abide by an adverse judgment of the European court against us, but the Human Rights Act 1998 has been in force for almost a quarter of a century. It is entirely right that we should look at it again to see whether there is a need to update this important area of law.

The Bill of Rights will ensure that our human rights framework continues to meet the needs of the country and society it serves. We have a long and proud history of protecting and extending freedom in this country, and our proposals aim to build on this noble tradition. In doing so, we want to strengthen the credibility of and support for human rights, so that they are not dirty words in the minds of the public. As the introduction of our Magnitsky sanctions regime shows, this Government will continue to champion human rights, both at home and abroad.

The noble Lords, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick and Lord Ramsbotham, asked about the work to establish a royal commission on criminal justice. Understandably, that work slowed at the onset of the pandemic, as the Ministry of Justice stood up significant work and investment to keep our criminal justice system moving. That point was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, as well. More than £1 billion has been allocated to boost capacity and accelerate recovery from Covid in Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. In this financial year, we expect to get through 20% more Crown Court cases than we did before Covid-19.

The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, asked about no-fault divorce. In April, the Government commenced the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Act, the biggest change to divorce law and practice for nearly half a century. Now that we have implemented the Act, we have turned our minds to consideration of the legislation surrounding financial provision on divorce. We deliberately kept that as a separate issue, and we will be announcing our intentions for the work in due course.

I welcome the support from the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, and others for the National Security Bill. As he pointed out, our espionage laws date back to 1911 and do not account for how threats to the UK’s national security have evolved and diversified in the more than a century since. Russia’s action in Salisbury, China’s attempts to interfere in our democracy, and persistent efforts by foreign actors to steal intellectual property generated in the UK demonstrate why we need new laws to help the intelligence agencies and police to detect, disrupt and prosecute state-threat actors who seek to harm the United Kingdom. This legislation will support the extensive previous and ongoing cross-government efforts to counter state threats, including the recent economic crime Act, in the light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the economic crime and corporate transparency Bill, which is also being introduced in this Session.

The noble Lord, Lord Anderson, asked when we would introduce a registration scheme. We will do that after introduction of the Bill, so we can take the time needed to ensure its effectiveness and that it properly protects the interests of the UK. He asked also whether it was our intention to reform the Official Secrets Act 1989. We have heard the strong views and concerns raised on the 1989 Act and reform of it in our public consultation; we need to take the time to give proper consideration to those concerns, so while the Bill will address the provisions of the 1911, 1920 and 1939 Official Secrets Acts, we are not proposing to reform the 1989 Act through this Bill. It is clear that reform in this area is complex and engages a wide range of interests; it is only right that proper consideration should be given to the views expressed in the consultation. Moreover, in light of the ongoing situation in Ukraine, we need to prioritise a wider package of measures to tackle state threats in order to ensure that our law enforcement and intelligence partners have the tools they need to keep us safe.

I was very glad to hear the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Henig, and others, for the Protect duty Bill. I was pleased, too, to hear her entirely justified tributes to Figen Murray, the mother of Martyn Hett, one of the many people and groups whose lives have been scarred by terrorism, with whom the Government have been working to develop proposals to improve security and ensure robust yet proportionate measures at public places. These are being considered further, in light of consultation responses, alongside other things, including the first volume of the Manchester Arena inquiry report—but the Government remain committed to the Protect duty and will bring forward legislative proposals as soon as parliamentary time allows.

Of course, those on the very front line of keeping us safe are the police, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, my noble friend Lord Davies of Gower and others pointed out. We have now recruited more than 13,000 additional officers and remain on track to deliver 20,000 additional officers by March 2023. The Government are also giving the police the resources they need to fight crime and keep the public safe, which is why in February the Government published a total police funding settlement of up to £16.9 billion for the financial year 2022-23, an increase of up to £1.1 billion when compared to the previous financial year.

My noble friend Lord Bridgeman and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay of Clashfern raised sensitive but important topics. My noble friend Lord Bridgeman discussed sharia marriage. The law has long made provision for couples, including Muslim couples, to marry in their place of worship in a way that gives them legal rights and protections. The Government share the concern that some people may none the less marry in a way that does not, and without appreciating the consequences. We will continue to explore limited reform and non-legislative options in this area with the greatest of care. This work will be informed by the forthcoming reports from the Law Commission on weddings and from the Nuffield Foundation on religious weddings.

My noble and learned friend Lord Mackay, as well as others, addressed the conversion therapy Bill. The purpose of that Bill is to ban conversion therapy practices that are intended to change someone’s sexual orientation. It will stop abhorrent practices which do not work and cause extensive harm, and will protect people’s personal liberty to love who they want to love. It will do so by strengthening existing criminal law, ensuring that violent conversion therapy is recognised as a potential aggravating factor on sentencing, and by introducing a criminal offence banning non-physical conversion therapies to complement existing legislation which protects people from acts which inflict physical harm.

This offence will protect people under the age of 18 regardless of circumstance and people over the age of 18 who do not consent and who are coerced or forced to undergo conversion therapy practices. We are conscious of doing this while protecting freedom of speech, ensuring that parents, clinicians and teachers can continue to have candid and important conversations with people seeking their support. This is, as noble Lords noted, a complex area, but some 16 countries have placed some sort of nationwide ban on conversion therapy practices, including Canada, France, Germany and New Zealand, so there are examples to which noble Lords will be able to turn when scrutinising this Bill. Recognising the complexity of the issues and the need for further careful thought, we will carry out separate work to consider the issue of transgender conversion therapy in further detail.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, raised the no less complex issues of legacy in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Troubles legacy and reconciliation Bill will address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past by focusing on information recovery and reconciliation, providing better outcomes for victims, survivors and their families, delivering on the Government’s commitment to veterans and helping society to look forward. In line with the Sewel convention and associated practices, the Government will continue to work constructively with the devolved Administrations to secure their legislative consent where that is achievable and appropriate.

The noble Lord, Lord Stephen, raised the spectre of a second Scottish independence referendum. People across Scotland, quite rightly, want to see both of their Governments working together on issues that matter to them, including driving down NHS backlogs, protecting our long-term energy security and supporting our economic recovery so that everybody has opportunities, skills and jobs. That is the priority of Her Majesty’s Government.

I turn now to the bumper crop of DCMS measures in this Queen’s Speech, beginning with the Online Safety Bill, which attracted the attention of most noble Lords. The Bill had its Second Reading in another place on 19 April. This ground-breaking legislation delivers on our manifesto commitment to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. For the first time, tech companies will be accountable to an independent regulator to keep their users, particularly children, safe. At the same time, the Bill will protect and defend freedom of expression and the invaluable role played by our free press. We are entering a new age of accountability for tech to protect children and vulnerable users and to restore trust in this important industry. The Bill will defend freedom of expression and the vital role of a free press, while unleashing a new wave of digital growth by building trust in technology businesses.

The noble Baroness, Lady Fox of Buckley, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and others dwelt particularly on the importance of protecting freedom of expression, and the Bill contains strong safeguards for this. No platforms will be required to remove legal content and all services will need to have regard to freedom of expression when implementing their safety duties. Under the Bill, major platforms will no longer be able arbitrarily to remove content just because they deem it controversial or offensive. If users feel that their post has been taken down unfairly, for the first time they will have the right to appeal. Major platforms will also have to protect journalistic and democratically important content, to protect the free press and political debate. Ofcom will also have to ensure that all codes of practice it prepares are designed to reflect the importance of freedom of expression.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the role of Ofcom, which will have a range of powers at its disposal to help it assess whether companies are fulfilling their duties. These powers will help ensure that Ofcom is able to effectively assess whether companies are fulfilling their regulatory requirements, including in relation to the operation of their algorithms. If companies fail, Ofcom can make them take specific actions to improve their services, including using proactive technologies to identify and remove illegal material and stop children seeing harmful content.

The noble Lord also asked about post-legislative scrutiny for the Bill. I commend his optimism and enthusiasm for seeing it on the statute book. Having benefited greatly from the pre-legislative scrutiny provided by the Joint Committee of both Houses, we are keen to use the expertise in both Houses of Parliament to deliver post-legislative scrutiny as well. We will welcome further views during the passage of the Bill on the best way to achieve this, but I should say that we do not support the creation of a Joint Committee with a wider remit on digital regulation more broadly. Such a committee would cut against the work of existing parliamentary committees which are already well placed to scrutinise digital regulation.

The noble Lord asked about Twitter and the Equality Act. For activities which are carried out in Great Britain and fall within the sphere of the Equality Act—for instance, employment and the provision of services—Twitter would not be exempt from compliance with the Act. I will happily discuss his concerns further with him if he wishes.

A number of noble Lords touched on the media Bill. The UK’s broadcasting landscape is a domestic and international success story. Our public service broadcasters are at the heart of that success. This Bill will allow our broadcasters to continue to thrive in an age of rapid technological change and fierce competition, particularly from global platform giants. We want to find a new owner for Channel 4 so that it can become bigger, better and stronger in that rapidly changing industry.

This Bill will enable our broadcasters to thrive. That will be good for audiences, who will be able more easily to access and enjoy quality British-originated content, good for our economy and good for our ability to project British values globally. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, was right to point to the work of our public service broadcasters in providing high-quality impartial content which is accessible to all. This is more important than ever in that changing media landscape.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, raised a number of issues. First, on the importance of Channel 4 to independent production companies, it has played a crucial role in supporting the growth of our independent production sector. Thanks to that, the sector is now booming, with revenues growing from £500 million in 1995 to £3 billion in 2019. Independent production companies are less reliant on Channel 4 as they increasingly benefit from commissions from other sources. We want Channel 4 to have the resources to be able to continue to commission the very best content for its viewers. Channel 4 still has a part to play in supporting independent production and the creative economy. Our plans do not compromise our commitment to the independent production sector.

The noble Baroness asked also about Channel 4’s important role across the United Kingdom. The Government greatly value Channel 4’s role in supporting the growth of a creative economy right across the UK. I had an example of that during the Prorogation break in Bradford, when I met Channel 4 as part of my visits to the four shortlisted cities for the 2025 UK City of Culture. I should at this point mention County Durham, Wrexham and Southampton, which are the other three. There is no reason why Channel 4’s important role in supporting our creative economy across the UK should change. Its work with creatives up and down this country has made it the success that it is today, and we would expect a new owner to want to grow and develop those relationships. Channel 4’s network outside London and its ability to speak to such a diverse range of audiences is an attractive asset to nurture and develop for any potential buyer.

The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked about quotas. Channel 4’s existing obligations in terms of regional production outside London and England will be maintained, as will its remit to provide distinctive, educational, innovative and experimental programming which represents the breadth of our society, and the obligations to show original programmes and provide news and current affairs.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in a rare Thatcherite moment, asked about the potential for sale to a foreign investor. We expect a lot of interest in purchasing Channel 4 from a range of buyers. The right buyer for Channel 4 will be one who wants to build on Channel 4’s strengths and help accelerate and unleash its potential. Bids will be assessed carefully, and any new owners will have to pass Ofcom’s fit and proper persons test.

The noble Viscount, Lord Colville, spoke about the draft digital markets Bill, and, as I see from the Official Report, so did my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston in yesterday’s debate. Digital technologies make a huge contribution to our economy and the Government are committed to unlocking their full potential. The new regime will put in place clear rules for the most powerful tech firms and robust new powers to enforce those rules, including significant fines for breaches. The noble Viscount and my noble friend Lady Stowell asked why this is only draft legislation. This regime will tackle technical and complex issues and have an impact across our economy, so it is vital that we address the far-reaching market power held by a small number of firms which is harming consumers and businesses. The regime must also be proportionate and pro-innovation. The UK should be the best place to start and grow a technology business. The draft measures will allow interested parties to continue to engage on the details of the regime to ensure that the legislation strikes the right balance, and that is why we will publish draft legislation in this Session ahead of introducing legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, and others mentioned the fan-led review of football. The new independent regulator will be given the task of applying an enhanced owners’ and directors’ test, both ahead of the acquisition of the club and on an ongoing basis. This replaces the existing tests and will include a new integrity test for all owners and executives, and enhanced due diligence, including sources of funding on acquisition. Further details will be set out in the White Paper, which we will publish this summer.

Coming very soon is the gambling Act White Paper. As the noble Lord, Lord Foster of Bath, knows, this is the most thorough review of gambling laws since the 2005 Act and we need to get it right. In the coming weeks we will publish a White Paper setting out our conclusions and vision for the sector; it will set out our policy proposals and we will work with others, including the Gambling Commission, to implement the changes as soon as possible.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, and others asked about touring for artists. The UK took an ambitious approach during our negotiations with the European Union, which would have ensured that touring artists and their support staff did not need work permits to perform in the UK. Regrettably, this was rejected by the European Union. Our trade deal with the three EFTA countries was based on the very same offer and shows that it is workable and that we are fighting to help musicians and performers to tour abroad. The Government are committed to supporting this important sector to adapt to the new arrangements, and we are working with the sector and directly with member states to clarify what creative workers need to do to continue touring in these important industries.

The noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, asked specifically about the work to designate the St Pancras station for Eurostar as a CITES point of entry. Defra is working with the Incorporated Society of Musicians, the Association of British Orchestras, the Musicians’ Union and others who are undertaking surveys to gauge numbers likely to use St Pancras as such a point of entry if it were to become CITES-designated. The results are due soon and once received Defra will work with Border Force to understand the operational implications of designating St Pancras. We will provide further updates in due course. I am grateful to the noble Earl and to Deborah Annetts from the Incorporated Society of Musicians for their engagement on this important issue.

I am close to the end of time. I have not had a chance to touch on the data reform Bill, the electronic trade documents Bill, or the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill, but taken together, the legislation in this gracious Speech is an ambitious legislative agenda which will support households by delivering economic growth, up and down our country. We will deliver on our promise to level up the United Kingdom. Our policies will deliver economic prosperity by giving local leaders the power they need to rejuvenate their communities by providing every part of England that wants a devolution deal with one by 2030. We will bring forward media legislation to boost that important sector and promote British-originated content. Our post-Brexit freedoms will enable us to make key data reforms to our regulatory environment which will promote growth and innovation and create a truly global Britain. In the face of growing international threats, we will also enhance the protection afforded to our people, our networks and our infrastructure against risks arising from insecure smart products. Our programme will deliver pioneering legislation, ensuring economic safety and security for this country, both online and on our streets. I look forward to debating much of it with noble Lords over the Session ahead.

Amendment to the Motion

Tabled by

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) (No. 2) Order 2021

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Tuesday 22nd June 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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My Lords, this SI has been prepared by the Home Office. It clarifies a provision in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021 relating to the detention at ports power.

Section 141 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 permits an order to be made to provide for a law of England and Wales to have effect, with or without modification, at a juxtaposed control at an EEA port. Pursuant to this, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) Order 2003 was made. At present, the juxtaposed controls locations governed by the 2003 order are those at the ports of Calais and Dunkirk in France and, for the French authorities, at the port of Dover in the UK. These juxtaposed controls are provided for under the Le Touquet treaty of 2003.

The order in 2003 did not follow this model and, instead, stipulated a list of specific immigration enactments to be extended to the control zones in French seaports. To align the operation of controls across all juxtaposed locations in line with the operation of controls across the UK, the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021 amended the 2003 order to extend all current immigration enactments, without specificity, to the seaports—

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, but he is simply reading the Explanatory Memorandum, which all noble Lords have. If he has some points to make or questions to ask of the Minister, if he might move on to those, that would be appreciated, I think.

Lord Bhatia Portrait Lord Bhatia (Non-Afl) [V]
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My question is, who has made these errors and what has been the cost of correcting them?

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That this House do not insist on its Amendment 9B, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 9C, 9D and 9E in lieu.

9C: Page 57, line 36, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Contact centres
Report on the use of contact centres in England
(1) The Secretary of State must, before the end of the relevant period, prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals, when they are using contact centres in England, are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm.
(2) “The relevant period” means the period of 2 years beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.
(3) In this section “contact centre” means a place that is used for the facilitation of contact between a child and an individual with whom the child is not, or will not be, living (including the handover of the child to that individual).”
9E: Page 60, line 32, at end insert—
“( ) section (Report on the use of contact centres in England);”
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Wolfson of Tredegar much regrets that he is not able to move this Motion himself; he is giving evidence to the Justice Select Committee in another place. As I am sure noble Lords will appreciate, this is another important part of his work and accountability to Parliament. He is very grateful to noble Lords who have engaged with him on this issue since our last debates on the matter.

Since then, the elected House has disagreed with Amendment 9B—as it did with the previous Amendment 9 —by a significant majority of 133. Noble Lords will recall that Amendment 9B would require the Government to introduce a set of national standards for child contact centres and services to which organisations and individuals would be required to adhere. This would, in effect, be a form of indirect accreditation which the previous Amendment 9, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, and debated on Report, explicitly sought to establish.

When we debated Amendment 9B last Wednesday, my noble friend Lord Wolfson was very clear that there is nothing between the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and other noble Lords who have supported these amendments, and the Government when it comes to our commitment to the protection of vulnerable children and the victims of domestic abuse. These are absolute priorities for Her Majesty’s Government. That is why we have listened intently during the passage of this Bill to the arguments made both in your Lordships’ House and in another place and have acted to strengthen the Bill in a significant number of ways. That is also why we have established the expert panel on harm in the family courts, and why we are now acting on its recommendations better to protect domestic abuse victims in the family courts. Where we have been persuaded of the case for change, we have acted, and will continue to act, in the interests of victims.

In this instance, the problem we face is one of evidence, as we have stressed previously. We have explained in detail the safeguards that are in place in relation to child contact centres and services in both public and private law and the steps that are being taken with the President of the Family Division and the chief executive of Cafcass to reinforce existing expectations. I hope noble Lords will forgive me for not repeating the detail of those safeguards again on this occasion, as I hope my noble friend has covered them in adequate detail previously and I believe that our time would be better served by outlining the steps the Government now propose to take.

As I say, my noble friend is very grateful for the constructive way in which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering and other noble Lords have engaged with him and others on this matter. We are also grateful for the evidence provided to the NACCC in support of Amendments 9 and 9B. While we remain of the view that the evidence provided so far is insufficiently robust to justify new statutory requirements, we are also keenly aware of the limited time which has been available to investigate this matter systematically in order to build a more convincing evidence base—a point made last week by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, in her concluding remarks.

We are also drawn heavily towards the comments made by my noble friend Lady McIntosh last Wednesday, when she suggested that the Government might investigate the evidence available themselves rather than the NACCC which, as she rightly said, should focus its efforts on the protection of children. We agree. We accept that if there is a demonstrable problem here, the risks to children are real. But if a demonstrable problem does exist, we would also need to understand fully how prevalent it is and how it manifests itself in order to understand how we can address it effectively and proportionately. Without this research, any measures seeking to address the perceived problem may not be effective and may have unintended consequences. It is for this reason that the Government have tabled their Amendments 9C to 9E, which were agreed by another place yesterday, in lieu of Amendment 9B.

Amendment 9C would place a duty on the Secretary of State to prepare and publish a report about the extent to which individuals are protected from the risk of domestic abuse when they use a contact centre or, in the case of children, other harms. The amendment draws the definition of a “contact centre” widely to include any place used to facilitate contact between a child and an individual with whom they do not or will not live. The scope of the amendment goes beyond a formal child contact centre accredited by the NACCC to include more informal arrangements, in order to address the issues at the centre of noble Lords’ concerns.

The amendment requires that the results of the review be published within two years of the Bill being passed. I want to make it categorically clear that this timescale, which some might argue is too long, does not mean that the Government are not serious about this review. It is already clear that it is not easy to gather evidence in this area, and it is important that we take time to investigate thoroughly in order to reach meaningful and robust conclusions. We will proceed with the review as quickly as possible after Royal Assent and publish its findings. I also give the Government’s commitment to act appropriately in response to those findings.

I am sure that noble Lords will understand that, before the review is launched, there is more work to do on establishing its precise terms of reference, scope and exact timescales. We will want to consult with experts in this area—including, for example, the NACCC, the judiciary, Cafcass, local government and victims’ groups—before reaching final decisions on these points.

However, I reassure your Lordships, particularly the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh, that the scope will be sufficiently broad to cover both private and public law and circumstances where parents may decide to approach those providing child contact services outside court proceedings. It will also include an external consultation to gather information from key parties.

I repeat the commitment my noble friend Lord Wolfson gave in our debate on 21 April: that we are ready to explore, as part of the review, whether there is a case for ensuring that appropriate arrangements are in place whereby anyone who seeks to set themselves up as a provider of child contact centres would be subject to criminal record checks. Indeed, the Home Office and Ministry of Justice are already exploring the feasibility of extending eligibility for higher-level criminal record checks to the self-employed.

In developing the terms of the review, I also commit explicitly to engaging further with the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh. The Government would welcome the noble Baronesses’ input in establishing the review, given their commitment and interest in this area, and I am sure that they will have valuable evidence to contribute—all the more so, given the additional time that the review will afford.

In conclusion, I hope your Lordships’ House will agree that in bringing forward our amendments in lieu, the Government have shown their commitment to giving this important issue the detailed consideration it deserves. We can build a robust evidence base concerning the scale of any problem with regulating those providing child contact centres, so that we can reach a fully informed decision on any further steps which may be necessary. I put on record again our appreciation of the dedication shown by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh on this subject. I ask them and the rest of your Lordships’ House to accept the Commons amendments in lieu and to agree Motion A. I beg to move.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff Portrait Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (CB)
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 9C and its consequential Amendments 9D and 9E, which the Government have tabled in place of my original Amendments 9 and 9B, which had support across this House.

I am most grateful to the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson of Tredegar, who has met with me and colleagues across the House and spoken with us on several occasions about this issue. He clearly has listened to our concerns. We are of course disappointed that our amendments have not been accepted but appreciate that this is such an important Bill that we must not jeopardise its passage at this stage in the Session. I have the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, ringing in my ears from an earlier meeting at which she expressed just this fear.

I have three questions for the Minister. First, can he confirm that the term “contact centre” means the people who work in a place or use a place for facilitating contact between a child and the person they are not living with? A place could be an empty building or open parkland. It is the way that a place is used by people that matters—and it was the people involved who were the subject of my Amendment 9B.

Secondly, can the Minister confirm that the spirit of Amendment 9B is encapsulated in proposed new subsection (1) of the government amendment, where it is stipulated that a report must explicitly tackle the extent to which individuals are protected from the risk of domestic abuse or, in the case of children, other harm. All we have asked is that, as outlined by Sir James Munby in his statement in support of our previous amendment, the

“standards in child contact centres and services are consistent and high, and domestic abuse and safeguarding is appropriately handled through high quality staff training to protect those children and families who find themselves involved with the family justice system.”

These vulnerable children must have the same standard of safeguarding as other children, such as those going to childminders, those in nurseries and those aged 16 to 19 in education.

Thirdly, can the Minister confirm that the judicial protocol on child contact will be actively promoted across all family courts to ensure that it is properly used in practice?

Jess Phillips MP, shadow Minister with responsibility for domestic violence and safeguarding, recounted in the other place yesterday that she has heard of case after case where there is poor practice, bad handovers and perpetrators can access victims. Now, all this evidence must be gathered in one place. It must be clear and publicised to whom such evidence is to be addressed, as some people reporting may feel intimidated at drawing attention to a problem, particularly in small and somewhat closed communities.

All those involved in this debate will, I am sure, be entering a date in our diaries two years hence when we expect the report to be published. We all hope sincerely that no disasters will happen between now and then. We all believe that there is a loophole that must be closed. Let me be clear: I welcome the proposed investigation by the Secretary of State and greatly appreciate all the work the Minister has put into this to date. In the meantime, we appreciate the government Amendments 9C to 9E.

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Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I too pay tribute to the tenacity of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay of Llandaff and Lady McIntosh of Pickering. Although I have experience in the family courts and was aware of the child contact centres, I was not as well briefed on this issue as I am now, given the noble Baronesses’ backgrounds on this matter, particularly the legislative history of the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

I should also pay fulsome tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Wolfson, who is relatively new to our House. We met him a number of times; he has properly engaged on the issues and expressed scepticism, which is sometimes helpful to people moving amendments. He has come up with a solution. Although, as the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, said, it may fall short of what we were hoping for, it nevertheless provides a road ahead for addressing the concerns that he expressed. He has potentially come up with a proper solution for the various loopholes in the child contact centre system, if I can put it like that.

As the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, said in his introduction, the Government’s problem was one of evidence. As we repeated in numerous meetings, it is very difficult to get evidence of contact centres that come and go, perhaps operating in particular communities and essentially functioning under the radar. I am glad that the Government appreciated that point to the extent that they are willing to take on the responsibility of seeing whether this is a real problem and whether appropriate measures can be put in place to protect children who go to these child contact centres.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked three good questions for the Minister to answer. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, went on to quote Sir James Munby’s support for the earlier amendments. Sir James Munby has unequalled experience in these matters, so the Government should listen to what he says.

In conclusion, the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and I have sat on a lot of committees together over the last couple of years and she has always been sensible in her support of the noble Baronesses, Lady Finlay and Lady McIntosh. As she said, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, accepts the Government’s amendments and that we continue to work together for the next couple of years to ensure that the Government follow through on their promise to review the existing provision.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, first, I thank and agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, and the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, in paying tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and my noble friend Lady McIntosh for their tenacity in pursuing this issue in the interests of vulnerable children. We have all been mindful of that throughout these discussions and are grateful to them. I am also grateful to noble Lords for their tributes to my noble friend Lord Wolfson. I will pass on their thanks and appreciation, and I know that he would have liked to have been here to see the conclusion of this important matter. But I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, for saying that my noble friend went the extra mile. That has been the Government’s approach to the Bill throughout and, even those provisions that will not be in the Bill have launched some important work, which will continue to bear fruit and help victims of domestic abuse, whether legislatively or not.

The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, asked three questions on which I hope I can provide reassurance. Her first was about whether contact centres mean the people who work in the place. Yes, we are going to review the way that a place is used, rather than a building, which may be empty. Her second was about the spirit of the amendment. Again, yes, we want to build an evidence base through the review that assesses the need for regulation, along the lines that the noble Baroness proposed. Her third was about promoting the judicial protocol. That protocol is being updated and will be communicated by the judiciary, not Her Majesty’s Government. That will provide an opportunity for its promotion but, as I am sure she and other noble Lords understand, that is a matter for the judiciary.

My noble friend Lady McIntosh asked some questions about the review. As I say, we want to establish a robust evidence base about the scale of the problem, so that we reach a fully informed decision about any further steps necessary. We would welcome her input and that of others into establishing the terms of the review. We will also be engaging the judiciary, among others, so the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, about Sir James Munby is well heard.

That has answered all the questions raised. Again, we are very grateful to all noble Lords for their engagement on this and hope that it is a sensible resolution. I hope that noble Lords support Motion A.

Motion A agreed.
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
- Hansard - -

That this House do not insist on its Amendments 40B and 40C, and do agree with the Commons in their Amendments 40D, 40E, 40F, 40G, 40H, 40J and 40K in lieu.

40D: Page 57, line 36, at end insert the following new Clause—
“Data processing for immigration purposes
Review of processing of victims’ personal data for immigration purposes
(1) The Secretary of State must before the end of the relevant period—
(a) review the processing of domestic abuse data carried out by specified public authorities for immigration purposes,
(b) prepare and publish a report setting out the findings of the review, and
(c) lay a copy of the report before Parliament.
(2) In carrying out the review, the Secretary of State must have regard to the recommendations of the HMIC Report.
(3) In subsection (1), the “relevant period” means the period beginning with the day on which this section comes into force and ending with 30 June 2021 (but see subsection (4)).
(4) The Secretary of State may by regulations extend the relevant period by a further period of up to 6 months.
(5) The power conferred by subsection (4) may be exercised only once.
(6) In this section—
“domestic abuse data” means personal data obtained for the purposes of, or in connection with, the provision of support in relation to domestic abuse to victims of domestic abuse or their children;
“the HMIC Report” means the report on Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ super-complaint on policing and immigration status published by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary on 17 December 2020;
“immigration purposes” means the purposes of—
(a) the maintenance of effective immigration control, or
(b) the investigation or detection of activities that would undermine the maintenance of effective immigration control;
“immigration officer” means a person appointed as an immigration officer under paragraph 1 of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971;
“personal data” has the meaning given by section 3(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018;
“processing” has the meaning given by section 3(4) of that Act; “specified public authority” means—
(a) a chief officer of police of a police force maintained for a police area in England and Wales;
(b) the chief constable of the Police Service of Scotland;
(c) the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland;
(d) the Chief Constable of the British Transport Police Force;
(e) the Chief Constable of the Ministry of Defence Police;
(f) an immigration officer or other official of the Secretary of State exercising functions in relation to immigration or asylum.”
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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Noble Lords are aware that Amendment 40B seeks to create a data-sharing firewall, so that the personal data of victims of domestic abuse that is given or used for the purposes of their seeking or receiving support is not used for immigration control purposes. Amendment 40C introduces a conditional commencement procedure, so that the firewall comes into force only once the review into current data-sharing procedures has been completed and following a vote in both Houses.

While I appreciate the case that the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords have been making, the Government remain of the view that Amendments 40B and 40C are premature, pending the outcome of the review of the current data-sharing arrangements, as recommended by the policing inspectorate following its December report on the super-complaint from Liberty and Southall Black Sisters.

In an effort to meet the noble Baroness half way, the Government tabled Amendments 40D, 40E, 40F, 40G, 40H, 40J and 40K in lieu to which the Commons has agreed. Amendment 40D places our review of data-sharing arrangements on to a statutory footing, with a duty to lay a report before Parliament on the outcome of the review by 30 June, a little over two months away.

In addition, Amendment 40E confers a power on the Secretary of State to issue a code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration control purposes by specified public authorities. Persons to whom the code is issued, notably the police and Home Office immigration staff, would be required to have regard to that code. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, that although the new clause provides for a power rather than imposes a duty to issue a code, it is the Government’s firm intention to issue such a code, following the completion of the review. Noble Lords will note too that Amendment E also places an obligation on the Secretary of State to consult the domestic abuse commissioner, the Information Commissioner and others before issuing the code.

We are on track to publish the outcome of our review by the end of June. As part of our review, we have given a commitment to engage with domestic abuse sector organisations and the domestic abuse commissioner to better understand concerns about why migrant victims might not feel safe in reporting their abusers to the authorities for fear of enforcement action being taken. We have tabled amendments, now agreed by another place, to place the review on to a statutory footing and to provide for a statutory code of practice relating to the processing of domestic abuse data for immigration purposes.

I hope noble Lords will see that we have listened and acted. I ask the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the whole of your Lordships’ House to support Motion B.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I shall respond to the Minister and the Government’s amendment on the safe reporting of crimes by domestic abuse victims who have uncertain immigration status. I am very grateful to our Ministers for their sympathetic handling of this Bill and for the incredibly helpful meetings that we have had with all of them in previous weeks, and to the Government for tabling the compromise amendment. Of course, it does not achieve the reassurance that we sought with our original amendment, but it paves a way forward that could help these most vulnerable of women.

I welcome the fact that the report on the government review of this issue will be laid before Parliament and that this is put in statute by the Government’s amendment. That is definitely a step forward. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the review will seek to identify the depth of fear of many of the victims of concern here. That is important—about half do not report crimes because they are too frightened, in particular in situations of modern slavery, for example. A concern in the field is that the six-month possible extension for the publication of the review could be used by the Government to prevent anyone making progress in the meantime. Three months would be greatly preferable. Does the Minister have any comment on that? Do they really need six months to complete this? If it means that they will do a more thorough job, I suppose we must be grateful.

Turning to the code of practice, I am concerned about subsection (1) of the proposed new clause, which says that the Secretary of State

“may issue a code of practice”

rather than that they “shall” issue such a code. Again, I am grateful to the Minister for emphasising in his remarks that the Government have a clear intention to issue such a code. It would also be helpful if he could indicate in his closing comments a timeline for the code of practice and confirm its purpose—again, this is an important point—to provide protection from the immigration system for vulnerable victims of domestic abuse whose immigration status is uncertain.

The amendment makes it clear that the domestic abuse commissioner, the Information Commissioner and

“such other persons as the Secretary of State considers appropriate”

must be consulted in relation to this code of practice. I put on record the importance of consulting survivors and specialist organisations such as the Step Up Migrant Women campaign, which, incidentally, apart from doing a huge amount of work to support these women, has been a pillar of strength in the background, behind these debates in this House. It would be very helpful if the Minister could confirm that those survivors and organisations will be consulted. With the hope that the Minister can provide some assurance on these points, I will not oppose the Government’s Motion.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has received strong support from the Opposition Benches throughout the progress of this important Bill, and that support is not diminished at this final stage. We will continue to press the Government on this very serious issue, to make sure victims can feel safe coming forward to report abuse. It has been a pleasure to learn from her and work with her on this amendment. The noble Baroness’s amendment provided for the circumstances where victims’ data cannot be shared for immigration purposes if they come forward to report abuse. She is content to agree the important concessions that she has obtained from the Government on her amendment and, to that end, it just leaves me to thank her and all noble Lords who have spoken so eloquently and with passion throughout the passage of the Bill.

In the other place yesterday, the shadow Minister spoke movingly about her own experiences and reiterated her thanks for some movement by the Government on this amendment. But I echo her remarks of concern by asking the Minister if we can ensure that there are buy-in services for the very victims we are talking about, that they are consulted throughout the process, and that the whole point of the code is explicitly there to ensure that data can be shared only to enable victims to receive protection and safety. We now have mention of a victims’ code, so what happens when there is a breach of the code? We need clarity; we seek to have things written into primary legislation so that there is no doubt when barriers are crossed.

I eagerly await the translation into law of this landmark legislation. I thank my Opposition Front Bench colleagues and the staff team who have so ably guided me through my first major Bill in this House; what a maiden Bill it has been to have contributed to. My thanks go to the Minister and others who have listened and acted upon amendments to make better laws alongside our charities, support organisations and, indeed, the brave survivors whose lived experiences and testimonies have spoken out loudly and clearly throughout the course of the Bill: stand up to domestic abuse.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I again applaud and thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, for her tenacity on this point in standing up for another vulnerable group of victims. I thank her for the time that she has spent engaging with me on this point since your Lordships last debated it. I am grateful that she sees the amendments that we have put forward in lieu as a step forward, and want to reassure her on the points that she raised; as I said previously, one of the frustrations in this area is not knowing what we do not know about the depth of fear among those who may be reluctant to come forward. That is why we are engaging with domestic abuse sector organisations to better understand the scale of that problem and to allay any concerns that people have. I am pleased to say that engagement with those groups is beginning next month.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked about the timeline for the code; we would seek to have that in place as soon as is practicable after the completion of the review. We would of course need time to consult the domestic abuse commissioner and the Information Commissioner’s Office. The power to extend the deadline is purely precautionary, as, alas, the experience of the pandemic over the last year or so has shown the need to expect the unexpected, but it is our intention to proceed swiftly on this. As the noble Baroness noted, despite the word “may” rather than “shall”, it is our firm intention to issue such a code, so I reiterate that for her reassurance. We will look at enforcement issues when drawing up the code.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, suggested that we are approaching these issues the wrong way round. I hope people appreciate that the Government have a statutory obligation under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to maintain an effective immigration system, but we have been clear throughout that both the police and immigration enforcement officials deal with victims as victims first and foremost. We are very mindful of that. With those answers, and in reiterating my thanks in particular to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I urge noble Lords to support Motion B.

Motion B agreed.

Immigration

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
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My Lords, we should perhaps reflect on the comments just made by the Minister in the light of the cut to overseas development aid. I am sure the Minister is aware that asylum applications fell by 18% in 2020 and, in the year ending September 2020, the UK received 31,752 asylum applications from main applicants. The comparable figure for Germany is 155,000, for France 129,000, for Spain 128,000 and for Greece 81,000. Does the Minister agree that the UK is taking less than its fair share of people fleeing war and political turmoil—often related to our foreign policies—and people fleeing areas from which, during its colonial history, Britain extracted huge amounts of wealth? Perhaps the scheme has been affected by Covid-19, but are the Government looking to significantly step up the number to what might be said to be a fair share compared to other European states?

The Refugee Council briefing on this Statement, which I am sure many Members of your Lordships’ House have seen, is expressed in very careful, factual language, but it can be described only as a cry of horror about the policies contained in this Statement. I turn to just one area, that of age assessments.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Baroness is taking a bit too long. Perhaps she would ask her question.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Okay. On age assessments, how can the Minister say that it is fair to put 18 years of age as the cut-off point when it is obvious that people coming from war zones, having grown up and spent their whole lives in them, are not going to look like 18 year-olds who have been brought up in comfortable circumstances in a safe environment?

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Portrait Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, for her commitment on this issue—a commitment that all speakers in the debate share. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, all Peers who have spoken have acknowledged the link between pornography and violence against women.

Of course, we strongly agree that there needs to be a mechanism to prevent children accessing pornographic material. We also believe that the Government have failed to show leadership on that matter and have dragged their feet. They should already have brought the online harms Bill forward.

As Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act was going through, we in the Labour Party criticised it as inadequate because it failed to focus on where some of the most serious harm was caused—for example, by not tackling social media sufficiently. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, also made that point.

My understanding is that we now have a timeline for the online harms Bill, with pre-legislative scrutiny expected immediately after the Queen’s Speech—before the Summer Recess—and that Second Reading would be expected after the Summer Recess. I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that my understanding of the timetable is correct.

We think that there are real inadequacies in Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act, and that the best way to deal with this matter is in full, and as a priority, in the online harms Bill. That will give time for the Commons to consider the amendments to this Bill that we have already sent back to it, including the supervision of dangerous perpetrators, ensuring that all women have access to life-saving services, and ensuring that child contact centres are regulated to protect our children.

I freely acknowledge that the decision we have taken to abstain on this matter has been a difficult one—but I think it would be wrong to give a misleading sense of certainty by passing this amendment, when that certainty is not merited by the Digital Economy Act. For that reason, we shall abstain on this vote.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, outlined on Monday when we began this debate, her Amendment 87A would require the Government to undertake an investigation of the impact of children’s access to online pornography on domestic abuse, and to review the commencement of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017.

Her Majesty’s Government are committed to ensuring that the objectives of Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act will be delivered by the online harms framework. Children will be at the heart of our new online safety Bill, which will bring in a new era of accountability for online services. I am afraid I cannot comment on the timings that the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, asked about, as announcements about the Queen’s Speech and other things have not yet been made. I am sorry to disappoint the noble Lord on that.

We are confident that the online safety Bill will provide much greater protection for children than would have been the case with Part 3 of the 2017 Act. Unlike that Act, the online harms regime will capture both the most visited pornography sites and pornography on social media, thereby covering the vast majority of sites where children are most likely to be exposed to pornography.

One of the criticisms of the 2017 Act was that its scope did not cover social media companies, where a considerable quantity of pornographic material is available to children. Research by the British Board of Film Classification published last year found that across a group of children aged between 11 and 17, 44% intentionally accessed pornography via a social media site, compared to 43% for dedicated pornography websites and 53% via an image or video search engine.

Crucially, however, just 7% of children accessed pornography only through dedicated pornography sites. Most children intentionally accessing pornography were doing so across a number of sources, including social media, as well as video-sharing platforms, fora, and via image or video search engines, the majority of which would not fall within scope of the Digital Economy Act, but will fall within the scope of online harms legislation.

Implementing Part 3 of the 2017 Act would therefore leave a significant gap in meeting the Government’s objective of preventing children from accessing pornography —an objective that has also been raised by noble Lords who have spoken in the debate. Our online harms proposals will achieve a more comprehensive approach and allow us to address children’s access to pornography in the round, and avoid children moving from one, more regulated, area of the internet to another, less regulated, area to access pornography.

In addition, recent technological changes could render Part 3 of the 2017 Act ineffective in protecting children if it were introduced as an interim measure. One of the Act’s enforcement powers was the power to require internet service providers to block access to material on non-compliant services. Internet service providers themselves have made it clear that they are no longer the sole gatekeepers to the internet. Current and future developments in the way the architecture of the internet functions mean that they may not always be able to offer effective blocking functions, which might make this power obsolete. These potential enforcement challenges could make age-verification very difficult to enforce via the 2017 Act, even as an interim measure.

The most recent prominent change is the introduction of DNS over HTTPS—that is a bit of a mouthful; it is also known as DoH—which, in specific implementation models, could provide an alternative route to access online content that bypasses the current filtering function of internet service providers. Other proposed internet encryption standards may in future limit even further the ability of providers to filter. The Government are actively engaging with the industry to ensure that the spread of DoH and future internet encryption standards do not cause unintended consequences. For example, specific implementation models of DoH could circumnavigate the current filtering mechanisms of internet service providers, which are used to block access to child abuse content.

The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Belmont, raised the definition of internet service providers in the Digital Economy Act. A reference in legislation to internet service providers or similar is usually applied in the traditional sense, requiring the major internet service providers to block access to certain websites. The Secretary of State would have to prepare revised guidance to the regulator to implement Part 3 of the 2017 Act. As the noble Lord has said, this guidance, coupled with the broader terminology of an “internet access service”, as used in European Union legislation, might offer sufficient flexibility to extend the duty for internet service providers to cover other means of accessing the internet, where technically feasible. However, the key point that my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford set out in her letter to the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, was that, given the evolving nature of how internet services are provided, this approach lacks the necessary certainty.

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Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
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The Minister has continued to suggest that it will take a long time to implement Part 3. Why would that be the case if the Government used the BBFC as the regulator, as everything is in order in that regard, save the need to formally redesignate it, which Section 17 of the Digital Economy Act defines as needing only 40 days?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I hope that my noble friend in her letter, and I in my contribution, explained the reasons why we think it would take so long, because it has been de-designated. As the noble Lord will know, work is already going on in relation to Ofcom in preparation for the online safety Bill which, for the reasons I have outlined, we think better addresses the concerns that he and other noble Lords have raised in this debate.

Lord Morrow Portrait Lord Morrow (DUP) [V]
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My question is quite similar. Why is it more important not to have the BBFC and leave women and children with no protection at all for three years? As has already been said, if you used the BBFC, it would just take over three months to have that.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope that in my contribution I covered the points about the role that Ofcom can and will play in the new online harms framework, including the point I made at the end of my speech about the enforcement action that it will be able to take, not just in the UK but overseas as well.

Baroness Benjamin Portrait Baroness Benjamin (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, both on Monday night and today, and the Minister for his response. Today, we are confronted with another pandemic, one that ruins lives and for some is the cause of death. That pandemic is violence by men against women. I am very grateful to all those who have spoken in support of my amendment, which attempts to deal with this pandemic. I am also touched and encouraged by the huge amount of support I have received from NGOs and members of the public. I am grateful to them.

I am, of course, very disappointed by the Government’s response, especially as the Minister cannot confirm that the online harms Bill will be debated soon. I am disappointed that, even though those who spoke so passionately in support of my amendment made it clear that we are not opposing the online harms Bill—I want it to come to the House as soon as possible—so much of the Minister’s response was devoted to that issue. I am also disappointed the Minister’s response addressed Part 3 as though it was narrowly concerned with child protection. Of course it is about child protection, but it is also very relevant to stopping domestic violence, because it would make it less likely that children are exposed to pornographic websites as they move into adulthood with the expectation that violence is a normal part of sexual relationships.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and speaker after speaker have highlighted the fact that, if Part 3 had been implemented, we would today have a regulator that would take robust action against any website showing illegal, violent, extreme pornography in the UK. As we contemplate what is happening in our country at the moment and the concerns about violence against women, the very least the Government could do would be implement Part 3 so that we can create an environment that is less hostile to women by tackling illegal, violent, extreme pornography on pornographic websites.

The Minister also said that it would take far longer than I have suggested to implement Part 3. Apart from the fact that it would take less time to implement primary legislation that has already been passed than primary legislation that has not even been published, the Minister failed to engage with the very serious point that I, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, and others made that Part 3 could be in place in months if the BBFC was used as a regulator. It is capable of doing that. It is all set up to do that.

At the present time, the argument that the Government do not want to use the BBFC because they prefer Ofcom is not convincing. Nor is the argument about changes in technology; this does not hold water. The Government can use Ofcom as a regulator for the online harms Bill legislation when it is implemented, but, as a powerful open letter to the Prime Minister published today by women’s organisations makes clear, if the Government try to suggest that the safety of women should be needlessly compromised over the next few years just because they do not want to designate the BBFC as an interim regulator, that will go down very badly with the public. The public have told me that, and Members across the House have seen what the public feel about that.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Grey-Thompson and Lady Finlay, reminded us of the evidence of how the compulsive use of pornography can affect the brain and the decision-making process of the user over time. This is something we have to take very seriously indeed.

The Prime Minister quite rightly says he wants to protect women and children from violent attacks. My amendment will allow him to do so immediately, by enforcing legislation that has already been passed. Waiting on the online harms Bill means we will continue to create a conveyor belt of sexual predators who commit violence against women because of the porn they watch as boys and men.

There are times in life when we have to do the right thing, especially in the context of the current outpouring of concern about women’s safety. I believe that, regardless of what great protections an online harms Act eventually provides, history will judge that, from the perspective of the best interest of the safety of women and children in the second half of 2021, and 2022 and 2023, the non-implementation of Part 3 was a grave mistake. This is why I simply cannot let this matter go. I would be failing in my duty as a parliamentarian whose life has been devoted to promoting the best interests of women and children. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I wish to test the opinion of this House.

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If noble Lords or Members of the other place do not think we should wait for the Law Commission’s report, there is an imminent legislative opportunity to make sure that hatred of women is treated in every way as a hate crime. We could work cross-party to amend the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is being debated in the Commons, to make misogyny a hate crime in every sense of the term. Even if the noble Baroness is not convinced by the Government’s concession, we do not need to rush this amendment through now when the ideal legislative opportunity is at our fingertips.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, we are clearly not going to finish our scrutiny of this Bill before 6 pm, which is the time on the Order Paper suggested for the Statement which follows. Given that there is quite a lot of business still to get through, I gently appeal to noble Lords for brevity in their contributions.

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Moved by
89: Clause 73, page 58, line 19, at end insert—
“( ) section (Strangulation or suffocation),”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Newlove that provides for an offence of strangulation or suffocation.
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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The speech, language and communication needs of victims of domestic abuse have to be properly addressed. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for bringing this issue to the Floor of the House, as he did in Committee. He is absolutely right to do so.

The noble Lord’s amendment is important. If we are to have effective domestic abuse support for disabled people, it must be barrier-free and truly accessible. As the noble Lord told us, the ability to communicate is a vital skill. Those with communication difficulties are particularly vulnerable, which is why we need to ensure that local authorities, the police and all other agencies are able to address and ensure that they have provisions in place to make sure that people can make their points effectively and be understood, having their concerns met and needs addressed.

Today and in our previous debate, my noble friend Lady Andrews made the case for providing that extra support and ensuring that it is properly addressed in the guidance. I endorse my noble friend’s call for the guidance to be explicit, and I hope that the Minister can be absolutely explicit on that. The noble Lord, Lord Shinkwin, drew our attention to the needs of disabled people, which can be multiple and complex, and how effective communication plays such an important part, including the ability to communicate to public authorities. As the noble Lord said, just think if we could not communicate—how could we get anything done? It is not right that a victim of abuse is not listened to or heard.

My noble friend Lord Mann made very important points from his experience as a Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw of failings of schools and the social services in north Notts. I am sure that those failures are going to take place all over the country, and that is just one example. That is why we need to ensure that those issues are addressed. My noble friend Lady Whitaker drew attention to the particular risk that children find themselves in.

I hope that the Minister can address those issues; I am sure that he will be very aware of the potential of a vote on this amendment. He will not want to tempt the noble Lord to do that.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I pay tribute to all noble Lords who have spoken in this short but powerful debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said in opening it, noble Lords bring a wealth of experience to the scrutiny of Bills and, in a short number of contributions, they have done that tonight—whether it is the noble Lord himself through his work as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Speech and Language Difficulties, the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, in her role as chairman of the National Mental Capacity Forum or my noble friend Lord Shinkwin and the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, who speak from first-hand experience. Then there is the noble Lord, Lord Mann, with his constituency experience, and others. The noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker, reminded us that she speaks as a stammerer, just like the new President of the United States of America—and, as it is his birthday today, like my uncle, who is also a stammerer. I hope that people watching this debate will be inspired by their examples as well as by the content of what they have said.

As noble Lords have all rightly said, people with speech, language and communication needs can be especially at risk of harm and, of course, domestic abuse, as well as facing additional barriers in accessing services. As we said in Committee, we know that this is not a niche issue, nor should it be treated as such, especially in the context of domestic abuse, so we are grateful for the opportunity to continue the debate today.

In July 2020, the Government published the draft statutory guidance that will accompany the Bill, which made specific reference to special educational needs and disabilities. The Government have engaged widely on this already, including through a specific working group focusing on disability, deafness, and learning disabilities. I am pleased to say that, thanks to that engagement and the further engagement that we have had, including that which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, has had directly with officials involved in drafting, we will revise the guidance to make further express reference to speech, language and communication needs, in relation to not just those with special educational needs but the links between domestic abuse and those with communication needs, specifically children and young people. I am pleased to say that we will cover the points on which noble Lords have rightly pressed me again this evening.

We recognise the impact that domestic abuse can have on the development of children’s speech and communication. We know that children can express themselves in a variety of ways, and it is important, as noble Lords have said, that we are all mindful of that —especially in the context of domestic abuse. For instance, children may display behaviour that might seem aggressive to mainstream professionals when, really, their communication needs are not being tailored appropriately. We are very clear that it is important that we give children and young people the right support as and when they need it because of their vulnerabilities. That is why the guidance issued under Clause 73 includes specific sections on children and how best to support what we know can be their unique needs.

We know that domestic abuse has a devastating impact on all its victims, and that recognising the needs of individual victims is essential, which is why the statutory guidance goes into this particular detail. The guidance also details how perpetrators can exploit these communication needs and requirements. Whether it is through a perpetrator insisting that they are the only person to interpret, preventing access to an external interpreter or removing the victim’s hearing aids, these are horrific tactics, which we know are used to perpetuate abuse, and they will be covered in the guidance.

The Government continue to prioritise improving speech and language outcomes, based on early identification and targeted support. I have previously referred to Public Health England’s excellent guidance, drafted in conjunction with the Department for Education. The guidance outlines the system-wide approach for commissioning early years support on speech, language and communication services. Additionally, speech, language and communication services for children and young people are covered by joint commissioning arrangements set out in the special educational needs and disabilities code of practice. Education, health services, local authorities and youth offending teams can come together to assess needs and agree a local offer. Joint commissioning gives agencies the opportunity to consider the wider factors and interdependencies, such as domestic abuse, and design services accordingly.

In conclusion, we recognise that speech, language and communication needs are extremely important, which is why they will be expressly covered in guidance. There is a wealth of guidance already available, and we intend to augment this with the statutory guidance to be issued under Clause 73. That guidance will be subject to formal consultation following Royal Assent, and I shall ensure that the all-party group which the noble Lord jointly chairs has an opportunity to take part in that process. The forthcoming domestic abuse strategy will afford a further opportunity for us to ensure that we are adopting a whole-system approach when tackling this crime and these unique needs.

I hope that in the light of my reassurances and with my renewed thanks for his and other noble Lords’ engagement on this important issue, the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

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Moved by
94: Clause 74, page 59, line 23, after “section” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress) or”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films.
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Moved by
97: Clause 75, page 59, line 35, after “section” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress) or”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment is consequential on the proposed new Clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films.
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Moved by
103: Clause 79, page 61, line 23, after “Sections” insert “(Threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films with intent to cause distress),”
Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment provides for the proposed new clause in the name of Baroness Morgan of Cotes, which extends the offence under section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to threats to disclose private sexual photographs and films, to come into force two months after Royal Assent.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I first declare that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, chair of the Heart of Medway housing association and a non-executive director of MHS Homes Ltd.

I am pleased to offer my support for Amendment 66B, proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Randall of Uxbridge. As the noble Lord set out, victims of domestic abuse can often endure lifelong risk from perpetrators, even when a relationship comes to an end. The noble Lord is doing a good job of highlighting that, where victims want to get away from their perpetrators, the actions of some local authorities can make that difficult or impossible and that that should not be the case. The noble Lord has highlighted a very important issue.

I was delighted to add my name to Amendment 87C, proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and if she is minded to divide the House, then these Benches will support her. In many ways, the amendment deals with the other side of the coin in respect of tenancies. Where a victim wants to stay in their home and a landlord is either the local authority or a private registered provider of social housing, the amendment would give the victim the power to apply to the county court for an order to remove the abuser as a joint tenant, and clearly sets out the approach the court must take.

Both these amendments are about enabling the victim to make the choice they want to, putting the power of choice in their hands—the choice that affords them and their children the protection they need and want. We all know that domestic abuse is all about power and control, and these amendments are about taking steps to address the balance and support victims, so that they can start rebuilding their lives. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, for his engagement on the issue; it is very much appreciated.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, set out carefully why the option to wait and see what happens in Scotland is not particularly attractive to us. If we are going to accept the offer of consultation, we will need very clear timescales. I have raised many times before the whole range of government consultations that we never seem to get to the end of, so I do not think a consultation in itself is sufficient; we need very clear timescales. I will wait to hear the noble Lord’s response, but I repeat: if the noble Baroness wants to test the opinion of the House, then these Benches will support her.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, these two amendments deal with two separate aspects of housing law. The noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, asked why they have been glued together and why we could not take Amendment 66B with 66A. The simple reason is that it was tabled too late to do so, as my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge accepted in his speech on the previous day of Report, but I am very glad that we are able to take it as first business today, on the third day of Report, and pick up where we left off.

As my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge explained, his Amendment 66B seeks to prevent local authorities applying a local connection test to victims of domestic abuse when applying for social housing. Since 2012, local authorities have had the power to decide who qualifies for social housing in their area. Many local authorities use their qualification power to apply a local connection test to social housing, and statutory guidance published in 2013 generally encourages them to do so. However, the guidance also advises local authorities to consider making appropriate exceptions, including for people moving into an area to escape violence or harm. Additional statutory guidance was published in 2018 which strongly encourages authorities not to apply a local connection test to victims of domestic abuse who have escaped to a refuge or other form of safe temporary accommodation.

Despite this, as my noble friend pointed out, there is anecdotal evidence from the domestic abuse sector that some local authorities continue to disqualify victims of domestic abuse from social housing where they do not have a local connection. I understand and sympathise with the motivation underlying the amendment, which is to put that matter beyond doubt. However, the Government have some concerns with my noble friend’s amendment as drafted. A key concern is that the new clause it proposes would prevent a local authority considering the location of the abuser. We believe that that is an important consideration which the local authority should be able to take into account to ensure that the victim does not inadvertently end up living close to their abuser, which of course would undermine the purpose of the amendment and what my noble friend is seeking to achieve.

We have, however, listened carefully to and reflected on the points put forward by my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge on the use of a local connection test. We want to make absolutely sure that victims and survivors of domestic abuse who need to move to another local authority area are not put at a disadvantage when seeking a social home. I am pleased to be able to give a commitment today that we will consult on regulations to prevent local authorities applying a local connection to victims of domestic abuse applying for social housing. The consultation will consider the scope of regulations and the circumstances in which the exemption would apply. We believe that this level of detail is best left to secondary legislation, and we have existing powers to make such regulations.

Consultation will provide the opportunity to engage with the domestic abuse sector, survivors and local authorities, to follow up on the anecdotal evidence which my noble friend has outlined, and to ensure that all their interests are considered and that the regulations achieve the desired aim of improving the protections for victims of domestic abuse.

Turning to Amendment 87C, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has explained, this seeks to allow victims of domestic abuse who have a joint social tenancy with their perpetrator to transfer the tenancy into their own name. It also seeks to prevent the perpetrator ending the tenancy unilaterally. I am grateful to the noble Baroness and other noble Lords for bringing this issue to our attention again, and for the constructive conversations and engagement that we have had on this issue since Committee. We recognise and are sympathetic to the concerns which lie behind this amendment. We understand that, in the case of domestic abuse, the rules on terminating periodic joint tenancies may have the potential for perpetrators to exert further control over their victims. The amendment is intended to address this problem and enable the survivor to remain in the family home.

The proposed new clause would apply to social tenancies—both local authority and housing association ones. Most social tenants have lifetime tenancies, meaning that the tenant cannot be evicted provided that they comply with the terms of the tenancy. For this reason, a social tenancy can be an extremely valuable asset. That is why we are including provisions in the Bill which seek to provide security of tenure for victims of domestic abuse who have a lifetime tenancy and are granted a new tenancy by a local authority for reasons connected to that abuse.

Currently, where any joint tenant of a periodic tenancy serves a notice to quit, the law provides that the whole tenancy ends and that the landlord can seek possession of the property. This is a long-standing rule, established through case law and recently upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2014 case of Sims v Dacorum Borough Council. The rule seeks to balance the interests of each joint tenant as well as those of the landlord. This means that if a victim of domestic abuse has a joint tenancy with the perpetrator and has fled their home to escape abuse, they would be able to end the tenancy to ensure that they are no longer bound to a tenancy with their abuser.

When we debated this issue in Committee, I explained that the Government had several concerns with the amendment that had been tabled. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham and all the other noble Lords who have spoken today for meeting me to discuss those concerns in greater detail with officials—I thank them too for their time and work on this. I note that the new amendment seeks to address some of the concerns that we outlined and discussed. In particular, the amendment now provides for notice of the application to be given to the perpetrator, the landlord and any other tenant. In addition, it deals with the issue of joint and several liability by providing that the perpetrator remains responsible for any rent arrears or other liabilities accrued before the court order for transfer is made.

However, we continue to have some concerns about the amendment, even as redrafted. It cuts across a number of long-established principles of common law—for instance the principle that an individual cannot be “removed” from the joint tenancy or cannot relinquish their share, as well as the rule on the termination of periodic joint tenancies, which I mentioned a moment ago. Given that these rules have wider application, we believe that it is important that any changes be considered in the round.

The amendment would introduce some new concepts to an already complex area involving not just common law, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, mentioned, but housing law, contract law, family law, and matrimonial law. The history of litigation in the field of housing in particular means that we would want to consider very carefully the introduction of concepts of removal from a tenancy and a tenancy continuing as if one joint tenant had never been a party to it in order to think through the possible implications fully. I hope noble Lords will understand how important it is that any changes do not have unintended consequences in this complex area of legislation.

A key concern is that the amendment still fails to provide for how the interest of third parties might be taken into account by the court, including the landlord, any other joint tenant, or any dependent children. It is for landlords to decide whether to grant a tenancy for their property and on what basis. They may decide to grant a joint tenancy for a number of reasons, including affordability and because joint tenants are jointly and severally liable for paying rent or looking after the property. However, the amendment would mean that the number of tenants could be changed without consideration or consent from the landlord as the owner of the property.

We absolutely concur that it is essential for survivors of domestic abuse to have access to a safe and stable home. However, social landlords have to balance difficult decisions. In some cases where a property may no longer be suitable, or indeed safe, for a survivor to remain it might be more appropriate for a social landlord to offer a survivor of domestic abuse a tenancy on a different property.

In addition, the amendment could result in interference with a housing association landlord’s own rights under human rights law. Since this engages other parties’ human rights, including those of the perpetrator, we need to carefully consider the right approach to balance those rights, and to ensure that any interference is proportionate and justified. We also have some concerns about whether the proposals are sufficient for the purposes of the perpetrator’s Article 8 right to respect for home and family life. I completely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, that the victim’s rights should be uppermost in our minds, but these are considerations that a court must take into account in possession proceedings. In addition, the requirement for the court to make an order “if not opposed” is unusual.

We have listened carefully to and reflected on the points raised by this amendment and during our previous debates. We want to consider the different issues and interests carefully, including the human rights case law that the noble Baroness mentioned, to ensure that any solution has the intended outcomes for all parties concerned. That is why I am pleased to give a further commitment today, as I did in my letter to noble Lords, that we will carry out a public consultation on this issue to help us better understand the complex legal and practical issues involved. Consultation will provide the opportunity to engage with the domestic abuse sector, survivors and victims, and local authorities to ensure that their interests are all considered, and that any changes to the law achieve the desired aim of improving protections for victims of domestic abuse.

The public consultation would also allow us to consider other solutions that have been put forward to this problem. For example, as the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham mentioned, the Scottish domestic abuse Bill seeks to introduce a new ground for eviction that would enable social landlords to remove the perpetrator of domestic abuse from the property and transfer it into the survivor’s name. That has not yet been enacted by the Scottish Parliament, but if and when it is we will want to see how it works, albeit that I acknowledge the point correctly put by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, about doing that swiftly.

I understand that noble Lords will be concerned about the extra time that this consultation will take, so I will say something about timing. We would seek to issue the consultation this summer, following Royal Assent to the Bill. We would expect to carry out a standard 12-week consultation to allow for proper consideration of these complex issues, then consider the responses and publish a government response as soon as possible in the new year. Thereafter, we would seek to legislate, if appropriate, at the earliest available opportunity. I am happy to provide that answer.

I hope that provides sufficient reassurance to my noble friend Lord Randall of Uxbridge and the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, on how seriously we take these issues. We are committed to consult on both of them and to take forward the outcome of those consultations as soon as practicable thereafter. I hope that, having given those commitments, they will be content not to press their amendments.

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I make it clear at the outset that, if the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, divides the House, the Opposition Benches will strongly support her amendment. The amendment calls for the Secretary of State to ensure that the personal data of a victim of domestic abuse in the UK is processed only

“for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance related to domestic abuse”

and not for immigration control.

Government policy is clear: victims of crime should be treated without discrimination. Therefore, the separation of immigration enforcement and protection of domestic abuse victims who are migrant women must be delineated. A failure to do this puts migrant women at risk of the double jeopardy of both danger from their abusers and fear of deportation.

The Istanbul convention, the landmark international treaty on violence against women and girls which the Government have signed and are committed to ratifying, requires in Articles 4 and 59 that victims are protected regardless of their immigration status. Still, FOI requests reveal that 60% of police forces in England and Wales share victims’ details with the Home Office—prioritising immigration control over victims’ safety and access to justice.

While some services may need to share data to ascertain an individual’s immigration status and right to access the service—for example, some NHS services—there is no legal requirement for any data sharing with the Home Office related to domestic abuse victims. Without any national policy guidance on this practice, the police approach to safeguarding migrant victims of crime will remain inconsistent.

The blind spots contained in this Bill are resolved by this amendment. I fear that this blind spot enables offenders and abusers to use police involvement as a threat to their victims, rather than the source of protection that it should be. Various countries around the world have demonstrated that firewalls can be and are being implemented in different ways to create a separation between public services and immigration enforcement. It is entirely possible that the training and cross-sector relationships we are calling for through this Bill can establish safe reporting pathways that include access to specialist support services and legal advice to address a victim’s immigration status, as necessary.

Another consequence of putting immigration control above the safety of victims is that perpetrators can commit these crimes with impunity—a risk not only for survivors but for wider communities. Better trust in the police to protect victims of abuse and investigate crime for migrant women will improve responses for all survivors and the public.

I challenge the Government to establish safe reporting pathways by incorporating a clear statutory obligation preventing public authorities and other support services sharing data with the Home Office for the purpose of immigration control, to ensure that safe reporting is available to all women, regardless of their immigration status.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and the other signatories of this amendment for setting out their case for a firewall so that the personal data of domestic abuse victims which are given or used for seeking or receiving support are not used for immigration control purposes. I was glad to have the opportunity to discuss the issue with the noble Baroness and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Wilcox of Newport, and others after Committee.

While I appreciate the case they are making, the Government remain of the view that what is provided for in Amendment 67 would hinder the safeguarding of victims of domestic abuse and that it is premature given the process set out by the policing inspectorate following its report on the recent super-complaint about this.

I fully understand the sentiment behind the amendment, which is to ensure that migrant victims of domestic abuse come forward to report that abuse to the police and are not deterred by concerns that immigration enforcement action might be taken against them. As my noble friend Lady Williams of Trafford made clear in Committee, our overriding priority is to protect the public and all victims of crime, regardless of their immigration status. Guidance issued by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, which was updated last year, makes it clear that victims of domestic abuse should be treated as victims first and foremost.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council remains clear in its view that information sharing between the police and Immigration Enforcement is in the interest of the victim. Sharing information can help prevent perpetrators of abuse coercing and controlling their victims because of their insecure or unknown immigration status. In such circumstances, bringing the victim into the immigration system can only benefit them. This amendment would prevent that and could cut against other assistance that can be provided to domestic abuse survivors.

It might assist the House if I give one example of the possible unintended effects of this amendment. We will shortly be debating Amendment 70 in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Gloucester. That amendment seeks to expand the destitute domestic violence concession so that any migrant victim of domestic abuse can apply for temporary leave to remain while making an application for indefinite leave to remain. I will leave the debate about the merits of Amendment 70 to my noble friend and the debate which will follow. For the purposes of this debate, I submit that an application under the destitute domestic violence concession is, in the words of Amendment 67, a request for

“support or assistance related to domestic abuse”.

Under this amendment, the Home Office could not lawfully process any application under the DDVC because the applicant’s personal data could be used for an immigration control purpose. I fully accept that that is not what the sponsors of this amendment have in mind but, were it to be added to the Bill, I fear that would be one effect.

More broadly, I hope that noble Lords will understand that the Government are duty-bound to maintain an effective immigration system, not least because of their obligations under the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, which permits the Home Office to share and receive information for the purposes of crime prevention and detection and effective immigration control. As such, it was particularly disappointing to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox of Newport, say that the Labour Benches would vote in favour of this amendment, were it put to a Division. We have an obligation to protect our public services and to safeguard the most vulnerable people from exploitation because of their immigration status.

The public rightly expect that people in this country should be subject to our laws, and it is right that, when people with an irregular immigration status are identified, they should be supported to come in line with the law and, where possible, to regularise their stay. Immigration enforcement staff routinely help migrant victims of domestic abuse and other crimes by directing them to legal advice to help regularise their stay.

Articles 6 and 9 of the general data protection regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018 provide the statutory framework within which this information is exchanged. I remind noble Lords that the Government are committed to reviewing the current data-sharing arrangements in relation to victims of domestic abuse.

It was not very long ago that, in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, your Lordships’ House approved legislation establishing a system of police super-complaints. The first super-complaint to be considered under this new system was on this very issue. The outcome was published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services in December 2020. It made eight recommendations in total: five for the National Police Chiefs’ Council, two for the Home Office and one jointly shared between them. HMICFRS said that the Government should respond within six months—that is, by June—and we are committed to doing just that. However, having legislated for the super-complaint process, we should not now undermine it by not allowing it to run its proper course.

It is only right that we take account of the recommendations in the report in proper detail. In response to the report, we have committed to reviewing the current arrangements, and, as I have said, we will publish the outcome of the review by June. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London lamented the fact that this would be too late for this Bill, but I reassure her that it is highly probably that the outcome of the review can be implemented through further updates to the National Police Chiefs’ Council guidance or other administrative means—so action can be taken swiftly.

We understand the concerns that have been raised about migrant victims who do not feel safe in reporting their abusers to the authorities for fear of enforcement action being taken. The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, has proposed undertaking further research into the experiences of this cohort of victims, which we are committed to doing. We will engage with domestic abuse organisations to understand those concerns and assess what more we can do to allay those fears. We welcome the input of all noble Lords as we conduct this research.

In conclusion, while we understand the concerns that lie behind it, we respectfully believe that this is the wrong amendment and at the wrong time. If adopted, it would prevent victims of abuse from obtaining the support that they need, whether under the DDVC or other routes, and it prejudges the outcome of the super-complaint process, which was endorsed by your Lordships’ House just four years ago. I would be glad to undertake to keep the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and others informed about the progress of the review and to discuss its conclusions with them. On that basis, I hope that they might yet be willing to withdraw their amendment today.

Baroness Meacher Portrait Baroness Meacher (CB) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I thank most of all the many noble Lords who have contributed so powerfully in support of Amendment 67. I also thank the Minister for his response, but I do not accept at all his view that it would reduce the support or protection for victims of domestic abuse. It very clearly talks about the information process

“for the purpose of that person requesting or receiving support or assistance”.

Obviously, that information being passed from the police to the immigration officials would be unacceptable under this amendment. On the other hand, if the victim were to go to the immigration officials with a representative and with their information, saying, “I want you to sort out my immigration status”, the immigration officials could of course proceed absolutely without any problem. As such, this is a bit of dancing on a pin, if I may put it that way. Basically, I do not accept that at all.

The Minister referred to working to allay the fears of victims of domestic abuse. This is not about allaying fears; it is about removing a very real risk for these very vulnerable victims of domestic abuse. As such, simply trying to allay fears really does not deal with the problem at all.

The Minister suggested keeping us informed; certainly, that would be helpful, and I hope that Ministers would do that. However, in view of the very disappointing response of the Minister, I want to test the opinion of the House.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
May I say that I also wanted to speak to the group beginning with Amendment 2, but I mistakenly was unable to put my name down? But it was an honour to be present in the Chamber to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, as she powerfully addressed the Chamber and courageously stated her personal experience. I recognise the point that she has argued, and accept that there are certainly many complexities which become part of the continuous battle over children in separation and divorce. Regrettably, I am not in support of her clause. I worked with women’s NGOs and refuges—
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Baroness is now speaking to the amendment that comes in the next group. If she would constrain her remarks to the amendments in the first group, that would be appreciated.

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Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl) [V]
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, I have no hesitation in supporting the aims of this amendment standing in the name of my friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, and others. I feel very strongly that we will listen—I certainly will—to what the Minister is going to say, because there are difficulties. I have listened to some of the opposition to the amendment, although there seems to be a very general agreement on the principles. It has now become a very wide-ranging Domestic Abuse Bill, so I really need to be satisfied that the aims and principles of what we are trying to do in this amendment, and what the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, is trying to do, will actually be satisfied without the amendment.

I believe that we should use the Bill to protect children and their victim mothers or fathers from psychological abusive and coercive control. During my 30 years as a Member of Parliament, I had many cases of parents, male and female, coming to see me and telling me in harrowing tones what was happening. They did not use the words “parental alienation”—it is a very Americanised term, which I personally do not like. But I listened to the some of the ways in which they talked, very simply—[Inaudible.]

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I think we might have lost the connection to the noble Baroness, Lady Hoey, so we will go to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.

Baroness Butler-Sloss Portrait Baroness Butler-Sloss (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I understand and sympathise with those who have been the victims of a spouse or partner who has turned the children of their family against them—of course it takes place. It is an intensely sad situation, deeply unfair to the children as well as to the victim parent.

As a family judge, I tried a number of such cases, and I have to tell noble Lords that I very nearly wept in court when all efforts to change the children’s attitude had failed. I remain with a vivid recollection of some of those cases. But we need to recognise that there are two different situations: there are the children who witness the abuse of a parent against the other parent or have suffered from hearing it, and there are the children who suffer from the parent who is alienating them from the other parent. That is the background, and it is important that judges understand the context and can differentiate between the absent parent, who by his or her actions has forfeited the right to have a proper relationship with the children, and those who have been wrongly and unjustly deprived of such a relationship.

As I said in Committee, this requires judicial training. I have reflected since Committee on what the training should be and the extent to which it is already carried out, and I have done a little research. In my view, it is already very well provided by the Judicial College, which is chaired by a Court of Appeal judge. It is divided into different committees, and one such committee deals exclusively with family issues.

When I was a High Court judge, I was for several years the chairman of the family committee of the predecessor of the college. Newly appointed judges have mandatory training before they can try family cases, and there is regular, continuing training for family judges and magistrates.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am terribly sorry to interrupt the noble and learned Baroness, but I think she may be speaking to a later amendment, which we will reach in the ninth group. We are currently speaking to the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Meyer, on parental alienation.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, we still have another nine groups of amendments to cover if we are to hit today’s target for the first day of Report. Given that we will need to sit late in order to try and do that, I suggest that now might be an appropriate time for a short break.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for setting out why she has tabled this amendment again, which would remove the upper limit of 10 advisory board members to be appointed by the domestic abuse commissioner. It is certainly important that the advisory board should be representative of a broad range of different groups and experts who have responsibilities for responding to domestic abuse. However, the Government submit that we need to limit the numbers of the board, not because we want to fetter the discretion of the commissioner but to ensure that the board is sufficiently large to be representative but not so large that it becomes unwieldy.

We consider that the maximum membership of 10 is the right number to ensure that the board can discharge its functions efficiently and effectively. I appreciate the acknowledgement by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that 10 is a reasonable number, even if he supports the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. This upper limit does not, of course, stop the commissioner from also seeking advice from other experts, but the advisory board itself needs to be of a manageable size and small enough to provide focused support to her. To answer the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, others could of course attend the advisory board meetings if the commissioner so wished, even if they were not members of it.

As I indicated in Committee, a member of the advisory board could represent the interests of more than one group, ensuring an even wider range of representation. For example, she or he could represent the interests of victims of domestic abuse while also representing the interests of specialist charities.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, noted, in addition to the board, the commissioner will be required through her terms and conditions of employment to establish a victims and survivors advisory group to engage directly with victims and survivors in its work. I hope noble Lords will appreciate the importance of putting victims and survivors at the centre of that work. The commissioner may also establish any other groups as she sees fit, so could—as the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, asks—seek additional advice if she wanted to do so.

So the Government remain of the view that Clause 12 strikes the right balance between setting out certain minimum requirements regarding the membership of the advisory board while affording sufficient latitude to the commissioner to appoint one which can support her in the exercise of her functions. However, we would certainly be happy to keep this under review. On that basis, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords who have supported this amendment. As my noble friend described, circumstances can change. She put the position very clearly.

The noble Lord has just said that the matter will be kept “under review”. I realised as this short debate went on that this was one of the very rare occasions when I wished that the matter was dealt with in regulations rather than in primary legislation, because it would have been so much easier to change the numbers through secondary legislation.

Despite comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and by me, the Minister used the terms “representative” and “represent” throughout his response. This is precisely something that continues to concern me—and the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, as he said. The Minister said that the Government do not want to fetter the commissioner’s discretion, but, of course, that is exactly what the clause does.

The dynamics of groups is something which interests me—how a group develops ways of working and works most creatively. Other experts who may be asked to give advice would not be part of a cohesive unit. I think that a cohesive unit where members are able to spark off one another and bring to the table various parts of experience—including of life, as well as of the direct subject matter—makes for the most effectiveness. Sometimes disagreeing makes for effectiveness, too. Of course, a huge group will function in a different way. I am not anticipating a very big group. I have chaired for quite a long time a group of 25; that was too many, but it was too many for the particular task rather than too many, period.

I am actually more gloomy about this than when I started, particularly having heard the emphasis on representation. I can see that we are not going to change the Government’s mind, but perhaps I might ask: after keeping the number under review, if the Government think they have got it wrong, what mechanism—other than a new Bill, or finding a slot in a Bill within which it could be in scope—could they use to implement what they might think was a better number? I do not think I ought to ask the Minister to respond to that now, but a letter following today’s debate would be welcome. I can see he is not leaping up, which is probably wise—oh, he is.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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For the benefit of other noble Lords as well, I am happy to provide a quick response. We will certainly take that point away and discuss it further. The noble Baroness is right that as it is in primary legislation then primary legislation would be needed. The Government submit that the number we are putting forward is reasonable. If the experience of this and future commissioners suggests that it is not then we would of course discuss that with them, and it would be a matter for Parliament to change the primary legislation if it so wished. Still, for the reasons that I set out, the Government consider that the number that we are putting forward, 10, will not bring about the problems that noble Lords have anticipated.

Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD) [V]
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I thank the Minister for that. I hope we do not feel an urgent need to review this issue. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, that we share her objective that children should not be put at a disadvantage if they are compelled to move home as a result of domestic abuse. It is, of course, right that they should be able to access the medical attention that they need and to secure a new school place quickly, and that any gaps in their education must be kept to an absolute minimum.

In relation to Amendment 11, as the noble Baroness acknowledged, it is a key principle of the National Health Service that access to healthcare is on the basis of clinical need. When patients move home and between hospitals, the NHS should take previous waiting time into account and ensure, wherever possible, that these patients are not disadvantaged as a result. Clinicians have the training and expertise to make decisions about clinical prioritisation so that patients who require urgent treatment can expect to be seen more quickly. Of course, waiting times may vary across the country and between services. Different services experience different challenges in local demand, which can affect waiting times, and it is important that there is local flexibility to manage this. However, regardless of circumstance, clinical commissioning groups and providers have a duty to provide services within the maximum waiting times set out in the NHS constitution, as I set out in Committee and as has been noted again today.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Burt and Lady Brinton, asked about the Armed Forces covenant. The framework of the Armed Forces covenant sets out society’s obligation to members of our Armed Forces and their families, with an aim to prevent disadvantages that they face due to the unique nature of service in our Armed Forces. As part of this promise, families of serving personnel

“should retain their relative position on any NHS waiting list, if moved around the UK due to the service person being posted.”

As I set out earlier, the decision still rests with the clinician to make decisions about their clinical priority in relation to the local population and services available. That is the core principle throughout NHS services.

Local healthcare services are commissioned based on an assessment of the needs of the population they serve, and tackling health inequalities is a core part of those considerations. It will be important for the NHS to learn from experience, including the concerning accounts that have been highlighted by noble Lords both in Committee and this evening, so that barriers to accessing services are removed. We will certainly support and encourage that.

I should say at this point that NHS England is developing an action plan to tackle domestic abuse that will raise awareness among NHS staff. I am sure that staff have the skills to identify and refer and, indeed, to address the issue of NHS staff who are themselves victims or perpetrators. One of the tenets of the action plan will be that any and all victims and survivors of domestic abuse and their children will not be unduly disadvantaged in accessing physical and mental health services when they are forced to move to new accommodation in a different area.

Moreover, at a national level, the NHS long-term plan sets out a number of measures to improve access to services, about which I spoke in Committee, such as extra GP appointments, and new waiting time standards for children and young people for eating disorders and for those experiencing a first episode of psychosis. On top to this, at least 345,000 additional children and young people aged up to 25 will be able to access support via NHS-funded mental health services and school or college-based mental health support teams by 2023-24.

Furthermore, at the spending review in December, the Government announced £1 billion of public money to address backlogs and tackle long waiting lists by facilitating up to a million extra checks, scans and operations. On Friday, the Government announced how millions more children and young people will have access to significantly expanded mental health services, backed by £79 million of public money. This announcement means that nearly 3 million children in England will be supported by mental health support teams in schools, around 22,500 more children and young people will be able to access community mental health services, and 2,000 more children and young people will have access to eating disorder services.

Unlike Amendment 11, Amendment 76 seeks to make provision for both England and Wales, and as education is a devolved matter in Wales, we should not be legislating in your Lordships’ House without the consent of the Senedd. My comments therefore address Amendment 76 as it applies to England only.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, has again eloquently explained how children fleeing with a parent from their abuser should not be put at a disadvantage and should not have to wait a long time for a new school place. We agree, which is why the Government are embarking on reform of the English School Admissions Code, which makes better provision for in-year applications and introduces new requirements, including mandatory deadlines for decision-making in relation to in-year admissions and in respect of local authorities’ fair access protocols, helping to ensure that vulnerable school children are allocated a school place as soon as possible. Under the revised code, children fleeing domestic abuse will be eligible to be placed in a school through the fair access protocol if they are struggling to find a school place via the in-year admissions system. These changes should make this process faster and more transparent, and provide a safety net for the most vulnerable children moving school in-year. The Department for Education also proposes to publish new guidance on fair access protocols in England.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt, asked when the changes to the School Admissions Code will come into force. They are subject to a full public consultation and, of course, to parliamentary approval, but, subject to that approval, we expect the changes to come into force later this year.

The noble Baroness also asked about the numbers affected on free school meals, and I will take up her offer to write with that information.

The noble Baroness suggested the School Admissions Code should change to give children fleeing domestic abuse, or who have had to move home because of domestic abuse, the same priority as looked-after children when there is a waiting list for school places. This proposal and Amendment 76 focus on the application process for a school place in the normal admissions round—that is, at the start of reception or year 7—rather than in the in-year process, which is when children fleeing domestic abuse are more likely to apply. So this amendment would perhaps not help all the people the noble Baroness and all noble Lords, I am sure, have at the forefront of their minds. Although all mainstream state-funded schools in England must maintain a waiting list, they are required to maintain that list only until the end of the first term of the academic year of admission for the school.

We believe that the changes I have outlined to reform the English School Admissions Code to support in-year admissions will have the greatest impact in ensuring that all vulnerable children are able to access a school place as quickly as possible, including those who are affected by domestic abuse. I hope that the changes I have outlined, and the other positive steps to which I have referred, reassure the noble Baroness and, on that basis, she will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD)
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My Lords, I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and indeed to the Minister. The noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, gave us another real-life example, this time a personal one. It highlights so clearly the importance of the work that we are doing in this place.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, talked about mental health issues and long delays. Think about the life of a child; 12 months in the life of a five year-old seems a lot longer and more important than 12 months to an adult. It is really helpful that the Minister has elaborated on the additional mental health help that is being planned for young people. Particularly with Covid, it will be greatly needed. I just worry whether we have got the resources and the clinicians to be able to populate the services that we are planning.

The noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, talked about the health and social care Bill this year and whether we might be able to incorporate some of the health amendments into that. This is something the Minister did not refer to. Perhaps he might write to the noble Baroness, Lady Watkins, and other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. She also talked about the importance of school for all kinds of reasons, including building relationships and getting settled after being in a very disturbed and distressing situation.

My noble friend Lady Brinton talked about plummeting to the bottom of waiting lists at the precise moment that children are at their most vulnerable. The Minister gave soothing words that clinicians are required to take these problems into account. But I hope we can get some reassurance—a protocol—that even if you are not desperately ill, those with a mild condition can still get the treatment they need in a reasonable time, given the vulnerability of these young individuals.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, gets to the nitty-gritty, as he always does, and the extent of the problem whereby children lose places on NHS lists. I have started to think that maybe I have not been strong enough in these amendments, when I listen to all the valuable knowledge and the examples that we have had.

My noble friend Lady Brinton also talked about the Armed Forces covenant again. I was struck by the Minister saying that we have an obligation as a society to look after the families of the Armed Forces, but surely we have an obligation as a society to look after these very vulnerable and damaged children as well.

I am very grateful to the Minister for the elaboration and the explanations that he has given. It has been extremely helpful. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Juxtaposed Controls) (Amendment) Order 2021

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Tuesday 2nd March 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Motion agreed.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, we must wait until the time shown on the Order Paper for the next business, so I beg to move that the House do now adjourn until 3.45 pm.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 6th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-VI(Rev) Revised sixth marshalled list for Committee - (8 Feb 2021)
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I should declare a number of interests because this is a housing matter. I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association, chair of Heart of Medway Housing Association and a director of MHS Homes Ltd.

The amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, is one that I fully support. I am delighted to sign it with other Members from across the House. During our discussions on this Domestic Abuse Bill, we have heard how perpetrators can take control of all aspects of victims’ lives. The victims need help and support to get away from their abuser. The ability to live in your home without fear of the person you are living with is an important first step to getting control of your life. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, when she says that a victim being driven out of their home—to a refuge or other temporary accommodation or to stay with friends—is something that should make us all very angry. It is just part of the devastating consequences that abusers have on victims’ lives and their children’s lives. We all want to ensure that we stop this.

The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, again made an excellent contribution. I would be happy to support an amendment with his suggestion at the next stage. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, could respond to that. It may be that we need something more expanded. If someone is not a tenant at all but is living in the house, perhaps they should have the right to take over the tenancy as well. I think it is an important point.

Both the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and the noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, listed the disadvantages that a victim can suffer. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, said, we need to take away the power of the abuser in this situation. We can all see the situation in which an angry abuser wants to get even or cause trouble for the victim, for example by ending the tenancy or doing something else equally unpleasant and nasty. We need to ensure that we are doing what we can to stop those things. As my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe said, you can see the real concern of a victim, “I’m in this terrible situation. Even worse, I’ll be on the street”. It just makes it even more difficult for people.

This is a very important issue and a very good amendment. As we have heard, the amendment provides for a new mechanism whereby a survivor of domestic abuse can apply for the transfer of the tenancy from a joint tenancy to a sole tenancy. The amendment is welcome and it gives the victim support and another option as to the action they can take to protect themselves and their children. If they want to stay in their home, they can stay and get the abuser out.

I hope for a very positive response from the Government. Hopefully we can find a solution at the next stage.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all the noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, set out, Amendment 163 seeks to allow victims of domestic abuse who have a joint social tenancy with the perpetrator to transfer the tenancy into their own name and to prevent the perpetrator from unilaterally ending the tenancy.

We certainly recognise and sympathise with the motivation behind this amendment, as expressed very eloquently by all noble Lords who have spoken. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt, said, abusers who seek to control their victims by threatening to unilaterally end a tenancy and make their victim homeless—or indeed who actually do make them homeless in this way—are exercising a particularly cruel form of control.

The amendment would apply to local authority and housing association tenancies. By way of background—as I am sure noble Lords will know—these social tenancies are usually in place for a tenant’s lifetime, as long as the tenant adheres to the terms of the tenancy and, as such, a lifetime security of tenure is a valuable asset. That is why we are including provisions in the Bill which seek to protect the security of tenure for victims of domestic abuse when they are granted a new tenancy by a local authority for reasons connected to that abuse.

The current legislation means that, where any joint tenant of a periodic tenancy serves a notice to quit, it ends the whole tenancy and the landlord is able to seek possession of the property. This is a long-standing rule, which has been established in case law and was upheld by the Supreme Court in the 2014 case of Sims v Dacorum Borough Council. The rule seeks to balance the interests of each joint tenant, as well as those of the landlord. For example, a victim of domestic abuse who has a joint tenancy with the perpetrator, and who has fled their home to escape abuse, would be able to end the tenancy to ensure that they are no longer bound to it with their abuser.

We do recognise that, in some cases of domestic abuse, as noble Lords have pointed out today, a perpetrator could use this rule to exert control. We understand how this proposed new clause seeks to overcome this important issue. The victim through it would be able to apply to the court to remove the perpetrator from the tenancy, which would effectively transfer the tenancy into the victim’s name. The perpetrator would also not be able to end the tenancy unilaterally.

We have certainly looked carefully at it and I am afraid we have some concerns with the effect of the amendment as drafted. One is that the amendment does not consider how any liabilities that might have occurred during the course of the joint tenancy, such as accrued rent arrears or damage to the property, would be apportioned between the tenants. As the perpetrator would no longer be a tenant, they would no longer be liable. That certainly ought to be considered. As a result, the victim and any remaining joint tenants would be left responsible for any liabilities, even if they were not fully responsible for contributing to them. We need to ensure that the victim and any remaining joint tenants are not put at any disadvantage by changes to the law in this area.

Another concern, picking up the point raised by my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham is that the amendment does not provide for how the interests of third parties—including the interests of any other joint tenants, children, or those of the landlord—might be taken into account by the court.

It is for landlords to decide whether to grant a tenancy for their property, and on what basis. This amendment would mean that, where a landlord grants a joint tenancy to two or more individuals, the number of tenants could be changed without consideration or consent from the landlord as the owner of the property. Landlords may decide to grant a joint tenancy for a number of reasons, including affordability and because joint tenants are jointly and severally liable for paying rent or looking after the property. In addition, this could result in interference with a housing association landlord’s own rights under human rights law. Since this engages other parties’ human rights, including those of the perpetrator, we need to consider very carefully the right approach in order to balance those rights, and to ensure that any interference is proportionate and justified.

It is important that we carefully consider the practical and legal issues, such as these, before we decide what the right approach is to protect victims in this situation, and whether that includes making changes to legislation so that we can ensure that any proposals have the outcomes which I am sure all noble Lords intend them to have.

Today’s debate has certainly contributed to that process. We would welcome further evidence on the scale of the issue, including how many victims wish to remain in a property where the perpetrator knows where they live. I understand that officials at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government are continuing to engage with the domestic abuse commissioner and her office, as well as the domestic abuse sector more widely, on the termination of joint tenancies in order better to understand this issue.

We understand how important this issue is as part of a whole housing approach. I would like to take this opportunity to recognise the work that is being done by the domestic abuse and social housing sectors together in supporting victims of domestic abuse. I am aware that many landlords are already committed to taking action through sector-led initiatives such as the Making a Stand pledge.

I am very happy to underscore our commitment to continue working with the sector in considering these issues, with a view to arriving at a workable solution. I repeat my thanks to the noble Lords for their contributions today, which have contributed to that important debate. We will certainly continue to consider it, but in the meantime I would ask the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Barker Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Barker) (LD)
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I have received a request to speak from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, we certainly will. I hope equally that the noble Lord listened to the points where I outlined some of the complexities, which have to be considered in the law. But we certainly want to continue to engage on this and arrive at the right place.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have made extremely knowledgeable contributions. I thought that there would be experts on the Benches on all sides of the House, and I have certainly not been disappointed this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Young of Cookham, talked about the balance that must be struck and the role of the courts in that; the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, used their professional experience and knowledge of human rights law; and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, had two bites of the cherry—and very welcome they were too, because he embodies the spirit of what we seek to achieve.

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Baroness Hamwee Portrait Baroness Hamwee (LD) [V]
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My Lords, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is pretty hard pressed and overloaded, so it is interesting that it chose to work on the subject of domestic abuse at work in conjunction with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development—the human resources professional body—from which we had a helpful briefing.

We spoke earlier about the impact of domestic abuse at work, about the workplace being a haven, about workplace culture and the importance to both employer and employee of dealing sensitively, appropriately and helpfully with domestic abuse. I regard this as part of occupational health and safety. As has been said, neither amendment seeks direct legislative provision.

Proposed new subsection (2) in Amendment 174, with regard to a code of practice, uses the terms

“appropriate care and support from their employer.”

It is not looking for the employer to solve the problem but to enable access to professional support and give flexibility to accommodate the needs of a victim or survivor. As the CIPD says in respect of its guide, Managing and Supporting Employees Experiencing Domestic Abuse, what employer support could look like includes

“recognising the problem, responding appropriately to disclosure, providing support, and referring to the appropriate help.”

One good outcome of the pandemic is the greater alertness to the various situations in which employees find themselves. I include in that senior staff right up to the top. We sometimes talk as if “the employer” is not made up of human beings. We will all be aware of, or work with, organisations that have a huge range of policies applying to employment and the workplace. They are, in effect, codes of practice. Both amendments identify a gap that should be filled.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and I join those who have already wished the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, a happy birthday. She has had a busy birthday in your Lordships’ House today. I hope that we will finish in time for her to celebrate before the day is over. I am particularly grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, for setting out their amendments in the way they did. They bring us on to the role that employers can and should play in supporting employees who are victims of domestic abuse.

The Government agree that employers can play an important role, and that there is more that can be done in this area by working with them to help lift the lid on this often-hidden crime. However, as noble Lords have noted, this is a sensitive area and it is vital to ensure that we have the right approach. That is why, in June last year, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy launched a review into support in the workplace for victims of domestic abuse. This comprised a call for evidence, a literature review and discussions with interested parties and groups to explore the issues in greater depth. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull noted, we published the report from this review last month, on 14 January.

The findings in this report show that, for people experiencing domestic abuse, the workplace can be a place of safety and respite. As my noble friend Lady Newlove said, it is somewhere where they might have a trusted mentor or confidant. They can make the arrangements that they need there and perhaps use a work telephone to contact refuges or other services, which can help them escape their abuser. The review also highlighted the importance of employers responding with empathy and sensitivity to disclosures of domestic abuse, asking the right questions and ensuring that the workplace is a safe place for people to come forward.

The evidence provided to the Government made it clear that victims may also need flexibility to engage with services such as refuges, healthcare, the police and the courts, during their regular working hours. Sometimes that might mean changes to their working location or the type of work that they do in order to ensure their safety. We expect employers to respond with empathy and flexibility to such requests. No victim should need to worry about their employment while they are seeking to leave an abusive situation.

Where victims of domestic abuse need to change their working patterns or locations, they may be able to make use of the existing right to request flexible working, which noble Lords noted. Our review into how employers can support victims of domestic abuse generated some valuable insights, which will be considered when we take forward the commitment that we made in our manifesto to consult on making flexible working the default.

The Government recognise that there is much merit in providing guidance and support to employers on how to support victims of domestic abuse. The review that I mentioned found that, while employers want to support their staff, they may lack the awareness, understanding and capacity to do so. My noble friend Lady Newlove gave an example of an employer who, sadly, got it wrong. As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said, companies are made up of people; this is first and foremost a human interaction. People want to get it right, but they need to be given the right advice on how to do so. It is also clear that domestic abuse can bring difficult challenges for employers, for example where victims and perpetrators work together in the same place.

The Government want to ensure that employers have the tools and support that they need to support their staff. As set out in our report, therefore, we will work with representatives of victims, employers and workers alike to bring forward proposals in this area. We welcome the positive action that we have already seen across the country. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, mentioned Vodafone, which is one of many employers, including Lloyds and many more, which are showing the way by adopting policies that support victims in the workplace and by raising awareness of domestic abuse as a workplace issue. We will continue to encourage employers to follow suit wherever possible.

In doing that, we recognise and value the good work being done by a variety of organisations, some of which have been mentioned in our debate, to provide support and guidance for employers: for example, the Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse, Hestia, Public Health England, Business in the Community, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development all provide resources for employers free of charge. As the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, said, they are all over this, and trade unions are doing important work in this area, as well.

Through our review, the Government have set out a clear course of action to help employers to support victims of domestic abuse. It creates a firm basis on which to make progress. Given that commitment and the findings of the report from last month which I mentioned, I hope that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief but very important debate today. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, made the point that paid leave is guidance only. That is a very helpful thing; at this incremental stage we are seeking to win over employers rather than beat them down and require them to pay employees who are suffering from domestic violence.

I thought the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, put it very elegantly when she said that we have a code to make the work environment safe and happy, so the code we are talking about would create a good emotional work environment to go with the good physical one. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, made many very good points. He said that domestic abuse is a work issue. It crosses over. As I said in my earlier remarks, you have to be able to bring your whole self to work; you cannot just leave the sad and difficult bits at home.

The noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, raised the need for flexible working in these difficult circumstances. I was pleased by the Minister’s comment that the Government will be bringing forward proposals and are consulting on making flexible working the default. I will be delighted when that day comes and I hope it will not be too far away. My noble friend Lady Hamwee said that these two amendments have identified a gap that should be filled.

I am delighted with the cautious comments of the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, saying that the Government are working with bodies to bring forward proposals. I hope that progress will be forthcoming and less than glacial. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Lord Rosser Portrait Lord Rosser (Lab) [V]
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Amendment 175, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, would extend the duty on local authorities to provide school places for looked-after children to children who are forced to change schools as a result of domestic abuse. We support this amendment and its objective, which was raised by Jess Phillips MP, the shadow Minister, during the Commons proceedings on the Bill.

The average wait for children who move to obtain a new school place is between four and six months in cases of domestic abuse. That is four to six months away from their peers, without the routine and safety of school, while living in an unfamiliar house or refuge. The alternative would be to continue to attend the school, which is quite possibly an impossible distance away in a location deemed too dangerous for that child to live in. Many parents of such children do not have the required resources or technology to home-school their children—particularly not when they are in a domestic abuse situation, living in temporary accommodation, where children of varying ages and needs can be sharing one room, as may well be the case in a hotel, for example.

The impact of Covid-19 has also demonstrated the importance of schools for not only education, but the provision of food. It is estimated that some 1.3 million children are now dependent on food parcels from their school. Children not enrolled in school cannot access the food parcels provided by them. Schools have remained open for children with special educational needs and those with an education, health and care plan. Schools are integral to referring those with special education needs to the local authority so that they can receive an EHC plan. However, children who are not enrolled in a school do not have access to that safety net and the support that can be provided by schools.

Children who are impacted by domestic abuse and have to move because of it already face enough trauma without also losing out on their education or the safety and security of being in school. I hope we will find from their response that the Government agree.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for taking part in this short but important debate. We firmly believe that all vulnerable children, including those who have been affected by domestic abuse and are currently receiving care or who have had to move home as a result of domestic abuse, should be able to access a school place quickly. We believe that any gaps in their education must be kept to an absolute minimum.

The noble Baroness, Lady Burt of Solihull, previously raised the issue of NHS waiting lists where children are compelled to move area as a result of domestic abuse. Amendment 175 seeks to address the issue of changing schools by focusing on the application process for a school place in the normal admissions round—for instance, at the start of reception or year 7. However, children fleeing domestic abuse are more likely to be applying at other times, which, in the current drafting—with the usual caveats about this being a Committee amendment—Amendment 175 does not currently provide for.

The Department for Education has recently consulted on changes to the School Admissions Code to improve the in-year admissions process and fair access protocols to ensure that vulnerable children, specifically including children on a child in need plan or a child protection plan, and those in refuges or safe accommodation, can secure a school place quickly and keep the disruption to their education to an absolute minimum. The new School Admissions Code will provide detailed requirements and guidance for all, particularly vulnerable children moving in-year. The Department for Education proposes to publish this new guidance on fair access protocols, which provide a safety net for the most vulnerable children moving in-year.

We think that these changes and this action, rather than giving joint-highest admission priority alongside looked-after children for the main admission round, will have the greatest impact in achieving what I think lies behind the amendment: ensuring that all vulnerable children can access a school place as quickly as possible, including those who have been affected by domestic abuse. Given the work being undertaken in this area, I hope that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for rounding out some of the information as to why we need this small amendment. The average waiting time of four to six months for a child who has fled with a parent from domestic abuse is not acceptable. He outlined very clearly all the reasons why that is the case.

I was quite pleased with what the noble Lord, Lord Parkinson, said regarding the new School Admissions Code on fair access protocols. I think he is reasonably confident that this will have the required effect; I very much hope so too. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

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Mindful of this, I find the Government’s response to the point that I and others made at Second Reading completely unacceptable. This House passed legislation four years ago requiring that under-18s are protected from accessing pornography on pornographic websites—much of which, as we have seen, is violent—through the introduction of statutory age verification. The only reason why the decision of your Lordships’ House has not been given effect is that the Government have refused to implement it. Moreover, they expect us to wait for what will probably be another three years, at least, for what they have now confirmed will be a weaker protection in relation to commercial pornography.
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt my noble friend, but I would point out that all the speakers in this group so far have spoken for considerably over 10 minutes. Noble Lords would appreciate brevity, so that they can all have an opportunity to take part.

Lord McColl of Dulwich Portrait Lord McColl of Dulwich (Con) [V]
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[Inaudible]—rough sex and domestic violence and implement Part 3 as quickly as possible.

Domestic Abuse Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Monday 1st February 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 View all Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-21 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 124-IV(Rev) Revised fourth marshalled list for Committee - (1 Feb 2021)
Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, Clause 21 sets out what provisions can be made in a domestic abuse protection notice. Clause 21(1)(b) allows that a person may not come within a specified distance of where the victim lives. However, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee explained, this means that the perpetrator could abuse the victim at work, at the school where their child is a pupil or at a place of worship, to give but a few examples. Our Amendment 57 allows for the prevention of coming within a specified distance to apply to any specified premises in England and Wales. As such, I believe that our amendment also covers the circumstances covered by Amendments 58, 59 and 60, which refer to the victim’s place of work. I will return to that in a moment.

The Government’s Amendment 75 makes similar provision to our amendment for domestic abuse protection orders in that our Amendment 21 applies to domestic abuse protection notices and the Government’s amendment applies to domestic abuse protection orders. As such, I believe that the Government’s amendment covers the circumstances addressed by Amendments 74, 76 and 77.

Contrary to the view of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, I am not convinced that specifying “workplace” is stronger than Amendments 75 or 57. It is certainly more restricted than “any specified premises”. I understand trade unions focusing on workplace protections but the issue is wider than workplaces. In future groups we will come to duties being placed on employers. We have to broaden our outlook here. What about unemployed victims, victims in full-time education or victims whose main support comes from a religious community in a church, mosque, synagogue or temple? Protection in the workplace is important but it is not the only place that should be a place of safety for victims of domestic abuse.

Government Amendment 78 means that the requirements imposed by a domestic abuse protection order must, as far as practicable, be such as to avoid interfering with the perpetrator’s work or the person’s attendance at an educational establishment. It will be a fine judgment in some cases whether to make the person covered by the order unemployed or unable to continue a course of education, as well as potentially homeless, but the safety of the victim of domestic abuse must be paramount.

Amendment 79 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, seeks to ensure that this is the case by removing the requirement contained in government Amendment 78 to avoid interference with the perpetrator’s work or education if the victim works at the same place as the perpetrator, or, potentially, works at a place where the perpetrator is studying.

The seriousness of domestic abuse, the impact it can have on the victim, and the very serious consequences for the perpetrator if it is reported, beyond any criminal sanction, need to be made clear to perpetrators. It could result in you losing your job or your place in education, as well as your home.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, the provisions in Clause 33 provide that a domestic abuse protection order—DAPO—may impose any requirements that the court considers necessary to protect the victim from domestic abuse or the risk of domestic abuse, including requirements that prohibit the perpetrator coming within a specified distance of any premises in which the victim lives.

However, as noble Lords have, rightly, pointed out again today, we recognise that perpetrators of domestic abuse commonly target victims outside the home intentionally to cause distress, exercise coercive control and, in some cases, even to harm their victim physically. As has been noted, during the Bill’s passage in another place, the honourable Member for Birmingham Yardley tabled amendments seeking to strengthen the protection afforded by a DAPO against workplace abuse, and my honourable friend the Minister for Safeguarding undertook to consider those amendments. She has done so, and government Amendment 75, which comes from that, would make it explicit that a DAPO can include a requirement prohibiting the perpetrator coming within a specified distance of any other specified premises, or premises of a specified description, such as the victim’s place of work.

Much of the debate today has revolved around whether it is right to put the workplace, and the definition that we have chosen, specifically on the face of the Bill. The government amendment is deliberately broad so that it covers not only the victim’s place of work—in response to my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, I want to be very clear that the amendment does include a person’s place of work—but other places where the victim might regularly be found, such as their place of worship or their children’s school. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, mentioned the importance of training colleges in enabling victims to re-establish some independence, to get out of the house and to find support, whether that involves going back to work, going into training or finding support through religious institutions. Those are all hugely important to people as they rebuild their lives.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, is right that we need to look more broadly and not just at places of work. Of course, people’s patterns of work are very variable. Some people have one static work location but many are peripatetic—perhaps supply teachers, cleaners or carers visiting people in their own home. The noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie of Downpatrick, gave an example of someone who works in multiple locations. My noble friend Lord Cormack said that he wants the Bill to be unambiguous, and that is what we are trying to achieve in the breadth of the government amendment—to give the power to specify whatever that location might be. To answer the question from the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, we will also make it clear in the guidance that places of work should certainly be considered.

As a consequence of the amendment to Clause 33, Amendment 78 to Clause 34 makes it clear that any requirements imposed on a person which prohibit the person from coming within a specified distance of any specific premises should not, as far as practicable, interfere with the person’s work or their attendance at an educational establishment. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark, agrees that these government amendments achieve the same outcome that he seeks with his Amendments 74, 76, 77 and 79.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, asked about the duties of employers. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, noted, we will debate that more fully when we come to Amendment 174. My noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering asked about the pilot of the DAPO scheme. We are developing plans for a pilot of the DAPO, which will start as soon as practicable. We will address the training and guidance points before it begins, and of course the pilot scheme will inform the wider implementation of the policy.

With regard to the domestic abuse protection notice—the subject of Amendments 57 to 60—Clause 20 sets out that a notice automatically prohibits the perpetrator from being abusive towards the person to be protected by the notice. Additionally, Clause 21 provides that a notice may prevent the perpetrator contacting the victim. Both those provisions can include the victim’s workplace, or any other non-residential property or location. We believe that these provisions in the Bill are sufficient to protect victims at their place of work and are appropriate for a police-issued notice, pending the making of a substantive court order.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken on this important issue today. I trust that the two government amendments, along with my explanation of them and of domestic abuse protection notices, will provide the clarity they are seeking and that the noble Baroness will be content to withdraw her amendment.

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Lord Paddick Portrait Lord Paddick (LD) [V]
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My Lords, as my noble friend Lady Hamwee said, Clause 26(3) states that if a domestic abuse protection notice is given by the police under Clause 20, the chief police officer must apply for a domestic abuse protection order. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, just said, what if it transpires that the circumstances have changed or that the police officer who gave the notice, for example, made a mistake? What if further evidence becomes apparent that means a domestic abuse protection order should not have been given or is no longer required? Can the Minister explain why the issuing of a domestic abuse protection notice is discretionary, but the application for a domestic abuse protection order, once a notice has been served, is mandatory? Hence our Amendment 68. As my noble friend explained, Amendments 64 and 69 are consequential.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, explained, these probing amendments explore whether an application for a domestic abuse protection order should be an automatic consequence of the police issuing a domestic abuse protection notice. Although I fully understand the motivation behind this—namely, to build further flexibility into these provisions—these amendments would remove a key strength of the process as we envisage it. The domestic abuse protection notice is designed to give victims immediate protection and breathing space from the perpetrator following a crisis incident. If it has been judged necessary to issue a notice, it will be evident from the situation that the victim needs longer-term protection. Consequently, it is right that, once a notice has been issued, an application for an order should follow automatically within 48 hours.

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Baroness Burt of Solihull Portrait Baroness Burt of Solihull (LD) [V]
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My Lords, this is a small amendment but nevertheless it is definitely a point worth making. I was not privy to the debate last week, but my reading of the amendment was that it piggybacked on Clause 55(1)(b), on the requirement to prepare and publish a strategy for providing support. I read it as requiring the local authority to communicate the support available, as opposed to the strategy itself—so I was right there.

“Accessible and inclusive” is important too for people with communication difficulties. It is obvious that to have support available, you have to have potential recipients actually know about it. That means putting notices in accessible, everyday places where potential victims will see them. I have seen them on the back of toilet doors, and I would like to see them on workplace notice boards, buses, Tubes and billboards, and in shops and myriad other places. They must be accessible for everyone: in Urdu, Romanian, Greek, African—you name it. In order to be able to read or see a notice, people need it to be there in front of them.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, said, as well as ease of reading, it is important that we consider all kinds of disability and use more innovative, technical methods of communication. The message must be clear. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, also mentioned books without words, which is a very useful idea. That message, “you are not alone”, “help is at hand”, “dial this number”, “go to your pharmacist and ask for ANI”, and so on, could literally be a life saver.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, this short but important debate follows on from the similar issues we debated earlier in Committee on Wednesday. As I said then, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that victims of domestic abuse and their children get the right support to meet their individual needs. People facing communication barriers are, arguably, some of the most vulnerable victims of domestic abuse given the added difficulties and barriers they face in asking for help and accessing the support available, so it is welcome to have this opportunity to explore that further through this amendment.

I share the concerns of all noble Lords who have spoken and can, I hope, reassure them by saying that local authorities’ strategies will be published in line with the regulations on accessibility or, to give them their full title, the Public Sector Bodies (Websites and Mobile Applications) (No. 2) Accessibility Regulations 2018. These regulations provide guidance and accessibility requirements for public sector websites and apps for mobile telephones. As the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, said, it is important that public sector bodies keep pace with changing technologies and the variety of ways in which people can seek assistance.

Local authorities will also want to ensure that the information they provide is accessible in other formats for people unable to use websites or mobile devices, including providing information in languages other than English to reflect their local population, as noble Lords mentioned.

The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, made a valuable point: it is all very well providing support for victims of domestic abuse with safe accommodation and all the rest of it, but some victims may not fully benefit from that support if they face communication barriers in accessing it. It is incumbent on tier 1 local authorities in exercising their functions under Part 4 to ensure that information about the support available is accessible to everyone who needs it. I am very happy to say that we will consider how the issues raised in this debate and earlier in Committee can be properly addressed in the guidance issued.

Having said that and given those reassurances, I hope the noble Lord will be content to withdraw his amendment.

Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord McNicol of West Kilbride) (Lab)
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I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.