Modern Slavery National Referral Mechanism: Waiting Times

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 13th May 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I have already highlighted that a lot of statistics have been published. I do not know specifically when the next report is due to be published, but I will find out.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, will not the new provisions that the Government introduce make it less likely that witnesses come forward? Will that not be welcomed by traffickers, who will see it as an easy way of not getting caught?

EU Borders: Hand and Face Scanning

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 17th April 2024

(3 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I am not entirely sure what the noble Lord would like me to say. As I have repeatedly said, this is an EU system being rolled out by the EU. I am neither optimistic nor not optimistic; I am relying on the information I have received as to the EU’s plans.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, can the Minister tell us how the people of Dover will benefit from the money being invested? It is supposed to be levelling up, to make those communities more enterprising. How will that work with this money being used in Dover?

Asylum Claims

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 25th March 2024

(3 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I suspect it is not a particularly binary answer. Obviously, some of the cases we are looking at will involve people from Afghanistan, as the noble Lord will be aware, and we probably had rather more involvement in that particular situation than the French did. I would imagine it depends very much on the circumstances before the courts, but I cannot really answer the question.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister claims some credit for starting to deal with the backlog. What have the Government been doing for 13 years to make that backlog?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The Minister does not claim any credit at all for removing the backlog, but I applaud the department for having done so. The situation, as the noble Lord will be aware, has changed very dramatically in the world over the last 13 years.

Operation Conifer

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 11th March 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Well, once again I hear what my noble friend says, and I shall certainly do my best to represent the views that have been very firmly expressed in the House by taking them back to the Home Secretary and the Home Office.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not the case that this is not a unique case? The problem is that names are released before people are charged. Is it not about time that we looked at that as an issue, not just for this case but for many others?

Knife Crime: Violence Reduction Units

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Tuesday 20th February 2024

(5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I was not making the case that it was an add-on or an extra; I was saying that future funding beyond 2025 will be dependent on the needs of the VRUs and the outcome of future spending reviews, and of course the evaluation that is already under way.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is not the increase a direct consequence of the cuts in public services, for example to local government, youth services and the police? The police used to make visits to schools and many police authorities have stopped doing that completely. Do the Government not need to understand that their cuts over 13 years have had a dramatic effect on this issue?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I referenced earlier that there is some new funding. The London Metropolitan Police, for example, will receive an additional £8 million this year and the City of London will receive an extra £1 million for additional visible patrols in serious violence and anti-social behaviour hotspots. The funding supports the delivery of a combination of regular high-visibility patrols in the streets and neighbourhoods experiencing the highest volumes of serious violence and/or anti-social behaviour.

I remind noble Lords that there are currently more police in this country than ever before. The Metropolitan Police currently has 35,000 and could have had more; the budget was available but they were unable to recruit up to the budget, which is a shame because it obviously cost them some resource. The Government have delivered on their police uplift programme.

Refugees: Notice Period for Home Office Accommodation

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 18th December 2023

(7 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Yes, I think 28 days is necessary, and of course I will look into those. As I say, everyone gets 28 days from the issue of the biometric residence permit.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Government have made a right mess of this. They inherited a system that worked and have broken it. Is it not wrong for refugees to find themselves out on the streets? Have they not suffered enough? Should the Government not be making sure that no refugee is homeless?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I agree with the noble Lord in as much as no one should find themselves homeless. I also agree that the refugee system is obviously under enormous strain. I therefore look forward to the noble Lord’s enthusiastic support for the Rwanda Bill when it arrives.

Refugees: Homelessness

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 13th December 2023

(7 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is quite right. The move-on period is linked to when a biometric residence permit is issued and received because, as he points out, individuals generally require that BRP to access mainstream support—benefits, local authority housing, right to rent, bank accounts and so on. They are linked.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, during the Covid crisis, a lot of homes were made available for homeless people. Why have the Government let that slip and gone backwards rather than forwards?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, Covid presented a very different set of challenges to those we face today. We are attempting to relieve the pressure on the enormously overburdened hotels, and all the rest of it, that are costing this country £8 million a day and £4 billion a year.

Abortion Clinics: Safe Access Zones

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 20th November 2023

(8 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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Again, I have tried to explain the context. I do not think those two things are entirely mutually exclusive. The fact is that some of the language in the law is relatively unusual. Therefore, the consultation is necessary to make sure that people are aware of what it is.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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Does the Minister agree that people who wish to pray can do that at home or in church? They do not have to do it outside an abortion clinic. Does he further agree that plenty of people around the world have found solutions to this problem? Why do we not implement the same legislation that other countries have to protect these women?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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We have legislation which we are discussing now, and I am not going to go against the will of Parliament and suggest alternative forms of legislation. The noble Lord is quite right: people are perfectly at liberty to pray wherever they wish. Intimidating behaviour, however, crosses the line.

Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Tuesday 23rd May 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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That is a very good question. I am not entirely sure exactly what else it would do above and beyond what we have already done with the sanctions and so on.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, something very strange is going on in government. Most organisations have meetings to discuss problems, and then come to a conclusion and make a decision. It seems that the Government have those meetings and discussions but make no decision—why is that?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I do not accept that characterisation. As I said, the discussions of course continue, and as soon as there is something more to say I am sure that we will be back to say it.

National Crime Agency Investigation: Javad Marandi

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 17th May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, it would be more effective if the political parties had to repay that money. That might be an incentive not to accept money that we think is dodgy.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I do not believe that was a question.

Vagrancy Act 1824

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 17th May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Lord is a magistrate. I will not comment on his first point, other to say that I am sure most of my colleagues would prefer not to appear in front of him. The statistics he gives are not quite as bad as he made them sound. The numbers are much lower than when homelessness peaked in 2017. Although there was a slight spike last year, they are significantly below previous peak levels.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not a bit rough for the Government to massively increase the number of homeless people in this country and then do nothing to stop them being arrested?

Police Uplift Programme

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Tuesday 2nd May 2023

(1 year, 2 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My noble friend will be aware that, as I said in answer to the previous question, these are operational matters for chief constables and police and crime commissioners—and, of course, in the case of police and crime commissioners, the people who elect them.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, this will not wash. The people outside know that crime is going up; they know that there are not the police numbers on the street. How will the Government make sure that these criminals get longer sentences when there are no places in prison for them?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is wrong: crime is going down and there are more police officers than ever before. That is according to the Crime Survey for England and Wales, which the Office for National Statistics recognises as the most reliable source of those statistics. As for inviting me to comment on sentencing practices and so on, which obviously stray into the responsibilities of other government departments, I am not going to do that.

Prostitution

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Tuesday 21st February 2023

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Baroness is quite right. The DCC and the Safeguarding Minister had an introductory conversation at the end of January in which they discussed all those issues. The Safeguarding Minister highlighted that the Government are not minded at present to seek to change the law, based partly on a lack of unequivocal evidence. On the cost of living crisis, we are obviously extremely concerned to hear of women who feel they have no other choice but to turn to sex for survival. We are committed to ensuring that no one finds themselves in this position.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister’s response is just inadequate, given the situation. He says that he accepts there are major problems but is doing nothing about it. When will he come forward with a plan to deal with this problem?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, after the committee’s report, we commissioned some research by the University of Bristol in association with the police and crime commissioner for south Wales. I am afraid that report did not deliver any unequivocal evidence, as I have just said. The evidence from other jurisdictions where a different approach is tried is also not unequivocal so, for the moment, things are going to stay the way they are.

Banks: Forged Customer Signatures

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 16th January 2023

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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The noble Baroness makes an interesting point, which I will happily take back to those who are responsible for overlooking and overseeing the FCA.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not the case that all our regulators are toothless tigers? What is needed is more resources and a change in legislation to give the powers to protect the public.

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I do not believe that they are toothless tigers. As I have said a number of times regarding capacity and resources, a great deal is being done. There will be significant improvement to the National Economic Crime Victim Care Unit over the course of this year, and I would be happy to answer more questions on that.

Police: Employment and Discipline

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Monday 9th January 2023

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I join the noble Lord in agreeing that we owe our police officers—the vast majority of whom do an excellent job—our thanks and praise. He will also be aware that there have been a number of reports published on these subjects. The police forces will be coming back imminently with their responses to the HMICFRS report, to which I referred earlier. As I said, I think the report specified that it will be within 56 days. It is absolutely incumbent on the Government to work with all police forces to ensure that they deliver the highest possible standards.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not the case that there are three stages, but there are three appeals, so there are six stages, which is why the process takes so long? Can the Minister confirm that the terms of reference will include the time it takes to go through the procedures, so that they are speeded up, and that that will be an important part of the review?

Solihull Murders

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend. It may help if I go through the list of recommendations made by the IOPC to West Midlands Police in this case. The learning recommendations concerned domestic abuse risk assessments being completed without intelligence checks and misunderstanding by officers around when such risk assessments would be reviewed by their public protection unit. Other recommendations were that the force should consider PPU oversight of all domestic abuse cases with repeat victims, and further training around the use of domestic violence protection orders—DVPOs—and domestic violence protection notices.

My noble friend is quite right that no woman should be asked to undertake her own investigation; that is absolutely absurd. It is for the police to do it. The police have recognised it, the IOPC has published recommendations and West Midlands Police in particular is acting on it. I hope all other forces do too.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister says that every force should carry out this training, yet we know that a lot are not. Between the Home Office, the inspectorate and the police forces, where is the accountability in the system to make sure that this crucial training takes place?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As the noble Lord is well aware—I have said it many times from the Dispatch Box—police forces in this country remain operationally independent. That is right, but of course the PCC is also the interface here between the public and the police. The statement on this case by the West Midlands PCC, Simon Foster, was very robust and made some solid points. With the noble Lord’s permission, I will quote a bit of it:

“My Police and Crime Plan makes it clear that West Midlands Police must impose bail conditions on perpetrators rather than releasing under investigation, make full use of civil protection orders and restraining orders and make arrests for breach of non-molestation orders.”


He goes on at some length and I will not repeat it all, but I think that is the appropriate response. I commend him on his actions and urge other PCCs to follow suit.

Counterterrorism: Martyn’s Law

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Wednesday 23rd November 2022

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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As outlined in the Queen’s Speech, yes.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, can the Minister explain why the legislation programme seems much slower with this Government than it was with the previous ones?

Banks: Forgery

Debate between Lord Watts and Lord Sharpe of Epsom
Thursday 30th June 2022

(2 years ago)

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Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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I am afraid that I cannot; I am not familiar with the case. As I said, we maintain that the NECC should have operational independence, so I am afraid that I cannot enlighten the noble Baroness any further. I neglected to answer the noble Lord’s request for a meeting; there have been a number of meetings with Home Office officials, but I would of course be happy to meet him.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it the case that the Government are on the side of fat-cat bankers rather than customers? Would it not be a good idea to give more resources to the police so that they can actually investigate, prosecute and bring to justice these people?

Lord Sharpe of Epsom Portrait Lord Sharpe of Epsom (Con)
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My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has raised the subject of resources, because we are giving them: the spending review last year allocated a further £400 million to tackle economic crime over the next three years. This includes £100 million earmarked specifically to target fraud, including by establishing a national fraud policing network, including greater fraud investigative capacity in the NCA, meeting a manifesto commitment to create a new national cybercrime force focused on fraud. In addition, new fraud investigation teams have been piloted in four regional organised crime units, which will be expanded and rolled out across all ROCUs. These new capabilities are driven by a new tasking and co-ordination process run by the NECC. Finally, as part of the police uplift, we are prioritising more investigators for the City of London Police, which leads on this.