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Archive for the ‘Security and counter-terrorism’ Category

Sunday
Jul 3,2011

Two news stories at the end of last week are salutory reminders as to why Ministers will be increasingly jumpy about Olympics Security next year as the Opening Ceremony approaches.

On Thursday Alan Travis in The Guardian reported under the headline “The Rise in the Number of Freed Terrorists Raises Security Fears” that:

“Thirty-six recently released terrorists are being “managed in the community” with a further 34 expected to leave prison over the next four years, according to Home Office figures.

A record 123 prisoners are now serving sentences for terrorism-related offences in jails in Britain. But nearly 10 years after 9/11 the number being freed is starting to rise and Whitehall security chiefs are increasingly concerned about the lack of preparations to deal with them.”

Then a few hours later The Evening Standard ran two related stories – the first under the headline “Terror Suspect ‘Plans Mumbai Atrocity Here'” and the second under the headline “Olympics Terror Alert”.  The main point of these was:

“We already knew that a terror suspect known as CD – banned from London and believed to have been plotting a Mumbai-style atrocity in Britain – could return to the capital due to the Government watering down its anti-terror laws.

Now, The Standard has revealed that there could be several more suspected terrorists, including some understood to be from East London, who could be allowed back before the Olympics next year  – if the Government does not amend its plans to replace control orders with terrorism prevention and investigation measures.

Currently, these reforms would remove the power to relocate terror suspects. This condition has been used in nine out of 12 current cases.

The Home Office is refusing to say how many could return to London.

But the Met’s Deputy Assistant Commissioner Stuart Osborne has suggested it could be several, possibly at least five. Other sources also believe it could be five or six.”

Nobody has ever suggested that Control Orders were ideal, but their replacement by TPIMs (Terrorist Prevention and Investigation Measures) is clearly causing nervousness.  After all the whole point of Control Orders was to prevent the subjects committing terrorist acts, while TPIMs are supposed to give them enough freedom so that they can be arrested for attempting to commit a terrorist act.  A risk worth running?  No wonder Home Office Ministers will be getting jumpy ….

Sunday
Jun 12,2011

Behind the Sunday Times paywall or on page 26 of the newspaper itself is what may be the scariest story in today’s newspapers. According to the article:
“An Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities last year was averted after Binyamin Netanyhu, the prime minister, met robust opposition from the army and Mossad, the intelligence service, which warned that it could lead to an all-out Middle East war.”
The article then gives lots of convincing details before warning that
“There are indications that an attack may be under consideration again.”
It then cites a programme of air raid drills in Israel, long-haul flight exercises by the Israeli air force and various briefings.
There is no doubt Iranian nuclear intentions are a serious threat to Israel and the stability of the region, but a free-lance response by Israel is equally disturbing.

Tuesday
Jun 7,2011

A few days ago I reported on the call for a “general obligation for data security”.

Now comes this report on CBS (thanks to FutureCrimes):

I wonder how many companies and government agencies are equally careless in this country?

It makes leaving a paper on a photocopier seem old hat …..

Sunday
Jun 5,2011

High-level legal guru, Stewart Room, gave an excellent presentation at last week’s East-West Institute Global Cyber Security Summit.  In it he called for a “general obligation for security”, saying:

“I believe that holders of sensitive data, the controllers of important networks, systems and infrastructures – and their supply chains – should face a clear legal requirement to keep these assets safe and secure. As well as describing the obligation, this general security law should describe the consequences of failure.”

He pointed out that:

“It is naive to think that all relevant actors will do what is necessary to protect these assets without a clear steer from the law. Ignorance, laziness, apathy, short sightedness and greed are all powerful counterweights to enlightened self interest.”

He also highlighted the dangers of simply addressing the problem through the prism of the protection of personal data only.  Intellectual property is currently being leeched from corporate data systems all over the world – an issue repeatedly referred to at the Summit.  Likewise the vulnerability of national infrastructure systems – including power grids and water supplies – is also now increasingly apparent.

He warned that:

“In the UK and most of the rest of Europe the law for security is effectively left to reside in the domain of privacy and data protection law. This is a grave mistake. …  it gives the mistaken impression that the law only sees security as being important in the context of the handling of personal data. Of course, we all know that the substance of security extends much further that this. The impact of this problem is worsened by the fact that far too many people and organisations do not take data protection law seriously. Thus, the law is not properly driving behaviours.”

And there may be unintended consequences:

“This gives effective ownership of the field to people who are the least competent to manage it. I am talking about a small cadre of data protection regulators and bureaucrats, who are so slanted toward privacy that they may unwittingly encumber us with anti-security policies, which could jeopardise the health of cyberspace, our economies and our societies.”

He concluded byasking “what will a general obligation for security look like?”:

“Aside from removing the issue from the privacy and data protection domain and describing the nature of the obligation to secure assets and the penalties that may flow in breach, a general obligation for security will capture:

1. Critical definitions. We need to agree the parameters and make sure that we are all talking the same language.

2. The traditional “cyber crime” subject matter, dealing with the criminalisation and prosecution of unacceptable behaviours of hackers, botnets and others whom attack information and information systems. The interests of law enforcement should be properly served.

3. The role of the private sector cyber security industry, so that innovation in IT solutions can continue. We are totally reliant upon the private sector for security solutions, so we must give it our full support.

4. Intelligence sharing between the public and private sectors and across geographical boundaries.

5. The need for identification measures for people and machines operating in cyberspace. Privacy should not provide a cloak for criminals and anti-social behaviour.

6. The right for people and organisations under cyberattack to take offensive action in their defence. This is probably the most controversial point. But we need to ask ourselves whether it is morally right to tie the hands of those under attack. And we need to be sure that we do not open Pandora’s box.”

Whilst ideally this needs a solution in international law, a good start would be made by legal changes in this country to establish a better and more robust framework, whilst British Ministers argue for European-wide changes via Brussels and press the case through the G8 and G20 fora.

There was a palpable sense of urgency about the need for change at last week’s summit.  I hope it was felt by Francis Maude MP, who is apparently now the Minister in charge of cyber-security, and that he takes it back to his Government colleagues.

Wednesday
Jun 1,2011

I am attending the Worldwide Security Summit being held at the QEII Conference Centre in London.
It is currently being addressed by Dr R Chandrashekar, the Secretary of the Department of Information Technology in India. His address has been very wide-ranging, but I was much taken by the way in which ha acknowledged almost as an aside a massive vulnerability to the world economy before moving quickly on.
After spending several minutes outlining the increasing dependence of the world on the internet, including government and commercial systems. He then pointed out that, of course, the internet only functions because of the existence of a small number of undersea data cables, connecting the major continents together. These have been damaged from time to time, for example, by shipping and by natural disasters. These have produced significant, if (so far) short-term, disruptions. For those wanting to cause major problems for the world economy the implications are unfortunately obvious …….

Tuesday
May 17,2011

On 21st March I tried to table the following question in the House of Lords:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government to list all meetings held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London and/or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner and/or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since May 2010.”

This got converted by the Table Office to:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government what meetings have been held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since May 2010.”

This should have been answered by 4th April.

On Monday of this week (16th May – ie six weeks after it should have been answered) it appeared on the list of Questions for Written Answer as the Lords’ question (to any Government department) that was most overdue.

Later the same day, the following non-answer was provided:

“Since May 2010 Home Office ministers have met regularly with (a) the Mayor of London or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to discuss poliicing matters and policing in London.”

So it took eight weeks to provide a non-answer.  Maybe a Freedom of Information Act request would have (a) been quicker and (b) elicited more information.

I will try again with:

“To ask Her Majesty’s Government (further to written answer HL7906) to state on what dates meetings were held by Home Office Ministers with (a) the Mayor of London and/or the Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority and with (b) the Commissioner and/or Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police since May 2010.”

Friday
May 13,2011

David Cameron has instructed the Metropolitan Police to review the case of Madeleine McCann.  This is in response to an open letter in The Sun and is entirely predictable in terms of the “pulling power” of News International on Government policy.

However, his intervention drives a coach and horses through the draft protocol issued by the Home Office designed to preserve the operational independence of the Police which says:

“The operational independence of the police service, and the decisions made by its operational leadership remain reserved to the Office of Chief Constable and that Office alone.”

Whilst no-one doubts the desirability of doing what can sensibly be done to find out what has happened to Madeleine McCann, I can imagine that the senior leadership of the Metropolitan Police are not exactly happy about this.  It again embroils their officers in a high profile investigation, where the chances of success are unclear, and which will divert limited investigative resources away from other matters.

Thursday
May 12,2011

By popular request (well one person asked for it …), here is my speech from yesterday afternoon’s debate on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill:

“My Lords, I first declare an interest as a member and former chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, and also as a vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, has given good service to the House today by moving her amendment, if for no other reason than that it will enable us to have a free-ranging debate in Committee. I hope that it will be a useful introduction to the Minister in her new role; it will enable us to rehearse the arguments for her benefit as well.

The noble Lord, Lord Cormack, is worried that we might pass the amendment, which would be discourteous. However, it would provide an opportunity for-in the current jargon of the coalition-a pause. Apparently pauses are a good thing because they allow the coalition partners to consider whether they are departing on precisely the right track. This would be useful in the context of the Bill. The central objective that the Government have put before us of improving the democratic accountability of the police service is right. I hope that no one in the House would disagree with the principle. The question is whether the mechanism that has been put forward will achieve that objective, or whether it will have unintended consequences. The work of this Committee over the next few weeks or months may be to look in some detail at how this will work in practice, and whether there could be unintended consequences.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Hamilton, I have no problem with the principle of direct election. I work on the basis that elections are a rather good way of determining who should have ultimate responsibility for things. However, what distinguishes this proposal is that we are talking about the direct election of an individual who will be given tremendous responsibilities, but without a suitable governance structure to prevent a situation in which the individual might make capricious judgments or seek to trespass on the operational independence that chief constables hold so dear. The Bill would give an individual tremendous authority, but without the governance structures, checks and balances that would be necessary given the importance of the role.

When I chaired the police authority in London, I would have welcomed the additional authority that would have been given to me had I been directly
elected to fulfil the role. I was a directly elected member of the London Assembly, but that was slightly different from being directly elected to be in charge of the police service for London. I would have welcomed that additional authority. No doubt it would have been helpful to my relationship with the commissioner of police for the metropolis, the noble Lord, Lord Stevens, who has just left us. It would have been particularly important for my relationship with other elected colleagues such as other members of the London Assembly, local council leaders and so forth. I would have been able to say, “This gives me the authority on behalf of the people of London to say what is necessary”, but I would have been operating in the context of checks and balances on what I could and could not do. I would have had other authority members and the scrutiny processes that were in place with the London Assembly. Therefore, it would not have been untrammelled power. I would have had that responsibility and extra authority, but there would have been these mechanisms around.

What is so striking about this Bill is that those mechanisms are virtually absent. We will be told that the policing and crime panels offer that substitute governance structure, but they are essentially scrutiny bodies after the event. They are not part of the decision-taking structure and are not there, except in extremis, to say that a decision has been taken inappropriately. The spirit of partnership with other colleagues is so crucial in this area.

5 pm

There is nothing wrong with the principle of direct election, and if that is something that the Government feel is absolutely central to what they are trying to achieve here, that is fine, but around this single individual, if that is what we are to have, there must be a proper governance structure. The danger is that because a number of us, perhaps in all parts of the House, have concerns about the single individual, we will set around that individual not mechanisms of good governance, but limits to their authority and to their ability to make the police service accountable to the local community. The danger is that those extra mechanisms may reduce the quality of accountability and the extent to which the police are accountable to their local communities. If you simply say, “We will give the policing and crime panel more of an opportunity to have a go at the policing and crime commissioner”, that is all well and good, but let us be quite clear that they will then be very political environments. You will have an elected politician, and I share the view that this will almost certainly be someone from a political party. It may exceptionally not be, but it will usually be, and if it is not, it will make the matter worse because they will then be dealing with a policing and crime panel that will be virtually entirely made up of elected politicians from the various political parties. This will then be a party-political forum in which the aim will be to criticise the decisions of the policing and crime commissioner. It will all be good fun, but it will do nothing about the accountability of the police service.

In the Second Reading debate, I referred to the last meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority that I attended. It was an example of the visible answerability
of the Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis in that there was a series of major items with which the public were seriously engaged. It required the acting commissioner to make a public apology to those present and, through the media, to London as a whole for failures in respect of two investigations. In one instance, the family of the person who had been murdered was present to hear that apology. That is something you throw away at your peril. There was also a large group there that was concerned about the death of Smiley Culture. The sight of the police being seen to be answerable to people representing the public is very important in incidents of that sort. The danger, the unintended consequence, of the Government’s attempt to improve the democratic accountability of the police may be that you lose that visible answerability and that opportunity for different sections of the community to come together. We have not heard an answer about how that is to be replicated.

The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, suggested at Second Reading that the occasions when the chief officer of police meets the elected policing and crime commissioner could perhaps be held in public, but I do not see how that can work. It is a discussion à deux. There would be TV crews and newspaper reporters would be taking notes. This is not the way accountability operates. We are talking about how you recreate that visible answerability and provide a mechanism whereby an individual elected to this important role is protected from acting capriciously or unnecessarily. I am not suggesting that, in the way of former Roman emperors, they should have somebody going around whispering in their ear that they were mortal, but if there are to be people elected by perhaps 1 million people in some of the larger police areas who have that direct responsibility and no governance structure around them, there has to be some mechanism which reminds them of their wider responsibility and helps them to avoid making capricious decisions or decisions which favour one part of a community rather than another. That is why that structure is needed around what is proposed.

The Government are not wrong to pursue the principle of direct election, nor are they wrong to pursue the principle of improving democratic accountability, but it is important that they get the mechanism right. I am happy to support the amendment because it provides an opportunity to pause and look in more detail at how these mechanisms might be made to work effectively. The Government are in danger of weakening the principle of accountability and of making visible answerability disappear. Under the circumstances, the principle of British policing based on consent, where people can see that the police service is operating in their interests and those of the whole community, is in danger of being thrown away. That is why the amendment and the discussions that we will be having in Committee are so important.”

Thursday
May 12,2011

Nice to be quoted by Paul Waugh in the excellent Waugh Room.

I have already referred to the farce that followed the Government’s defeat in the House of Lords last night on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill.

For those who want the full exchange with the Leader of the House, , here it is:

“The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): Before my noble friend Lady Hamwee continues speaking to her amendment, perhaps I may explain that there has been a short Adjournment of the Committee’s proceedings so that discussion could take place as to whether we should continue. The Government’s position is utterly straightforward. Earlier today, a defeat took place. It is not the first time that a defeat has taken place on a government Bill. There is no reason why we should not continue; in fact, it is the Government’s wish that we should. I understand that some noble Lords who have put down amendments would prefer not to continue. It is entirely their right-and we would not complain-not to move their amendments this evening, but good order and precedent should continue and we should carry on with the Committee stage. I hope that my noble friend Lady Hamwee can continue with her amendment.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I accept what the Leader has said. However, the advice given to us earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, to perhaps take time to reflect on where we are on the Bill and the implications of today’s vote for the remaining amendments, was cogent and very sensible. When the House was adjourned a brief 12 minutes ago, it was agreed that it would be adjourned in order for discussions to take place. I point out to the Chief Whip that that is what was said. No discussions have taken place with the Opposition. I do not complain; I merely point that out as a matter for the record. I am perfectly happy to continue as the noble Lord desires, but I do not think that it is a sensible way forward. It would be far more appropriate for us to take time to reflect. However, the noble Lord is the Leader of the House and it is for him to decide.

Lord Soley: I am not very confident of my knowledge of the procedures when we get into a situation like this. I simply say to the Government-and I recognise that I probably would not be their first choice as a political adviser-that there are aspects of the Bill which we could deal with very effectively and get through; for example, on drugs and alcohol. I am at a loss to understand why the Government do not proceed with that, leaving aside the policing bit for the moment while they decide a policy. The provisions on drugs and alcohol will get a lot of support. The Government could be well advised, politically, to split off the policing aspect so that they can take their time on it, and they would get a very good Bill on drugs and alcohol which I think we would all welcome.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, having heard the Leader of the House speaking earlier, I can see no reason why we should not start to debate Clause 2 of the Bill and everything that follows. It is merely Clause 1 that causes the difficulties. I urge the Government Front Bench, whom, I repeat, I broadly support on this Bill, to consider whether we might move to Clause 2 and invite those who wish to move amendments to Clause 1 not to move them at this stage.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, is trying to be helpful to the Committee. His analysis that it is difficult for us to debate anything in the Bill that relates to police and crime commissioners until a way forward has been determined is helpful. Clearly, Clause 2 does not contain anything at the moment about police and crime commissioners and there are a number of other clauses in the first part of the Bill, including Clauses 3 and 4, that do not relate to police and crime commissioners. So we could with due determination proceed with the Bill with those bits that are not affected by the decision that the Committee took earlier on.

However, there is one further difficulty and I would be grateful for the Leader of the House’s guidance on this point. We were told that the target for tonight was the group beginning Amendment 15. I suspect that a number of noble Lords worked on the basis that government targets on such matters are rarely achieved let alone surpassed. They might have wished to speak about amendments or issues subsequent to Amendment 15 but have left and would not be particularly happy if we were to proceed beyond that point without notice. Speaking for myself, I am always happy to talk on those matters that I have put down. However, it is unfair on those Members of the Committee who may have left on the assumption that the Government’s target-they are, as I said, rarely exceeded-was to reach the group beginning Amendment 15.

This process is enormously unhelpful, although I am sure that she can speak for herself, to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee. She has an amendment about transitional arrangements. There is a useful debate to be had about transitional arrangements-whether it should be for a year, which I think is the substance of her argument, or whether it should be for a shorter period and how it operates. But it is difficult to understand how we can debate a transitional arrangement when we do not know what transition we are making and from what state to what state. If, for example, a very simple matter were being proposed, a transitional arrangement of a year might seem excessive. However, if a more complicated change were proposed, a transitional arrangement of a year might seem appropriate.

We are in a difficult position and the Government Front Bench has put the noble Baroness in a very difficult position by encouraging her to move her amendment when we do not know what that transition will be. If, for example, the Committee were to decide that this is all getting silly and that we should stop, I would be sorry that the substance of debating transitional arrangements should then be lost. But I do not see how the Committee can debate transitional arrangements when we are not even in a position to judge what state we are in transition from and to what future state we are aiming.

The Government Front Bench must help the House and find a way out of this terribly difficult impasse. I appreciate that it may have one or two slightly bigger consequences of today’s vote on their minds, but we are in a difficult situation tonight. It would be better for us to have some proper time for reflection and for the Government to have time for reflection so that they can let us know how to proceed.

Baroness O’Loan: My Lords, I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Harris, just said. With my limited experience of the House, I think that we are debating a police and crime panel which is defined in the legislation, which has now become part of the police and crime commission, with much greater powers than it had originally. The police and crime panel will also be the police commission. It will have powers to hire and fire police chiefs and all sorts of other powers as a consequence of this change. But we do not know what we are talking about. We do not know whether it is an elephant, a tiger or what it is. We should think again.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I support that idea. The noble Lord, Lord Harris, for whom I have immense regard-I respect his very great experience in these matters-was not quite right when he said when that Clause 2 has no reference to a police commissioner. Clause 2(5) reads:

“A chief constable must exercise the power of direction and control conferred by subsection (3) in such a way as is reasonable to assist the relevant police and crime commissioner to exercise the commissioner’s functions”.

Am I right-

Lord Elton: As I understand it, under our Standing Orders, we can only speak to a Motion. The Motion before the Committee is Amendment 13. My noble friend the Leader of the House has proposed the way that we should go forward and the Leader of the Opposition has said she agrees that we should go forward. If we go forward now, we have decent time to do at least one amendment and we might get on with this Bill.

9.30 pm

Lord Elystan-Morgan: I am speaking to the amendment to this extent-that I believe that the amendment is an utter unreality and that every other amendment in relation to Part 1 is similarly tainted and coloured. My argument in favour of that, and I speak from the neutrality of the Cross Benches-

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Elystan-Morgan: I do not wish any evil whatever upon this House, for which I have immense respect. The situation, surely, is that there are these categories of provision-first, as regards any provision dealing directly with the police commissioner, it would be utterly impossible and absurd to debate it; secondly, as regards any reference to a police commissioner, again, it would be impossible to debate it; thirdly, as regards any implied relevance of a police commissioner, again, it would be wrong to debate it. It seems that no real, genuine and substantial debate can properly occur in relation to Part 1. I do not say that with any sense of pleasure whatever.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, as a veteran of many amendments and many losses, I am slightly baffled by this debate. The Government have presented a Bill to this House and it is the property of this House. The House has decided, in its wisdom, to vote on an amendment that has removed an important aspect of the Bill. Noble Lords have spoken and have agonised over the implications of that decision. The time to think about the implications of that decision is before you vote, not after.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Strathclyde: It is a good point. However, noble Lords have done so, without thinking over the implications. We have an amendment before us. Noble Lords have said it is difficult-

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Strathclyde: I am going to finish my point. Noble Lords have said it is difficult to continue. Moving amendments in this House is not compulsory. If noble Lords do not wish to move their amendments at this Committee stage, they do not have to. They can reconsider them in the light of the debate. We will of course be returning to this Bill on Report. We have spent a great deal of time discussing the implications of a vote that took place some hours ago. I assert that we should have discussed the implications of that in that very long debate and not now. If noble Lords wish to down tools and go home early, that is their decision. I think we should continue with the Bill.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord the Leader of the House is being slightly unfair on the House. Noble Lords were very clear what they were voting for. They realised that if the amendment was passed, they were kicking a very large hole in this Bill. That was the decision of the House. What people are querying is the strange “band played on” mentality of the government Front Bench. You have hit the iceberg but the band carries on playing. No doubt, the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, wishes to remain at the wheel until such time as the “Titanic” sinks below the waves-you can see where the metaphor is going. My point is that I do not think it is fair of the noble Lord the Leader of the House to suggest that people were not aware of what they were doing. What we cannot understand is what the Government think they are doing.

Baroness O’Loan: My Lords, if I may speak again, perhaps the Leader of the House could help me by telling me exactly what it is that I am now discussing. I think that I am discussing a police commission comprising a police and crime panel that will elect one of its number to be a police commissioner that has no powers in the Bill, as all the powers in the Bill belong to other organisations. I am mystified as to what I am supposed to be thinking about.

Lord Strathclyde: The noble Baroness is generous in giving me powers, which I do not have, of knowing what it is that she is talking about. I dare say that what the noble Baroness is supposed to be talking about is the amendment moved by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. If my noble friend Lady Hamwee wishes to proceed with her amendment, she may and she can explain what noble Lords are supposed to be discussing. If she does not wish to carry on with her amendment and subsequent noble Lords do not wish to carry on with their amendments, the rules of the House are utterly clear: you say, “Not moved” when your name is called. We would then carry on to the stage that the noble Lords, Lord Soley, Lord Harris and others, wish to get to. This really is not complicated.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords-

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, could I seek one point of information? Given that, as was suggested by one of my noble friends earlier, we had a target of reaching the group starting with Amendment 15, if noble Lords did not wish to move their amendments in the groups preceding that group, would the Leader agree that we should finish at Amendment 15 for the sake of those people who are not present this evening and who did not expect to have their amendments debated this evening? Would the House then adjourn?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the target is a sort of rough target in order to help the House. From other discussions that have taken place, I understand that the Opposition are fully briefed up to Amendment 18, but I do not know whether that is true. I would rather dispose of Amendment 13, which is the amendment that we are on, and see where we get to. It is nearly 20 minutes to 10.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader give an assurance that he will give the Government’s position in relation to the earlier decision of your Lordships’ House on anything that we discuss from now? We need to know what the Government are arguing in the light of the earlier decision. The noble Baroness, Lady O’Loan, was asking that question. As the Government have suffered a defeat and the Bill has now changed, an amendment that we discuss ought to be discussed in the light of the Government’s position now. Therefore, we need the Government’s position to be spelled out even before we debate amendments.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the Government’s Minister will respond to the questions posed by those who propose amendments. That is what happens when we deal with Bills at Committee stage. Nothing has changed. Let us get on with it.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, can we just have some clarity from the noble Lord the Leader? I am sorry to prolong this-I promise not to do so, or I give an assurance in the same sense that targets for amendments are given to the House-but can the noble Lord the Leader explain to the House why the government Front Bench has permitted us to debate an amendment that potentially no one in this House understands? We are talking about transitional arrangements, which are a perfectly valid area of debate, but we do not know what we are transitioning from or to. Under those circumstances, why has the government Front Bench allowed the debate? We are a self-regulating House. If the powers were invested in the Lord Speaker, no doubt we would have a ruling, which we would all of course at once obey. Under these circumstances, the noble Lord has to tell the House how he has reached his decision, and we have to understand it.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, first of all, this will not be the first time that the House has debated an issue that it does not know anything about. Secondly, it is up to the noble Baroness-this is not a government amendment-who owns the amendment to explain what it is for. Again, I say to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, that this is really simple. If the noble Baroness does not explain it sufficiently well, the amendment will either be withdrawn, or voted on, or whatever. That is what happens. The Government will respond to questions that are put to them. I cannot be clearer to the noble Lord. I invite the noble Baroness to carry on from where she left off.”

Wednesday
May 11,2011

Their unexpected defeat on the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill plunged Government business managers in the House of Lords into a series of farcical manoeuvres.
They initially – like the band on the Titanic playing on after the iceberg had been struck – tried to pretend that nothing had happened and insisted that the House should debate an amendment on transitional arrangements. Even though the amendment referred to a structure that had been taken out of the Bill, it took three adjournments and statements by the Government Chief Whip and then by the Leader of the House before it was decided – two and a half hours after the original defeat – to stop considering the Bill for the evening to allow the Government time to reflect what it intends to do next.