07/03/2017 Lords Questions


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I beg leave to ask the question standing in my name on the order


paper. My Lords, according to the latest data from the office for


national statistics, income inequality in the UK is at its


lowest level since 1986. The key to economic success and to reducing


inequality is to improve activity which determines living standards in


the long run, that's why the Government has established a


national productivity investment fund and published a Green Paper on


industrial strategy highlighting the role of improved skills, of


infrastructure, investment and of R and D. My Lords, the resolution


foundation argues to prevent the biggest increase in inequality since


the 1980s, requires a shift in social policy choices, notably the


freeze in most working age benefits in the face of rising inflation.


Will the Government now follow the advice of Iain Duncan Smith and


reconsider the freeze because he warned that it was never intended,


it should have such a dramatic impact - effect on incomes, his


words. Wouldn't it be the right thing to do to protect low income


families in and out of work in this way for a Government that claims to


be working for everyone? My Lords, I think we have to have a


little bit of context, savings are necessary to reduce borrowing and to


put the public finances back on a sustainable footing after the


financial crisis and between 1980 and 2014 spending on welfare


actually trebled in real terms to ?96 billion whilst GDP increased by


much less. Our approach is a different one. We are committed to


supporting working families with a whole load of measures, getting


people back into work... Thank you. Innovating, growing and putting the


country on it a good footing. It's only a forecast from the resolution


foundation, forecasts aren't always right and we're determined to make


the changes we need for this country.


Going back to the exchange about inequality... My Lords, the Minister


said whether any assessment has been made of the effect of the national


living wage on which inequality and whether there is anything more that


can be done in this respect? I thank my Nobel friend, because I


believe that the national living wage, brought in in April last year,


is a fantastic example of policies that the Government has introduced


to make work pay. In terms of looking forward, it will rise again


to ?7. 50 next month and it has already given the working, many


working people in Britain the fastest pay rise in 20 years.


Observers will have noticed that there's a startling contradiction


between the presumption in the question that income inequality has


been growing very sharply and the resumption in the reply that it's


doing the opposite. There are different measures but most of them


do think that inequality is growing. Wouldn't it be useful if the ONS did


convene a panel of people to get a little more clarity as to why these


figures can be banded around with such different descriptions of what


is happening. I think the ONS keep is honest, they look at these


figures over time and they helpfully update and the OBR forecasts are


updated all the time so that we can see what's happening. I would like


to come back to the point which is that the resolution foundation is


looking at a forecast but if you look at what has happened, five


years ago it was predicted, I think by the IFS, that there would be a


rise in inequality. In fact, it hasn't happened. Things continued to


progress and we have seen a recoveriy and that's what we need to


continue by having the right policies which this Government is


pursuing under our new Prime Minister. My Lords, I am shocked


that the Minister doesn't recognise that young working families are


facing serious financial pressure and struggling and that it looks as


though it's going to be worse with inflation. But would she agree that


part of the reason are the very high rents that most of these families


face, and would she be willing in the budget tomorrow to permit local


councils to go out and borrow the necessary amounts of money to drive


forward development of affordable rental housing. She has often


acknowledged that the housing market is broken, but all the Government


solutions are on the demand side, supply doesn't increase, especially


not in the affordable area. I wouldn't want to steal the


Chancellor's thunder today. I think that there is certainly some


provision for Prudential borrowing but I would like to come back to the


support that we give to working families. The national living wage,


already mentioned by my noble friend, that's given the fastest pay


rise in 20 years. We have raised the personal allowance to ?12500 by the


end of parliament. We are introducing universal credit which


has the benefit of making work pay so that you go out and work, you


aren't held back by benefit dilemmas. We are committed to make


work pay and we believe that is the very best way forward for the people


of this country, for hard working families which I agree are our


priority. My Lords, the Minister cannot


discount the resolution foundation in such a cavalier manner, it


produced very - it's got a strong reputation and it produced very real


and well-backed analysis. It said that higher incomes will rise but


slowly, middle incomes are going to stag and low incomes are going to


stall. -- stagnate and low incomes are going to fall. We know how


little is the base for low incomes for them to be able to afford to


fall without poverty increasing substantially. They say, the


foundation says it will be the biggest rise in inequality since the


late 1980s. I do not need to remind the House which party was in power


during that period and which Prime Minister, many of whose Cabinet


members of course are still with us. LAUGHTER


I would add that the resolution foundation report also says, which


is a point I have been emphasising, that economic forecasts can change


dramatically and there is no way of knowing just how the future will


play out. I believe that the approach we now have, including


industrial strategy, investment in infrastructure, housing, digital,


transport, all of this is making a big difference. We have protected


the most vulnerable through benefits system which is highly distributive


so households get four times in support as spending while they pay


in tax whilst the highest pay five times as much in tax as they receive


in pay. We want a fairer society and getting workless households into


work and improving productivity and skills is to my mind the best way


forward. My Lords, I beg leave to ask the


question standing in my name on the order paper.


My Lords, the Government's White Paper on exiting the EU was


published on 2nd February. It sets out the Government's priorities and


the broad strategy for exiting the EU and made clear that we will take


back control of our own laws. There are a number of options as to how EU


immigration might work once we have exited the EU, we are considering


those options and will consult businesses and communities.


Parliament will also have a critical role to play. Of course the main


pressure so-called is really from non-EU migrants. Why didn't the


Government years ago use clause 45 of the TFEU and particularly section


three and three A, C and D, to improcess the necessary civilised


restraints on migrants coming in with authorisation so that none of


the horrendous hostility to immigrants from all over would have


been so evident in the referendum on 23rd June?


My Lords, I think the noble Lord, I can't be accountable for what


happened in the past, I think we have been a very generous country in


terms of letting people come here for the purposes of work. What I can


say is that there was very clear message last year which is about


controlling the numbers of people who come into this country, both


from the EU and from non-EU countries and that is what we intend


to do and to keep parliament fully involved in the process. On 12th


January the Government stated in response to an oral question that,


quote, the drekive sets out in order for an EU citizen to reside in


another member state beyond the three months they must be exercising


a treaty right. That is working self-employed, self-sufficient or a


student. After being asked three times why it did not implement this


three month rule for EU citizens still here without a job but not a


student the Government said ap I quote, it's not a failure to


implement, this country is more than generous in its implementation of


that directive. Close quotes. Firstly, why does the Government


maintain that only by leaving the EU can we reduce EU mu gracious, when


the Government accepts it has not applied the EU directive three month


rule as firmly as it could have done but instead considers that it has


been quote, more than generous in its implementation of that drekive,


close quote, how much lower would the figure have been in each of the


last five years if the Government had applied the EU three month rule


directive as firmly as it believes it was entitled to do so?


My Lords, as the noble Lord said, we have been a very generous country


and certainly whern Labour were in power they decided not to exercise


the opt-out as the noble Lord was asking. In terms of what would the


figures have been. Had we adopted a different process, my Lords, we are


where we are. The country has given us a very, very clear message in the


referendum and we intend to follow that through in terms of making sure


that net migration to this country is in the tens of thousands. My


Lords,ish endeavour to be helpful to the noble lady, the Minister. The


previous questions have been about the past. Could I ask about the


future. Article 45 of the treaty on the functioning of the European


Union relates to free movement of workers, not people generally. I


wonder what thought the Government has given to the excellent report by


the House of Commons Brexit committee which also talks about the


rights of EU and UK national citizens with aspects of immigration


policy, including students, family reunion and on EU spouses compared


with non-EU spouses and I declare my interests as listed in the register.


My Lords, it is absolutely right that we settle and I am glad she's


talking about the future by the way, and not the past, probably neither


of us, certainly I don't remember, but certainly in terms of the


directive which is about the movement of workers and their


families, I think the Prime Minister's made it absolutely clear


about protecting the rights of EU nationals living in this country but


we talked a lot the other day in committee about the fairness of the


process and therefore protecting the rights of UK nationals in return.


The Government does not want to do this on a unilateral basis and we


need to think about all the people, UK nationals living in the EU, and


EU nationals living here. My Lords, the Minister actually has


been very patient with the House over recent questions and explaining


to us the rights of residency after five years' work of European


citizens. And also about the right of citizenship after six years. Can


she tell the House whether as regards citizenship if a European


citizen becomes a citizen of the UK, does that mean he or she has the


right to remain in this country? The noble Lord, I am grateful to him, we


talked about this at length the other day, and of course in terms of


residency rights, the right of residency, a person and by the way,


this is an EU law, and not a UK law, so all the talk we have about


comprehensive sickness insurance, this is EU law which we implement,


after five years of abiding by treaty obligations, the Noble Lord


is right, a person living i an EU national living in this country has


permanent residency, they do not have to prove that permanent


residency. But then he goes on to make another point, which is very


valid, which is to swish that from applying for British citizenship and


in that application process, which is based in UK law, that person has


to prove residency and not to be breaking any immigration rules after


six years, they will then be granted UK citizenship and the noble Lord is


right, they have the right to remain here.


I beg you to ask the question in my name on the order paper. This


government is committed to working for everyone in all parts of the


country. I am grateful for the report on rural proofing. We will


better understand the needs in those communities. The government is


revising its commitment to rural proofing. I welcome the work the


Ministry is doing, but why do so many government departments fail to


realise the big barrier of transport costs on people with low incomes.


They are so often cut off and excluded by the cost of transport.


Surely we can't allow ourselves to stumble into a situation where you


have to be well off to live in the countryside? I entirely agree with


the noble lord. It is important we enhance accessibility. Sparsity and


the typography of the countryside means there are challenges and that


is why I am pleased that the community minibus fund which was


launched will enable I think 300 local charities and community groups


to receive a new minibus which I think is going to be very helpful,


but clearly there is more that we want to do. I should say that the


whole issue of transport and accessibility is important, that


ball incidents, that under the Post Office transformation, all post


offices will have banking facilities. There are ways in which


we can assist rural communities. International apprenticeship week,


what is the government doing to encourage apprenticeships in rural


areas? The government is committed to reaching 3 million apprenticeship


starts by 2020. This includes trebling the amount of


apprenticeships in food and farming from 6000 to 18,000. National parks


are looking to double the number of apprenticeships and it is important


that we encouraged not only this week, but we work with employers of


all sizes. There is a new apprenticeship levy coming into


force in April this year for the larger businesses. This is an


enormous opportunity and raising the skills of young people in the


countryside and across the nation is a force for good. The commission for


oral communities was established in 2005 by the last Labour


Administration to promote awareness of rural needs amongst the


decision-makers across government. It produced the report on rural


lives, highlighting those living in poverty in rural areas can be harder


to identify and help. But the coalition government scrapped the


CRC in 2013. With issues of agriculture, trade and food policy


on Brexit, what structures are in force to ensure the interests of all


communities are heard and acted upon during these negotiations? I will


make sure the noble lord a copy of the revived rural proofing guidance.


I have been working on this and it is important that all departments


understand the issues of rural communities and that is why, and


also as the Minister for oral affairs, I am on a number of task


forces, connectivity and housing to mention two, precisely to ensure the


rural voice is heard. Given what the Minister has just said, I wonder if


he is concerned by the fact that in many rural and underprivileged


areas, libraries and leisure centres are under threat. These are the very


places that offer a glimmer of light to people who lead rather dark lives


in terms of entertainment and education. This rather takes me back


to my DC MS days and one of the things that strikes me is very much


how vibrant so many rural communities are, certainly in my


part of Suffolk. The amount of cultural activities, dance, 30,


music, it is incredible. We all want to improve, we all want to have


greater access ability to those things, but the noble Lord may be


painting a rather too pessimistic picture. Making work pay is a very


seductive slogan, but is a minister not aware that many of the families


who are worst of in our country have someone working in the economy. What


steps can the government take to ensure people are paid properly and


indeed earn at least a living wage? My Lords, it is a national living


wage and it is an obligation and I am very pleased that it is going to


rise to ?7.05 in April. That is why we want to ensure people on low


incomes, the increasing tax allowance and further coming through


is precisely to ensure that we are helping those at the lower end of


the income range. Rural proofing doesn't seem to have reached local


government where many local services have been withdrawn from villages


into urban centres as a consequence of a very deep cut to local


government funding. I do wonder what advice the noble Lord the Minister


will provide to his fellow Secretary of State, or noble Lord Lord born


about funding for district councils and county councils to enable rural


proofing? As I say, the rural proofing guidance is to go across


Whitehall. DC old she is a very important government department in


that respect. The are considerable amounts of money going to these


organisations. We have to have a growing economy to afford all the


things we want to do. That is why this country is the fastest-growing


economy in the G7. That's important because it's only when we grow our


economy that we are going to have the resources to do many of the


things I'm sure your Lordships would wish to have done. With the Minister


care to correct his assertion about the national living wage and the


national minimum wage? Secondly, can the noble Lord the minister assure


me that when the government are putting in new free schools in areas


where there is no need in terms of numbers, they will have the needs of


the rural community in mind. I used to be the heads of the schools


committee in Lancashire. Come we be assured that the government enter


coming from Whitehall with little knowledge and step over the needs of


the local community. Some of those schools need money and investment.


My Lords, it is precisely why I suspect we are going to hear about


more investment because we want to enhance the opportunity of children


across the country and it is precisely why we have some schools


that are simply not up to the standard we want them to be and that


is why we will need to invest more and it is why I am a champion for


oral schools precisely because we want to ensure that there are


opportunities in rural areas in the same way they have them across the


rest of the country. As for the living wage, I will check Hansard,


but it will raise to ?7 50 per hour. I will ensure to see whether I've


made a mistake. My Lords, I take you to answer the question standing in


my name on the order paper. The police are operationally independent


of government. The investigation of allegations of sexual abuse and how


the police conduct these investigations including whether to


commission any form of internal enquiry are operational matters for


the relevant chief officer. It is for the Police and Crime


Commissioner to hold the force to accounts. My Lords, having served in


the Home Office for many years I understand about the operational


independence of the police, but, my Lords, it's gone beyond operational


affairs, it's become a matter of confidence in the police and the


police service. The Chief Constable of Wiltshire has gone beyond the


police duties of investigating allegations and following up


evidence and has pronounced a verdict of guilty on the late Sir


Edward Heath in respect of allegations of child abuse and has


done that even before he's enquiry is complete. The officer in charge


of the enquiry, having made a stupid mistake at the beginning, has now


been obliged to be withdrawn because of ill health. He is having, I


think, a nervous breakdown. Is it not high time the enquiry is being


pursued in a way which looks to many people more like a fishing


expedition than a serious pursuit of allegations and evidence. Is it not


time that this operation was reviewed independently? Either by a


retired judge, as in the case of operation Midland, or a retired


Chief Constable or recognised -- with efficiency and integrity.


Without talking about any single investigation, may I express my


concern of the people who have been wrongly named in the press and


certainly after they have died have had defamatory statements made about


them. In any investigation it is a matter for the police. If the... In


terms of complaints against the Chief officer, I took the bill


through myself and the act strengthens the independence of the


police complaints system. Any allegations of misconduct against


the Chief officer should be investigated by the IPC said. The


newspaper quotes last month came from an anonymous source claiming to


know... -- IPC C. I would like to ask my noble friend the Minister to


whom is this Chief Constable accountable? If not the Police and


Crime Commissioner for Bush and Swindon, surely not secret and


unnamed groups of people that he has decided to appoint. There are


increasing concerns about the conduct of this enquiry and we


really need to know who is this Chief Constable accountable to? I


thank my noble friend for that question and he will know that it is


not appropriate for me to comment on individual operational matters,


these being out of the relevant chief officer, but chief officers


are, as I have said held to account in respect of operational matters by


the Police and Crime Commissioner. An independent


review was commissioned recently. It talked about the secret and unnamed


group. My Lords, it is recognised as best practice that, and Bush police


have done that, but they have engaged a panel of independent


experts outside of policing who are providing ongoing scrutiny of the


investigation to make sure it's proportionality is right.


The newspaper quotes came from an anonymous source claiming to know


the views of the Chief Constable for Wiltshire thchlt raised issue of the


relationship between the police and the national press and makes the


case for Leveson part two even stronger.


Can we come to the role of of the police and crime commissioner to


which the Minister has referred. Because a second issue relates to


the call for a Government instituted judicial inquiry into the


investigation which Wiltshire Police. Could the Government confirm


in fact the Wiltshire Police and crime commissioner has the power to


commission such a judicial inquiry into an operation by his own force.


The third issue is that if any hard evidence actually emerged that the


Chief Constable had made the comments claimed by the anonymous


newspaper source, could the Government confirm that the


Wiltshire Police and crime commissioner could, under his


powers, suspend or dismiss the Chief Constable? In other words, isn't the


ball very much in the elected Wiltshire Police and crime


commissioner's court? Well, I think the noble Lord raises a very good


point in terms of what is the role of the police and crime commissioner


in this situation. Without talking about the specific case that the


noble Lord has asked about, it is for the police and crime


commissioner to make the decision to appoint, to suspend or to remove a


Chief Constable. In making the decision to compel a Chief Constable


to resign or to retire, a PCC is bound by certain requirements,


including acting reasonably and fairly and consulting the Chief


Constable and the local police and crime panel and a PCC may compel a


Chief Constable to resign or retire under section 38-3 of the police


reform and social responsibility ability of 2011. My Lords, before we


resume consideration of the bills report stage t may be for the


convenience of the House if I say a brief word about the arrangements


for its third reading, which we expect to take place this evening.


At the conclusion of report stage we will move to the question for short


debate in the name of the noble Lord. The legislation office will at


that point be working on making the bill available for noble Lords who


may wish to table amendments at third reading. The time scale for


this will depend on whether or not the bill needs to be reprinted. When


the bill is ready for amendments to be tabled, a notice will be put


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