Police Bill – Days 2&3 of Committee Stage in the Lords: Amendments on Privacy and Serious Violence

I have made no secret of the fact that I think that this is an appalling Bill. When I started looking at the amendments, I had to struggle not to sign up to all of them, because they all made sense.

Government intrusion into our private lives

Lady Brinton and Lord, Lord Patel laid out why all the amendments in this group are so important. Bringing together all the local authorities and other bodies to reduce serious violence is an excellent initiative, but it cannot come at the expense of breaching key safeguards for sensitive personal information, especially medical information. The amendments are about striking the right balance so that authorities can work together without being under a duty to breach doctor-patient confidentiality. Without this, we risk ever greater government intrusion into our personal and private lives in the vague name of keeping us safe—something this Tory Government seem to be very keen to do by quite repressive measures. By supporting the amendments, we can ensure that the Government do not overstep the mark.

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The need for community consultation on serious violence

Lady Bennett of Manor Castle is unable to attend your Lordships’ Committee today, so I am proposing Amendment 30 in her place.

Along with the other amendments in this group, our amendment will improve the Government’s attempts to reduce serious violence. Youth groups, cultural groups and religious groups are just a few of the organisations that should be consulted in the exercise of the serious violence duty. There are many others too, and there will be big gaps in any serious violence reduction plan that has not consulted with and included these groups. They know their communities well, often with a different angle from other health services, local authorities and so on, and are currently not listed in the Bill—but they definitely should be. Perhaps most importantly, they can often shine a light on the failures of those other bodies with respect to how they perhaps underserve or misunderstand their communities.

So I hope the Minister will outline how youth, cultural and religious groups will be properly involved in this serious violence duty.

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The definition of, and duty to reduce, serious violence

I support Amendment 58 in the name of  Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, but I think all of the amendments in this group are extremely worthwhile. Lady Bertin, gave a thoroughly well-argued pitch for her amendment, to which the Government have to listen. Lady Brinton, also argued very comprehensively for the inclusion of stalking, and I agree with that very strongly.

I wanted to sign every single amendment to this Bill, so I have ended up signing a sort of weird collection, and I apologise for that; I care about it all because I am so distressed about the Bill in general.

On Amendment 58, we need to know exactly what the Government intend with their duty to reduce serious violence. We talked earlier about intrusions, particularly relating to confidentiality, so it is quite important to have a redefined definition of serious violence. Because we have identified those intrusions, without safeguards, we must be sure that Parliament is clear and precise about the situations to which we intend this duty to apply; otherwise, we are left with a vague duty that interferes with people’s right to privacy in arbitrary and unfair ways. I very much hope that the Minister is listening and agreeing.

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