Previous Section Index Home Page

Intercept as Evidence

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): My written ministerial statement of 10 December 2009, Official Report, column 31WS reported the conclusions of the work programme set in train following the Privy Council review of January 2008, to implement the use of intercept as evidence, consistent with protecting the public and national security. This concluded that the "PII Plus" model of IAE, recommended for further work by the Privy Council review, would not be legally viable, and would worsen rather than enhance our ability to bring the guilty to justice. The Advisory Group of Privy Counsellors (the right hon. Sir John Chilcot, the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Sir Alan Beith), the right hon. and learned Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), and my noble Friend the right hon. Lord Archer of Sandwell) established to advise on the work programme, agreed with this conclusion.

My written ministerial statement confirmed the Government's commitment to report back on further scoping analysis, intended to establish whether the problems identified were capable of being resolved, prior to the Easter recess. The areas to be examined were:

I am having placed in the House Libraries copies of a progress report to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on behalf of the Advisory Group.

25 Mar 2010 : Column 62WS

The findings underline the complexity and difficulty of the issues raised. None of the approaches examined successfully reconcile the requirements for trials to remain fair with those necessary to protect operational capabilities. In some cases the problems are such that further work is not justified. In some others the position may be less categorical. Reflecting this, the Advisory Group has suggested further, more focused work building on that undertaken previously and intended to establish whether the remaining approaches could be implemented in way that is operationally sustainable and affordable. The Government agree that this would be useful.

I should like to express my thanks to the Advisory Group for their continued contribution to this programme of work.

Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 (Lord Carlile's Fifth Annual Report) and Joint Committee on Human Rights Report

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Alan Johnson): In accordance with section 14(3), 14(4) and 14(5) of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, Lord Carlile of Berriew QC prepared a report on the operation of the Act in 2009, which I laid before the House on 1 February 2010.

I am grateful to Lord Carlile for another considered review. Following consultation within my department and with other relevant agencies, I am today laying before the House my response to Lord Carlile's recommendations.

I am also laying before the House my response to the report on the renewal of the control order legislation by the Joint Committee on Human Rights (published on 26 February 2010).

Copies of the Government responses will be available in the Vote Office and a copy of each will also be placed on the Home Office website.


Employment Tribunal Awards and ACAS Settlements

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Bridget Prentice): Today, I am announcing measures that build upon the current provisions for enforcement of awards from employment tribunals in the courts.

The High Court Enforcement Officers Association has agreed that a number of its members will take part in a scheme, to be known as Employment Tribunal Fast Track, that will assist successful claimant enforce their employment tribunal awards anywhere in England and Wales.

With effect from the 6 April 2010 the fast track scheme will allow a High Court enforcement officer to be assigned to their case as soon as the respondent fails to pay the award as ordered. The officer will thereafter progress the case through the court processes and onward to execution of a High Court Writ issued against the respondent's goods.

All the costs of the fast track scheme will be recoverable from the respondent with a small fixed cost liability for the claimant if the award is not recovered.

25 Mar 2010 : Column 63WS

The award will continue to be registered on the Register of Judgments, Orders and Fines, which if left unpaid, could have a detrimental effect upon the credit status of the respondent.

It is our intention to now consider if the fast track scheme can be extended to include recipients of ACAS settlements orders so they too can benefit from the services the High Court enforcement officer.

The Government are determined to ensure that individuals who are entitled to their employment tribunal awards are not denied access to justice by a small minority of unscrupulous individuals or companies who refuse to respect the award. These changes will ensure that all recipients can pursue the payment of their award with ease.

Constitutional Reform Act 2005 (Post-legislative Scrutiny)

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): I am today laying before the House the Government's memorandum to the Justice Committee on post-legislative scrutiny of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 introduced wide-ranging constitutional reform to the Executive, legislature and judiciary. This reform has been implemented, in line with the stated objectives of the Act, as detailed in the memorandum. The full impact on our constitutional settlement of these major reforms is only likely to be felt years from now, as the institutions and relationships it created continue to mature.

Second Victims Advisory Panel: March 2010

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Claire Ward): I have laid before Parliament an end of tenure report for the Second Victims Advisory Panel that met between July 2006 and July 2009.

The report gives details of the panel's work across the period and sets out recommendations they have made. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the members of the panel for their hard work.

Youth Justice Board Review

The Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor (Mr. Jack Straw): My right hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Ed Balls) and I welcome the report published today, "Safeguarding the Future: A Review of the Youth Justice Board's Governance and Operating Arrangements" (the YJB Review). This highlights the significant improvements in youth justice since 1998, as well as making important recommendations for the future. We are grateful to Dame Sue Street and Frances Done for their thoughtful and thorough analysis.

The creation of the Youth Justice Board (YJB) and pioneering multi-agency youth offending teams through the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 is described by the YJB Review as "amongst the most significant [reforms]
25 Mar 2010 : Column 64WS
ever made to the criminal justice system". The 1998 Act brought co-ordination and consistency to the previously ineffective and disparate system that was so heavily criticised by the 1996 Audit Commission report, "Misspent Youth". Crucially, for the first time it put in place a distinct, formal structure for dealing with young offenders.

Now, instead of pulling in different directions, the police, social services, schools and local authorities are working closely together to protect the public through prevention and where that fails, punishment and reform. One key focus is on tackling problems before they are allowed to take root, challenging bad behaviour before it escalates.

At the same time, there are also serious consequences for those who do offend. Custody must remain an option open to sentencers for serious and persistent offenders or those who fail to respond to other interventions. We have also expanded the range of community punishments to hold young offenders to account where appropriate and to make them give redress to the communities they have wronged.

All this work is underpinned by the £100 million youth crime action plan, which has already impacted on more than 300,000 young people, as well as a new sentencing framework, the "Youth Rehabilitation Order", which combines rigorous punishment with interventions to help young offenders to reform.

The evidence suggests that this approach is having an effect: the number of young people entering the criminal justice system has fallen by over 12 per cent. between 2000-01 and 2008-09; the frequency rate of reoffending has fallen by nearly a quarter between 2000-2008; and, the number of young people sentenced to immediate custody has also fallen significantly over this period.

This progress is encouraging. The Youth Justice Board has played an important part, for which it deserves credit. However, we want to achieve a further step change: fewer victims, less reoffending, the best outcomes delivered across the country. That is why we commissioned a review of the Youth Justice Board in September 2009, and why we accept the review's message that the YJB needs to achieve a stronger grip on performance, provide clearer direction, and give the best value for public money. The current leadership have shown themselves to be ready to rise to this challenge. We accept the review's recommendation that the board should build on its strengths and reinvigorate its role.

As today's report highlights, protecting the public must be clearly recognised as the first priority within an integrated approach that improves outcomes for young people. This is central to our approach to justice. We accept the recommendation that the YJB should further emphasise and publicise its role in protecting the public from youth crime.

The review makes clear the importance of strong partnership working between the YJB and central Government and makes a number of important recommendations to strengthen this further. We will seek to implement these immediately, building on the successful work through the youth crime action plan. We agree that the Home Office should have greater involvement in that partnership working with the YJB and its sponsoring departments.

We will now develop proposals for putting into practice all the review's recommendations. We will examine how
25 Mar 2010 : Column 65WS
to achieve the Youth Justice Board's purpose and objectives with the best value for money for the tax-paying public and publish a detailed response in the summer.

We will build on our success in preventing crime and reducing reoffending. The Youth Justice Board will continue to ensure there are sufficient places in secure accommodation for the most serious, persistent young offenders. And where there are weaknesses in performance, the board will focus considerable attention on monitoring and raising standards in local areas, on holding local authorities and providers of youth justice services to account, and on spreading best practice across the country. The review makes clear that there is more to do in this respect. We accept that and will immediately work with the YJB to ensure it happens. The board will be strengthened in its role through provisions in the Children, Schools and Families Bill which give the Government the power to intervene directly in poorly performing youth offending teams.

The best partnership working should be shared and built upon across the country. No one should be left in any doubt about the importance attached to protecting people from becoming victims of crime and in holding the perpetrators to account.

Leader of the House

Reform of the House of Commons

The Leader of the House of Commons (Ms Harriet Harman): Following a general debate on 22 February, the House resolved 11 motions without a vote giving effect to many recommendations in the First Report of the House of Commons Reform Committee, Session 2008-09, "Rebuilding the House" (HC 1117). On 4 March 2010 after a further debate on outstanding issues, further motions were approved. In the words of the Committee, "significant and welcome steps have now been taken on the path to reform."

In order to give effect to these resolutions, I have tabled motions which appear in today's order paper to create and amend Standing Orders to give effect to the recommendations relating to the establishment of a Back-Bench business committee, namely to set the process for election and procedural conduct of the committee, to allocate time for Back-Bench proceedings and to define Back-Bench business.

The Reform Committee has proposed its own motion following the decisions of the House on 4 March. The Reform Committees motion differs from the decisions of the House in the following ways:

Election of Back-Bench business committee members-The Standing Order proposed by the Committee provides for this to be by single transferable vote. No voting system was agreed to by resolution of the House. The Government's Standing Order provides a method analogous to that agreed by the House for other Select Committees, allowing for a balance of parties and to guarantee some representation of women and men.

Adoption of the agenda-The Standing Order proposed by the Committee provides for the Back-Bench business committee's report to be agreed to by the House on a
25 Mar 2010 : Column 66WS
Question put forthwith. This was not agreed to by resolution of the House. The Government's Standing Order provides for the Back-Bench business committee to schedule business directly within the time allocated to it (as the Opposition does on Opposition days).

Number of allotted days-The Standing Order proposed by the Committee provides for thirty-five days or its equivalent to be allotted in each session for proceedings in the House on Back-Bench business. The Government's Standing Order provides for one day a week or its equivalent, which reflects the specific wording of the recommendation (30) of "Rebuilding the House" to which the resolution agreed by the House referred.

Topical Debates-The Standing Order proposed by the Committee would remove current limits on speaking time for Front-Bench spokespeople. This was not agreed to by resolution of the House. We would seek to retain them but to remove the requirement for a Minister to open the debate so that a Back-Bencher can do so.

Westminster Hall -The Committee proposes that Thursday sittings in Westminster Hall should be available to the Back-Bench business committee, subject to 20 days being at the disposal of the Liaison Committee. The scheduling of business in Westminster Hall is currently a matter for the Chairman of Ways and Means, not the Government. As the Committee's proposal was not specifically agreed by resolution of the House, the Government motion maintains the status quo for business off the floor of the House.

Private Members' Bills-The Committee Standing Order would allow the Back-Bench business committee to programme Private Members' Bills. This was not agreed to by resolution of the House. This provision is therefore not included in the Government's Motion.

Because these changes to Standing Orders do no more than give effect to the changes the House has agreed by resolution, I recommend the House to agree them without further debate.

Prime Minister

House of Lords Appointments Commission Annual Report

The Prime Minister (Mr. Gordon Brown): I have placed today the House of Lords Appointments Commission Annual Report October 2008-March 2010 in the Libraries of both Houses. I am grateful to the members of the commission for the report and their valuable work during the period.


Core Quality Standards

The Solicitor-General (Vera Baird): My right hon. Friend the Attorney-General has made the following written ministerial statement:

Next Section Index Home Page