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10.27 p.m.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, described the gracious Speech as a non-event. For a non-event, it has certainly drawn an impressive list of speakers and has kept us here well into the evening. We have been treated to three excellent maiden speeches. The noble Lord, Lord

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Tope, has a long involvement in local government and education. Perhaps I may tell him that the Secretary of State is setting up a taskforce to implement the Prime Minister's commitment on nursery education. Part of the role of that taskforce will be to determine the amount of funding that will be needed.

A number of other noble Lords mentioned nursery education. It would be wrong to assume that we are starting from zero because nine out of ten three and four year-olds already have some form of pre-school education. Just over half attend nursery school or nursery and reception classes in primary schools. Forty-one per cent. are represented in play groups. Therefore, we have a good base on which we can build and fulfil the commitment given by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. As the noble Lord mentioned in his speech, for a short spell he was a Member in another place representing Sutton and Cheam. The only thing I could think up about Sutton and Cheam was that Cheam has been made famous by Tony Hancock; but that probably shows my age more than anything else.

We then had the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Attenborough, who has been a distinguished actor, producer and director for over half a century. I am not sure that I did not catch a passing glimpse of him yesterday evening on television in a clip from something in which he was telling a little boy that he was actually Santa Claus. But perhaps I did not see it properly.

The noble Lord is a winner of a fair number of Oscars and BAFTAs. I have to tell him that no rewards or awards are given for speeches in your Lordships' House; but if we did do that, we might have given him an award this afternoon. He has been involved with a wide range of artistic and charitable interests, as he mentioned in his speech; and I could not help but notice in Who's Who that yet another member of the Garrick Club is joining your Lordships' House.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and myself have quite a lot in common. Many years ago we were both councillors and we both fought--again, as I read in Who's Who--seven election campaigns with the same not very good record of failure and success. We served together in another place from 1979 to 1987, when we were both obliged to take what might be called in rugby parlance, "an early bath". It is comforting to have here another refugee from the vagaries of the electoral system, and I am sure that the noble Lord will find, as I have found, in your Lordships' House a different, more civilised and more knowledgeable atmosphere where quiet reason and logic carry the day.

Having listened to the noble Lord in the other place, I know that he has a deep interest in human rights. As a nation, we have a difficult balancing act to carry out--as do other nations--between helping out those who are in genuine danger in their home nations and those who are economic refugees.

A number of your Lordships got onto fairly philosophical planes. I am not sure that I shall follow those speeches for too long. To a limited extent it started with the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, who was trying to identify all the political and economic theories which had gone the way of all flesh. He did not

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mention socialism or Clause 4, and such matters; but I should not have expected him to. That is perhaps rather close to home.

However, at the beginning of his speech, in trying to identify the basis for social policy, he described it as the means to a civilised society. I do not think that too many of us would dissent from that. But it reminded me of another definition; namely, the permissive society as the civilised society. I hope that the most reverend Primate does not mind a Presbyterian saying to an Anglican that I thought that the most reverend Primate reminded us most forcefully that there is a myth that what is good and right is a subjective opinion--a sort of "do your own thing", although the most reverend Primate did not use those words. However, those words were certainly extremely prevalent as the philosophical basis of many people's lives and I believe that to be a most dangerous philosophy which is very much at variance with our Judaeo-Christian traditions. That has presented us with many problems, both as a community and even inside the Department of Social Security, where it has created problems in relation to our budget.

I really do not share the pessimistic view of some noble Lords with regard to young people. Too many generalisations are made about young people. I thought that today's school league tables showed quite clearly that there are great improvements in the performance of young people in school. I understand from what Mr. Blunkett said on the radio this morning that school league tables are now no longer the thoroughly bad things that they have been over the past two or three years. Many young people are heavily involved with the Scouts, Guides, Boys Brigades and various youth organisations. I am sure that anyone who watched the youngsters on "Songs of Praise" last Sunday would see a great many reasons for rejecting that pessimistic view.

A fair part of the debate was taken up with what I might describe generally as Home Office issues. Perhaps I may try to run through a few of the points raised and obviously, in view of the length of the debate, I shall be able to deal with only a few of the points raised.

I was asked about the criminal cases review body. That will investigate possible miscarriages of justice. It will commission inquiries from the police and others. As my noble friend Lady Blatch has already indicated, the new review body will be properly resourced and funded. Details will be made available in the usual way when the Bill is introduced.

I know that both north and south of the Border, those who are particularly interested in those matters are concerned about the implementation of Law Commission reports. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wilberforce, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, both mentioned that. I should point out that, of the 30 unimplemented reports listed in the 1994 annual report of the Law Commission, five were implemented during the last Session and a further 10 have been accepted but have not, as yet, secured a parliamentary place. The reports in question are all law reform reports, many of which concern policy issues on which there are strongly held and widely differing views. Some of them are

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particularly suited to being taken up as Private Peers' Bills or Private Members' Bills. The Government will continue to encourage that practice.

We had discussions from time to time on the difficult problem of crime, which is such a worry to many of our citizens. I see that the noble Lord wishes to intervene. I give way.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am much obliged. Before the Minister leaves the subject of Law Commission reports, do I understand correctly from what he said that the Government are not proposing government time for any of those outstanding reports; but that they are proposing to leave them to be dealt with by Private Members' Bills?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am saying that we would be interested in encouraging Private Members' Bills. However, there is always that last phrase in the Queen's Speech which I believe states:

    "Other measures will be laid before you".

The noble Lord never knows what may happen. I do not want to try to forecast anything that might happen in that respect.

I return to the question of crime. I listened with some interest to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I believe that much of what the noble Lord said, though not all--as he will not be surprised to hear--would find fairly common ground. However, I thought that he might have pointed out that in the past year we have seen a modest fall of 5.5 per cent. compared with the previous year in the rate of crime in England. Although it is modest, it is still the largest fall over 12 months that we have seen for 40 years--

Lord McCarthy: My Lords, that is beside the point. There has been a slight improvement because there has been a slight recovery. The crime rate is linked to recoveries, booms and slumps.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure about that. However, if one considers the long timespan which the noble Lord mentioned over which crime figures have moved, I suspect that there has been, as he pointed out, a fairly inexorable increase over many years almost regardless of which government were in power. I do not believe that one can entirely relate or correlate it to rises and falls in unemployment or economic activity over the period.

My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway asked me about the question of war crimes investigations. I believe that he knows all the figures. In Scotland, the Lord Advocate has decided that there is insufficient evidence to bring a prosecution against anyone living there. There are 24 cases still being investigated in England, seven of which have been the subject of substantive reports to the Crown Prosecution Service. I know that my noble friend has tabled a Private Member's Bill which is due for its Second Reading on the 7th of next month. I have little doubt that we shall have a more detailed debate on the subject at that stage.

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I suppose that the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, is not very pleased to see me at the Dispatch Box this evening because we have barked at each other on the subject of dogs once or twice over the past 12 months. The noble Lord has not changed his view and neither have I. As I told him on a previous occasion, I am more interested in children that I am in dogs.

The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, went off on quite a different tack on the question of Greenwich Mean Time. I feel that I must at least make a few remarks on the subject. I believe that the noble Lord pretty well presented a one-sided case on the matter. When, just by chance, at quarter-past eight on Monday morning in Glasgow, I said to my taxi-driver something like, "Gosh, if we were on European time as some people want it would be dark at this time", he expressed his horror of dark mornings. Of course, you cannot actually save daylight. The good Lord ensured the length of the day and we cannot do much about it. But one can have extended daylight in the afternoon at the price of reduced daylight in the morning.

If businessmen in the United States are able to work over time zones in that country and if businessmen from Japan seem to be able to work quite successfully in different time zones all around the world, I find it hard to believe that, somehow, businessmen in Europe are incapable of operating over more than one time zone.

I must say to my fellow clansman that if he tried to put his argument in Scotland he might find a little more resistance than he seems to find in the south of England. I do not mean only among farmers. If he goes north to Mackay country in the north of Scotland I think that he will meet even more objection to the suggestion that we move from what is our astronomical time zone of Greenwich Mean Time--and we must be close to the Greenwich meridian at this moment.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, who is always a pleasure to listen to although I do not often agree with him, made several points about the mandatory life sentence for murder. We have debated the subject on a fair number of occasions. The noble Earl is concerned about the length of time some life sentence prisoners are detained, and pursues the subject with commendable vigour. Our position remains that we do not believe his concerns are well founded. There are some life sentence prisoners for whom life will mean life. That has always been the case; it is not a new policy. Nor are life sentence prisoners being kept in the dark about their tariff or denied the opportunity to make representations.

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