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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I tried to explain that the Barnett formula was just a component of how public expenditure changes and that the Government have been about a comprehensive spending review. That review has gone back to zero base right across the board, across departments, looking at public expenditure, making sure that there is efficiency in the system and driving inefficiencies out of the system by reductions in administration costs right across the piece. That is the right approach.

This debate is taking place in circumstances in which there have been substantial and sustained increases in public expenditure across the board. That has been enabled by our successful policy on the economy. It has given continual growth to the UK, in a way that has produced low inflation and low interest rates, which means that we can sustain high public expenditure across the board, redressing some of the underinvestment of the past.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I am sorry but we are in the 24th minute and must move on.

Armed Forces: Royal Centre for Defence Medicine

3.11 pm

Lord Bramall asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine was opened in Selly Oak, Birmingham, in 2001, with academic, teaching and clinical roles. It is on course to meet our vision of an internationally recognised centre of excellence by 2010.

Lord Bramall: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that optimistic statement—or overoptimistic, as some might think. As a famous Chief of the Imperial General Staff from World War I said, “I’ve ’eard different”. The centre was described by a Minister six and a half years ago as a key element in the regeneration of Defence Medical Services, which another Minister openly admitted were suffering a crisis of morale. As the Minister said, it opened in 2001 boasting the title “centre of excellence”. Does the Minister not find it slightly shameful, therefore, that it has never in fact properly got off the ground to correct those ills because of lack of Treasury funding?

There are strong rumours, which the Minister may wish to comment on, that the centre is shortly to be dispersed. Will he not recognise that failing to allow the centre to live up to its promised expectations, particularly in teaching—all its specialists get whipped off to Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan—is

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contributing to the Government’s overdependence on the National Health Service and on their continual inability to provide regulars and reservists with the full comprehensive and appropriate medical cover that they so richly deserve, including, of course, the aftercare?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble and gallant Lord with his deep knowledge of military matters will recognise the importance of morale. Having been to the Selly Oak centre myself and spoken to the staff, I know that they are quite upset about what they regard as truly unfounded criticisms of the centre at Selly Oak. They asked me to extend an invitation to any noble Lords who wish to visit the centre and to see for themselves the excellent conditions under which we care for our military personnel. The investment is being made in the development of the centre to make it a centre of excellence, as I described, and the level of care that we provide for our service people is admirable.

Lord Garden: My Lords, the closing of all the military hospitals in the savings measures after the end of the Cold War has had unfortunate consequences for military medicine in general and the care of the Armed Forces. Will the Minister undertake to look at whether it would be wise to re-establish a dedicated military hospital, which would then be able to give a career structure to the military medical branch as well as providing care for our regulars and reserves, their families and veterans?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, the House will remember that the decision to close the military hospitals was taken by the previous Government. That decision was right. Experience has taught us that high standards are maintained only by maintaining the experience of clinical personnel by carrying out clinical care. The level of casualties that we have to look after in the military is, thank God, not large enough to sustain full-scale military hospitals. On any given day, we have in hospital fewer than 50 in-patients from the military. That is for all cases, of any type. The most efficient way for people to be cared for, therefore, is in specialist military hospital units within the NHS. You need a large NHS hospital with all its clinical experience, facilities and the range of know-how properly to look after our soldiers. That is garnered only in an NHS hospital.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I declare an interest as honorary parliamentary adviser to the Royal British Legion in fully endorsing the concerns expressed with all his customary integrity and commitment by the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall. Can we now be assured that there will soon be a full ministerial Statement on steps to improve medical facilities for casualties of these deployments? Does the Minister recall the case of the mobility disabled Corporal Corrigan, who, after being flown back to the UK from Iraq, was left to make his own way home from RAF Halton to Yorkshire without even the walking aid necessary for him to do so?

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Lord Drayson: My Lords, I have seen for myself, both on military operations and back in the UK, the level of care that we provide for our military personnel. The care that we provide on operations today in Iraq and Afghanistan is outstanding. I saw the investment that has gone into the very latest equipment on operations, such as CT scanners. Our personnel are experienced because of the way they have been trained in military units within the NHS. If you speak to serving members of the Armed Forces in such military hospitals, they will tell you how pleased they are with the level of care. When people come back to the UK, the care that they receive in our centres, such as Selly Oak, is excellent. Of course, if there are individual cases where matters need to be improved, we look at them rigorously and take lessons from them to ensure they do not happen again.

Lord Trefgarne: My Lords, did the Minister say in his original Answer that, as he speaks, there are only 50 military personnel undergoing in-patient medical treatment anywhere in the world?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, let me be crystal clear. As of last Friday, there were 14 patients in the Birmingham hospitals, as part of the Selly Oak group, from operations. On any given day, on average, there are 50 personnel in-patients in our hospitals for any condition whatever, from an operation on a knee to pregnancy. We do not have substantial numbers of cases, but we must make sure that the best possible care is given to the small number of cases that there are.


3.17 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, later this afternoon a Statement will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Drayson. The subject of the Statement is “Operational Update: Iraq and Afghanistan”.

Violent Crime Reduction Bill

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scotland, I beg to move the Motion standing in her name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the amendments for the Report stage be marshalled and considered in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 45

Schedule 1

Clauses 46 and 47

Schedule 2

Clause 48

Schedule 3

Clauses 49 and 50

Schedule 4

Clauses 51 to 60

Schedule 5

Clause 61.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Police and Justice Bill

3.18 pm

The Attorney-General (Lord Goldsmith): My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Scotland, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 16 [Conditional cautions: types of condition]:

[Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 not moved.]

Lord Lloyd of Berwick moved Amendment No. 66:

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I wish to paint in the background of this matter as it is a long time since it was considered in Committee.

I start with the police role in cautioning young offenders. That role was overhauled by the Government in 1998 and put on a statutory basis in the Crime and Disorder Act of that year. But we are not dealing with young offenders today so I say no more about that. The police role in cautioning adult offenders has never been put on a statutory basis but it is of very long standing. It has been regulated by successive Home Office circulars setting out the National Standards for Cautioning Offenders. I believe that the most recent was issued in 2005.

Cautioning has always been a very valuable tool for dealing with low-level offenders. Its essential features are well known: the offender must admit his guilt and be willing to accept the caution. It has always been vital that cautioning rather than prosecuting should be in the public interest. It goes without saying that cautioning does not involve punishment.

The simple caution was always very useful and it still is. Then in 2003 the Home Office came up with an idea that cautioning could be made even more useful in some cases. It depended on the offender being willing to make reparation for his offence and on the victim being willing to accept reparation. The idea was that the offender and the victim should be brought face to face—always if the victim was willing—and the offender would then make amends either by repairing any damage which he had done to the victim’s property, paying the victim compensation or, indeed, just apologising. The evidence was that this,

Those are not my words but those of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General on Report in 2003. He referred then to this as a very exciting new idea. I agree that it was. The criminologists refer to it by the name of “restorative justice”. But I do not believe that anyone ever thought that conditional cautions of that kind would be useful except in a small number of cases.

The other condition which could be imposed, again with the consent of the offender, was that he should undergo some form of treatment. Again, it would obviously apply in only very few cases. The code explaining the purpose of conditional cautions, as contained in the 2003 Act, stated at page six:

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and so on. Attendance at anger management courses is another example given.

On reparation, the code says that,

That was the idea, and, if I may say so, a very good idea it was. If, during his speech in 2003, the Attorney-General had been asked, “Why do you not extend conditional cautions so as to include the possibility of imposing a fine?”, he would, I believe, have answered: “But that is the very opposite of what we are trying to do. How can a fine help the victim? How can a fine rehabilitate the offender? There is nothing restorative in a fine, and there is no reason to suppose that it will reduce re-offending. If a fine is the appropriate remedy, it should be imposed in the usual way by magistrates”. I do not know whether that is the answer that the Attorney-General would have given in 2003, but it is very different from his answer now. I need not say that I find his 2003 speech a great deal more persuasive and convincing than the one he made in Committee on 6 July, which I have read with the greatest care.

I oppose Clause 16 on the following grounds. First, it is wrong in principle for the prosecution to determine the level of punishment. Indeed, it is wrong for the prosecution to have any say in the sentencing process at all. Sentencing has always been for the courts, at least since the Bill of Rights of 1689. No amount of Home Office guidance on how this proposed fine should be made a condition, and no amount of safeguards that could be built into the Bill at this or any stage, can get away from that basic objection.

The point can be illustrated from a very different field: the mandatory life sentence for murder. Traditionally, the Home Secretary justified his claim to have the last word on when a prisoner should be released on the ground that he was not exercising a sentencing function at all but he was only determining when the prisoner should be released. That fallacy was exposed finally and firmly by the House of Lords in Anderson, of which I am sure the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General will be well aware. At the other end of the scale, in support of this provision, reliance is sometimes placed on the fixed penalty for parking illegally or for not wearing a seat belt. But fixed penalties are entirely different. The amount is fixed by statute or by-law; it does not in any way involve the prosecution’s discretion.

My first objection being the straightforward objection on the ground of principle, my second is that the existing conditions under the 2003 Act are entirely consistent with the basic concept of a caution. Punishment, however, is entirely inconsistent with that basic concept. Indeed, the notion of a punitive caution could almost be said to be a contradiction in terms.

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When the Government say in their various documents that they are only extending conditional cautions, widening their scope or filling a gap, it sounds harmless enough. But it is not harmless, because Clause 16 does much more: it creates something “radically new”. Those are not my words, but those of Hazel Blears in Committee in the other place, where she said that this new concept could affect as many as 30,000 individuals a year. My objection is that the two ideas, a caution and punishment, are inconsistent with each other.

3.30 pm

Thirdly, I fear that if fines are capable of being made conditions, they will soon in practice replace the other conditions, because they are much easier to monitor and enforce. If that happens, all the good done by the 2003 Act, which should continue, might be driven out by the bad done by the 2006 Act.

Fourthly, if we are introducing something “radically new”, as Hazel Blears said—and I certainly believe that—should we not have had proper consultation before we were asked to do that? The noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General has expressed regret that there was not more consultation, but he says that he and the Lord Chancellor discussed the matter with judges, magistrates and officials—although I do not know who they may be. I, too, have discussed the matter with judges and magistrates and I found no one in favour of this proposal—certainly not the magistrates, judging from their views expressed as recently as March 2006; nor do I read Lord Justice Auld in his 2001 report as favouring what is now proposed. In its recent paper, Liberty made a strong case against the proposal.

Lastly, there is surely an overwhelming case for waiting until the results of the 2003 experiment are available, so that we can know whether it is working. What is the urgency? The answer, we are told, is the pressure on magistrates’ courts and the need to divert 30,000 cases at whatever cost in terms of constitutional principle. Conditional cautions under the 2003 Act were progressive, beneficial and based on principle. The current proposal is not. It is yet another example of expediency driving out principle, and I hope that we shall oppose it. I beg to move.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I have added my name in support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. During our debates in Committee in July on conditional cautions, I made it clear that we continued strongly to support the provisions launched by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. That, as the noble and learned Lord pointed out, introduced conditional cautions intended to facilitate rehabilitation of offenders or ensure that they made reparation for the offences. But now the Government wish to impose conditional cautions as a punitive measure.

My colleague, Nick Herbert, expressed our concerns during the debates in another place about the extension of cautions to punishment, but at that time, in spring this year, we said that we would not oppose the clause while we assessed the impact of the

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new proposals on cautioning. I put on record in Committee our concern about developments in government policy since the clause was debated in another place. This summer, the Prime Minister has announced that he intends dramatically to increase the use of administrative punishment and avoid using the courts.

We are deeply concerned that the Government are taking our judicial system down a route that may be convenient to them but that certainly has not been proved to serve the victim and the public well. As the noble and learned Lord made clear, there has as yet been no proper public debate on this matter. He put forward strong arguments for removing this clause.

The Minister is of course aware of the concerns expressed about these measures by the Magistrates’ Association, for one, which I thank for its courtesy in coming to the House during the Recess to provide me with further briefing on its views on the matter. The association remains obdurate against the inclusion of the clause.

Fair trial safeguards and the involvement of the independent court in the delivery of punishment are also in the wider public interest and in the interest of victims of crime. The rigours of an open trial help to ensure that the right person is convicted and demonstrate publicly that justice is being done and that the state will not accept criminal behaviour. An open trial provides a public warning against offending. A publicly observed objective process in the criminal justice system can also be of great value for victims. I do not see how punitive cautions would deliver those additional benefits.

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