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Baroness Strange: My Lords, I, without any barbs at all, congratulate the Minister. Does he agree that, if the principle of returning the Parthenon Marbles were accepted, every single tourist who went abroad might have to return his or her souvenirs bought in good faith?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there are Questions on the Order Paper for later Answer about the return of works of art taken away from their country of origin in modern times. Perhaps we can have a more useful discussion on this matter at that time.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, we are committed to a radical programme that tackles unemployment and breaks the spiral of escalating spending on social security. That is what we have said and that is what we are doing.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer and wish to ask for clarification of one particular sentence in the manifesto. It concerns what happens to those who do not accept the options offered to them. Early party statements have been to the effect that lifelong benefit is not an option. The manifesto made the very significant qualification that:
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is the Government's view that we cannot afford to leave many hundreds of thousands of young people idle. Our welfare to work programme will offer a way out of unemployment to many young people, long-term unemployed people and lone parents. It is our view that it is right to expect young people to take advantage of the help provided. We want them to have the right to that help, but with that goes the responsibility of taking advantage of it.
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, will the Minister tell us what plans the Government have for consulting with young unemployed people or with those who work with them and for them, such as the Children's Society, about the procedures for implementing the welfare to work programme so that the young people may more willing own it and accept it?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am very grateful for that question. It is of course vital that, before implementing this exciting new programme, we should consult widely with all interests involved including voluntary organisations, employers, training institutions and, of course, young people themselves. One of the difficulties about consulting young people is that many of those whom we wish to target with this programme are among the most disaffected in our society. Many play no part in those organisations with which it is easy to make contact. However, we shall do our very best to consult not just young people but those who are most likely to want the programme and who need to benefit from the programme.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his kind words in congratulating me on my new appointment. Of course the new policy is dependent on funding from a windfall levy. That is now well known. The Government intend to have a one-off windfall levy on the excess profits of the privatised utilities to fund the radical welfare to work programme. Those companies which are likely to be affected will be able to make representations to the Treasury and those representations have already begun. I should make it absolutely clear that those representations are not about whether or not a windfall levy is to be raised. We have made that clear in our manifesto and we now have a mandate to implement it. But it is right that we should consult and allow representations on exactly how the levy will be raised.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I join in the welcome given to the noble Baroness on her new office, although I am surprised that I am not able to congratulate this afternoon my usual sparring partner, the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, on her
I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, was in the House on 11th May 1995. On that day the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, in dealing with the question of reducing benefits for 17 and 18 year-olds, asked me:
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, unfortunately, unlike some people who work in government, I do not keep a diary, so I do not remember whether I was in the House on 11th May 1995. But to come back to the noble Lord's somewhat mischievous question, I think that he would be the first person to agree that it is very important to have an element of compulsion in this programme; that it is desirable to ensure that all young people who are currently unemployed, particularly those who have been unemployed for a long period of time, should be not just encouraged but given a little carrot and perhaps a tiny stick to make sure that they benefit from what is being provided.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 to enable criminal proceedings to be taken in the United Kingdom for breach of Article 3 of the conventions. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Baroness Flather: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for the immediate suspension from the register of registered pharmaceutical chemists in cases where a direction is made under Section 8(1)(ii) of the Pharmacy Act 1954. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.--(Baroness Flather.)
Moved, That the promoters of the Bills which originated in this House in the last Parliament but had not received the Royal Assent shall notwithstanding anything in the Standing Orders or practice of this House have leave to introduce the said Bills in the present session and the petitions for the Bills shall be deemed to have been deposited and all Standing Orders applicable thereto shall be deemed to have been complied with;
That every such Bill shall be deposited in the Office of the Clerk of the Parliaments not later than 3 o'clock on Wednesday 21st May next with a declaration annexed thereto signed by the agent concerned, stating that the Bill is the same in every respect as the Bill at the last stage of the proceedings thereon in this House in the last Parliament;
That the proceedings on such Bills shall in the present session of Parliament be pro forma only, in regard to every stage through which the same shall have passed in the last Parliament, and that no new fees be charged to such stages.--(The Chairman of Committees.)
The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, this is my first speech from the Woolsack in your Lordships' House, which I had the privilege to enter in 1987, more than 10 years ago. I know the distinction of my predecessors. I succeed the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern. He occupied this office for the longest continuous period--close on 10 years--of any Lord Chancellor this century. The noble and learned Lord is of high distinction. That is not in itself unusual of holders of this office--a truth of which this incumbent is only too conscious. What is unusual, however, and most becoming of my noble and learned predecessor, is his modesty--and he has nothing to be modest about.
Our debate today will concentrate on constitutional affairs, home affairs, health and social affairs. I will focus on the first two. My noble friend Lady Hollis will have much to say on health and social affairs when she draws our proceedings to what is likely to be a late close.
It is less than a year since I spoke from the Opposition Benches during a debate on the constitution initiated by the previous Government. I said then that the next Labour Government would fashion a new constitutional settlement which would return power to the people. Our manifesto pledge this. We will honour our pledges.
Triumphalism is always wrong. I state the disempowerment of the whole of the Conservative Party in Scotland and in the whole of Wales only as facts. The greatest strength of the Conservative Party across this century and the last has been its resilience and its adaptability. I believe it may now be re-thinking its position on devolution for Scotland. The Labour Party manifesto, on which it won the general election with a majority of 179, pledged this about Scottish devolution:
Margaret Thatcher, Malcolm Rifkind, Michael Forsyth and Ian Lang all spoke out in the 1970s in favour of devolution for Scotland. Then they and their party changed. But the Conservative Party is well entitled to change again. There would be no shame in
My noble and learned predecessor was widely reported in the election campaign as offering the opinion that the Salisbury Convention might cease to bind your Lordships' House if the other place did not follow the conventions that are said to apply to constitutional legislation there. In raising this matter I have no hidden agenda. I make no warnings, express or implied. I say only this. With the greatest respect to my noble and learned predecessor, I believe that his customary wisdom did not accompany that opinion. The relationship between this House and the other place is discrete. The Salisbury Convention recognises the status of the other place as the elected Chamber. The procedures and conventions of the other place are for it. Ours are for us. It would, I suggest, be unwise to seek to change ours in response to any change to theirs.
The new Government are about to embark on a major programme of constitutional change. Decentralisation is central to our vision of a modern nation. Scotland and Wales are individual nations. The Government agree with the people of both these nations that the institutions of democracy and government must be brought closer to the people they represent.
The Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill was introduced in another place last week. It provides for the holding of referendums in Scotland and Wales on our proposals for a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly. The Bill itself is short. It should not delay your Lordships unduly. It defines the electorate, the text of the questions, the issues to be voted on, the funding and the arrangements for counting the votes. The referendums will give the people of Scotland and Wales the opportunity to prove to the whole of the United Kingdom the strength of their desire for the institutions of democracy and of government to be brought closer to the people.
We will publish two White Papers in the summer, well in advance of holding any referendums. Those White Papers will spell out in detail our proposals for a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly. They will provide a detailed framework for discussion among all interested parties. There will be ample opportunity for debates on the White Papers before Parliament rises both in this House and in another place.
The Government will campaign strongly for yes votes. We expect a powerful, positive response in the Scottish referendum. We will then bring forward a further Bill before Christmas to provide for the establishment of a Scottish parliament and for the establishment of a Scottish executive and for their
The referendum Bill will also allow the people of Wales an early vote on the establishment of a directly-elected Welsh assembly. Again, following a positive response, we will introduce legislation to establish the assembly. That will be a far-reaching step which will increase democracy in Wales and ensure that Welsh interests are more clearly heard, both here and in Europe. The powers vested in the Secretary of State have built up over the years and they range across by far the largest part of the Government's functions in Wales. Yet accountability for those powers has not been exercised by any democratic body in Wales. Far from adding an extra layer of government, our proposals will democratise it and open it up. Within a framework established by Parliament, the assembly will assume the order-making and other powers of the Secretary of State and the functions of the Welsh Office. It will exercise control over the web of quangos which affect so many aspects of Welsh public life and ensure that appointments to them are fair and open, in accordance with the Nolan principles.
We are determined to see power put back into the hands of the people throughout the Union. All its citizens have a stake in reform. We will provide an elected voice to speak up for London by bringing forward legislation to provide for a referendum on a directly-elected strategic authority and a directly-elected mayor for the capital. We are aiming to issue a consultation paper before the end of July, followed by a referendum next May. We want Londoners and London organisations to be fully involved in the consultation process and we will be working closely with both as we develop our proposals.
We will also bring forward a Bill to establish regional development agencies in England to fulfil our manifesto commitment to support local economic growth. Each agency, set up to meet local circumstances and needs, will encourage inward investment, help small businesses and co-ordinate regional development.
In our manifesto we asked the British people to give us their trust. They have now given us that trust. In return, we will govern with a new spirit of openness. We will enter into a partnership with the people, governing by consent and trying to fashion consensus in a way that is both honest and accountable. We will aim at nothing less than to rebuild the confidence of a whole nation in its system of government.
A freedom of information Act was a key commitment in our manifesto. It remains central to our objective of open government. There was a good deal of misplaced press speculation recently that this was a subject on which the new Government had gone cold. Nothing could be more wrong. It remains a priority. However, we are resistant to any quick and unsatisfactory fix. We will not rush in legislation that does little more than put the existing and unsatisfactory code of practice on a statutory basis. Freedom of information deserves stronger beer. We will introduce legislation in an open and inclusive way. We will move quickly to publish a
We will also be considering how the funding of political parties should be regulated and reformed as another vital step in restoring public confidence in the nation's political system and upholding the highest standards of honesty and integrity in public life.
We will establish a special Select Committee to review the procedures of another place to make it more efficient and effective, examining in particular the handling of legislation and issues such as the shape of the parliamentary day and year.
Your Lordships will recall a number of Private Members' Bills proposing the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into United Kingdom law which have been brought before this House over the years. Too much can sometimes be claimed for constitutional change. I do not believe that all the problems of our country can be put to rights at the stroke of a constitutional lawyer's pen. But I do express my strong personal commitment to the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into our domestic law. Now I know that there are some who think, and may say in this debate today, that incorporation involves an unacceptable transfer of power from a sovereign Parliament to an unelected judiciary. We must ensure that the convention is incorporated on a basis that does no violence to the bedrock principle of our constitution, the sovereignty of Parliament.
In this country we have an impartial judiciary of the highest quality. Our most senior judges are as fine as any in the world. What a loss it has been for far too long to the development of European jurisprudence in human rights that our judges have been disabled from making a distinctive British contribution. We must aim to take the lead in the development of human rights in Europe. Incorporation will repatriate from Strasbourg to Britain the day-to-day enjoyment of the rights to which our citizens are entitled under the convention.
Your Lordships will be familiar with our pledge to be tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime. We shall make it good. For too long communities have felt powerless in the face of behaviour which makes life a misery. We shall deliver measures that work.
We shall create a new duty on local authorities for community safety. They will ensure that the vital work of all those involved is brought together within a co-ordinated multi-agency framework. We have long stressed that there is a need for the police and local authorities to work together and with the local community to prevent and reduce crime. This will ensure that the efforts of all are complementary, mutually supportive and, most important, wholly
The courts will be given a new power to make community safety orders. They will be made, on the application of the police and local authority, in the light of their precise knowledge of the problems of an area, and will be addressed to a named individual. The order will focus on the specific behaviour which has caused innocent people distress or fear. Those named in the orders will be told clearly what it is they must or must not do, or where they must not go. The order will be granted on the civil law standard of proof--the balance of probabilities--that the person named in the order has committed the behaviour in question. There will be firm penalties for any breach of the order, but only if the breach is proved to the criminal standard beyond reasonable doubt.
We shall also be addressing the need for greater consistency in sentencing procedures for the courts, in order to ensure that appropriately severe penalties are imposed where circumstances demand it. Our manifesto indicated that we shall be placing a duty on the Court of Appeal to lay down sentencing guidelines for the main areas of offending. We shall be extending the powers of the Attorney-General to appeal unduly lenient sentences.
We are particularly concerned about the amount of offending by young people and the ability of the criminal justice system to respond to it. We shall tackle both, as we promised in one of our five key election pledges. The multiple offending of some youngsters wrecks their own lives and the lives of those they victimise. From the outset it must be made clear to young people that they will not get away with offending. The response to young crime must be fast, consistent and effective. Young offenders must be made to face up to their responsibility for their own actions. The current system of repeated police cautions, which all too often are used inappropriately and inconsistently, will be replaced with a final warning, backed up by relevant interventions aimed at nipping offending behaviour in the bud.
When young offenders come to court they must be dealt with quickly. At present it takes far too long--an average of four and a half months--to process young offenders from arrest to sentence. The Government have pledged to halve that time for persistent young offenders. The delays we are pledged to reduce result from many interrelated causes: the social services; the police and their interaction with the Crown Prosecution Service and others prior to a decision to prosecute; delays associated with defence concerns to ensure a fair trial, which may or may not, depending on the circumstances of individual cases, be justifiable; and delay in the procedures of the magistrates' courts themselves. We are determined to secure the co-operation of every relevant agency to ensure fulfilment of our election pledge.
A new national youth justice board will be set up to monitor and set standards for the delivery of community and custodial sentences, and ensure a consistent and cost-effective response to young offenders across the country. These measures, taken together, will have the maximum possible impact on offending behaviour and will provide the public with the reassurance and confidence they have been denied for so long. They will make the streets of our cities and towns safer for all to enjoy.
In Northern Ireland we shall seek reconciliation and a political settlement which has the broad support of both sides of the community. We shall work to build trust and confidence by bringing forward legislation to deal with terrorism and to reduce tension over parades.
We have a clear manifesto commitment to give Parliament a chance to vote on a total handgun ban. We shall honour that commitment by bringing in a Bill quickly. This will provide an opportunity to consider the risk posed by remaining handguns and whether a total ban is needed.
We have just come through one of the historic general elections of this century. The Government will use the decisive mandate given into their trust to develop a programme of constitutional change to last, not only for the duration of this Parliament, but to carry the nation strongly into the next millennium. Rights will be matched by duties and responsibilities. Civil liberties will be protected; and government will be for the benefit of the whole nation.
As this is my first speech from this Dispatch Box, although the noble Lord is not opening this debate for the Government today I wish to offer my warmest congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, who now serves in the role I once held at the Home Office. As the noble Lord takes up his brief as Minister for home affairs in this House he may be bewildered, as I was, by the variety, range and scope of his responsibilities from animal research and dangerous dogs to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, from law and order and asylum to the highly sensitive issues of sexuality, pornography and obscenity, from the fire service and the Probation Service to European and constitutional affairs. That list is by no means complete.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I admit to one great disappointment today; and in doing so I have no wish to imply any criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I am disappointed that the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is not responsible for the Home Office portfolio. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, has proved an outstanding advocate for his party and a formidable opponent of mine on Home Office, and previously Department of the Environment, issues. I came to admire and respect him very much, and to respect the noble Lord's work in this House. I know that that view was shared by other noble Lords on all Benches. However, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, on his new government appointment.
I must confess to finding it very strange replying to the gracious Speech from a Labour Government, much of the content and language of which has been opposed wholeheartedly over the years by noble Lords now sitting on the Government Front Benches and their colleagues in another place. The subjects covered by the debate today include home affairs, constitutional affairs, and health and social security. I shall touch on each of those areas to set the scene; and my noble friend Lord Kingsland, whom I welcome most warmly to this Front Bench, will respond later for these Benches. When he winds up, I know that the House will be with him and welcome him in his new role in Opposition. I know that this will be an interesting and important debate. The list of speakers is manifest to that.
Constitutional reform should never be approached lightly and should always be thoroughly thought through. That cannot be said for some of the proposals that will come before this House during the coming months. Although the proposals were flagged up in the Labour Party manifesto, in the recent general election campaign, and again in the gracious Speech, it is true to say that there is precious little detail on which we the people can base our considered judgment. Therefore many questions will be posed to the Government in the debate today and in the weeks to follow. My noble friends on this side of the House hold very dear the unity and cohesion of the United Kingdom. We support the Government's aim of giving the Scottish and Welsh people more influence over the decisions affecting their own lives. Indeed, in office we did a great deal to achieve just that: the enhanced roles given to the Scottish and Welsh Grand Committees are two recent examples.
The Government's referendums proposed for Scotland and Wales are quite unprecedented. Although, as I understand the proposals, a White Paper setting out details will be produced in the summer, any Bill before this House and another place can be amended by Parliament. Indeed, on a matter of such constitutional importance there is an arrogance about pre-empting the will of Parliament even with such a large majority. The Scottish and Welsh people therefore could end up getting something for which they did not vote. In many ways the Government seemed to be asking the Scots and Welsh to sign a contract before that contract has been
For example, will the Minister tell the House the answer to the West Lothian question? Why should Scottish and Welsh MPs vote on English matters when English MPs would be unable to vote on Scottish affairs? Why are the people of England not being allowed a vote in the referendum on Scottish and Welsh devolution when the consequences of such devolution will impact materially on people living in England? Why should Scottish Members of the Westminster Parliament be unable to vote on Scottish affairs? What will it all cost? Why should the United Kingdom Parliament vote for higher funding for Scotland if Scotland has its own tax raising powers? Why should English taxpayers, who would be affected by such a proposal, not be included in a referendum? Why treat Wales differently from Scotland?
If a Scottish parliament has legislative and tax raising powers, why are the same options not being considered for Wales? Does devolution mean the reduction in the number of Scottish and Welsh MPs at Westminster, as the Liberal Democrats have suggested? Will there still be a Secretary of State for Scotland and a Secretary of State for Wales in the Cabinet? Would a Secretary of State be anything other than a message carrier between a Scottish parliament, a Welsh assembly and Westminster? Would there be a revising Chamber to act as a check and balance in the system as regards legislation?
If one party has a majority in Scotland and another in Westminster, who will be responsible for the legislative programme, and from which party would the Secretary of State come? Would Bills passed by the Scottish parliament or Welsh assembly be presented to the Sovereign for assent? Would the proposed tartan tax be levied according to where people live, where they work or where their company was located? If people were taxed on the basis of where they lived, how would the people in the Border regions who work with colleagues who live in England be dealt with? Scottish-based employees would hardly be content to see their English-based colleagues take home larger pay packets. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that companies would come under pressure to compensate their employees accordingly.
Questions about English regional government are equally important, especially if legislation is preceded by a simple referendum. Apart from the considerable fragmentation of the United Kingdom, what would be the cost of the additional bureaucracies? What would be the relationships between regional and national, regional and county, and regional, district and parish
Continuing the theme of passing powers from a sovereign United Kingdom Parliament, the Government propose to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into British law. Like the Government, we strongly support the convention--after all, it was drafted by British lawyers--of which we were founder members. However, incorporation is not necessary to ensure that cases are brought more quickly and cheaply. It is far better to reform the European institutions. That is why we have signed Protocol 11, which will result in reducing legal costs and enable cases to be heard more quickly. The danger of incorporation, we believe, lies in the transfer of power away from Parliament and into the hands of non-elected judges who would be able to strike down Acts of Parliament if in their judgment they interpreted that that was the thing to do under the convention. We enjoy the best of both worlds at present. We implement the European Convention on Human Rights without politicising our British courts. We believe that incorporation will fail in what it aims to do for the very people it purports to help. Statistics used to help the case for incorporation are misleading. For example, the number of complaints to Strasbourg in 1996 was as follows: the United Kingdom 26, compared with Austria 32, France 75, and Italy 370, all of whom have incorporated the convention.
Further diminution of power from Parliament to unelected judges is proposed by the introduction of a freedom of information Act. Including the release of documents as well as information would put at risk the impartiality of civil servants who at present are expected to give advice knowing that it is protected. It is the actions and decisions of Ministers which should be a matter of scrutiny and public record. There is a risk that particular views which may be interpreted as political could be attributed to individual civil servants. We must, of course, await the detail of the Bill.
It is in the area of the fight against crime that I am most puzzled. Over the years the Conservative Government suffered the most sustained opposition to law and order reform from those in this Government. For example, they opposed the abolition to the right of silence; tougher sentences; curfews by electronic tagging; the establishment of secure training units with an emphasis on education and training within a disciplined regime for persistent juvenile offenders; mandatory drug testing; and the annual renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act--an Act that has never been supported by the Prime Minister, the right honourable Tony Blair. And scores of other measures were opposed by this Government. Such is the Road-to-Damascus conversion of the present Home Secretary and his pursuit of the prize for "out-toughing" the Tories that the only measure yet to be considered for introduction by the right honourable gentleman is the restoration of the death penalty--and I suspect that even that is only a matter of time.
The record of the last Government in the fight against crime is considerable. Over the past four years recorded crime has fallen by 10 per cent.--the largest fall since records began. There is now in place a raft of measures which will enable that trend to continue and will assist the police to improve detection rates. Examples include the setting up of a national DNA database, the first of its kind in the world; the establishment of a National Crime Squad and a National Criminal Intelligence Service; the introduction of state of the art technology, resulting in vastly improved communications right across the criminal justice system; the introduction of Phoenix, a computerised database of criminal records; the introduction of Quest, a rapid search facility system; the promotion and production of CCTV camera schemes throughout the country; thousands more police officers; neighbourhood watch schemes; a massive increase in special constables; the increased involvement of civilians, freeing up uniformed police officers for operational duties; the introduction of victim support, and putting concern for the victim at the heart of law and order policy; reform of the Probation Service to provide more effective community sentences--and this list is by no means exhaustive.
There is, however, no complacency. The fight against crime is a constant challenge as the criminal resorts to more and more sophisticated techniques. We will scrutinise the Government's crime and disorder Bill closely when it is published. We support the Government's objectives of reducing delays in the youth justice system and ensuring that young offenders are punished more speedily. However, we are not convinced that the Government's proposals for doing that are necessarily the right ones. For example, proposals to have one group of magistrates to hear a case and another group to decide the punishment are flawed and would be more likely to lead to an increase in delays rather than a reduction.
Before we left office we published an extensive Review into Delay in the Criminal Justice System. The report made a whole series of recommendations to speed up youth justice--for example, removing 17 year-olds from the jurisdiction of the youth courts and giving the courts the power to caution, with conditions, those who admit their guilt. We urge the Government to give serious consideration to the recommendations made in that report.
We welcome the Government's efforts to make irresponsible parents face up to their duties. As Conservatives, we clearly believe that parents have the main responsibility for bringing up their children and for keeping them under control. However, the Government have not addressed the need to take action to prevent criminal behaviour in children, particularly the under-10s. The last Conservative Government, in their consultation document, Preventing Children Offending, proposed the setting up of local child crime teams, bringing together relevant agencies at a local level to identify vulnerable children and intervene early to steer them away from crime. Our parental control orders for those parents who refuse to co-operate would go considerably further than the Government's alternative, and the courts would have at their disposal
There was much public support for our policy that persistent burglars and those who deal in Class A hard drugs should receive tougher sentences. There was similar support for the same policy in relation to those who commit repeat serious violent and/or sexual offences such as rapists and armed robbers. The Government should reinstate our proposals for automatic minimum sentences and we will pressure them to do so.
The Government propose to ban all handguns. Is it wise to return to this issue so soon after the Firearms (Amendment) Act was introduced? That Act will give us the toughest gun controls in the world by banning higher calibre handguns and removing handguns from circulation. A total ban would bring to an end the Olympic and Commonwealth sport of target shooting--a sport practised by thousands of law-abiding, able-bodied and disabled citizens alike. It could possibly risk driving the activity underground. Will the Minister tell the House where the money will come from to compensate .22 pistol shooters and for those stocks still held by companies who supply the sport? Have the Government included that expense in their spending plans? Or do they intend to take the money from elsewhere? If so, from where?
I now turn to proposals in the gracious Speech on the health service and social security. Our commitment to the health service is second to none. In office we increased NHS spending in real terms every year that we were in government. This Government inherit--contrary to the lies peddled by the new Labour Millbank propaganda machine--one of the most efficient health services in the world. It is interesting to record that many countries beat a path to our door to learn about our reforms. Far from increasing unnecessary administration, our reforms removed a whole tier of administration with the abolition of regional health authorities--a measure that was opposed at every stage by noble Lords opposite. We have no quarrel with the aim of cutting bureaucracy. Indeed it is the role of those within the NHS to root it out and to move money into patient care. However, the Government's Primary Care Bill will do nothing to reduce NHS bureaucracy. Scrapping GP fund-holding and corralling GPs into commissioning groups would increase bureaucracy while the focus on patient care would be lost. That is not just our view; it is also the view of Dr. Rhidian Morris, the Chairman of the National Federation of Fund-holding Practices, who has claimed that the Government's plans would increase bureaucracy because they would lead to the setting up of 500 "mini" health authorities to plan primary care for populations between 50,000 and 100,000. We introduced GP fund-holding--which, perhaps I may remind the House, is a voluntary scheme which doctors choose to join--to improve the provision of local services and to increase the decision-making powers of NHS professionals. And it has delivered. It is important to note that any changes to GP fund-holding will impact on 60 per cent. of the population. Waiting times have
Every Labour Government has increased waiting lists in the National Health Service. If the Government go ahead with this Bill, not only will waiting times go up, but the service provided by the NHS will deteriorate. In addition, the NHS will be hard hit by the Government's minimum wage. At the time of the last election, Mr. Robin Cook, now Foreign Secretary, admitted that the minimum wage would add £500 million to NHS costs. That was in 1992. It must surely cost at least that today. It was very interesting to hear only today Rodney Bickerstaffe of UNISON advocating a minimum wage of £4.42.
Last week the Prime Minister boasted that the Government would shake up the welfare system. But what has the Labour Party's attitude been to welfare reform over the past five years? And what do its proposals amount to? Listening to the Government, one might think that they had been clamouring for reforms that we had studiously resisted. As Peter Lilley said last week, history tells a different story. The former Secretary of State introduced 12 Bills to target help on people most in need, to improve work incentives, to get tough against fraud and to encourage better provision for old age. Labour opposed almost every one of those Bills. In their place they made proposals which were more expensive or which created disincentives to work and save.
Even more vacuous was new Labour's response to the imaginative and far-sighted proposals to secure and improve the basic pension for generations to come which were introduced by Peter Lilley, the then Secretary of State for Social Security. First, Harriet Harman, as Opposition spokesman, savaged them as "a chilling experience", while her No.2, Frank Field, at the Department of Social Security (or is he really No. 1 in disguise?), saw considerable merit in the proposals. Then, when virtually every newspaper and informed commentator across the political spectrum made his admiration for Peter Lilley's proposals clear, the then Leader of the Opposition was forced to backtrack and admit that the scheme had some merits.
Finally and most disgracefully, new Labour, as a matter of policy, wilfully alarmed elderly voters by claiming that our proposals would mean abolishing the basic state pension--a claim which they knew to be untrue. That means presumably that they are unlikely to implement proposals varyingly described as "a breakthrough", "far-sighted", "empowering", and an example of "good government"; or perhaps by some good fortune this Conservative policy, along with so many others, may be adopted eventually by this Government. If the weekend press is any guide, it may be sooner rather than later. We wait with interest.
What of the Government's current proposals? For example, the welfare to work proposals? They are certainly laudable objectives--boosting spending on education by reducing spending on unemployment benefit. We agree with those objectives, for that is precisely what we did when in government. We cut
Instead, this Government want to increase burdens on business and to use job subsidies to provide artificial "make work schemes". The aim of such schemes may be desirable, but they do not save money, nor do they create permanent jobs. How can they? Most of the money will go to the people who will get jobs anyway and so it will be wasted. Nor is there any way of stopping employers from replacing existing employees with subsidised workers or from taking the money for potential employees whom employers would have employed, come what may. Nor will the subsidised jobs last. Setting aside any possible legal problems, once the money from the one-off windfall tax has gone, then so will the artificially created jobs. To add insult to injury, the jobs lost by the minimum wage will be permanent.
As a result of the election, this House is faced with a new set of priorities. My colleagues and noble friends on this side of the House do not doubt the Government's intentions: to devolve power, to cut crime and to reduce NHS bureaucracy. But I quote an old maxim: the road to hell is paved with good intentions and the devil, as we all know, and I know in particular, is in the detail. It is the detail of the measures that will come before us that will preoccupy this House. We shall provide constructive yet vigorous opposition and I look forward, with my noble friends, to fulfilling the role of revising legislation which this great House does so well.
Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank: My Lords, because it would be inappropriate, I do not propose to fight the general election again as I am afraid the noble Baroness has sought to do. It would be wise for all of us, on whatever Benches we may sit, to recognise that the world has moved on.
We have a rolling debate, as we always do on the gracious Speech. Perhaps I should first make clear those areas about which I do not intend to speak. I shall say nothing about social affairs to which my noble friend Lord Russell may refer. Although I greatly welcome the intentions set out in the gracious Speech to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into United Kingdom law, the House will hear more about that--though not today--from my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill. He deserves the greatest credit for his part in bringing this about. As for Scotland and Wales, I prefer not to trespass, except to express my support for the proposals in the gracious Speech, on territory familiar to my noble friends Lord Mackie of Benshie and Lord Thomas of Gresford, both of whom will speak later.
However, I join the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in noting the absence from this debate and from the Chamber at the moment of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, now Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. He was in splendid form earlier this
I had expected to welcome the Parliamentary Under-Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, as one of those speaking in the debate, but instead I welcome him to the Front Bench where he now sits. His light touch, which we shall, no doubt, see again soon, is a formidable combination of subtlety and steel. I hope it will not embarrass him, but I should also like to believe that his heart was with these Benches when we debated the Police Bill and the Crime (Sentences) Bill, and when his party was cosying up a little too much to Michael Howard.
Perhaps this would be a good moment to welcome the new Solicitor-General, who was with us earlier this afternoon. For a long time, since my own days in government, I have failed to see the point of the Law Officers. Every government can get the best legal advice from the country's most outstanding lawyers simply by paying for it. The Law Officers always cause trouble when they meddle in politics, as they are often inclined to do. But if we are to have Law Officers, what greater pleasure could we have than to welcome to your Lordships' House a colleague of such character and distinction as Solicitor-General?
Perhaps I may make a suggestion to Ministers. In Parliament and elsewhere, especially on radio and television, they should soon get away from the numbing culture of the soundbite and begin to appear again to be thinking men and women, ready to listen to arguments and to deal with them on their merits. As I have already said, we are no longer fighting a general election, and thought-control by the Minister without Portfolio is not the formula for confident Ministers or good government. I totally exempt Ministers in your Lordships' House from any such strictures, but I hope that their colleagues will follow their example.
Nowhere is the approach of thoughtful inquiry more needed than in Home Office affairs. The soundbite that will resonate over the years from the previous government is: "Prison works". It came to mean, "Lock up the largest number of prisoners and keep them there for the longest possible time". There were times when the new Home Secretary, Jack Straw, showed a marked reluctance to dispute this thesis, but he now has the opportunity to think again.
The Home Secretary cannot immediately reverse the momentum of a rising prison population; but he can set a target for reducing it to manageable proportions. At the end of last week, 60,431 men and women were in prison--an outrageously large number. The Home Secretary should aim to get that figure to below 50,000 by the end of this Parliament.
I am sorry that the Home Secretary appears to have rejected an amnesty for petty criminals of the kind adopted by Douglas Hurd 10 years ago. But I hope that he will look again at the consequences for the prison
Indeed--I trust that I reflect the views right across the Chamber--I hope that the new Home Secretary will review much of the legislation passed in recent years, some of it opposed by him. Some of it he may reflect upon in tranquillity and feel that it was too readily accepted. Apart from the crime Act and the Police Act, I refer perhaps most of all to the Asylum and Immigration Act. In due course, your Lordships will want to know what amendments are being tabled.
I hope also that the Government will spare a thought for the future of the Probation Service. There was strong opposition on all sides of the House--led by, among others, the noble Lord, Lord Allen of Abbeydale, who was in his place a short time ago--to changes made in recruitment and training. Those could be easily reversed and soon.
In 1995 two debates initiated from these Benches concerned prison policy. We shall return to that subject and in particular will want to know what the Home Secretary means when he is reported as saying that he is now taking full responsibility for prisons with no more argument about what are policy and what are operational matters. Does that mean the end of the Executive Agency? If not, the Home Secretary may find himself in a worse muddle than his predecessor and vulnerable when prison escapes occur, as they certainly will. From these Benches we shall show a specific interest in prison policy, including the relationship between the Home Secretary and the Prison Service. It has worked badly so far--witness the extraordinary exchanges expected this afternoon regarding the dismissal of Mr. Derek Lewis.
There is one phrase in the gracious Speech which made me uncomfortable. I refer to the promise of "measures against anti-social behaviour". I hope that I am not being over-sensitive but I believe that that is a dangerous catch-all, politically-correct description for a government to use and not one that I associate with a free society.
We shall want to scrutinise with care the Crime and Disorder Bill that we have been promised. We need to be persuaded of the justice of child curfews and that parental responsibility orders will work. We do not quarrel at all with what the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said today about the need to look for new forms of punishment for persistent young offenders involving community partnerships. None of us, wherever we sit in this Chamber, under-estimates the strength of feeling felt by and hurt done to victims of crime or despise new ideas--about which we may be
From these Benches we shall keep a respectful eye on the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor though, alas, he is already absent from the debate. Your Lordships will remember the excellent debate initiated by him on 5th June last into the relationship between the judiciary, the legislature and the Executive. As one would expect, he made an important speech, paying tribute to the high quality of judicial review in this country and commenting on the political impartiality of the judges. His sentiments were impossible to fault. However, reading between the lines, there was a sliver of suspicion that they contained a discreet warning to the judiciary not to overstep the mark when a Labour Government took office. We too, on these Benches, will be alert to any over-stepping of the mark, in our case particularly by the Executive. All governments, however well-intentioned and however they choose to start, from time to time abuse their power by inadvertence or arrogance. We shall be watching.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as he told your Lordships this afternoon, has a busy time ahead as chairman of the senior Cabinet committee dealing with constitutional reform. I wish he had been able to give a clearer indication today of when we may expect measures not included in the gracious Speech but to which the Government are committed.
These Benches would have welcomed legislation to provide for elections to the European Parliament on a regional list system of proportional representation of the kind looked on favourably by the Government of the noble Lord, Lord Callaghan, 20 years ago and advocated more recently by the committee under the leadership of the noble Lord, Lord Plant of Highfield. Perhaps the noble Baroness, in winding up the debate, will assure the House that, whenever this legislation comes, it will not be too late for implementation in the next European elections. We shall be grateful for a clear undertaking on that.
In relation to reform of your Lordships' House, these Benches are at least as committed to change as are the Government. In my view it would have been wiser to proceed in the first Session of the new Parliament rather than later. Had that been done, new arrangements could have been in place by the autumn of next year. Meanwhile, your Lordships' House will have to work within its existing composition and shape.
Lord Owen: My Lords, it is 19½ years since I have been able to support the Queen's Speech, and I do so with great pleasure. The constitution is a complex and delicate mechanism and, if we change it in the wrong way, we shall undoubtedly put at risk the United Kingdom.
It is my contention that the constitutional reforms being discussed today in this House and previously in another place have been thought about and deliberated over a sustained period of time. I was first converted to the case for a legislative parliament for Scotland by the late and much lamented figure of John McIntosh in 1966, within a few years of entering the House. I supported Scottish devolution during the period of the Labour Government. I believe that it is right that it should have tax-paying powers and I hope that in the referendum the Scottish people opt for that.
The legislation will be adapted over time. It would be extraordinary if there was not to be a change on the West Lothian question--a fundamental question which none of us has been able to solve. It first reared its ugly head in the debates on Irish home rule. It was never resolved at that time and, in my view, it will take legislative devolution for Northern Ireland and Wales, as well as for Scotland, before the West Lothian question is grappled with, as it must be. It may be done by a self-denying ordinance in another place. Legislation which is judged by the Speaker in that House as being substantively on devolved questions will not be voted on by Members from another nation. But there is an intense illogicality in the situation which will not be tolerated, for example, by an incoming Conservative Government which find themselves blocked on their legislation for England and possibly Wales--if it has not by then a legislative assembly--by Scottish Members of Parliament when Scotland has its own legislation on health, education and other matters.
It is no longer possible to push this issue aside any more than it is possible to push aside the necessity for having a balanced representation from all parts of the United Kingdom and therefore a reduction in the number of Scottish Members of Parliament in another place.
These are not party political issues but commonsense questions. It would strengthen greatly the devolution legislation were the Government, with their large majority, to grapple with them. For example, they could say that for a period of time they would see how matters developed and, once devolution has gone through, adopt a self-denying ordinance under which Scottish Members of Parliament would not be involved in devolved questions relating to England and Wales. This is about power. It is about the balance of power and protecting against a situation where a government might not have a natural majority for legislation in England and Wales and want to buttress their position with Scottish MPs. This is not the right way to legislate for constitutional stability in the long term.
I raise another question about the United Kingdom which relates to Northern Ireland. I do not believe that we can honestly continue any longer without returning to the people of Northern Ireland a properly devolved Parliament with legislative powers. It has been just about sustainable to have to await the outcome of the peace process. But I personally believe--and I hope that it is a fair interpretation of the Prime Minister's speech in Northern Ireland a few days ago--that there is now a readiness to legislate for devolution and to grapple with this matter even if there is not (as we all hope that there will be) a dialogue on a peace settlement.
That raises another constitutional question. If we are again to have the people of Northern Ireland legislating on health, education and perhaps, above all, on that most sensitive question in the 1960s of housing, I find it very hard to believe that we shall be happy to allow that legislative power to be totally untrammelled in a uni-cameral Parliament. If it is right to have a bi-cameral Parliament for its capacity to round and revise legislation and to give time to ponder and think, it seems to me that health and education legislation and other devolved legislative powers of a Scottish Parliament raise some very important questions, some of which will have an indirect impact on other parts of the United Kingdom.
In drawing up their White Paper I hope that the Government will look hard at this question of whether or not there should be a second chamber mechanism. One way would be to use Scottish MPs in another place as the second chamber in Scotland for the devolved legislation or to use this Chamber. I believe that this matter will raise itself in a more dramatic way when we come to deal with devolution to Northern Ireland. In logic, the case for a bi-cameral legislative chamber exists for all aspects of legislation which affect the United Kingdom and I hope that we shall address that question.
I now turn to the other issues of the referendums. As the Social Democrats did in the 1980s, I strongly support the idea of an elected mayor of London. I believe that that will form a very important addition to the strength of local government, which has been much diminished in recent decades. I welcome a referendum on proportional representation. I hope that that commitment will be fulfilled. An extremely important point was made in an earlier speech that proportional representation for the next European parliamentary election should be in place well before that election. I hope that it follows the same pattern of legislation which I recommended to another place back in the last Labour Government; namely, a regional system of proportional representation. The discrepancies in the European Parliament, with first-past-the-post voting, are very great indeed. Its merits as regards a European Parliament stand alone whatever one thinks of proportional representation for the UK Parliament.
I come to the other question of a referendum. One of the most important aspects of the run up to the last election and the continuation of the campaign has been the commitment of all three political parties to a referendum on a single currency. A single currency goes to the root of our constitution. There are many aspects
For example, I believe that a very wise distinction was made by the Chancellor when he announced a greater measure of independence for the Bank of England in that it would have independent power to keep the inflation rate set by the Government, but the inflation rate target, which is effectively also the likely outcome of unemployment, would be a decision taken by politicians. It would be a considerable and important constitutional step to give up the power to set the rate of inflation and thereby the rate of unemployment. There are political questions, not merely technical ones, as regards the single currency which, by the granting of a referendum, have now a constitutional importance which we must ponder very carefully before we embark on them.
There are other aspects of the constitution which, increasingly, I believe need to be debated in both Houses of Parliament here and then taken from the United Kingdom in a genuine spirit of trying to get agreement within Europe on the way forward. For example, I have never believed it possible for a nation to remain a nation without having the right of effectively having a veto on its foreign policy agenda. We have that in NATO by the habit of consensus. We have it in the United Nations because we are fortunate to be a veto power. If the European Union wishes to push the question of majority voting in foreign policy even further than it has done so far--and it shows every sign of not being accepted in any treaty that comes from Amsterdam--then it is legitimate to say, "We have grown used to having a veto in the United Nations. If you wish to have voting because we may be going into an enlargement to 30 or more countries, then a number of the larger countries within the European Union must be given the veto". If that were to happen I would not mind majority voting at all because one would have the safeguard that I believe to be absolutely fundamental and one could not be overridden on foreign policy. I say the same for defence.
It has never been acknowledged sufficiently, particularly by the critics of the Maastricht Treaty on grounds of so-called Euro-scepticism, that the three governmental pillars that came out of the Maastricht Treaty were a profound advance in constitutional terms on what had existed hitherto. There were hitherto absolutely no limits. There was no framework within which the European Union was to evolve.
We should look at this carefully. I, for one, am ready to see the European Union become involved in peacekeeping. The WEU is the natural forum for that. However, I do not want to see defence and peacekeeping subject to the decisions of the European Parliament, the
However, I wish to see the Maastricht constitutional safeguards upheld at all times. I do not like the idea of blurring the distinctions and of never having a clearly defined fall-back position. If we were to enter a debate about the definition of those aspects of our membership of the European Union, the Prime Minister might be able to achieve what none of us has been able to achieve: a wholehearted commitment to the European Union as a union of nation states with an understood limit on the degree of sovereignty to be given up. That limit would be what Winston Churchill in his Fulton, Missouri, speech called the "sinews of nationhood". These would be held within the nation. I refer to those vital, essential powers which define a nation's strengths and, in the last analysis, its capacity to make its fundamental choices on foreign and defence policy.
Lord Winston: My Lords, it gives me very great pleasure to be one of the first to congratulate the Government on the appointment of what must be regarded as a most outstanding and talented health team on the Front Benches of both Houses. Indeed, I cannot think of a better team to have occupied those Benches for many years past. The appointments have been greeted in the health service with widespread enthusiasm and optimism.
It is clear that the health service has faced a number of serious crises and, despite the protestations of the previous Government, it is equally clear that there has been a progressive decline in morale. I do not want to "electioneer"--the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank, rightly admonished us--but it is recognised that there is now a wave of enthusiasm throughout the health service and an eagerness to try to support the Government to take the best way forward when dealing with the many problems which the service faces. It is
The gracious Speech deals with some most important issues, the first of which is undoubtedly the question of equality of access to health care. Sadly, however we look at it, and whatever the protestations of the previous Government, it is clear that there has been a shortfall in that equality. I was saddened and surprised to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, protest in favour of the internal market. As it happens, I am very fond of the noble Baroness. I remember distinctly at two o'clock one morning receiving an envelope from the then Government Front Bench containing a chocolate biscuit in recompense for the polo mints which had been stolen for her from the Bishop's Bar by the then Whip who had been on the Front Bench and who could not wait for the absent barmaid. I believe that I supplied the polo mints for her. I have kept the chocolate biscuit. I do not intend to eat it. It will become a family heirloom as it grows its mould.
Fund-holding is one of the key problems facing the health service. It is not acceptable for patients who are benefiting from one type of general practice to have preferential access to further health care. That has clearly happened. There is a real need to address that problem and to ensure that all patients have the best opportunity of the best referral.
The gracious Speech also refers to co-operation within the service. There has undoubtedly been a major problem because of the monolithic nature of hospital trusts. Hospital trusts are, in a sense, businesses as a result of the internal market. They need an income and are therefore in competition with other trusts which are often in close proximity to them. The consequences have been severe. I hope to see from the Government the recognition that we should start with some form, not merely of vertical planning in the health service, but of horizontal planning also. Health service trusts could co-operate in the provision of, for example, paediatric care across big cities such as London. It is ridiculous that one hospital which may be particularly good at neo-natal care but may not be so good at "adult" paediatrics cannot set up a proper service because of the competitive element. Ministers can perhaps consider that point in the near future. One could give many other examples of the need for such co-operation.
The gracious Speech mentions "decentralisation". I do not fully understand what is meant by that and I wonder whether we can be given an explanation. Although I accept that there may be need for a better spread of general care throughout the community, there is no question but that one of the great strengths of our health service has been its centres of excellence. Their development has been inevitable. Sadly, for reasons that I do not understand, the Conservative Government never really capitalised on that. They spent money in one place looking at imaging but never proceeded to promulgate centralised imaging throughout the health service.
The question of the internal market was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. There is no doubt--we have never denied it--that the internal market has produced definite advantages, but I believe that they are peripheral to the central problems faced by the health service. One of the major areas has been the lack of correct audit. We have not been able to quantify the best in care and then work out how it may be implemented to improve the quality of care to patients. Instead, audit has looked at the number of patients treated. We still have the curious anomaly in the health service, which must go, that a patient has an episode (an operation in the health service), is discharged early and, if he or she has complications, returns for a second procedure. That would not have been necessary had the first episode in hospital been of greater length. Consequently, more people are treated but they are the same patients being treated twice. That is not a method of accounting that can be regarded as acceptable.
One matter that greatly concerns me is best referral. In the health service there has always been a principle that patients can get the best opinion in a field. Sadly, the internal market has prevented that from happening. Although the Government claimed that money would follow the patient, in practice that simply has not occurred. Very seldom does one find--and this is becoming more pronounced--that one is able to apply for funding for patients who are being referred to specialist centres.
Many noble Lords on this side of the House have been consistently critical of the private finance initiative. It is not that we completely disapprove of it. Interestingly, that was pointed out in a debate on the PFI on 21st May 1996, almost exactly a year ago. The problem about the PFI is income stream. One must be absolutely assured that clinical services are not devolved to the private contractor. One of our concerns is that the approach to an initial cheapening of the cost of building may not in the long term be an advantage to the health service. There is a risk of selling off assets for short term gains. As an educationalist and professor of medicine I am very concerned about the dent that that makes on medical education. Health education is given great emphasis in the Queen's Speech, and that is extremely welcome. The idea that a real dent will be made in tobacco advertising and a food and health commission established is excellent news. One is well aware of the
The most difficult issue of all is the funding of the health service. No matter what may be the protestations of the other side, this Government have been left with a very serious legacy: chronic underfunding of the health service. I see no immediate way of dealing with that, but it certainly needs to be looked at. The £1.6 billion that was promised by the Tory Government will not be sufficient. There is evidence that inflation and salary costs are bound to rise. By the end of this year a number of trusts are bound to be in deficit. That deficit is calculated to be £150 million. That is a legacy with which this Government have to deal, and it is a very difficult problem.
It is right that there should be recognition of the need for education in the health service. There is a shortage of doctors, and an undoubted shortage of nurses. One of the problems we face is the emphasis on general practice and community care--a most important emphasis. There is great recognition that general practitioners must be better informed and educated on how best to make decisions in regard to their patients. We look forward to seeing these improvements. The way ahead is difficult. There are no easy solutions to the problem of funding, but I have great confidence that this Government will begin to address it.
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I should like to say a brief word about the Government's proposals for Scotland and ask the Minister who is to reply from the Front Bench one question. I listened with very great interest to what was said on this subject by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I have never been against an elected Scottish assembly of some kind, but with two obvious provisos. First, a proper majority of Scots must want and be prepared to support it, not just a few political activists. It must be set up so that it is not just workable in the short term but stable in the long term. The last attempt in 1978 failed on both counts. I voted against it at that time.
How do the Government's 1997 proposals measure up? As to public support, I suggest that at the moment it is hard to tell. The general election vote in Scotland can be taken, on its face, as a clear endorsement, but I believe that it is an endorsement of a long-standing general idea not of a precise package. After all, the general election was about so many issues. As there would be time to look at the matter again when the referendum came along it appeared that there was comparatively little talk in the media or on the doorstep--not on the several hundred doorsteps that I visited--as to how the parliament would work and affect individuals and families or what would be the true balance of advantage or disadvantage for Scotland as a whole. In any case, the key points in the Government's plans are still not known. Perhaps they are still undecided. How can people properly assess it? For the time being, I submit that the extent of support is not
My question to the Minister is the following. When will the referendum voters know the main features of the Government's proposals on which they will be voting? I suggest that this is an urgent question. The published timetable suggests that if the referendum Bill is passed the Government's White Paper will be published at the end of July with the Scottish referendum on the 11th September. The noble and learned Lord referred to the autumn in his speech, but the published timetable suggests 11th September. Since school holidays and holidays in general end in mid-August in Scotland--in my area, they end on 18th August--it appears that the time available to absorb the details of the White Paper before voting will be brief. Three weeks is enough for a campaign--as we all now know--but surely if people are to make an informed consideration they should begin to think about it before then. That is simply not possible until we know the salient facts.
My noble friend Lady Blatch has listed a number of those facts. For example, given a Scots Parliament will there still be a Secretary of State for Scotland? What she did not ask was, if there is not a Secretary of State for Scotland, who will argue the Scots' interest within the United Kingdom Cabinet on social security, defence, taxation or foreign affairs? Many issues greatly affecting Scotland will be reserved for the United Kingdom Parliament. Who will argue the Scottish case? I do not know. I do not know if anybody knows.
My noble friend also asked: "What about the West Lothian question?". The noble Lord, Lord Owen, made some fascinating comments on that topic, as he did on others. I am sure that we shall read what he said with great care. That problem has to be resolved. It may look easy, given the balance of the present Parliament but it will not look easy for long.
How would the parliament be funded? If it is decided that it will be tax-varying, will the main funding nevertheless be by grant from a Westminster Parliament? How will that grant be fixed? The Secretary of State for Scotland has said that it will be by negotiation between the two elected bodies as partners. Partnership looks a fine concept when Scotland has, this time, voted in the same way as the United Kingdom as a whole, and when at the Treasury the Chancellor, the Chief Secretary and the Economic Secretary are all Members of Parliament with Scots constituencies. Partnership looks fine at the moment, but that position is doubtless not permanent and a future scene may be less peaceful. In any case the elected Members of the two Parliaments are unlikely to be content with the formula used at present for calculating the Scots' slice of the Treasury cake: a formula which few understand and no one explains. How will that be dealt with?
If there is to be a tartan tax, it is not just a question of who will pay it but what will be the cost to people in varying circumstances? Simply saying, as the Prime Minister has said, that that will not arise in the next five years is no answer for referendum voters who
Given the political balance at Westminster and the easy ride that the devolution Bill is likely to have there at this time, the referendum takes on a new and crucial importance. Is it really in order for us Scots to have to wait for a White Paper, published while we are on holiday, in order to know what we are deciding two or three weeks after we get back?
Launching a referendum Bill in Glasgow last week, the Secretary of State for Scotland said excitedly, "The show is on the road!". I am told that a voice in the back row was heard to murmur, "It would be easier if we knew what show".
I reiterate my question to the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis: given a referendum Act, when do the Government intend to let the people of Scotland know the main facts about the proposed Scots parliament so that proper consideration can begin?
Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I rise to speak, well pleased that there is a new Government with a good majority. I would much rather that there were 146 Liberals than 46. That would have been a better set-up, but the one we have now is better than the awful possibility of a Tory Government. I used to wake screaming in the night, dreaming that the Tories had got back! No longer does that trouble me, however, and I welcome the Queen's Speech.
I will talk about a Scottish Parliament for Scottish affairs. This is an old Liberal policy. It used also to be an old Labour policy but they dropped it for a long time, until the people of Scotland reminded them of their duty. They have now brought it back. The Liberals, and now the Liberal Democrats, have been totally in favour of it. I received some old election literature of my noble friend Lord Thurso's grandfather, Sir Archibald Sinclair. Way back in the early 1920s he was talking about a Scottish Parliament for Scottish affairs.
That is what we want and it is what we need. We have a very good model for it produced by the Scottish Convention. I am very glad to see in his place the noble Lord, Lord Ewing of Kirkford, who had a great deal to do with it. This body was set up. The two political parties which stayed in it were the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrat Party. It also contained a great many representatives from other institutions in Scotland such as the Church and education. Unfortunately, the Tories took no part and, for reasons I do not know, the Scottish Nationalists withdrew.
That convention examined the matter with great thoroughness and produced a blueprint which I trust this Government will follow exactly, especially the aspect that deals with proportional representation which would make for a fairer voting system in Scotland.
There are people, from the Tory Party and in other places, who are very doubtful about it. They do not want change. People speak of the past 100 years of Scotland's history having seen a tradition of Scotsmen going to London, to New York, to Canada, to Australia, and of their doing great things. This is perfectly true, but we need Scotsmen to do great things at home. Without a centre of power in a country, people will undoubtedly go to where the power is. All over the world one sees the drift towards the great cities. Scotland would benefit enormously from having its own centre of real political power.
Although, because of the unfortunate and total lack of consideration for the minorities, one might not think of Stormont as being a great example to follow, technically it was a very efficient parliament. It knew what it was doing. I went there a good deal after the war, my own interest being in agriculture. Northern Ireland was a long way ahead of us in terms of what farmers and modern agriculture needed. It was easy to do because everyone knew one another in that tight little assembly. In Ulster, a great many good people stood for the Stormont Parliament. They were better than those who stand for the Westminster Parliament. That was just because Stormont had some power and people could do what they wanted in their own country. I believe strongly that a Scottish Parliament for Scottish affairs will have that effect in Scotland. If it does not have that effect, it will be the fault of the Scottish people. They will deserve it if it fails, but I do not think that it will. I think that they will rise to it.
When in Opposition, the Government were too frightened of the tartan tax. I wish to goodness the Tories would stop talking about it. It failed to frighten the Scottish people so perhaps they will leave it alone now and talk about something constructive. It was put forward that there would be frightening centralisation and a tartan tax, but for the Labour Party spin doctors--or whatever they call them--suddenly to produce the answer by a two-question referendum was a bad piece of work. It was a total negation of any form of Scottish democratic control, consultation or anything else. I hope that they will not repeat it. They do not need to now. With a large majority, they have nothing to be frightened of.
Of course the English are a bit like that. I am fond of the English. I have been much among them. I intend to be among them for a long time to come, or as long as He above will spare me. They have a certain complacency about them. I was strongly reminded of that by what one of my noble friends said. He is the man with the broadest possible views. He has the best liberal instincts on everything else. He suddenly attacked me. He said that the Scots were behaving disgracefully: Scottish rugby supporters were cheering France in a match against England. He believed that no one could support anyone other than the English in a rugby match. That attitude is a little endemic, but I hope that the Government will not go too far in that direction, will consult, and remember that the power comes from the Scottish people.
The West Lothian question is a difficult one. I have forgotten exactly what the noble Lord, Lord Owen, said, but he meant that good practice and a little understanding could well overcome the difficulty of the West Lothian question. I think that it will. It must be resolved in the long run. Apart from the two questions, the Referendum Bill is a good document. I am against it. I thought that the Scottish people had spoken. I shall speak against it. We shall speak against it in the other place. We might even vote against it there. I do not know, but your Lordships should rest assured that when it comes to the referendum we in the Scottish Liberal Democratic Party will be pushing to ensure that the maximum number of people vote yes to both questions.
Lord Cooke of Thorndon: My Lords, I shall briefly divert your Lordships' attention from the excitement and charms of devolution to another part of the gracious Speech; namely, the reference to the incorporation into UK domestic law of what were described as the main provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. I venture to offer a few observations in the light of the New Zealand experience in the field since 1990, and personal experience when I happened to find myself presiding for some six years thereafter over the court to which it fell chiefly to implement the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. I hope that what I have to say will be more in the nature of a report of facts than of argument.
The New Zealand Act of 1990 is neither entrenched nor paramount; that is to say, it is an ordinary Act, enacted by no special method, and open to repeal or amendment by ordinary legislation. Originally, it is true, a Bill of Rights both paramount and entrenched was contemplated, but public doubt was generated as to the wisdom of going so far so quickly. A more modest measure resulted. The rights affirmed in it are broadly similar to those in the European Convention and most other human rights instruments, but their scope is governed by two key provisions. One precludes any court from holding any enactment to be invalid by reason only of inconsistency with the Bill of Rights. Thus the power of Parliament is preserved.
The other--no less important--enacts a principle of interpretation. Whenever an enactment can be given a meaning consistent with the rights and freedoms affirmed in the Bill of Rights, the court shall give it that meaning. Thus the courts are enjoined, in the absence of sufficiently clear parliamentary intent to the contrary, to interpret Acts consistently with the Bill of Rights.
It may be said that the present UK Government have an electoral mandate for incorporating the European Convention as paramount law. There have been suggestions, however, that something rather less, somewhat on the New Zealand model, could be all that will be attempted, at least initially. So it may be of some use to say now briefly how such a solution has been found to work in practice.
The Bill of Rights affirms the right of everyone detained under an enactment to consult and instruct a lawyer without delay. It was held that that right of consultation and instruction could not be insisted upon at the roadside, for that would have stultified the efficient operation of the kind of roadside test envisaged by the legislature. Nevertheless, it could be insisted upon before testing at a police station, at least to the extent of telephone consultation with a lawyer. With the co-operation of the police and the legal profession, that appears to have worked satisfactorily and even to have improved the behaviour of suspects in stressful situations in which, to their dismay, they may find themselves.
Therefore, although not remorseless or ruthless, the more modest type of measure is certainly not toothless either. It has twin advantages. One is that Parliament, by a sufficiently plain expression of its will, can take the responsibility of overriding the affirmed rights in a particular field. The other is that the courts can give their decisions with the insurance of that knowledge. Of course, that does not automatically shield their decisions from controversy and criticism, but it would be a betrayal of the essential independence of the judiciary to be swayed by that consideration. For a truly independent judiciary is of the essence of democracy--and I venture to submit that that must mean a non-elected judiciary. To be an Aunt Sally for the media at times has to be accepted as part of the judicial role. But it is a consolation to the courts to know that their decisions are not unalterable. Nonetheless, experience suggests that they will not lightly be altered; and that, too, is healthy in a democracy based on the rule of law.
Perhaps I may give but one example. The police in New Zealand obtained a search warrant to look for evidence of drug dealing in a private property. A mistake was made in the address stated in the warrant. The police party invaded a perfectly respectable home. They found not the slightest evidence of criminality, unless the presence of a Jaguar motor car in the garage be thought to be such a sign. When it was pointed out to them that a mistake had apparently been made, the officer in charge allegedly replied, "We sometimes get it wrong, but while we're here we'll have a look round anyway." They did. There was ransacking of drawers, wardrobes and so forth. Of course, no drugs were found and eventually they left. The upshot was an action for damages against the state--not, be it noted, against the individual officers involved in the search but against the state, as the corporate or collective body responsible to its citizens for protecting them from transgression of their human rights by officers of the state.
The Court of Appeal held that if the facts were proved to have been as I have outlined, an action for compensation would lie. Whether the facts were such was never submitted to judicial scrutiny--and it may be wisely--for the government of the day proceeded to
A Bill of Rights in modest form thus proves to have true value. It may be criticised as a halfway house--it will not necessarily do for ever--but perhaps it accords with the British traditions of gradualism and commonsense compromise.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I move to the Government Benches for the fourth time since I have been a Member of the House. I have been twice on the Front Bench and twice on the Back Benches, as now. I must begin by congratulating my noble colleagues, led by the noble Lord, Lord Richard, on assuming their great positions. I have made it plain to the noble Lord, Lord Richard, and to most of the others that I have the highest confidence in them, not least in the noble Baroness who is to wind up the debate. She will excuse me, because I understand that the debate is to finish at eleven o'clock tonight and that it is the accepted convention that Peers over 90 are expected to be at home by that time.
I congratulate all the Members of the Front Bench, but I am bound to express a little sadness at the absence of several of those who provided such wonderful service to this House in recent years. I shall mention only two. First, the noble Lord, Lord Graham. There was a great Chief Whip, if ever there was one. At a party of Labour Peers not long ago he invited five widows of Labour Peers and afterwards thanked them for coming. That was the kind of leadership with which he supplied us and I know that his example spread through the whole House. I must also mention the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, who during the past 10 years brought distinction to every high task with which he was entrusted. There are other noble Lords and I must express my sorrow at their absence.
Whenever I see the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition my mind goes back to his grandfather who was Leader of this House when I first came here. He built up the modern House with Lord Addison and that service will never be forgotten by those of us who were then Members.
I listened, as usual, with the utmost pleasure to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I am pleased to think that someone who I called "the angel of light" has now been liberated from the servitude of darkness so that she will be able to be much more herself in time to come. The noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, expressed thoughts about penal reform much more eloquently than I can, and I can say no more.
I turn to the subject of the debate. The House will not be surprised to know that I wish to concentrate on the subject of penal reform. In my eyes, this is an extremely critical moment in the history of penal policy, indeed, perhaps the most critical moment ever. For four years, we have suffered under an evil doctrine, the doctrine referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, that prison works and that it will work much better if it is made nastier and lasts longer. That is the official doctrine under which we have suffered for the past four years. It is very different from the doctrine of previous Conservative leaders. I am so glad to think that we shall have Mr. Douglas Hurd, soon to be Lord Hurd, in this House. He is a recent Home Secretary of the utmost distinction and has recently become chairman of the Prison Reform Trust. It is not possible to imagine a greater contrast between the views of the Prison Reform Trust and those of the late Administration in that area.
However, I turn to my own views. I take some confidence from the thought that this Government have a very strong Christian flavour. I mentioned Mr. Blair, but there are half a dozen other members of the Christian Socialist Society. I suppose that no Government have ever had so many ardent Christians, although most governments have a majority of members who would call themselves Christians.
And so, we must build hopes. One must perhaps be of rather a hopeful temperament to build them, but nevertheless, I insist on building hopes. Your Lordships may ask what Christianity has to do with it. After all, there have been notable penal reformers who were humanists. In this House I think of Lady Wootton who I helped to introduce in this House. I remember the difficulties there were in finding an alternative form of words to suit her. She perhaps did more for penal reform than anybody else at that time. Then there is my noble friend Lord McIntosh. I am sorry that he is not to be the Home Office Minister, but nevertheless I congratulate him on his new appointment. My noble friend Lord McIntosh is a strong humanist and a fine penal reformer.
Therefore, I am not saying that you must be a Christian to be a penal reformer, but I do say that if you are a Christian, you can draw special inspiration from the teaching of Jesus Christ because he said:
In practice, what am I talking about? What do the words mean? As the noble Lord, Lord Rodgers, implied earlier, if the present state of affairs continues, under present plans, the prison population, not so very far hence, would be 80,000 whereas in 1993 it was just over 40,000. Therefore, it will have doubled in a relatively few years. That is one aspect of the matter and life will be made more uncomfortable for all.
I know that other noble Lords visit prisoners beside myself, but I visit them twice a week. I have said before and I say again that one cannot but be aware of the contempt with which recent policies have been viewed within prisons, not only by prisoners but by the staff themselves. The staff do not know what the guidance given to them amounts to. Everybody in past years has always agreed that the guidance must include reform or what is now called rehabilitation. That message must be spelt out clearly. I know that that is not the only element of punishment. There must be deterrence and to some extent retribution and prevention--keeping people out of harm's way. There are other elements. But we should cease to be a Christian country if rehabilitation was no longer one of the main ideals of penal policy. It has been discarded in the past few years. I hope and pray that we shall see it renewed in this new era.
Baroness Macleod of Borve: My Lords, it would not be a debate of any sort about prisons or people without a contribution from the noble Earl, Lord Longford. I have been a Member of your Lordships' House for 27 years and I know that the noble Earl has outstayed me by a number of years. But it has been a very unusual occurrence if I did not follow him or if he did not follow me in a debate of this kind. There was a moment before he entered the Chamber when I thought that the spell would be broken and he would not be in his rightful place but of course he is, and he is welcome as usual.
I too welcome to the Front Bench the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis. We have come to admire her brains, her beauty and her contributions, which are always of great clarity and interest. We have been privileged to have her in this House and now she is on the Government Front Bench where she will add her brains and beauty to those of the other noble Baronesses who have been promoted to the Front Bench.
I wish to add only a few words because of the length of the list of speakers for today's debate. We have heard some interesting speeches already which have been very well informed. In fact, I would say that, up until now, they have been brilliant speeches.
Some Scottish Peers are to speak, so I shall speak only briefly on the subject of the referendums for Scotland and Wales. As I understand it, all political parties referred to the referendums and they all promised that there would be referendums on the future of Scotland and Wales. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that he thought the Bill would go through your Lordships' House quite quickly. I beg to differ. I think that we are more likely to be here during a night to discuss that particular problem, which will affect so many people.
I remember a long time ago--or it seems a long time ago--when we sat all night discussing a health Bill. I was speaking at quarter past seven in the morning, having intervened in the debate throughout the night. The only good thing that I remember about it was that, from somewhere, we were given the most excellent breakfast when we finally finished. But it was a long night and if Scotland and Wales think that they will get away with anything less than a whole night, I think that they have another think coming.
I am afraid that I have a personal question for the Minister. Who will be able to vote? In other words, would a Sassenach widow of a Scotsman be able to vote? It is rather complicated but I expect that my noble friend and her advisers would be able to sort that one out.
So much was said in the Queen's Speech and there is so much that we all need to say. But I should like to say a few words only about education, which seems, according to the Prime Minister, to be one of the foremost problems which the Government are to face. It seems to me that there are too many colleges and too many seats of learning and of higher education. I mix quite a lot with 16 to 22 year-old young people. They do not wish to go on being educated. They would prefer to be let loose and work their way around the world, coming back with the knowledge of other places and other people. Such youngsters do not want to sit at desks and be taught for an extra four years. Of course there are exceptions, and I am sure that the Government will, in their wisdom, decide how many of those young people need to have a formal education when probably they only want, for example, to be a plumber, a bricklayer, a roadsweeper or something that does not necessarily require qualifications. I hope that the Government will look at the matter. From what I have heard, it seems to me that such young people would prefer to go out in the world, get a job and earn some money.
From the meetings that I have attended, one of the problems at school these days seems to me to be truanting and absenteeism from school. I should like to know what the Government intend to do about that problem. The people to whom I have listened are all experts in their own fields but they do not seem to have any answer. When I was chairman of a very large juvenile court, as it was called in those days, it was very difficult to know what to do with the young people who had got into trouble and who had, unknown to their parents, flouted the law. Such youngsters appeared in front of me and I had to try to tell them that that was not the proper thing to do and that they should get back to school, which of course they did not do. It was very difficult to find a way to make young people become educated because they did not want to be; they wanted to be out on the streets, burgling or going to other places. Of course, that obviously led to drug taking and frequent flouting of the law. I took the precaution of always having the parent involved in court. I never heard a case without parents and I used to deal with about eight cases a day.
I was privileged for two years to be president of a manufacturers' organisation for the whole of the north of London. That was a most interesting job and, during that time, I met a great many people. There was a system of apprenticeship, not necessarily for youngsters who wanted to be solicitors or those who wanted a higher education. Apprentices were employed so as to offer young people leaving school the opportunity to see whether they would like to join that particular manufacturing industry. At that time, it seemed to be a great success; indeed, I would commend it. If one can get the heads of manufacturing on one's side to give jobs to young people, that is almost half way to reducing unemployment among the young.
The Government promised in their manifesto and elsewhere to provide employment. However, if they take youngsters away from their homes, it is imperative also to arrange for other people to give them homes. I say that because homelessness is one of the problems of unemployed people. Young people become lonely and soon get into trouble. The worst experience in a young person's life is to be given a job but have nowhere to live. I happen to know a little about the situation through my work with the charity that my late husband and I started which helps young people to find a home, even for a short time.
Today we have been told that the Government will refuse to allow advertising for tobacco products. We will lose a great deal of money if we do that and much interest. The sphere in which they have apparently decided to stop tobacco advertising is in sport. Many of us are trying very hard to reintroduce sports and games throughout the country for children from the age of four years upwards. If parents do not take young children to see sports, much of that good work will be lost. I would certainly vote against restricting advertising in sports. I know that it is very expensive because I was on the IBA for about five years; indeed, the expense of advertising can be tremendous. Again, through my experience, I do not believe that young people take any notice of advertising when it comes to tobacco products. I am quite certain that that is true. They are influenced perhaps by a teacher who is seen to smoke and whom they admire or, indeed, by the young people who are the heads of their school who like to light up a cigarette as soon as they leave the school building. There is also the influence of parents. They are the ones who can influence young people into realising that smoking is wrong. That is the only way that we can stop it if we are inclined to do so.
I must finish with an apology to the Minister. The wheelchair in which I am sitting is the only one in the whole of your Lordships' House from which one can make a speech in this Chamber. However, it is so uncomfortable that I am afraid I literally cannot stay for very much longer. I apologise in advance.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow a person of brains and beauty. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Macleod, will forgive me if I express the hope that there will be no delay to the referendum legislation which has been put forward. The
I welcome the Government's strong commitment to the principle of home rule. I also welcome the statement that was made last week by Sir Wyn Roberts, the former Member of Parliament for Conwy and the longest serving Minister of State in the Welsh Office. He expressed his full support for a Welsh Senedd with legislative powers. As a Welshman, Sir Wyn understands that when you are tackled hard and you are in the mud, you let go of the ball. I contrast that with a statement made on behalf of the Conservative Party by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, certainly an angel of light, as I know, but still advancing the arguments of darkness.
In Wales there was a whiff of English nationalism about the Tory campaign and people reacted by pushing the Conservative Party back over the Marches into England. We have little cricket, no village greens and the hills are too steep for bicycling. I hope that the Conservative Party will rethink its position entirely on devolution both in Scotland and in Wales. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor said that a White Paper will spell out in detail the proposals of the Government on Wales. He said it was a far-reaching step. I hope he will forgive me if I say that it is not far enough. We on these Benches feel that the Government have adopted perhaps the least popular system of devolution in Wales by way of a compromise with old Labour stalwarts in Wales. We shall in due course argue that a Welsh assembly must have the power to develop and implement policies on the matters with which it is entrusted. Without the power to institute primary legislation--which is denied to it by the proposals of the Government--a Welsh assembly is bound to give effect to the legislative policy enacted in Westminster, just as the Welsh Office does at the present time. Although the Government say that that is all right because a Welsh assembly will enact secondary legislation, as a matter of law, as your Lordships will know, secondary legislation must be within the compass of the primary legislation that has been passed.
At present, if one wants to take the status quo, the Secretary of State for Wales has a place in Cabinet, the Welsh Civil Service has access to Government departments to influence the legislation that is to be passed at Westminster, and Ministers for Wales in either
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, like many of your Lordships, referred to the West Lothian question. That is a mantra as meaningless as the tartan tax. It is just a slogan, a meaningless phrase trotted out by way of some sort of opposition. If it has any meaning, I want to pose the Westminster question: it is this. If the Government do not give primary legislative power to Wales, why should 500 English Members of Parliament legislate on such matters as the Health (Wales) Act, the Education (Wales) Act, and a Welsh Language Act? Why should they play their part in doing that when there is a democratic, elected body which should be charged with that power?
Without taxing powers, the Welsh assembly is in the pocket of the Treasury. As was rightly said by the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, who will fight the Welsh case if the Secretary of State for Wales ceases to have any existence under the Government proposals? It is not acceptable that the priorities for spending by a Welsh assembly should be dictated by central government. If we are to have devolution, let us have it. Those are reservations to which I shall no doubt return on many occasions. We, from Wales, shall not in any way delay or obstruct the referendum legislation. More than that, we shall campaign vigorously for a yes vote, as did Welsh Liberals in 1979.
Wales, it is said, is a community of communities, a country of minorities, linguistic, economic and geographic. What happened in 1979 was that the opposition to devolution carefully played one community against another, led, I have to say, by Labour Members of Parliament of the old persuasion. Not only did they contribute to the fall of their own government at that time, but they continued to lead the Labour Party into the wilderness where it remained for some 18 years.
What is essential to resolve these conflicts between communities is--I hope your Lordships will forgive me for mentioning the phrase--proportional representation; that is, fair voting. We hold the Labour Government to the commitments given in opposition that they would ensure that in their proposals for a Welsh assembly there would be a form of proportional representation which would ensure that the disparate communities in Wales--who only unite at Cardiff Arms Park when England are
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I, too, offer my congratulations to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. When he appeared before me when I was sitting in a judicial capacity he did his work most efficiently and competently. Now that the roles are somewhat to be reversed, I hope I shall do as well as he did.
If the Prime Minister's undoubted art of advocacy has been achieved by emulating his pupil master, my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, and if the Prime Minister's formidable powers of persuasion have been derived from the same source, as well as his outstanding ability to tune into his audience, then we are indeed most fortunate in the new appointment to this great office.
Quite recently I chanced on a reference in The Times of 25th September 1963 to an address given to Members of the West German Federal Court in Karlsruhe by Lord Dilhorne, the then Lord Chancellor. He said,
I intervene in this debate on two counts. The first is to draw attention to an important lacuna in the Government's programme for reform in the field of criminal law. This relates to the mandatory--that is, the automatic--sentence of life imprisonment for murder. Time and time again this House with the concurrence of the Government, then in Opposition, has endorsed the proposition that the mandatory life sentence should be rescinded. It has supported the recommendation of your Lordships' Select Committee on Murder and Life Imprisonment by subsequent amendments to criminal justice Bills and, impliedly, by support of the Private Member's Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley.
Perhaps I may remind your Lordships of one example. In the Criminal Justice Bill 1991, two former Lord Chancellors, the then Lord Chief Justice, the Master of the Rolls and five Law Lords supported the amendment to abolish the mandatory life sentence, which amendment was carried in this House by a majority of nearly 100 Members. The life sentence
In addition, murder does not involve the requirement solely of an intent to kill. It is also encompassed in an intent to do really serious bodily harm. Thus, as every first year law student knows, murder covers a wide variety of situations from the terrorist killing to the so-called mercy killing.
Indeed, trooper Clegg, the soldier serving in Ireland with the Parachute Regiment who shot dead the driver of a stolen car and was properly charged with and convicted of murder, was released after two years. That itself destroys the validity of the uniquely heinous crime approach. Moreover, the Clegg case established, if it were required to be established, that the decision on how long a person should stay in prison is a judicial decision to be made by a judge in open court after hearing evidence and listening to argument, and with a right of appeal. The embarrassment occasioned to the Government by the Clegg case demonstrated how wrong it is for a politician to perform a function which is essentially a judicial function.
I trust that the Government with their vast majority will have the courage of their convictions as disclosed when in Opposition and that their anxiety neurosis of being thought soft on crime has now disappeared. If the Government in answer to my plea should assert that there will be no government time for the appropriate legislation, I should be grateful for an indication as to what will be the Government's attitude to another Private Member's Bill which I shall happily promote.
The other matter that I wish to raise relates to our sentencing policy. I shall endeavour to show that it is in a thorough mess. Over the past few years we have been subjected to almost annual criminal justice Bills preceded by much political rhetoric with the result that great confusion has been created as to how best to provide an effective penal system. Public perception is subject to wide mood swings by reason of being buffeted by party political contests and by a media which largely confine themselves to the result of a single phrase or sentence without bothering to investigate the factors which produced the result or the context in which the phrase or sentence appeared.
At another party conference in 1995, Mr. Mawhinney, the chairman of the party, exhorted the public to write to judges when they were dissatisfied with sentences. They were told that that would have an effect: to increase the length and incidence of imprisonment. Indeed, in this new, harsher climate, the prison population has increased during the three years of Mr. Howard's reign by 50 per cent., from approximately 40,000 to approximately 60,000.
In the debate on the address on 20th November 1995, I drew attention to Mr. Howard's proposals that because in his view judges were not tough enough, in future provision would be made for minimum sentences and there would be an extension of the automatic sentence of life imprisonment. I accused the Government of playing politics with the administration of justice.
In a speech in that debate on behalf of the Opposition, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, to whose sincerity and integrity I should like to pay a special tribute, also referred to the Home Secretary's proposal in respect of mandatory life sentences for serious violent and sexual offences on second conviction, and stiff minimum sentences for repeat burglars, and dealers in hard drugs. He said:
Some six months later, on 5th June 1996, in a debate initiated by my noble and learned friend Lord Irvine of Lairg, then shadow Lord Chancellor, on the relationship between the judiciary, the legislature and the executive, the noble and learned Lord doubted that Parliament could ever be persuaded to put the Home Secretary's sentencing proposals on the statute book. He echoed the views of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh. He said:
When the Bill was introduced in the other place, there was no resistance from the Opposition to those proposals. It was only when this House came to consider minimum sentences that, thanks to the energetic powers of persuasion of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, which may cost him dear, the Opposition proposed an amendment that restored to the judges their discretion. However, the Opposition were not prepared to provide a similar or any amendment in relation to automatic life sentences. As I understood the position, that was because they were satisfied that the judge had the necessary discretion since he fixed the tariff; that is, the period that the defendant has to serve in prison by way of punishment and retribution. That attitude sat ill with the observation made on 27th January on the occasion of the Second Reading of the Bill, when the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, said:
On 10th April 1995 there was sent to The Times to mark the centenary of the submission to the Home Secretary of the Gladstone Committee's report on prisons an impressive letter with very impressive signatories. It stated, among other things:
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I warmly welcome the constitutional proposals in the Queen's Speech, which reflect the commitment of the new Government to their wide-ranging programme for constitutional reform in order to modernise the institutions of government and to meet the needs and aspirations of people at the turn of the century. I intend on this occasion to concentrate on one of the proposals at the heart of this programme; namely, to bring about devolution to a Scottish parliament.
I greatly welcome the fact that the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Bill announced in the Queen's Speech on 14th May was introduced in another place on 15th May. The speed of its production is proof indeed of the importance that the Government ascribe to devolution and of their commitment to honour their pledge to bring government closer to the people.
I spent five weeks of the election campaign as part of the team on the battlebus of my right honourable friend the Minister of Defence, Mr. George Robertson. We travelled the length and breadth of Scotland visiting key constituencies that the Labour Party was fighting to win and others that we were determined to hold. The results are of course now history, but that experience gave me a unique opportunity to witness the depth of feeling about a Scottish parliament. There was a calm assumption that it had to happen. The words of my old friend the late John Smith rang truer than ever in my head--it was simply "unfinished business". Do not let anyone try to tell you that the Scottish people do not really care about a Scottish parliament, especially now when, as is suggested, they have a secure Labour Government in Westminster and will not be so keen. The Scottish people care, and care deeply, about a Scottish parliament.
Everywhere we went, when all the other issues were raised about which people were passionately concerned--unemployment, the health service, the education system, pensions and so on--there was always an underlying assumption, a sine qua non, that there had to be, of course, a Scottish parliament.
Why then, some people ask, have a referendum at all? I believe that in spite of the overwhelmingly strong demand for devolution reflected in the election results in Scotland, where the two political parties pledged to devolution took 66 out of the 72 seats and the party supporting the status quo took none at all, it is still wholly right that people living in Scotland should be
I have studied the referendum Bill, which is of course now available, and I shall reserve my detailed comments on it for the appropriate time when the Bill is before this House, but there are some observations to be made now in the context of the Queen's Speech. The commendable speed with which the Government are moving is both to fulfil their commitment to bringing forward legislation as soon as possible and also to allow sufficient time for preparation for the referendum to be held by the autumn.
As my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor indicated in his speech opening this debate, the Scottish Conservative Party seems to be conducting an internal debate on its stance on devolution. It is sincerely to be hoped that it will change its position, but even if it does not, it is still to be hoped that the Conservative Benches in this House and in another place will not stand in the way of the referendum Bill. After all, it simply gives voters in Scotland the opportunity to vote specifically on the proposals to establish a parliament. In the context of the referendum Bill, it is the principle of consulting the people of Scotland which is to be considered, rather than the Government's plans for devolution. There will be time for that during the passage of the main devolution Bill.
I make this point now because I note that in another place last Thursday Mr. William Hague seemed to indicate the Opposition's intention to seek to introduce special thresholds for voting in the referenda. I have to say to the Conservative Benches opposite that that would be a most unfortunate path to follow. I think people would consider that erecting voting hurdles in referenda, which do not exist in other elections in Britain, was merely an attempt to obstruct and they would rightly react adversely to such manoeuvres.
I have also to say to the Benches opposite that in the first days of this Session paranoia seems to be stalking the Conservative Benches. The noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, is not in his place at the moment, I am sorry to say. On two consecutive days last week (Hansard col. 17, 14th May and col. 34 of 15th May) he conjured up the dire imagery of the sword of Damocles. If noble Lords on the Conservative Benches act to obstruct the democratically expressed will of the people, the sword in question will not be that of Damocles, but one of their own making on which they seem intent on impaling themselves.
The track laid out in the Queen's Speech for the journey towards a Scottish parliament is carefully planned and long promised. First there is a referendum Bill, with a White Paper published well ahead of the referendum to be held by early autumn. The White Paper, which will set out the detailed plans for the parliament, will reflect the tremendous work of the Scottish Constitutional Convention, described earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and of which
As someone who has supported devolution for Scotland from my school and university days, I share the excitement that is felt by all those who have campaigned for a Scottish parliament. It is a great and noble venture in which we here are privileged to be able to play a part. Let us try to do so in a non-partisan and generous spirit in the best tradition of this House. To do so would only reflect to its credit.
Lord Dean of Harptree: My Lords, first I wish to offer a few reflections on the reform of your Lordships' House. In my view, the Government are aiming at the wrong target. One of the great strengths of this House is the diversity and variety of its membership, and the knowledge and experience which exist of virtually every walk of life. Hereditary Peers contribute to that strength. They also bring the element of youth. We should be less representative of British life without them.
Diversity is of growing importance in your Lordships' House because there is much less of it these days in another place. When I was first elected to another place in 1964, there were knights of the shires, manual workers, men and women with a very broad experience of life. They, alas, have virtually disappeared. With great respect to another place, membership of all parties these days is much of a muchness. That is not good for a representative, balanced Parliament. Furthermore, I should hate to see this House reduced to a wholly appointed quango. Worse still, if we were elected, we should very soon be in conflict with another place, especially when the Government were unpopular or near the end of their term.
As the Government appear bent on reform, we have to be realistic. I suggest to the House that it would be better to extend the leave of absence principle. Peers who do not attend regularly could be given leave of absence automatically and that could apply to both hereditary Peers and life Peers. "Regularly" would have to be defined and provisions would need to be made for sickness absence and for other good reasons. There could be a right of appeal to a committee of the House, possibly the Committee for Privileges. The proposal could in time, I believe, deal with the Government's main concerns about the present composition of the House. It would mean that the House would be composed of Peers--hereditary and life--with the time and the wish to attend regularly.
The second point I wish to mention is the pre-legislation procedure. I warmly welcome the proposal in the gracious Speech for the publication of draft Bills for consultation before Bills are introduced in Parliament when, of course, they are set in concrete and it takes a lot to change them. I have advocated something on those lines for many years. It was proposed by the previous government so I hope that there will be quick implementation of that highly desirable proposal.
There has been some reluctance in the past on the part of governments to adopt a process of that kind. They feel that it would slow up the process of legislation. I do not believe that it would. Consultation beforehand could well iron out some of the difficulties which arise so that the eventual Bill would be much more an agreed measure than if it were published without any effective consultation in Parliament. I therefore welcome the proposal. It will improve the quality of legislation and the effectiveness of both Houses of Parliament.
Finally, I turn to the reform of the social security system. My first words must be to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, on her appointment. All those of us who studied these matters in the last Parliament know of her considerable commitment to social security and her deep knowledge of the subject. I feel sure that that will stand her in good stead in her new responsibilities in the Department of Social Security.
I welcome the Prime Minister's emphasis on further reform, though I am a little sceptical as to whether those words will be followed by effective deeds. I say that for two reasons. First, the Conservative Government introduced many reforms designed to reduce the burden on future generations and to concentrate resources on those most in need. Virtually all those reforms were opposed by the Labour Party when in opposition. I live in hope, but am somewhat sceptical. Secondly, we heard disgraceful scare stories during the general election campaign that the Conservatives intended to get rid of the basic pension. They were wholly untrue and wholly unwarranted.
Lord McCluskey: My Lords, I do not understand that the gracious Speech foreshadows any legislation in the field of adult criminal justice in Scotland. I am delighted at that. Contrary to the suggestion of the noble
Happily, the last of those statutes to receive the Royal Assent--the Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Act 1997, extending to 109 pages--eventually contained the provision that most of the Act was not to be brought into force before the new Secretary of State for Scotland laid appropriate orders before Parliament. As my noble and learned friend Lord Ackner said, it is an albatross of the equivalent English Act but at least it is in a state of suspended animation. I earlier compared it to Moby the whale who lay in that state on the banks of the Forth for a few weeks before being dispatched. I hope that that Act will be dispatched in a similar fashion.
I express the hope that the Secretary of State will not lay any orders before the House bringing any part of that Act into operation until he has had an opportunity to consult widely in Scotland. The whole thrust of the Bill that became the 1997 Act was populist and misconceived--for reasons already explained partly by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, and partly by my noble and learned friend Lord Ackner. I shall not attempt to repeat or even summarise the criticisms made in this House and elsewhere of the provisions contained in that Act. I say only that when the Secretary of State for Scotland comes to re-examine it carefully, he will find that it was not properly thought through. Many of its measures were going to add significantly, dramatically and quickly to the prison population in Scotland. Scotland's gaols, like those of England, are already overcrowded.
Most notable in the Act were the provisions that became Part III. They were designed to scrap the early release system introduced into Scotland on 1st October 1993 after study, consultation and agreement extending over five years. Other provisions in the Act would have increased the prison population within one or two years. The provisions regarding mandatory life sentences and mandatory minimum sentences were contained in Part I of the Act. However, unlike in England, another set of provisions contained in Section 13 would increase greatly the sentencing powers of the lower courts, in some cases to double and in other cases, taken along with the early release provisions, to quadruple their present powers. That would have an immediate effect upon the prison population which would begin to rise around six weeks and one day after those measures came into force.
Those measures, taken along with the provision in the Act to give the Lord Advocate a more extensive right of appeal against sentences thought by him to be lenient, would undoubtedly have led to an increase in the prison population not only directly, but also indirectly. One must recognise the fact that when provisions of that kind are put onto the statute book they inevitably affect the thinking and attitudes not only of members of the public, but also of those who are sentencing judges. They cause
In my view therefore the Secretary of State would be well advised to ask his civil servants and others to assist him in making sound and reliable estimates of the likely costs of each and all of those measures. I ask whether we really want to drive more people into our already overcrowded prisons. In Scotland the annual cost per prisoner is around £27,000 per head. Do we want to incur that kind of expenditure for thousands of extra prisoners? That is what the Act would bring about. Should we have to find the capital to build several more prisons by the turn of the century? If the millions required for that exercise can be found, should not they be spent on positive initiatives? For example, it would cost approximately the same to put one policeman on the beat for a year as to keep one person in prison for a year. I am sure that most people would rather have thousands of extra policemen on the beat because policemen help to prevent crime as well as detect it.
Furthermore, if there is money to be found, let it be found to support the initiatives mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Longford; namely, to provide some rehabilitation for prisoners. That is hardly available at the moment in Scottish gaols which are bursting at the seams. In particular, we need rehabilitation for those who are addicted to drugs. My strong impression sitting in court each day, reading criminal appeals and applications for leave to appeal and dealing daily with bail appeals, is that more than half of the petty crime in Scotland and much of the serious crime is committed by people who are trying to raise the wherewithal to purchase drugs.
Before I leave the 1997 Act I should point out that it contains measures that are helpful in some ways--indeed, one or two might even reduce the prison population. For example, Section 4 provides for extension of supervised release orders and Section 5 for restriction of liberty orders. I hope that they too will be looked at.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor spoke of governing by consent and of fashioning a consensus. My plea to Her Majesty's Government is to follow that advice: to pause and to think. I ask the Government to return to the traditional method of reshaping and reforming criminal justice in Scotland, whether in relation to criminal procedure, criminal evidence, prisons, post-release supervision or alternatives to prosecution.
What the Government ought to do is appoint well-qualified persons--maybe led by judges, but maybe not, but bodies of experienced people from the police, from the prisons, courts and social services and others--to take evidence, to study it and to reflect maturely about it before making well thought-out and properly costed recommendations. It need not take long. The Sutherland Committee, which produced the report on appeals, took less than two years. In England, a committee which sat under the noble Viscount,
If the Secretary of State for Scotland were to set up such studies now, then the fruits of their work would be available to guide the members of the new legislative assembly which it is proposed to set up within a year or two in Scotland. My fear about devolved legislatures is always this: they become hyperactive. They have to be seen to be doing something. It may be that in the field of criminal justice they would be tempted to act before they had thought enough about it. I believe that the Government could greatly assist and give a real birthday present by providing the assembly with the fruits of such studies.
I heard with some dismay the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor talking about possibly extending the right of appeal of the Attorney-General in respect of lenient sentences. I do not know about the history of such matters in England, but in Scotland these appeals have rather an unhappy history. The very latest one, which was the first appeal in Scotland against a sentence imposed in a summary case, was something of a disaster for the Crown, as several others had been. The Crown abandoned it at the last possible moment.
The real problem is consistency in sentencing. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor mentioned that. I believe that the time may be ripe for Government Ministers to approach the Scottish judiciary once again. The basis for providing guidelines already exists in Section 118(7) of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995. The mood may have changed since this matter was last discussed with previous holders of the office of Lord Justice General and Lord Justice Clerk.
If the European Convention on Human Rights is to be incorporated into domestic law, as has been suggested, then we need to look carefully at some of the provisions built into the convention itself and into the protocols because some of the cases recently decided in Strasbourg have serious implications for legal aid, the rights to representation and the introduction of the so-called principle of equality of arms. If these measures are to remain in their present terms we may face unacceptable delays and costs in criminal justice.
I conclude with two positive suggestions. The Government should finance in Scotland at one of our universities an institute for the study of criminal justice so that there may be a permanent body which can study this matter and receive representations. It needs to be looked at constantly. I also suggest that the Government do something that we did informally in 1979 when we had to face the consequences of a strike in the Scottish courts. Through the Lord Advocate--it is very easy to do in Scotland--the Government should consider an informal amnesty in relation to crimes that do not involve violence or attacks on the property of persons because at the moment the Scottish courts have a serious backlog problem. The fiscal service is seriously under-resourced. I am sure that some of these matters can be dealt with in that way.
Lord Beloff: My Lords, when, in what future historians will describe as a fit of absence of mind, the British electorate transferred political power to the party opposite, I was tempted to think that my role in this House had come to an end; that there was no point in taking part in debates when one had a triumphalist government with a vast majority determined on a set of policies for which they claimed to have a mandate. I thought that it was time to go home.
But then temptation arises. Can someone who has spent his life teaching about the British constitution and who is then confronted by a government proposing a series of measures--all of them ill thought out and most of them extremely damaging--refrain from pointing out at least some of their weaknesses?
At this late hour--it is almost my bedtime--I do not propose to go through the whole of that list. Time will give opportunities for that to be done. So I propose to limit myself to the Bill on the two referendums which we have before us in printed form where there is no room for speculation.
I approach the question of the pre-legislative referendums with an assertion of principle; namely that one of the features of our century has been the wide acceptance of the principle of national self-determination--to which President Woodrow Wilson was probably the first world statesman to give voice--but which has governed most of the world ever since. A nation which feels that it wishes to govern itself rather than be governed by others is generally speaking nowadays thought to be entitled to make that decision. Therefore, if a referendum had been proposed for Scotland or Wales giving those two nations their independence, it would not have been for English Members of Parliament or indeed for the English as a nation, to deny them that universally accepted right.
It may be that our friends in Scotland have not appreciated that, south of the Border, there would be a great deal of sympathy for the idea of an independent Scotland particularly if combined with the rebuilding of Hadrian's Wall, perhaps by the Private Finance Initiative, which would solve many employment problems for a long time to come.
Let us think of the benefits of this complete separation. Mr. Robin Cook would no longer be able to make an exhibition of himself in the Locarno Room of the Foreign Office thus bringing down the status and dignity of British foreign policy. The lugubrious countenance of Mr. Gordon Brown would no longer confront us on our television screens. These are all gains. I sometimes wonder whether Mr. Alex Salmond, who fights very hard to get support in his own country, is aware of the popularity he enjoys in ours.
The point is that if one wants to have a pre-legislative referendum on devolution, the only appropriate body to be consulted is the electorate of the entire United Kingdom. I make no judgment on whether or not it might be an advantage to change our institutions. There may be something to be said for legislative devolution. As has been pointed out, we would not then have late nights in this place--I shall not participate in many in any case--as happened on the details of Scottish criminal legislation. There may be very good reasons for wanting change. After all, in the past some changes have proved to be on the whole desirable, but we cannot have change which is imposed by two minorities, the Scots and the Welsh, on the rest--on the vast majority--of the inhabitants of the United Kingdom who do not live in Scotland or in Wales.
It seemed to me that when the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, was talking about the tremendous excitement which the Scots feel about having a parliament and all that kind of thing--no doubt the noble Baroness feels it; no doubt many Scots feel it also--although that entitles her to support the Scottish National Party, it does not entitle her to say that the institutions of the United Kingdom--
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