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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. If I may return to the action zones, the noble Baroness in the Statement has said that the Government will be introducing them and they will be expanding them. My question was not that I did not welcome them. In fact, I made quite a point of saying that I welcome innovation and welcome the involvement of the private sector. What I asked the noble Baroness for was authority for saying at this stage definitively that they will do something which has not yet been determined by another place and has not even started to be determined by this place.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is clear that it is the Government's intention to develop education action zones in the interests of the education of children and young people in this country. That is something that has been widely welcomed. I am very glad that the noble Baroness has welcomed the concept.

If I may come back to the subject of schools with outside lavatories, I shall write to the noble Baroness and give her a list of those authorities. I can say that for the most part they are shire counties and in particular the schools in question are likely to be in rural areas. But it is the intention of the Government to get rid of all outside lavatories.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked whether there was any intention to penalise those authorities that had handled their capital well. Of course not. We have no wish to penalise authorities in that way but we also do not want to see children penalised because they happen to live in authorities, mainly shire counties, which have not resolved this problem. There are all kinds of difficulties if small children are asked to use outside lavatories, including, these days, the particularly serious one of security. It is important that we put money into the system to deal with that as soon as possible.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, also asked whether this would be real money for local education authorities, and I can say yes, it will be. They will be 100 per cent. grants. The Government believe that that is important. There will be a bidding process but it is important to allow LEAs to identify exactly what their needs are, and a bidding process is needed in order to do that so that the Government can sensibly allocate the funds that are needed.

The noble Lord also asked about the closing date. It is 30th April because we want to get on, but there will be enough time left to local education authorities to do

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this work and to do it, for the most part, in the school holidays, although it may be necessary to do some of it in term time.

Finally, the noble Lord asked about lifelong learning. There is an additional £100 million in the Chancellor's announcement for our skills agenda and we will be saying more about that next week. I should also add that the Government have been able to provide an extra £100 million for further education before the completion of the Comprehensive Spending Review and an extra £165 million, as I think he knows, for higher education, again before the completion of that review and above the targets that were originally set by our predecessors.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the Back-Bench debate begins, can the Minister tell the House the source of that £90 million?

Baroness Blackstone: No, my Lords. It is not possible to state the specific source. It is from revenue collected by the Treasury.

7.9 p.m.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I welcome the Statement which my noble friend has repeated, and particularly the Government's intention both to reduce class sizes and to improve the fabric of our schools. Nothing is more depressing and demoralizing for students, parents and teachers than to have to operate in schools with poor facilities. Outside toilets must be a strong indicator of such poor facilities.

Will my noble friend encourage schools to use some of the additional resources that they will be receiving to improve the quality of the supervision of children during playtime periods? I have become concerned about the lack of experienced and suitably qualified supervisors at playtimes and particularly at lunchtime. It is not at all surprising that bullying, which we see in so many of our schools, occurs at lunchtime. I should be grateful if my noble friend could give me some hope in that area.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the Government recognise that bullying can do enormous long-term damage to children. Some takes place during breaks or at lunchtimes; some occurs on the way to or from school and some in the classroom. It is important that there is adequate supervision of children during lunch breaks, especially for younger children. I shall take back my noble friend's point and see whether we can do further work to ensure that schools provide adequate supervision. I believe that most schools take this matter seriously and I very much hope that some of the additional recurrent funding that we have been able to provide will allow them to do so.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's Statement. Having had daughters who attended a school with outside toilets and having campaigned on that for a number of years and been horrified that members of the county council did not even know that there were outside toilets in their schools, may I say from the heart that what the noble Baroness has said pleases me no end?

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However, perhaps I may press her further on the point raised by my noble friend Lord Tope. The Minister told us that the closing date for the bids will be 30th April. When will the announcement of the successful bids be made? We on these Benches are concerned that the work will need to be done in the summer holidays, and that that is a very tight timetable.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I cannot give a precise date for the announcement of the successful bids. I am not sure that it is yet known. If I am wrong on that, I shall write to the noble Baroness immediately and, if I am right and the date has not yet been finalised, I shall let her know as soon as it is.

Crime and Disorder Bill [H.L.]

7.13 p.m.

Baroness Anelay of St. Johns moved Amendment No. 84:

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause--

("Trial procedure for rape and indecent assault
Trial procedure for rape and indecent assault

.--(1) A defendant charged with a rape offence or an offence of indecent assault shall not personally ask questions of a complainant in the course of a trial related to the charges.
(2) In this section--
"complainant" means a woman or man upon whom, in a charge for a rape offence or an offence of indecent assault, it is alleged that rape or indecent assault was committed, attempted or proposed; and
"a rape offence" means any of the following, namely rape, attempted rape, aiding, abetting, counselling and procuring rape or attempted rape, incitement to rape and conspiracy to rape.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this new clause would introduce a prohibition on defendants in trials of rape and serious sexual offences personally cross-examining their alleged victim. As I have observed before, this is a sensitive and problematic issue which is of vital importance to those victims who suffer the trauma of rape and indecent assault.

I spoke to this amendment in Committee on 12th February and I am grateful to all who have subsequently written to me indicating their support, and particularly to those who act on behalf of the victims of rape, including those who counsel them at the Old Bailey. At that stage I withdrew my amendment and I had not intended to table it at Report. Therefore, I feel that I should explain to the House why I changed my mind and am moving it today.

When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, responded to my amendment on 12th February, he referred (Hansard, col. 1357) to the interdepartmental review of the way in which vulnerable or intimidated witnesses are treated in the criminal justice system, including a consideration of ways to prohibit unrepresented defendants from personally cross-examining victims in rape and serious sexual offence trials. He said then that the group

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would meet again in March and hoped that it would report soon after. Today, on the previous amendment, he told us that it has had its last meeting.

On the basis of what the noble and learned Lord said in Committee, I decided that it would be proper for me to seek the opportunity to debate the issue in depth outwith the context of this Bill and after the publication of the report to which the Minister referred. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Byford for tabling a Motion for debate in the form of an Unstarred Question.

I decided to bring the amendment back on Report only when I read stories in the press 11 days ago of a statement made by the Home Secretary on that subject. I have not been able to find any reference to his statement on the Home Office website nor in its official press releases. The Home Office told a House of Lords Library researcher that the statement was made in an interview with The Times. The Home Secretary told The Times that men accused of rape are to be barred from cross-examining their alleged victims in court under new laws. He said that witnesses would also be protected from prurient questioning by barristers, a subject mentioned on the previous amendment which was tabled by noble Lords who, at the moment, are to my right, which seems an odd way of describing them.

I was puzzled that what seemed to be impossible one week when I suggested it--humble though I am--was suddenly possible the next week when the Home Secretary not only suggested it, but stated that it would happen. I welcome that part of his statement which refers to my amendment--I say that without reservation--but I should like the Minister to explain how the Government have changed their mind about their objections to my proposal. As they have obviously changed their mind, I ask them whether they will accept my amendment now. If the Minister is still worried that I do not provide an alternative method by which witness evidence is tested, I should, of course, be happy to return at Third Reading with an amendment suitably worded to achieve that objective.

I shall not abuse Report procedure by attempting to repeat at length the arguments that I put in Committee to justify my amendment, but I invite the Minister to answer a point that I made in Committee which he did not seem to address then; nor has he answered it since. I argued that the principle of having the right personally to cross-examine the alleged victim had already been breached in English law and that, as far as I was aware, there was not any evidence that we had thereby breached the European Convention on Human Rights. I referred the Minister to Section 34A of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 which provides that a defendant shall not cross-examine in person any child witness who is the alleged victim of certain offences, which include rape and indecent assault. Does the Minister agree that it is possible and acceptable, in principle at least, to extend the Section 34A provision to adult victims of rape and indecent assault?

The Home Secretary's proposals are far more radical and wide-ranging than mine. Of course, I expect that he carefully considered the evidence and advice available to him before announcing such important proposals

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publicly. Therefore, I invite the Minister to consider whether it is possible to accept my more modest amendment today. If it is not possible, I invite the Minister to explain why the alleged victims of such crimes must, it seems, wait another year before the Government take the course which they have already decided to adopt. I am sure that the Government would not wish to delay any longer than absolutely necessary any measure that would introduce such provisions. I beg to move.

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