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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for the points he raises. He is aware that the additional money for rural transport will include a further £5 million to be distributed later this year after consideration of bids from local authorities for innovative schemes under the rural bus challenge. Funding of £4.2 million will be devoted to the community based transport initiative under the rural transport partnership scheme administered by the RDC. That is within the overall increase of £50 million.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, the figure is in money terms and is applicable to those authorities in which there have been sharp changes. The authorities were aware that the money which was being used to protect them from a loss in money terms of grant year on year was part of the planning process in which they were involved. They would be aware of such changes in the funding.
It is difficult to speak about major emergencies in terms of local government. I admit to the noble Earl that I cannot remember the details of the Bellwin formula and emergency funding and the point at which money is returned to a local authority. However, with regard to smaller scale emergencies, local authorities with responsibilities for those services are expected to budget.
With regard to his other point, I note the issue he raises. There must be a balance between the responsibility of government to be involved in how much people pay in taxation and the right flexibility at local level. I know that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister will listen with interest and sensitivity if particular cases are made.
Can my noble friend give information about the extra money provided for education services? I am conscious that she has given some information about rural areas, but, in the light of the high priority given to education within the capital, I should be grateful if she could say how much extra money is being provided by the SSA system for education and schools within the London area.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey for recognising the importance of achieving balance and sensitivity in examining the area cost adjustment. I would expect the Local Government Association and the Association for Local Government to continue to indicate a link between recognising additional educational needs and examining the area cost adjustment. The two interconnect.
I thank my noble friend for the opportunity to point out that there are additional resources for London. For example, the single regeneration budget has made available £105 million for London bids. The New Deal for communities is offering opportunities to Newham, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Southwark.
The 7.2 per cent. (£1.4 billion) for education, in addition to the extra £5.4 billion over three years, was capital investment in modernising our schools and was announced by David Blunkett on 25th November. In addition to SSA funding, there will be £767 million of specific education grants. Some of those will be subject to matching contributions from authorities. In total, the main standards fund will provide more than £900 million, including matching funding, which is £400 million more than the current year's programme. The standards fund continues to reflect the Government's central priority of raising school standards, in particular targeting literacy and numeracy.
In addition, there will be a change towards a new system of discretionary awards for students. I hope that those involved in local government will recognise that it is a tribute to the work being pioneered by local government that this is be extended nationally.
Can she comment on what might be done about the former coalfield communities? I congratulate the Government on what has been done already, but as regards the subject of her Statement nothing could be more important. Will she say whether anything has been done for the former coalfield communities?
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I offer the deepest apologies to my noble friend. I have the answer, but I do not have it at my fingertips. I will write to him. He did me the courtesy of letting me know of his question and I made sure that I had the answer. At the moment, my paper shuffling is not providing me with the answer.
Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, in picking up the threads of the gracious Speech, I add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Warner on a knowledgeable maiden speech. I am sure that he will bring his great experience to bear on your Lordships' House.
It is my intention to concentrate on two main themes emanating from the gracious Speech, as well as briefly touching on the investigation of complaints against the police. Two topics on which I shall touch are youth justice and the protection of witnesses.
Perhaps I may deal first with juvenile crime, which was touched on by my noble friend Lord Warner. I remember well as a police commander in the early 1990s in the north east of England, and before that as a detective, being increasingly frustrated by what we called "revolving door justice." That was the phenomenon whereby juveniles were arrested time after time for serious offences of car theft and burglary and put before the courts who promptly placed them in the care of the local authority. The law provided no other
Those circumstances give the lie to those who keep insisting that it is not the threat of punishment which deters, but the certainty of being caught. Those youths, through being caught time after time, knew the charge room procedures far better than the custody officers.
We all remember the vivid pictures on television of the youngster in Hartlepool, with the balaclava helmet, effectively putting two fingers up at the police, the courts and the community. There was no fear of being caught there. I have some good news to report on that front. That was eight years ago. The youth, having just attained 17 years of age, was only last week named and, one hopes, shamed as well as being imprisoned for two years for a string of burglaries. It may not deter him in the future. However, of one thing I am certain: it affords some respite for the hard-pressed victims of Hartlepool. Therefore, I welcome the undertaking in the gracious Speech to further reform the youth court system.
I have never been more convinced in my life that those people who commit anti-social acts of a criminal nature--and I include despotic dictators in that--should be challenged and made to account for their conduct and if found culpable, punished in accordance with the law. Appeasement has never worked and will be seen as a sign of weakness by the bullies and thugs who form a minority in our society.
Swift and effective intervention with juvenile offenders to divert them from the path of criminality in the first instance as suggested by my noble friend Lord Warner, is to be applauded and the Home Secretary's endeavours to speed up juvenile justice is an essential first step. Juvenile crime is the seedbed of adult criminality. Policies to reduce it will surely lead to a reduction in the prison population in later years.
The gracious Speech also promises measures to encourage vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to come forward and give evidence. Witnesses and victims are essential to our judicial system. We have made progress, of course, with the provision in the Crime and Disorder Act dealing with anti-social behaviour. Witnesses are protected from intimidation by the police being allowed to give evidence, in certain circumstances, on their behalf.
In a normal trial it is important to remember that in the event of intimidation, while you can always change a member of the jury, counsel or even the judge, you cannot substitute the witness. It follows that the justice system should protect and nurture victims and witnesses far more than it does. In my 35 years' police experience I have lost count of the times that victims have said to me, because of their treatment in court, "That is the last time I report anything to the police."
Nowhere is this more important than in the area of personal attack, particularly sexual assault. As a detective for many years, I dealt with my fair share of rapes, indecent assaults and child abuse. In those days we treated such offences pretty much the same as we did any other offence. But they are not the same. Give victims or witnesses a hard time and you will forfeit their co-operation or that of their friends and relatives on another occasion. Justice demands that we protect our witnesses.
The police now are far more professional. They go to extraordinary lengths to provide special training for interviewing rape and child victims. Special suites are provided away from police stations and there is no doubt that police attitudes have changed for the better.
I only wish courts and advocates dealt with victims as sensitively as the police. I used to think it ironic when comparing the restrictions which rightly apply to police questioning under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and the sarcasm, forcefulness, oppression, venom and severity used by some lawyers against innocent witnesses.
Similarly it was absolutely disgraceful that the accused rapist was personally allowed by the judge to cross-examine his victim, Julie Mason, for days on end and force her to relive her rape ordeal all over again. I am delighted that this will be put right in the new Bill.
It is to be hoped that the forthcoming legislation will also place restrictions on the dragging up of the victim's irrelevant, previous sexual history with no other purpose than to embarrass or shame her and perhaps paint a picture of promiscuity or easy virtue.
Finally, I make a plea for police officers doing a difficult and demanding job in a police service, which, with all its faults, I believe to be the finest in the world. An accused police officer is also entitled to speedy and fair justice. I know that in a recent Written Answer the Minister indicated that improvements to discipline regulations are to be made in the not too distant future.
The problem at present is that once a complaint inquiry falls into the hands of the Police Complaints Authority, justice for the police officers involved appears to be the last consideration. I remember a case when, following the acquittal of the officers involved, the supervising complaints authority member, who is independent, promptly went on television and criticised the result. How is that for impartiality?
A case in Humberside took six years to investigate and cost some £4 million. Suspended officers had retired and even died before it finished. Eventually the files were sent to the DPP and no action at all resulted against anyone.
How can that happen? It happens because the Police Complaints Authority is not accountable for the money it spends. The Bill for its investigations is picked up by the ratepayers of the police force being investigated.
It seems to me bizarre that when we have given police authorities budgets for which they are accountable we allow another public body to dip in and spend the money with impunity and no questions asked. It is time we started to ask a few questions. The PCA should have an
As with murders and other serious investigations of any length, there should be an independent review at between three and six months to act as a check and a balance to determine if the inquiry is on the right track and within the original terms of reference. That would concentrate the minds of the budget holders and prevent long fishing expeditions.
Obviously, it is important to investigate serious allegations against the police seriously. But justice is non-negotiable and the same efficiency and accountability that rules in murder inquiries should apply to serious complaints against the police. I commend my comments to the Minister for a future Queen's Speech.
In conclusion, I remember sitting through a civil case in the United States following a road accident where a man had been knocked from his motor cycle by a horse which had reared up and trampled a dog which had run on to the road. The plaintiff was suing for traumatic shock and stress injury caused by the accident.
Cross-examined by the defence attorney, the plaintiff was asked if he told a policemen at the scene that he had never felt better in his life. "Yes", said the plaintiff. The defence naturally rested their case.
The plaintiff's attorney then re-examined his client and asked him to elaborate. "Well", said the plaintiff, "I was lying dazed on the ground when a police officer arrived at the scene. He went over to the injured dog, put his revolver to its head and shot it. He then went over to the lame horse, put his gun to its head and shot it. He then came over to me and asked how I felt. I told him that I had never felt better in my life!"
Your Lordships can determine from that that the answers to questions need to be seen in the context of the circumstances in which they are asked. I look forward to your Lordships' deliberations on criminal justice issues in the forthcoming months.
Lord Meston: My Lords, it is all too easy to criticise a legislative programme for what it has left out; but omissions do tell us something of a government's priorities and the longer it takes any government to respond the more justified the criticism may become. I want to focus on three areas, in two of which I acknowledge that the present Government have responded in ways in which their predecessors failed. Those areas are criminal law, discrimination and family law, particularly adoption.
I welcome the intention to give effect to the report on vulnerable and intimidated witnesses which was debated in this House on 22nd June. I certainly support all that has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie. In particular, I agree with his observation that we can change everybody in a court except for the witnesses--though hardly a day goes by when I do not wish that were otherwise.
In paragraph 10.3 of the Home Office's report Speaking Up for Justice there was reference to further research work into the admissibility and sufficiency of evidence in child abuse prosecutions which was to be completed this summer and in the light of which further proposals for changing the law may be made. I hope that the Government can give an indication of what more has emerged.
There are differing views as to whether or not unrepresented defendants should be allowed to cross-examine alleged victims in rape cases. But in terms of priorities for reform of the criminal law it should be remembered that that problem arises in perhaps only one or two cases a year and that the Court of Appeal has given clear guidance to judges on how to handle those difficult but rare cases. The main protection for witnesses will still come from judges and through judicial training.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, referred to bad behaviour by some lawyers. But I hope he will agree that it is only "some" lawyers and that the judges and professional bodies are increasingly intolerant of the unpleasant treatment of witnesses which he described. It therefore remains a great pity that, despite all the talk of modernisation, the hard work of the real modernisers of the law--the Law Commissions--is still generally given so little parliamentary time, even with the arrival of the Jellicoe Committee in this House.
Earlier this year the Home Office, to its credit, breathed life back into the reform of the antique Offences Against the Person Act with a consultation process, which is now over. It is unclear what is to happen next. There has been a draft Bill in existence at least since that produced in a Law Commission report in 1993. That is relevant to far more than one or two cases a year. It concerns every criminal court every day. That is really part of a much wider question which was posed in an article in October's Criminal Law Review reproducing a speech by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice entitled "A Criminal Code: Must We Wait Forever?".
Most recently, in 1998, the preface referred to the support given by the Lord Chief Justice in an earlier lecture to the idea of a Royal Commission on crime and punishment and regretted that the Government appeared to be intent on carrying on where the previous government left off; and with legislation promised in countless different areas, the prognosis remains extremely gloomy.
In the real world governments feel that they have to have a criminal justice Bill almost every year. But that should no longer be at the expense of the comprehensive overview which is now required. In that respect I hope that the Minister can confirm that the absence in the gracious Speech of any proposal to alter further the right to a jury trial means that the Government have reached a considered decision to abandon the idea.
I wish to turn to an area of law which, by contrast, has had too little attention in recent years. That is discrimination. This country is fortunate in having an established, relatively modern framework of anti-discrimination legislation, interpreted and operated purposively by employment tribunals and by the higher courts. Most large organisations responsibly declare themselves to be equal opportunity employers with appropriate policies and specialist staff. But glass ceilings remain. Centrally directed anti-discrimination policies do not always reach or influence line managers who do not understand, nor implement, such policies. Almost every year the EOC and the CRE have called for changes to the law to make it more effective, recommending both fine-tuning and more wide-ranging changes. The last government did not heed those recommendations, but I understand that more recently the Home Office invited comments on the CRE's recommendations for reform with a deadline of 6th November last.
While I understand that before matters can be dealt with comprehensively, the Government should know the outcome of the Lawrence inquiry, it would be reassuring to know that at last this Government are preparing for an overhaul of discrimination legislation.
Finally, I mention the omission--yet again--of any adoption Bill. That is causing increasing concern to family law practitioners and to other informed groups. The British Agencies for Adoption and Fostering--BAAF--published new research assisted by Department of Health statistics on children adopted from care. That research demonstrates, among other things, that a declining number of children are being adopted from care. It took an average of four years for children to be adopted after starting to be looked after; 36 per cent. of the children adopted had experienced three or more moves; 16 per cent. of the children freed or relinquished for adoption two years previously had still not been placed with new families. Those are demoralising and damaging statistics.
We are still awaiting new adoption legislation following the implementation of the Children Act 1989. At that time the government set up a major review of adoption law culminating in the publication of a draft adoption Bill for consultation in March 1996. That
Everybody involved in the provision of adoption services believes that new legislation, with its emphasis on the paramountcy of the welfare of the child would reduce delay, give greater clarity to planning by social services departments and strengthen an authority's ability to provide post-adoption support. It is worth noting that in December 1996 Mr. Chris Smith, then Shadow Health Secretary, said that the new Labour government would be committed to introducing adoption legislation without delay.
I suggest that investment in adoption services and updating legislation will not remove the problems of children in care, but will mitigate them significantly providing a long-term and cost-effective benefit to society.
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