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Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister said that he could see no good reason for including this amendment in the Bill. Why then did the Government see fit to include the provision in the first instance? I often think that governments include provisions in Bills for which there is no good reason, but this is the first time I have heard a plain admission from a Minister on the Floor of the House that they have actually done so. The Minister has argued that the provision was not in the 1971 Act. I seem to remember, when I first came to this House, speaking and voting against a great many of the provisions in the 1971 Act. That does not seem a very good argument either.

On Report, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, did not explain, when I asked him to do so, why the Government, who in their wisdom included this provision in the Bill in the first instance and kept it there throughout the discussions they had with the agencies, subsequently withdrew it. The reasons given by the noble and learned Lord were wholly spurious. He did not attempt to address my argument that the criminal system had no competence to deal with immigration matters, and that criminal lawyers and judges were wholly ignorant of the immigration system--

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, perhaps I may respond. It is not right to suggest that sentencing judges are wholly ignorant of their powers. What they are doing is, I repeat, sentencing someone following a

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criminal conviction. That is a different kind of exercise to the one we have been considering throughout most of the passage of the Bill.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, perhaps I may refer the noble and learned Lord to the remarks of Lord Justice Simon Brown in the Adimi case. The noble Lord has heard these quotations many times and is probably familiar with the judgment. Lord Justice Simon Brown said that it was a "striking fact", acknowledged by the respondents, that,

    "until the challenges were brought, no arm of the State, neither the Secretary of State, the DPP, nor anyone else, had apparently given the least thought to the United Kingdom's obligations under Article 31"--

something he described as,

    "plainly a most unsatisfactory state of affairs".

If refugees can be so let down by the criminal justice system, what chance has anyone else who is liable to immigration control?

There is good reason for including the amendment in the Bill. Sentencing courts may well be able to consider the circumstances of the defendant at the time. But, as I explained in moving the amendment, we are talking about two different events. We are talking about what happens in the criminal court when a person is sentenced, and the position, possibly several years afterwards, when the Secretary of State comes to consider that recommendation.

Many criminal practitioners are totally unaware of the fact that there is no appeal against the decision and that the Secretary of State almost automatically upholds the recommendations made by the criminal court. The last chance that a person has is to appeal against the sentence, which is by no means the same as appealing against a decision to deport when the circumstances may be wholly different. My noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby pointed to the situation in two countries where conditions changed overnight. That might well make a great deal of difference to a person from one of those countries who has been sentenced by a court of law. By the time the Secretary of State comes to examine the recommendation to deport, the government in a country of origin may have wholly changed. In one case cited it was for the better; and in the other it was for the worse.

I can see that it is impossible for me to make any impression on the noble and learned Lord. Therefore, again with the greatest reluctance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 70 [Limitation on further appeals]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendments Nos. 31 to 33:

Page 46, line 43, leave out ("could reasonably").
Page 46, line 44, at beginning insert ("could reasonably").
Page 47, line 1, at beginning insert ("could reasonably").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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Clause 72 [Duty to disclose grounds for entering etc the United Kingdom]:

Lord Williams of Mostyn moved Amendment No. 34:

Page 49, line 12, leave out (", 74 or ("one-stop" appeals: other cases)") and insert ("or 74").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 74 ["One-stop" appeals]:

The Deputy Speaker: My Lords, I must advise the House that, should Amendment No. 35 be agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 36 due to pre-emption.

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 50, leave out lines 17 to 20.

The noble Baroness said: My lords, I wish to press further the issues raised by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General. I remain puzzled. He said that the Home Office kept abreast of changes in countries to which an asylum seeker or immigrant might be returned. I do not doubt that. The noble and learned Lord also recognised that circumstances could change. However, it remains unclear to me how, without amendments along the lines of mine, it would be possible for an adjudicator to consider issues that had arisen after the Secretary of State's first decision and before the decision to deport or return the immigrant to the country from which he came. I do not refer to ECHR cases or cases under the refugee convention.

It may be that the Home Office has the information that is needed. However, I am still not clear what happens if the compassionate factors that exist in cases where the White Paper promised that they would be taken into account can be taken into account unless, at the appeal, such matters can be part of the general consideration given to the case that has been made. Given the basis of the legislation, including the Minister's amendment, I do not understand how it would be possible to do that. That seems to me to force people into claiming asylum or claiming ECHR status when they have no entitlement to it because there seems to be no other way in which compassionate factors or changes in the country or origin can be fully taken into account. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord can reassure me. So far, he has not done so. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment negatived.

[Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.]

Lord Bach: My Lords, I beg to move that proceedings after Third Reading be now adjourned. In moving this Motion, I suggest that proceedings be resumed not before 8.50 p.m.

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

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Fathers in the Family

7.48 p.m.

Lord Northbourne rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what they consider to be the role of fathers in the family and in the rearing of children, whether they believe that role to be important, and what they are doing to support men in their role as fathers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the enormous response to this debate has caused a ridiculous situation in regard to the time available to speakers, for which I apologise, although I am not responsible. I hope that the Government will note the response and perhaps give time for a proper debate on this subject in the next Session, whether or not I am here to speak in it.

It is a particular pleasure and delight to me that my noble kinsman, Lord Hood, is to make his maiden speech in the debate.

I rise to ask the Government a deceptively simple question: what is the role of fathers in our society today? Fifty years ago, that question would not have been worth asking. The role of a father was to protect and provide for his family, to love and cherish them, and to set a good example to his children. Some failed; some cheated; some died young--but for tens of thousands of years the responsibilities of fatherhood were clearly understood. Men developed strength and skill to fulfil them.

The same is not true today. Advances in technology have created a situation in which fewer jobs rely on physical strength, endurance or courage. After 50 years of relative peace, the demand for protection has fallen away. There is less demand for "brawn" and more demand for "brain". That is good news for many of your Lordships, but bad news for young men who have no education or training.

Social attitudes have also changed. Today most women want a career or job and also to bring up a family. These changes, good in themselves, bring with them two problems: young men with no role in their families and families without fathers. Today we are creating an underclass of young men who are detached from the socialising obligations of the family, who believe that they are unfairly excluded from the opportunities of the consumer society and who see no role for themselves in the legitimate economy or family.

A recent report entitled Leading Lads by Adrienne Katz at Oxford highlights the problem. That is a study of the attitudes of 1,500 young men across the country. She divided these young men into the "can do" boys--approximately the top 25 per cent--a fairly large middle group and, at the bottom of the pile, a group of about 12 per cent whom she categorised as "no-can-do" boys. She reports that among the "no-can-do" boys are many who are,

    "uncertain about their responsibilities and depressed about their future".

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Most of these "no-can-do" boys have grown up rejecting education and now have little or no training and no prospect of a decent job. They will father children and then will either be rejected by the mother as a useless or violent partner or drift off because they feel that they have no fulfilling role in their own families.

The seriousness of this situation should not be under-estimated. Here are some of the boys speaking. Jake aged 14 says:

    "Once upon a time there were men's jobs and women's jobs. Now women are doing men's jobs and men are not doing women's jobs".

Another aged 17 says:

    "I think what's contributing to 'Lad Culture' is a kind of identity crisis--no position in society for us to grow into".

And another:

    "It's the hardest thing in the world to be a Nineties New Man. There are no rules, no precedents. We just make it up as we go along--it's a scary place to be".

Many young men today do not behave responsibly because they do not see anything for which they need to be responsible.

The first problem is young men. The second problem is young families without fathers. We have created a society in which far more children than ever before are brought up in families without fathers. The percentage of children who grow up in lone parent households has trebled since 1968 from 6 per cent to 22 per cent.

Without in any way being judgmental or critical of lone mothers, who often do a tremendous job, let us look at some of the disadvantages from which they and their children suffer. Single parent families are poorer. Children who grow up in poverty in turn suffer multiple disadvantage. Sixty-five per cent of children in single parent families grow up in poverty compared with only 24 per cent of children in two-parent families. Children who live in lone parent families have a 79 per cent chance of being in the bottom 30 per cent of income distribution. Single parents have no one to share the work, responsibility and fun of bringing up a child; often they are lonely and stressed.

Children in single parent families enjoy less good health. Many studies show that for children of young lone mothers there is significantly greater likelihood of infant mortality, child ill health and risk of accidents.

The Newcastle 1000 Family Study report said:

    "Parenting is probably the most important public health issue facing our society today".

It is the single largest variable implicated in childhood.

Many single parents do a heroic job. Some of their children achieve their full potential, but the odds are stacked against them. The Government are addressing the issue by encouraging lone mothers to get into work. I do not believe that that addresses the root of the problem. The root of the problem is a generation of young men, some of whom are uneducated, untrained, unemployable, unsocialised and unwanted. It is on that group that I want to focus in the few moments that remain to me.

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I believe that there are steps that the Government can take. I believe that in this country there is a need for us to change our image of masculinity. Small boys need to learn in primary school that it is not "uncool" to learn and that school work is not only for girls. This means male role models in boys' lives: fathers, grandfathers, football heroes, teachers--men who show that they value school learning for men. It means more learning in the family and the engagement of fathers in schools; and it also means more suitably trained male teachers in primary schools.

In secondary schools and beyond we need to recognise that many young men need to build their self-confidence through pride in their physical strength, endurance, courage and loyalty. Those are characteristics that have evolved over countless generations by natural selection for a role that no longer exists. Sport, adventure training, sailing, mountaineering and other challenges should be made available to all young men who want them.

One mother to whom I spoke recently about the role of young men said:

    "The job for boys is to change the world".

We need opportunities for active citizenship. We also need millennium volunteers. Perhaps for those who cannot afford to volunteer we need a one-year residential training and service option with a basic wage--a programme centred on personal development and community service, not war. In return young men must learn the need for and the advantages and rewards of gentleness and kindness in the family, how to share responsibility for bringing a child into the world and its upbringing and how to help build a home for it.

I argue that a young mother with a child is better off with a father helping her. Fathers are happy and more stable if they have a role to play. The Government should give just as much help to fathers, including prospective fathers, to get into work as they currently give to lone mothers. To do so will be a very good investment. Social security benefits to fatherless families today cost the taxpayer £4 billion a year.

As we move into the 21st century has not the time come for us as a society to try to work out some shared values about our civic rights and responsibilities, in particular the rights and responsibilities of being a father? There are some things about which we cannot make laws but which are none the less critical to the welfare of children and to the common good. For example, what values about fatherhood will be taught in the new PSHE syllabus in schools? Will boys and girls receive clear messages about the needs of children, that fathers have a role in families, that children are likely to have a better chance if mothers and fathers bring them up together in a loving family, and that in an age of effective contraception there is no excuse for a man to bring a child into the world unless he has made the commitment to love and care for it for 18 years or more? A child is not a toy.

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The Children Act 1989 starts with the words,

    "When a court determines any question with respect to ... the upbringing of a child ... the child's welfare shall be the court's paramount consideration".

Should not as much be expected of the child's father?

7.57 p.m.

Viscount Hood: My Lords, I thank all those in the House, Members and staff, who have been so helpful and welcoming since I took my seat two weeks ago. I also thank my noble kinsman Lord Northbourne for giving me this opportunity to make my maiden speech on such an important issue.

Good parenting is so fundamental to the progress of society throughout the generations that it is taken for granted. It is only when it is absent that one realises the time, effort and resources required to instil what good parenting should have provided. The role of the father is half the picture but one that may not acquire full focus until rather later than that of the mother when what might be described as the maternity phase is over. For a father, even in a stable family unit, the first phase may not be hugely rewarding, but he can justify his role by being able to provide. It is much more difficult for a young man who cannot play this role and whose family is likely to be as well off whether or not he is there.

If the family splits, or was never a proper family at all, the odds against the father playing any part in the child's upbringing mount considerably. As a lawyer specialising in divorce, I have seen how, even in middle-class or educated families, to be an assiduous but absent father requires huge stamina. There may be friction with the mother for any number of reasons. Periods of contact are often contrived and artificial. Sadly, a father who remains in contact is likely to pay more in child maintenance than the one who does not. And if the parents were never married in the first place, an application to the court for the grant of parental responsibility will often be required. For a father unaware of the importance of his role, the decision to walk away for good is an easy one. And so the cycle can be repeated.

I have for many years been a volunteer lawyer at the legal advice centre at Toynbee Hall. I have seen many young men with many different legal difficulties to whom the fact that they have fathered children appears entirely incidental to their existence. I believe it is significant that in all the time since the passing of the Children Act I have never once been asked to advise on how parental responsibility can be obtained if the mother is not consenting to it.

I am the father of four young children. My eldest son is going through the phase of realising that his father does not know and cannot do everything. I am finding this process rather more difficult than he is, but I consider it essential, if society is to progress, that our children are able to learn from us what we do know so that they may acquire for themselves what we do not.

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8.1 p.m.

The Earl of Mar and Kellie: My Lords, it falls on me on behalf of the whole House to congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Hood, on his excellent maiden speech. He hails from a family with a significant naval history, and, as he mentioned, has a continuing career as a divorce lawyer. It is ironic that I probably cannot say that we look forward to hearing from him often--but I cannot foretell the results on Friday. Nevertheless, the House has benefited today from his experience and the noble Viscount can take heart from the fact that he took the opportunity that he was briefly allowed.

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is to be congratulated on bringing the vulnerable position of fathers to our attention. Young men are facing dilemmas as to their very purpose in being. Women are finding their place in the world and not before time. Unfortunately, this advance seems to be at the expense of young men. This is not a call for women to rein back, but rather a call for men to find a way forward into a more, I suspect, androgynous future.

The expectation of the supposedly macho job in the steel works, ship yard and coal mine is over. Families must redirect their aspirations for their sons from broadly engineering work into the available work, which in Scotland is likely to be in electronics or a service industry. Since 1994, women have dominated the Scottish labour market. Men certainly make up the majority of full-time workers, but some women are doing work for which, it seems, men will not get out of bed.

Clearly, government cannot be held solely responsible for that. The family, both nuclear and extended, has a major role to play. Families need to sharpen up on how they encourage--or, often, discourage--their children about education and training. The take-up of higher education in Scotland is good, exceeding the UK average. Government need to strengthen "low level" training courses and schooling.

The boys of today must be encouraged to see learning and training as being manly, and not just for girls. Men must establish a new equilibrium with women. Until the parents are sorted, the children will not receive the lead they need.

8.3 p.m.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, first, I should like to pay tribute to my own father without whom I should neither be in this world nor in your Lordships' House. One of my happiest memories is of the many people who knew my father when he was here, and the lovely things they have said about him. He was a man with a great sense of humour and a lively wit who saw further into the future than most people.

Secondly, I pay tribute to my husband who has always been such a special father to our children. He shares many of my father's attributes combined with an enormous amount of patience. Nothing is ever too much trouble for him.

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Thirdly, I wish to speak, not surprisingly, about war widows. Their children have been suddenly deprived of the blessing of a father. Some of these ladies would like to remarry but are nervous of doing so because it would deprive them of the pension to which their husbands contributed during their lives. They would like to give their children a chance of a second father. My noble friend Lord Northbourne made this very point in our debate last week. Noble Lords felt so strongly on the issue that they sent the amendment back to the other place.

I shall not easily forget those 47 children last Monday, stroking the noses of the horses on guard in Whitehall, meeting the Prime Minister at No. 10, picnicking in Westminster Hall and viewing the splendour of the red and gold in your Lordships' House, and having no father to go home to, to tell the story of their happy day.

8.5 p.m.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I, too, congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, on giving us the opportunity to discuss this issue, albeit briefly, today. I, too, congratulate the noble Viscount on his maiden speech.

I must declare an interest as I was involved in the preparation of the Government's consultative document, Supporting Families. That document recognised that family structures are today more complicated than a few decades ago. Any development of public policy on the role of fathers has to take account of those new realities, and this, I believe, the Government are doing.

The critical issues for many fathers--and indeed mothers--are better financial support for families through measures like the working families' tax credit, better services and support for parents, programmes like New Deal, which tackle unemployment, family-friendly employment practices that help parents achieve a better balance between home and work, parental leave in early years, and measures which strengthen adult relationships. Those larger measures help fathers fulfil their roles in modern society.

We know that the single most effective way of helping boys and young men is encouraging the involvement of their fathers. Boys who have no contact with their fathers are statistically more likely to be violent, get hurt, get into trouble and do less well at school. The research evidence on that is overwhelming. It means that we have to look critically at father-child contacts when adult relationships break down. We know that large numbers of non-resident fathers lose contact with their children within five years. That is why it has been so important for the Government to tackle the disaster of the Child Support Agency. Not only will this reduce parental conflict and bring more money into families through a simplified formula; it will also give incentives for non-resident fathers to stay in regular contact with their children. I believe that we need to go further by expanding contact centres where non-resident fathers may see their children.

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I mention two issues. First, there is the area of trying to reduce conflict in divorce and separation so that father-child involvement is more easily maintained. Secondly, there is the issue of fathering in stepfamilies. I hope that the Government will tackle those issues as they take forward family policy.

8.8 p.m.

Baroness Young: My Lords, first, I congratulate my noble friend Lord Hood on his maiden speech; and thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, for introducing this short debate today. He is, if I may say so, a good example of a hereditary Peer who has great knowledge of education and social work. He is an expert in this field, and it is right that he should draw attention to one of the most important and serious issues in social policy today: the role of fathers. He is right in what he said and I agree with everything he said today.

In the short time available, I should like to make two points. First, we live in a world in which men, curiously enough, are now downgraded. I have spent much of my life trying to help and support women into top jobs and other jobs. Now I feel that I should do the reverse and support men. Statistics show that boys do less well than girls in tests at age 11. They fall behind girls in the GCSE examinations. They barely hold their own at A-level. They are more likely to leave school without any qualifications and to be unemployed. Finally, they are far more likely to turn to crime and find themselves in court.

The issue should worry us all and the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is a real one. One of the prime causes is that there are families without fathers. The importance of the role of the father cannot be overestimated.

The second issue to which the Government should address themselves is what exactly they will include in the new curriculum changes on citizenship and personal, social and health education. Unless they address the importance of the role of the father; the required responsibility; the need for boys to have a role model; the importance of boys receiving a good education; and of boys accepting their responsibilities, we shall see nothing more than a continuation of the catalogue of disasters which is affecting boys.

8.11 p.m.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, there is not much time for compliments, but I must say what a privilege it is always to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Young, one of the strongest Christian influences in this House.

All fathers want to be good fathers, but what is meant by the phrase "a good father"? There are three elements. He has to be a good husband; he has to set a good example; and he has to be a good teacher. Tomorrow, my wife and I will have been married for 68 years. She was once asked whether she had ever thought of divorcing me and she replied, "No, but

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sometimes of murdering him!". I do not know whether that qualifies me as a good husband, but that is my record.

Perhaps we should take examples. My father died a war hero, leading his brigade into certain death at Gallipoli. I, in my youthful excitement, tried to follow his example. I joined the Army as a private before the war and very soon was invalided out with a nervous breakdown. That example did not quite work out.

My father's final words were delivered to someone called Fred Cripps, brother of Stafford Cripps who told me about it. My father said, "I wish you would stop ducking, Fred. The men don't like it. It doesn't do any good.". That at least has remained; I tried to avoid ducking.

As regards training, we have wonderful proof of what it can do. In my eyes, leaving out the Church, present company, my relatives and some of my closest friends, the Queen is the greatest woman alive. Do your Lordships know what her secret is? She said, "I have been well trained.". Her father trained her, so he was a great father.

Those are a few points. When all is said and done, the good father is a loving father and every father here tries to live up to that standard.

8.13 p.m.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, in congratulating the noble Viscount, Lord Hood, on his maiden speech, I am sure that the House will want to congratulate also the noble Earl, Lord Longford, not only on his remarks but also on the longevity of his marriage and the advertisement for family life that he presents. Tomorrow is his wedding anniversary.

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