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Lord Dubs: My Lords, will my noble friend remind us whether the possibility of moving polling day from

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a Thursday to a Sunday is one of the options before the Electoral Commission? Do the Government have any view on a change that many of us believe would be a significant way of improving turnout?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, some of us have been arguing that point all our political lives. I do not know whether it is a matter before the Electoral Commission, but I hope that it is. If it is not, there is no reason why, as it is an independent body, it should not put the matter on the agenda itself.

Eastwood Park Prison

11.30 a.m.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken and within what timescale to implement the recommendations of HM Chief Inspector of Prisons regarding HM Prison Eastwood Park for women and young girls, for proper mental healthcare and the prevention of suicides and self-harm.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, all reports from the Chief Inspector of Prisons result in an action plan produced about 30 working days after publication. The plan will respond to all 91 recommendations, including those on mental health, suicide and self-harm. The problems facing Eastwood Park at the time of the inspection are already being dealt with, but longer-term issues such as the extent of mental illness will take some time to overcome.

Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. He did not mention that the inreach programme already established by the Government at Eastwood is now being extended to other prisons. I believe that the Government lay stock by that for some reason. Does the Minister agree that that inreach programme has to be accompanied by better training of prison staff to enable them to recognise and deal with psychiatric disorder? Given the long-standing awareness of the problems of psychiatric disorders among prisoners, particularly women prisoners, and especially at Eastwood Park, can he tell us what measures are being taken to rectify what I consider to be the most serious of the criticisms levelled by the chief inspector—namely, the lack of insight and leadership shown both within the prison and beyond it in dealing with the prison's very real problem?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right on the inreach programme. The Government have a strong commitment to sending NHS multidisciplinary health teams into prisons to try to ensure proper treatment of the very large numbers of prisoners, particularly women prisoners, with mental health problems. I am certain that training prison staff in psychiatric disorders is on the department's training

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agenda. Given the prevalence of mental health problems, the issue needs to be a continuing high priority. As for the measures spelled out in the chief inspector's report on Eastwood Park, there were, as has been said, concerns about leadership and the speed shown in dealing with some serious problems. Conversely, the chief inspector also praised the commitment of the staff. It was not a universally gloomy picture. However, my honourable friend the Minister has already raised with the Chief Inspector of Prisons and with the governor and the director general the issue of when action will be taken to remedy the defects identified.

Lord Elton: My Lords, in welcoming the Minister to this new bed of nails and wishing him the best of fortune in what will be a hard act to follow, may I ask him whether, when he has time to read the report, he will note how it undermines one's confidence in the general statistics with which one is presented? In particular, paragraph 1.10 says that the inspectors,

    "were made aware that self reporting of regime monitoring information by staff indicated that exercise was being given, when in actual fact it was not".

Therefore, when we are told how many hours a prisoner spends out of cell, we are being misled.

Secondly, in paragraph 2.47, at the end of a flattering account of the efforts of outside staff delivering education, we read,

    "There was not evidence to suggest that the establishment valued or understood the role of education. The lax approach to attendance and punctuality, the cuts in budget, the failure of officers to get student work to the tutors, transferring a woman prisoner elsewhere at critical times in her sentence and course were symptomatic illustrations".

Students were not able to do the work in the time that they were supposed to be out of cell doing it.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his generous welcome. I think that both my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer and I recognise that, in the wit and wisdom of my noble friend Lord Rooker, the two of us have a hard act to follow.

I note the data inaccuracies which are a cause for concern. Organisations that feel under crisis pressure do not always treat filling in forms or putting in data as one of their highest priorities. Yet, as the noble Lord points out, such data are crucial if the Government or anyone else are to know what is truly happening in those establishments. I have read the paragraphs, including paragraph 2.47, drawing attention to deficiencies in education and the attitude to education. The Government are concerned about those matters and the Minister has it on the list of issues he is discussing with the director general.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I add my congratulations to the noble Lord on his new responsibilities. Will he give urgent consideration to the Lord Chief Justice's proposal for a special board, analogous to the Youth Justice Board, dealing with women in the criminal justice system? Will he look and

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see whether he can speed up government consideration of these proposals, which may well give great help on a matter of justifiably widespread concern?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, yes, I am indeed aware of the Lord Chief Justice's comments and views on a criminal justice board for women. The issue is receiving attention in the department. I cannot say offhand how quickly matters are progressing, but I shall look into the situation. There are no current or immediate plans to introduce such a board, but the department has announced the establishment of the correctional services board, which will look at 16 to 20-year-olds, initially including women, and then move on to more specific groups.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I endorse the welcome to the world of home affairs and the congratulations extended to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office. He started by telling us about this action plan. Is he aware that an earlier inspection report made 112 recommendations, 76 of which have not yet been achieved? Indeed, 55 of the recommendations have not been even partially achieved.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, yes, I was aware of that; I read it in the preface to the report with some concern. I am in no sense trying to belittle the importance of or to mitigate those failings, but one should note that the women's prison population, including that of Eastwood Park, has accelerated enormously—by 20 per cent—in recent years. The establishment is therefore under considerable volume pressure. Of course that is not an excuse for not implementing previous reports of the chief inspector.


11.38 a.m.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will make a Statement on the situation in India and Pakistan at a convenient time after 12.30 p.m.

Education Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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

Clauses 1 to 18, Schedule 1, Clauses 19 to 35, Schedule 2, Clauses 36 to 38, Schedule 3, Clauses 39 to 48, Schedule 4,

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Clauses 49 to 53, Schedule 5, Clauses 54 to 56, Schedule 6, Clauses 57 to 62, Schedule 7, Clauses 63 to 66, Schedule 8, Clauses 67 and 68, Schedule 9, Clauses 69 to 71, Schedule 10, Clauses 72 to 115, Schedule 11, Clauses 116 to 144, Schedule 12, Clauses 145 to 148, Schedule 13, Clauses 149 to 151, Schedule 14, Clauses 152 to 181, Schedule 15, Clause 182, Schedule 16, Clause 183, Schedule 17, Clauses 184 to 189, Schedule 18, Clauses 190 to 193, Schedule 19, Clauses 194 to 200, Schedule 20, Clauses 201 to 211, Schedules 21 and 22.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Employment Bill

Report received.

Clause 1 [Paternity leave]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 2, leave out lines 12 and 13.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3, which are grouped with it, and—if I may, on reflection, for the convenience of the House—to Amendment No. 4. The issues I wish to address are raised in those four amendments.

It seems a very long time since we started the Bill's Committee stage; I think it was in early March. Sadly, I rather lost touch with the Bill as it proceeded through a rather lengthy consideration in Grand Committee, ably assisted by the noble Lords, Lord McCarthy and Lord Wedderburn, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, all of whom played a great part in Committee. I dare say that they will be playing an even greater part as the Bill proceeds through Report stage. I note that we have been offered three days for Report, and I am very interested to see whether we can achieve completion of Report in that time.

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My concerns centre around Clause 1, which deals with paternity leave, and Clause 2, which deals with statutory paternity pay. I set out my concerns about those two matters in Grand Committee but for the convenience of the House I hope that I may repeat some of the questions that I put and some of the arguments that I raised as the Committee stage was taken off the Floor of the House and therefore the Bill did not receive the due attention of the House that Bills of this kind ought to receive. I spelt out my concerns about a Bill of this size and complexity being taken in Grand Committee. I mention that again now for the sake of the record as I know that others similarly doubted the wisdom of hiving-off a Bill of this size and complexity to a Committee Room upstairs rather than discussing it on the Floor of the House. However, obviously, that is a matter for the usual channels to consider in relation to other Bills in due course.

I turn to the amendments that I have tabled. I tabled Amendments Nos. 1 and 2, along with others, in Grand Committee simply to probe the Government's intentions in introducing paternity leave and statutory paternity pay and to ask why those two provisions were being introduced and where the demand for statutory paternity pay arose—was it coming from employers or from disgruntled employees? Having mentioned disgruntled employees, I suspect—to quote from P G Wodehouse—that a measure of this kind will not exactly make them "gruntled". However, that is no doubt a matter for the Government to argue in due course.

I also said that I thought that such matters were probably best left to informal arrangements between the employer and the employee rather than being a matter for the law. Furthermore, I asked what would be the effect of the measures on employers. As always, we know—the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, speaks on the matter with great expertise as his family is a large employer—that large employers can cope with such measures but they pose much greater problems for small employers, particularly the small employer who loses a key worker at what might be a crucial time of the year or a crucial time in his business cycle when demand is particularly high and he cannot afford to lose that worker.

I asked what research the Government had carried out or commissioned into the effectiveness of such measures and whether they thought that there would be massive take-up. I also asked how many fathers would want to take time off and receive greatly reduced earnings at a time when household expenses were likely—as some of us know from experience—to increase massively. I was also concerned—this is what lies behind Amendment No. 2—about the Government's future intentions. The Bill as drafted permits two weeks' paternity leave but allows the Government to increase that from time to time without new primary legislation, merely by order. I speculated whether we would see continuous pressure for further gradual increases—all no doubt made in the name of sex equality—to bring fathers in line with mothers.

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Those were a number of the questions that I posed. I was also concerned about the cost of the measures to employers. I appreciate that there is reimbursement, but for most employers there is only 92 per cent rather than 100 per cent reimbursement. In Committee I suggested that it might be better to reimburse employers at 105 per cent to allow for some of the administrative costs of dealing with such a measure and for some of the inconvenience that it caused.

Those were my original concerns behind Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 and some of the other amendments that I tabled in Grand Committee. As I said earlier, it seems a long time since the Committee stage occurred. Since then we have had the Budget and all the extra costs that have been imposed on employment particularly in regard to national insurance contributions. I think that we can all now see clearly that the increased national insurance contributions will constitute both an income tax and a tax on employment. We have heard the resulting cries from employers about the difficulties that are being heaped upon them. Only recently we have realised that the state of our economy is not quite so rosy as the Government would have us believe. Figures show that we have had virtually no growth, or no growth at all, for the past two quarters. The economy is in a serious situation particularly in the light of the greater burden that the Chancellor will impose on it through taxation. The economy is not in as good a condition as it ought to be.

That is what inspired me to table two further amendments to leave out Clauses 1 and 2 in their entirety. I tabled those amendments in a spirit of being helpful to the Government. As they wish to be business friendly and to assist business, they might be minded at this time—when, as I said, businesses are facing extra burdens due to the state of the economy and the Budget—to accept my amendments in that spirit and to remove the potential extra burdens on business contained in those clauses to show that they are a business-friendly government. I offer those amendments to the Government in that friendly spirit. I hope that they will accept them and remove the burdens that I mentioned. I am not saying that that will immediately and suddenly transform the state of the economy, but it would show that the Government are prepared on occasion to prove that their actions are business friendly rather than merely saying that they are business friendly while at the same time adding yet further burdens on employers. I beg to move.

11.45 a.m.

Lord Monson: My Lords, before the Minister replies to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, will he say whether an employer with only one male employee is obliged to grant paternity leave?

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