Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Desai, although I am wholly unable to contemplate the transitional process that he envisages. To me, that is wholly unacceptable.

The purpose of this speech is to assert that the constitutional role, status and privileges of this House be protected from the spectre of continuing reform referred to in the gracious Speech, which hovers over this House, bereft of any specific proposal. The speech of the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor today hardly dealt with the question to which I speak. He dealt only with a free vote in both Houses about the retention of the hereditaries, having apparently forgotten about the Irvine/Cranborne deal, which is essentially a matter for this House. Then he dealt with powers and functions, on which there was no specific proposal save the 60-day time limit. It was a vague presentation that failed to open the gateway to the mind of government as regards substantive reform. Assuredly, it did not deal with the purpose of this speech.

It is only if and when stage two—substantive reform—has been accepted as such by your Lordships that demission of the statutory hereditaries is invoked under the deal, which cannot simply be reneged on. Relevant to this speech are two questions of current concern as a hangover from the unicameral approach of the presidential style of government under the former regime—the disestablishment of your Lordships' House on the EU constitution Bill; and Speakership of this House, on which the option to retain the Lord Chancellor was foreclosed by another place at the behest of government, contrary to assurances given in good faith by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor to which I shall refer if there is time.

On disfranchisement, there was no constitutional Bill to deprive your Lordships from voting on the Bill to approve the draft treaty on the constitution referred to in the gracious Speech. Contrary to the unanimous
 
23 May 2005 : Column 294
 
advice of the Select Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, in reply to the Question asked by my noble friend Lord Marlesford on 6 April 2005 the Government proposed to exclude this House from voting. Indeed, the noble and learned Lord advised that this unicameral approach warranted very careful consideration. There was fundamental opposition from my noble friends Lord Howell of Guildford, Lord Marlesford and Lord Renton of Mount Harry, and the noble Lord, Lord Barnett. It was presented as a settled intention without precedent, without the constitution—take it or leave it. As I have said that, I shall refer to two brief extracts from the Official Report. The first is:

The second is:

The reports of Sub-Committee E of the EU Committee on the future status of the EU charter and the future role of the European Court of Justice, of which note has been taken, raise questions of serious concern about what should be removed and what ratified. There are defects that demand consideration of both Houses, in which amendments should be subject to due parliamentary process. Reference was made to some of those in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Owen. They include the need for an interpretative declaration, the need for retention of the powers of your Lordships' House, the absence of a constitutional court, and the large disagreement between constitutional lawyers on the effect of the treaty.

Then there is the Speakership. There is an interest to declare, as I have toiled in the vineyard of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cooke of Thorndon, tabled a relevant amendment on the then Constitutional Reform Bill, and supported my noble friend Lord Kingsland in his amendment to that Bill to leave the Speakership provisions, then Clause 13 and Schedule 6.

Without enabling provision, the Government attacked the privilege of this House as master of its own procedures by Commons amendments to that Bill as enacted. Section 18 and Schedule 6, by separating the Lord Chancellor from the Speakership, foreclosed on that option, as supported by my noble friend Lord Kingsland on Report. That was after your Lordships' amendments; the main one was moved, I think, by—my mind has gone.

Noble Lords: Lloyd.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, it was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. Those amendments were to retain membership of this House and the requisite legal qualification for the Lord Chancellor. Those were accepted by your Lordships' House with substantial majorities. Of course, having been accepted, they were rejected by
 
23 May 2005 : Column 295
 
another place at the behest of the Government and so foreclosed on the option that I supported. That was also supported at one time by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick.

There is no more time, so I shall merely provide the references in relation to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Kingsland, when the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor gave further assurances which truly represented the constitutional position. They were sabotaged, first by the other place and, secondly, by the Commons amendments. The references are: the opening speech by my noble friend Lord Kingsland on 20 December 2004 at col. 1572, and the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, who agreed with him at col. 1542. There are two references to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor and the final reference is to my noble friend Lord Kingsland, who, at col. 1544, accepted the assurances that had been given and withdrew his amendment.

Now your Lordships are faced with Hobson's choice. You must either elect a Speaker or have one nominated by the Prime Minister. Under the Bill, he will be able to nominate as Lord Chancellor anyone who has some expertise. What would happen in this House, given that the other place has foreclosed upon the assurances and has sabotaged the amendments—of which the main one was tabled by the noble and learned Lord?

7.2 pm

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I intend to confine my remarks to the area of home affairs concerned with criminal justice and, in particular, how we deal with those in our community who offend or are at risk of offending, especially young people who are, typically, in the eye of the storm. I intend to draw on the work and findings of the Rethinking Crime and Punishment initiative, which I have chaired over the past four years and whose recommendations are pertinent to this debate. I, too, warmly welcome, albeit in his absence, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who was on my RCP board and whose enormous knowledge and wisdom in relation to crime and prisons will be a bonus to our debates.

Still at the top of the agenda in the Government's and the public's mind are the issues of anti-social behaviour, crime, public safety and talk of corresponding toughness in response to those issues. The gracious Speech referred to,

Of course we endorse those aims, just as we endorse wholeheartedly a Bill which aims to tackle knives, guns and alcohol-related violence.

However, my concerns are twofold. First, I do not believe that you can legislate for a cultural shift to respect. Cultural shifts evolve over time, not by diktat. Legislation can create only the frameworks within which cultural shifts might take place. But it is how people exercise powers and interpret the law that will make the difference over time. Respect is born of the
 
23 May 2005 : Column 296
 
experience of our relationships with each other—both individually and in groups. It is about seeing and experiencing behaviour in others of tolerance, mutual respect for our common humanity and dignity and all the attributes that we associate with civilised life. It is not a given, it has to be learned and earned—as a judge told a policeman in court last week, respect did not come with the uniform, it had to be earned. It cannot be enforced, nor should we try to do so.

Secondly, and connected to my first concern, is that while anti-social behaviour must be stopped in its tracks, using all the options in the armoury of the police, YOTs, social services, community bodies and so on, the imposition of ASBOs and the subsequent management of those people on whom ASBOs have been delivered is increasingly worrying.

For example, it is not uncommon that a young person made the subject of an ASBO has no follow up in terms of support to him or his family. The underlying problems which led to the behaviour are not addressed and there is evidence that there will be many significant problems—as I have known in my professional life. Thus, the chances are that the order will be breached. That young person may end up in prison on the basis of hearsay evidence for an offence which was not even criminal.

The system has moved the individual from the status of a disruptive, needy citizen to a needy criminal with all the attendant damage to his life prospects and society that we know about. The evidence from the Home Office in March 2005 is that 42 per cent of ASBOs are being breached and just under 50 per cent of those people are ending up in prison. More worryingly, around half of ASBOs are served on children under 18 and the statistics suggest that 10 young people are going to prison each week for breaches. That is wrong and is not an experience that is likely to engender respect of any kind for society or for the forces of law and order. It is more likely to promote further disaffection and still less understanding of how to become a decent, civilised citizen.

I fear that we do not like our young people much, although I agree how unlikeable those people committing ASBO-related offences can be. But when a senior police officer talks about "feral youths" in Greater Manchester—the area of the country which has espoused ASBOs much more vigorously than any other—he is not talking about what they do, but who they are.

I urge the Government to look hard at the manner in which ASBOs are being used, for they are, in a significant number of cases, creating still bigger problems among our young people and our future communities. Unless ASBOs are applied appropriately and in conjunction with other interventions—and I agree with the Minister when she said that it was part of an armoury of strategies that can be used—they will become, indeed, are becoming, a fast track to prison. The sanction for breach of this non-criminal order should not be imprisonment. The figures are troubling, as I am sure the Minister will agree.
 
23 May 2005 : Column 297
 

A twin-track approach by the courts and the community is at work to deal with the problems of young offenders today, while addressing the profounder, long-term challenge of preventive work that is being carried out across the country. What worries people, what MPs hear in their constituencies, what police have to handle on the streets, teachers in their classrooms and parents in the home—supposing the young people in question have parents, a home or are in a school at all—are the immediate, presenting problems which demand visible sanctions to deal with them. This is the short-term, quick fix.

Meanwhile, the preventive strategies do not deliver results overnight and are less tangible or immediate, but can lead to real, long-term change. Inevitably, it is far harder to feel confident about these. Confidence and trust, particularly in our criminal justice system, are attitudes of mind which must be nurtured and, when damaged, take a long time to be restored—just like the culture of respect. It seems that at the moment confidence is low and fear is very real in some of our communities. Hoodies are the latest group to be identified and feared—and even demonised. Interestingly, even with our prison population at its all-time shocking high, studies show that our use of incarceration has not helped to make people feel safer.

At Rethinking Crime and Punishment, we recommended that what is needed to build and develop confidence in our criminal justice system is far greater involvement by the public and by local communities in the administration of community penalties, which are the essential alternative to prison and stated government policy. Reparation, paying back and taking responsibility for your actions are tougher and more desirable penalties than imprisonment.

The problem at the moment is that the very existence, let alone the range and quality of those penalties, is hardly known about or understood by the public, or even often by sentencers themselves. Confidence in them is extremely difficult to nurture. How can you have confidence in something you know little or nothing about?

Our recommendations include setting up panels of local people in every locality to decide what unpaid work should be done by young offenders and an extension of youth offending panels to include local people. A survey at RCP found that there was a significant interest in getting involved. Two-thirds of the sample were interested and one third were very interested. However, the suggestion that the young people involved in community penalties should wear orange uniforms to publicise their existence as offenders doing community punishments is nothing more than a policy to humiliate. How can we possibly foster through humiliation the culture of respect that we seek? Informing and involving local people is very different from promoting such a policy, although the Government could possibly consider making identifiable those people in charge of the projects.

However, we believe that the programmes should and must be challenging and effective. They must be properly targeted to different needs and carried out to
 
23 May 2005 : Column 298
 
a high standard. Poorly managed projects are as pointless as imprisonment. There are many examples of excellent community penalty projects that develop skills and engender pride in offenders while benefiting the community. Those could and should be publicised as widely as possible, for without direct local involvement and greater visibility it will not be possible to engender the confidence that we need.

As the Government intend that such programmes should represent the greatest proportion of all sentencing, with imprisonment as an absolute last resort, I hope that the Minister can confirm that it is to be given the highest priority and tell us how it will be achieved.

Finally, restorative justice and the opportunity for paying back to the community is strongly recommended by RCP. It is a process that, when properly implemented, has enormous potential to extract real benefit from the damage of offending for all concerned. It will entail national leadership, judicial oversight, local capacity building and procedures that encourage victim involvement. I hope that the Minister can indicate what concrete plans are in hand to carry that forward.

A society with confidence in itself, trust in its institutions, and which is free of fear, is a society which also engenders mutual respect among all its citizens. That includes the nurture of trust in young people themselves. They are part of the solution as well as presenting some of the problems. Let us determine to make them our allies in achieving a society of mutual respect.

7.14 pm


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page