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The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, as someone who needs to have a line drawn in the sand, all I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies, is that I find it quite delicious to hear old Labour advocating that the people should have no choice over who occupies the larger part of their upper Chamber.

It is slightly odd that I should have any say or influence over your Lordships just because my forebear got drunk with Pitt or drunker with Walpole; I quite concede that that is not a very good way to furnish an upper Chamber. However, I have reached a contrary conclusion to that reached by the noble Lord. There is no possible authority in the modern world other than sanction by some form of political election. There is no other way round that.

The point was made that there should be people on the Cross Benches and people with expertise. In my view, we should have a 60 per cent elected and 40 per cent appointed House. Above all, as my noble friend Lord Wakeham said, in no circumstances should anybody be allowed to be re-elected.

The problem with our political system at present is the over-mighty power of the Whips. My party is every bit as badly behaved in this respect as the other party. The way that Mr Howard treated Howard Flight before the election was nothing short of dictatorial. I fear to say that I winced because I happen to think that people should be allowed to have slightly different
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opinions from those for whom they go in to bat. It does not make me any less of a Conservative because I do not agree with everything that every member of the Front Bench says. If some nerd in Conservative Central Office has invented some new policy, I do not have to agree with it. I am quite grown up enough to make up my own mind. That is the strength of the party Members in this House.

We all made jokes about Tony's cronies—it was rather a good joke and it went on for quite a long time—but one of the nice things was the honour with which several Labour Members in this House stood up on issues about which I was personally in agreement with them to argue with their own Front Bench. That was nothing short of a credit both to this House and to them. If, in due course, the Conservative Party gets back in to office and if I am still here, I promise my noble friends that I will be just as disloyal to them as those Members have been, because that is what I regard as my duty in this House.

Just before the 1997 election, I turned to my wife and said, "I do not see that there is a lot of harm that the new government can do. It has a pretty good economic handover coming to it, provided that it sticks to the rules that it said it would, which is to not alter Conservative economic policy for five years"—which is what Gordon Brown did, to his immense credit. The moment that he started fiddling about with it, things went a bit iffy, but that is another story. I said, "There are only two things that they are going to do. One is to ban hunting and the other is to something up the constitution".

They have banned hunting, but that can probably be put right; but our constitution is one of the most subtle instruments of government that mankind has found. It has not rested on a piece of paper; it has rested on lots of bits of paper—lots of Acts of Parliament; lots of customs; some pieces of invention. It has also had the rather clever habit of looking like an ox cart but having a Ferrari inside it. We have tended to keep the carapace of ancient forms and put modernisation—to use my favourite new Labour word—inside it to make it work.

When I said that, I had no conception what damage the Government would do. What have they done to our liberties? They have tried to abolish jury service for several crimes. They have tried to curtail habeas corpus. They have half-reformed this House in a way that has not gone far enough. Luckily, the House has not behaved as the Government thought that it would; it has shown serious efforts at checking the behaviour of an over-mighty Government. Look what they have done to the House of Commons. In the name of family-friendly hours, they have ensured that the hours start in the morning and that everything is guillotined. That gives more power to the Executive. What we are all here for? We are here to make the Executive's job difficult—not out of bloody mindedness, for want of a term, but to make sure that they have thought through what they are trying to do.

That is where I find things such as identity cards, which are the next attack on civil liberties, coming up. My dad romped up and down the north African desert
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in a rather beaten-up Matilda tank to try to stop people in funny hats saying, "Ihre Papiere, bitte". There is no point to identity cards. We are told that they will be used with isometric something or other and fingerprints. There is a report in the Sunday papers that none of those things work.

Lo and behold, if you are a gentleman visiting from a mythical Middle Eastern country, you do not have to have an identity card for six months. But my mother-in-law, who has lived here since 1949, does. She is a lady of distinction and is very pulled-together and organised, but if it was me, I would leave my identity card somewhere and lose it. There is no point in having an identity card unless you have to carry it. I will have lost my identity card; Plod will come along and say, "Where is your identity card?", "Ihre Papiere, bitte", or whatever; and I will get into trouble. Whereupon that mythical gentleman from a mythical state in the Middle East following a mythical religion that does not like us very much will be allowed to enter on a tourist visa with no identity card. Lo and behold, he will be out again within the six months, possibly having done some damage.

It is a crazy system. It is acknowledged that it will have no effect on social security fraud. It is acknowledged on the biometric details that if they scan your face it works for only 10 days after they have put the thing in the machine, because by that time your face has changed. The iris test does not work very well. Really to guarantee fingerprints, you have to use all 10 fingerprints. So it will not work. It will be an infringement on liberty and a half-thought-out, cock-eyed scheme.

I return very briefly to your Lordships' House. I passionately believe that we should have checks. We should ensure that governments cannot get away with things. The Government have a track record of trying to take away our liberties. It is not possible to be prouder than having an Englishman's liberties. That is what this Parliament invented. That is what this Parliament must always fight for. We must have a House—as this House has done for the past five years—to fight very hard for our liberties. It was a privilege to be here when we were discussing the Terrorism Bill. I have had stacks of letters saying, "Well done for fighting for our liberties". That makes me cry with gratitude because that is what I believe is so important.

This House must have authority—that authority can only come, at least partially, from popular election—and it must have the guts to stand up to a government intent on fiddling with our constitution and introducing more and more inhibitions on our individual liberties.

7.57 pm

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: My Lords, I start by adding my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Alliance, who is absent, on his excellent maiden speech and echo the words of the noble Lords, Lord Owen and Lord Wakeham, that he is a remarkable man and will contribute a great deal to this place.
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As has been said often today, the gracious Speech includes a number of Bills relating to home affairs, including a management of offenders Bill in which the Government recognise the problem of the soaring prison population. One reason that I am glad that the general election is over is that during the campaign it became impossible to have a rational debate about how, to paraphrase the words of a former Home Secretary, to make prison work. The Tories ignored common sense and campaigned on a commitment to stop early releases of prisoners and impose longer sentences while Labour, ever fearful of the accusation of being soft on crime, competed to sound tough.

As we have already heard, Britain has a record number of prisoners in gaol. To reduce that and overall crime levels, the Government must tackle the revolving door problem—the fact that more than half of prisoners reoffend and that most of those individuals are sent to prison again and again. If we can take the opportunity of their time in prison to move them away from a criminal lifestyle, we will have prevented a large number of future crimes.

As my colleague in another place, Mark Oaten, put it, we must get prisoners out of the cell and into the classroom and workshop to learn new skills, preparing them for life on the straight and narrow when they are released. However, it is not only a matter of education and training. Another area of intervention is showing the greatest impact. That is the treatment of addiction. The type of prisoner about whom I am concerned today is the drug addict. We are learning more every year about the links between drug addiction and crime. A small number of addicts are responsible for a huge number of crimes. The Home Office calculates that the average drug-addicted offender commits more than 30 separate crimes per month to pay for his or her habit. Similarly, the Prison Service reports that over half of all new inmates—an estimated 70,000 individuals per year—have drug problems that need treatment.

The provision of drug treatment services in UK prisons has a relatively short history. Awareness of the severity of the problem has grown over the past 15 years, and the Prison Service has responded. Every prison now has a specialist drug advice service, and more than 50,000 prisoners per year receive medical help with their withdrawal symptoms.

However, the types of programmes that have been proven to deliver the outcomes that we all want—prisoners not returning to drug use and crime on release—are the ones least available in prisons. At the moment, only 5,000 prisoners per year in England and Wales get on to an intensive, abstinence-based addiction treatment programme—I am talking about a rehabilitation programme rather than just detoxification. That is less than 10 per cent of those who need it.

I have the privilege of being involved in a charity called the Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPT). It manages nine prison treatment programmes, based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous. Last year that accounted for 500 of the 5,000 prisoners receiving that level of
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treatment. This year, after a new round of contracts, the figure will be nearer to 700. Its results are very good.

The good news is that the Prison Service plans to extend those intensive treatment programmes in the coming years, but only, as I understand it, to the level of meeting around 20 per cent of the demand. If it is a good idea to treat 20 per cent of drug-addicted prisoners—and it is; it saves taxpayers' money and reduces crime—then why is it not better to treat many more? The more effective the treatment delivered, the more crime will be prevented. Rehabilitation programmes, not just ones that offer detoxification, are needed. In the past few years the focus has been on expanding the number of prisoners receiving treatment, which is good; but it has led to an operational obsession with throughput rather than quality or outcome. These expansion plans are far too timid. It is not often that we find a crime reduction initiative that works. When we do, it should be backed to the hilt.

The other good news is that investment in prison-based drug strategies has increased significantly. But as more money is poured into drug treatment, more organisations spring up offering miracle cures on the cheap. To date, the RAPT programme is the only one in the UK to have subjected its results to independent scrutiny—a study carried out by London University. What is needed is a research project to establish which organisations and models of treatment deliver the best results so that we can be sure that investment is wisely targeted and not thrown away on the untried and untested. Only those programmes that can show that they are successful in reducing crime should be supported.

Finally, there is the matter of aftercare. I got involved with RAPT after a visit to Pentonville gaol, where I saw it at work and was both impressed and moved. What sticks in my mind is talking to a prisoner there who was in the most terrible state, close to tears and terrified. He was scared, not about what lurked on the landings of Pentonville, but about his imminent release, because he knew that he was going back to a girlfriend with a drug habit. He begged for alternative accommodation to be arranged for him. But there was nothing anyone could do; there was nowhere for him to go. The Government must address the issue of joining up rehabilitation programmes within prison with what happens outside.

At the moment, prisons are not doing enough to break the cycle of crime. There are ways that we can work together to redress that. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, referred to the need for means of tackling reoffending; I have drawn attention here to one of the most effective.

8.5 pm

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