|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I would like very much to associate myself with all the remarks made by my noble and gallant friend Lord Bramall. He had the experience of commanding soldiers at a training depot. At the same depot, I had the experience of commanding child soldiers, including, at that time, some 15 year-olds. I remember the experience well. It was rather like commanding a ticking time-bomb in many ways, but you had to adopt different techniques to motivate them and to ensure that they were properly supervised.
That is not the purpose of what I wanted to say. I have found that there are certain parallels in the report and the inquiry with suicides in prison. We have devoted a great deal of attention to these in your Lordships' House. I am very pleased to see in the report the clear recommendation that the impetus to make certain that conditions and treatment are right should come from the very top. That must start with Ministers and go all the way down. I was delighted to see that.
The press and many of the public have regarded the fact that these four deaths took place at Deepcut as an indication of a "conspiracy" at Deepcut. I remember
29 Mar 2006 : Column 795
exactly the same suspicion about HMP Brixton following the suicides of five Irish prisoners. Immediately there was suspicion that something was going on against Irish people as opposed to the fact that these were sad and random affairs. Each suicide needed investigation because each had separate circumstances. There is a great danger of trying to make a generalisation when that may not apply.
The most important point, which I do not yet see recognised in the report, is the question of time. A week ago I saw the parents of a young man who had committed suicide in a prison four and a half years ago. The inquest has only just taken place. Imagine what the family have been through in that time. One of the problems of this inquiry is again that the families have been waiting an enormously long time to hear the outcome. I therefore ask the Minister whether he will, when he goes through the recommendations, consider the word "time", see what can be done to speed up the inquiry process and make certain that the families particularly affected are given the facts as soon as possible to help them come to terms with their tragic bereavement.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the points that he has made with his wide experience of these matters. It is important for us to make the read-across to the experience in the prison community as we review the recommendations coming out of the Blake report. We must ensure that any remedies which have worked well in the experience of the Home Office are applied within the Ministry of Defence.
I agree with the noble Lord that when there is a statistically random clusterwhich I have experienced in my work in the medical fieldit is psychologically attractive to draw conclusions. But it is clear from the review that that was not the case here. None the less, one death is one too many. We are not complacent about learning the lessons from this review, ensuring that these people have not died in vain, and robustly implementing the changes while taking into account, as the noble Lord says, the importance of time. It is important for us to look at these recommendations and to come back to the House in a few months with our responses. We should also ensure that we as Ministers make the right decisions on prioritisation of investment which will allow the changes to be implemented properly, to make a real difference in the timescale that is clearly needed.
Lord Moonie: My Lords, the incidence of suicide among under-25s serving in the Army is worryingly higher than it is in the general population; it is the only part of the Armed Forces where that is the case. Will my noble friend consider two points? First, it is due partly to the ease of access to live ammunition and an easy means of disposing with oneself. Secondly, what happened to the confidential independent hotline that the Armed Forces used to operate through the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association? I understand that that was superseded by a hotline run
29 Mar 2006 : Column 796
by the chain of command, which, frankly, I do not think is acceptable. Lastly, what happened to the inquiry that I instituted into suicide four years ago?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, my noble friend is correct to point out that the rate of suicide among under-20s is higher in certain subsets of the community and the general population, particularly within the British Army when compared with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. Encouragingly, there has in past years been a clear downward trend in the rate and significant improvement. There is now no statistical difference in the suicide rate among under-20s in the general population and that among those in the Armed Forces.
I do not know the position regarding the SSAFA charitable helpline which my noble friend mentions. I shall look into it and write to him. But I can confirm that the Ministry of Defence operates an increasing number of innovative approaches to ensure that people have access to mechanisms enabling them to report abuse, the most recent one being a confidential texting service. We are making available considerable additional resources to provide people with modern and easy ways to report abuse. I also stress that we regard it as an essential part of leadership that anyone who sees abuse taking place should regard it as incumbent on themselves to report it and make sure that something is done about it.
A message was brought from the Commons, That they do not insist on certain amendments to the Identity Cards Bill to which your Lordships have disagreed and they disagree to the remaining amendments, for which disagreement they have assigned their reason.
"(a) if the individual is not already entered in the Register, his application for a designated document must include or be accompanied by an application by that individual to be entered in the Register unless he has stated in or with his application for a designated document that he does not wish to apply to be entered in the Register;
29 Mar 2006 : Column 797
(b) if the individual is already entered in the Register, his application for a designated document must either state that he is already entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry or state that he is entered in the Register and confirm the contents of his entry subject to the changes notified in the application."
22K Clause 8, page 8, line 2, after "document" insert "in which he has not included or which is not accompanied by a statement in accordance with section 5(2) that he does not wish to be entered in the Register"
I note that the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, is not yet in his place. However, I wish to speak to Motion A1 standing in his name. I see that the noble Lord has now reached his place. In the best traditions of the House, he is seeking to reach an acceptable compromise in tabling Amendments Nos. 22M, 22N and 22O in lieu. I, on behalf of the Government, will urge my colleagues to support his Motion.
The Commons earlier today reaffirmed their view, for the fifth time, that those applying for a designated document should have their details entered on the national identity register and be issued with an ID card. As your Lordships are aware, this has been fundamental to the Government's approach in implementing the identity cards scheme, going back to our very first consultation exercise in 2002. That approach continued in the policy announcement in 2003, the draft Bill scrutinised by the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee in 2004, the Bill debated before the election, the Government's manifesto commitment, which we established yesterday was clearly understoodat least at the timeby the Liberal Democrats, and all our subsequent debates.
As I said yesterday, during our debates we have conceded on many points. We have moved and moved and moved again, to the point where it is hard to see what more the Government can give. I am grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, has persevered in his honourable attempts to find a way somewhere between "must" and "may".
The noble Lord's Motion preserves the integrity of the national identity register by ensuring that the details of all applicants for designated documents will be entered in the national identity register, an issue which, as I have explained on a number of occasions to the House, is key and central to the Government's delivery of the process. This will mean that they will all be afforded the protection that this will provide from identity theft. It will also provide the wider benefits to society by ensuring that attempts by people to establish multiple identities will be more easily detected.
Once the passport becomes the designated document, the noble Lord's amendment provides for a time-limited opt-out for people applying for passports to be issued with an identity card as well.
29 Mar 2006 : Column 798
I share the noble Lord's view that few people will opt out. For those who do, while they will not be able to prove their identity securely in a range of transactions with public and private sector organisations, they will also not be required to inform the authorities of changes in prescribed details such as their address; that obligation applies only to those to whom the ID card has been issued. As this has been one point that has appeared to cause some noble Lords concern, I hope that they will take this into account when deciding whether or not to support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, today.
If we are to secure value for money in the procurement process and obtain the full benefits of the scheme over time, there has to be certainty about the number of people registered and the proportion of people who hold ID cards. The noble Lord's amendment therefore sensibly sets a time limit on when the opt-out from being issued with an identity card would end. While the date of 1 January 2010 will add a degree of uncertainty to the Government's plans for implementing the scheme, this will, we hope, be manageable. I note that a number of noble Lords suggested the inclusion of a date yesterday. The debate has ranged around that issue. The date proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Armstrong, strikes a sensible compromise and is acceptable to the Government.
I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about our long and many debates on this Bill. In many respects, this House has performed its duty admirably in improving the Bill. But its actions in holding out against the clearly expressed wishes of the elected Chamber have put at risk this House's reputation
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|