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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I understand the pain and difficulty that Pauline Campbell may be in, so I will rephrase that and say that it is not a just assessment of the conditions in prisons.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, rightly emphasised the issue of children and Every Child Matters, and I strongly agree with her. The work that we are doing in this area is not simply dependent on what we are doing in prisons; it is what we are doing on education, with Every Child Matters and Sure Start. All those things will contribute to an improvement of the way that we respond.
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What we are doing to support women who are domestic violence victims is immensely important. The programmes of specialist domestic violence courts now have tremendous results, and there has been a clear improvement in the number of women who start cases and are able to go right the way through. There is an improvement in the number of women who are now able to get orders that keep them protected. In the areas where specialist domestic violence courts operate, we do not have people coming back. The numbers of women who are killed by their partners or ex-partners are going down. Before we started specialist domestic violence courts, 120 women died every year, which is two to three women a week. Now it has gone down to 100, and it looks as if it is going lower.
The number of incidents of domestic violence may also be reducing although, with the grace of God, the numbers who have the courage to report it are going up. These are very positive things. There is much work to do, and I will obviously listen and look very carefully at the report that my noble friend Lady Corston will be issuing in December. This issue is not closed. I know from those who sit behind me, not least my noble friend Lord Acton, that it will not be closed until he and a number of other noble Lords get their way.
Lord Acton: My Lords, I am delighted that my noble friend should refer to me again and not call me either Guildenstern or Rosencrantz; it is a marvellous sensation. Is it within the terms of reference of my noble friend Lady Corston to recommend a women's justice board?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have not limited the nature of the recommendations that the noble Baroness can make. She has been tasked to look at the needs of vulnerable women who have very complex needs, to look at the system, and then to report. I have not restricted the areas on which she may feel it is pertinent to report.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for replying with her habitual courtesy and care and for covering so many issues raised this afternoon. I was particularly delighted with her last remarkthat this issue is not closed. I also thank all noble Lords who have made such marvellous contributions to the debate, and for the depth of those contributions, which must have taken considerable time to prepare. I am certain that when people read this debate and see the evidence there, they will see that considerable knowledge already exists about the needs and the vulnerabilities of this neglected group of offenders.
I am very glad to hear that the issue is not closed. I am slightly bemused to hear that we cannot have a champion for women in the criminal justice system because there is not a separate framework for women in law. I believe that it is possible in any organisation to have a champion of people who has responsibility and accountability for looking after their affairs.
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Although I am delighted to hear that there is a policy group in NOMS, I know from experience that policy groups do not take action. Action is what we need to take.
I am glad that so many noble Lords have mentioned the staff in the Prison Service and the probation service and the problems that they face. I commend in particular the determined efforts of the current director general, Phil Wheatley, in leading his service in enormously difficult times, faced as he is with the imminent absolute lock-out of having all his places occupied.
I am sure that noble Lords will agree that we have had a vastly interesting and well informed debate. I hope that the Minister will take all of the contributions in the spirit in which they were meant. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.
First, I should like to pay tribute to my right honourable friend, Tom Clarke, who piloted the Bill with a winning combination of determination and idealism through the other place, in a manner which showed why he is held in such great respect on all sides. I also welcome support for the Bill from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark, who regrets that he cannot attend the debate at this late hour, and likewise from the noble Baroness, Lady Chalker of Wallasey. She has asked me to say why she supports the Bill, which I shall turn to later. I very much look forward to the maiden speeches of my noble friend Lady Quin and the noble Lord, Lord Cotter.
Before very briefly outlining the Bill, I want to say that it comes to us in a much more worked-over form than some. Not only have many of the most prominent NGOs taken part in its drafting; it is the product of support, indeed enthusiasm, from all parties. It has already received a lot of attention to detail and coverage. Your Lordships will wish to be aware of the conscientiousness of the participants in the Committee stage in the other place, and of the flexibility of Ministers.
There is a reason beyond enthusiasm for the subject in this. It is that a Private Member's Bill can become an Act only if its life here as a Bill is short, neat and tidy. If it is not regarded as complete after coming to your Lordships' House, it will fall to the axe of the timetables for government legislation. I am reassured by all parties in your Lordships' House that this fledgling Bill will be able to fly as it did from the other place. But we shall need to keep the process short.
The Bill's purpose is simple. It is to see that the promises of this Government made at Gleneagles, one year ago next week, and any made by future
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Governments, are kept. Its essence is simple: accountability. Accountability in delivering effectively the aid which thousands upon thousands of people marched for to Make Poverty History. Accountability to that public, through Parliament.
Thus, the first provision of the Bill is for an annual report by the Secretary of State to Parliament. The report must include the year's progress towards the goal of 0.7 per cent of gross national income for official development assistance, and this is even explicit in the Long Title of the Bill. It must include general progress towards achieving millennium development goals 1 to 7 through UK assistance and the multilateral aid to which the UK contributes; the specific effectiveness of UK bilateral aid in no fewer than 20 countriesa number reached after successful challenge by NGOs and by honourable friends of Members oppositewith an undertaking that for the duration of this Parliament the number will be taken to cover the 25 countries in DfID's public service agreement; and, finally, progress in promoting untied aid.
As well as qualitative assessments, the report must also provide the statistical data set out in the scheduleactual sums of aid in various categories, sums of debt relieved, the total percentage of gross national income spent on official development assistance, and the percentage given to low-income countries. Bilateral aid is to be broken down by region, country and sector. Humanitarian assistance must also be detailedanother point successfully made in Committee in the other place. Bilateral official development assistance must be broken down by country, and the imputed UK share of multilateral official development assistance by country must also be given.
And it is not only DfID's own activity which the Secretary of State must report on. He or she must also include a section on the effects of the policies and programmes of other government departments on the promotion of sustainable development and the reduction of poverty in developing countries, especially as this relates to MDG 8. This must specifically include an account of progress towards an open trading system which,
Very importantly, this section must also cover what other departments do to promote transparency in both the provision of aid and the use made of aid, as well as measures to manage and monitor the use of aid, preventing corruption and ensuring that targets are clear.
So, for recipients the Bill will give the power to see in advance what aid flows come from the UK so they can plan ahead. And it will set an example of good governance in our own disbursement of aid, which will also enable parliamentarians in receiving countries to hold their own governments to account. They will know how much has been received and for what
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purpose, just as here the Bill will sharpen the responsibility of Members of both Houses to chase progress towards the millennium development goals.
"First, there is insufficient informed knowledge in our Parliament, let alone among our nation as a whole, about the reality of the world in which we live, and where often by dedicated but limited co-operation with the Government or NGO's in a developing country the United Kingdom can make a huge improvement for the people of that country. Second, there is a need for precise information to assist the debate. Third, it is important that the co-ordination of assistance overseas is clarified by spelling out the amounts and type of aid provided through the many multilateral organisations. The Bill provides well for this to be done".
All this represents a statutory codification which goes beyond current practice and which gives Parliament a much stronger role in ensuring that the considerable sums the UK taxpayer gives really make a difference. I commend the Bill to the House.
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