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I cannot be alone in my concern that the first page of the gracious Speech was so dominated by a preoccupation with security and law and order. To put those issues first, however important they may be, is surely to risk giving the dangerous extremists an advantage. However acute the pressures, the first priority must be to spell out the quality of the society to which we are committed, the methods by which we are determined to build and strengthen it, the vision of the future we seek for our children and grandchildren, and, above all, the values that will guide us. Having established that, it is then entirely appropriate, indeed essential, to identify grave and far-reaching threats to what we seek to accomplish, and to put firmly on record our determination to withstand all attempts to divert us or to destroy what we hold dear.
We all know that in the end extremism will be contained only if we win the battle for hearts and minds, and if we generate an inclusive, widely based conviction that there really is a society with which the overwhelming majority, from all parts of our pluralist
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The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which I am a Member, has emphasised that it is a human rights responsibility of the Government to protect the people within their jurisdiction. Significantly, the committee has also argued that if measures introduced by government, individually or cumulatively, were by their counterproductivity in fact to make the situation more dangerous, the Government would not be fulfilling that responsibility. That does not mean that the good faith of Ministers would necessarily be in question. It is simply to observe that, in their commitment, Ministers could inadvertently be drawn into counterproductivity.
I believe that it is a primary duty of this House to be vigilant in helping Ministers avoid that fatal mistake. That may well arise in the context of any new counter-terrorism Bill; for example, where is the demonstrable and convincing evidence that a further extension of pre-charge detention is necessary? My noble and learned friend the Attorney-General, as I understand it, urges caution on this proposal. He is right.
As we consider any new criminal justice Bill, what would be the hearts and minds consequences of a new hierarchy that made security and public safety issues more foundational to the functioning of our legal system than human rights, the rule of law and justice, as we have come to value them in our society? Indeed, just what then would be the society we sought to defend? What are the risks of harm such a new approach to law would pose, or be perceived to pose, to minority communities and to our long-established understanding of what fair trial involves and means? Do we want to be a society that deports foreign nationals who have committed a crime, however unlikely they are to reoffend, back to a place with which they may be totally unfamiliar, where they may have few, if any, family or cultural connections, and where they may not even speak the language?
Is that the hallmark of the decent and civilised society that we are determined to defend? Does it help to win hearts and minds, or does it give another spur to alienation? Meanwhile, there remains the tragic absurdity that measures that undermine the quality of justice are introduced because of an obstinate refusal to countenance, even with safeguards, the introduction of intercept evidence into legal proceedings. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, continues to give us an imaginative lead on this. I fervently hope that it is a lead that we shall soon follow and endorse.
The gracious Speech highlighted new ideas of rebalancingas it is describedthe administration of justice to give greater consideration to victims. Of course, victims should be consistently at the centre of our concern. They must be able to participate as witnesses in legal proceedings. But justice is about justice; it is not about favouring the accused or the victim. To argue, as I have heard it
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In work with young offenders with whom I have been associated, I have repeatedly been struck by the reality that it would be almost a miracle if many of them had not found themselves in trouble with the law. The story of their young, formative years is frequently a terrible nightmare. To be tough on the causes of crime is to face up to that and to endeavour to address it before it is too late. To criminalise young people who are themselves the victims of failure in our society is clearly misguided. To realise that is not weak; it is what strong, self-confident, intelligent common sense and decent values demand. Similarly, can it make sense to overcrowd our prisons with those who are mentally sick, when that often aggravates their condition and when what is desperately needed is purpose-designed, secure accommodation in which they can be properly treated? Compulsory treatment in the community is, frankly, an unconvincing alternative.
The presumption of innocence has been a fundamental principle of our legal system. Are we still determined to uphold it? Or are we neglectfully allowing it to be incrementally eroded and removed? The cross-examination of witnesses has also been a pillar of our system. What would be the impact on that if victims were able to participate in court proceedings via television? A sane penal policy must make rehabilitation central to its objectives. Anything else is stupidity. Civilised values demand it. We want to see the criminal become a positive, reliable and contributing citizen. Sound economics make rehabilitation an imperative. The cost of reoffending and renewed imprisonment is prohibitive. Are we winning the battle for rehabilitation? How far is a warehouse culture reasserting itself as a result of the mushrooming prison population and a shortage of resources? There are many first-class, sometimes outstanding, imaginative people in the Prison Service, but their frustration at not being able to pursue effectively what makes sense is frequently painful to hear.
This House has an exacting year ahead. We must eschew populism or the self-defeating, myopic short-termism of playing to the worst end of the tabloid press. Simply because of the immediacy and gravity of the dangers that we all face it is, I am convinced, our historic responsibility to rededicate ourselves to the cause of what has been forged over centuries as the quality of enlightened justice and human rights, which make Britain a country worth living in and in
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Human rights are not a wet, speak-easy option for free riders. As the great statesmen and stateswomen who had endured World War Two so powerfully recognised in the conventions, human rights are an essential and strong foundation for a stable, free society. Where human rights are undermined or removed, extremism gains ground. Those who do not realise this, or who reject it, are the culprits who jeopardise our society. They fail us all in our endeavours to build and defend a genuinely free society. We must help the Government to resist them at all costs.
Lord Dear: My Lords, I begin in the traditional way, but none the less very sincerely, by expressing my great thanks to all members of staff in your Lordships House for their patience, courtesy and help during my first few weeks here. I also thank the Peers, who could not have been more welcoming and inclusive. Especially, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, for her advice and encouragement, and to the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Armstrong of Ilminster, who agreed to support me at my introduction to the House a month ago. I am privileged to have experienced so much support, and equally privileged to be able to speak in this debate today.
As some of your Lordships will know, I have had a varied career, perhaps at times an exciting one, serving as a police officer for over 30 years; then for a short time working on government inquiries and reviews; later chairing boards of companies operating on the fringe of what might loosely be called homeland security-land; also serving on the boards of charitable trusts. In the fullness of time, I should like to become involved in the work of your Lordships House across a number of fields, but today I want to address policing and national security.
As a basis, I will cite a quotation from the interim report of the Royal Commission on Police that was published almost 50 years ago; to be precise, in 1960. That royal commission, which reported in full in 1962, was the last major review to be carried out of the policing function in this countryoverall, top to bottom, root and branch. At the beginning of the report, it said:
To rank policing in 1960 on a par with national defence and the survival of the nation when we were in the middle of the Cold War might then have seemed a touch overblown, but there cannot surely now be any real dispute that the comparisons today are valid, living as we do with the constant threat of large-scale, international terrorism. The words of the 1960 and 1962 reports were strangely prophetic in that respect.
What about happiness, the third element of the quotation? The members of the 1960 royal commission were not concerned with the dictionary
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How very different in 2006. The members of the 1960 commission would not recognise the social scene todaythe constant threat of international terrorism, organised drugs-trafficking and the widespread abuse of drugs, the effects of large-scale immigration, ideological differences, violent crime, a lack of social cohesion, a materialistic society with volume crime as a consequence, and social mobility leading simultaneously to huge traffic problems and personal anonymity. The list is not exhaustive, and it brings me to my primary point.
Those problems demand new solutions. New solutions demand that different priorities should be addressed by the police. Those new priorities require that the primary police effort is focused at the top of the list, to where the need is greatest, to ensure the survival of a cherished and threatened way of life. Perhaps, like me, noble Lords are constantly impressed with the way that their police service is facing up to those new and urgent demands, with a dedication to the task in hand, and at times with raw courage. Recent events in London and elsewhere have shown just how much we rely on the police. A warning recently given by the Director-General of the Security Service underlined just how great the task remains.
Butthere is always a butall this is at a cost. Police resources are finite. Much has been spent on the police in recent years, most of it absorbed by dealing with the problems at the top of the list. The resources are not sufficient to allow proper attention to be paid now to the myriad problems at the bottom end of the scale that cause so much heartache and inconvenience to society overall. Petty crime, hooliganism and anti-social behaviour all flourish without sufficient attention by the police, who are necessarily diverted elsewhere in ways that would not have been countenanced only a few years ago.
Let me make my position clear. I do not advocate that we should in any way diminish our efforts in dealing with terrorism and other serious crime. We cannot afford to do that. We should not do that. But we should recognise what is happening day by day up and down the country. The examples are legionnecessarily trite, but impactive. For example, the owner reporting a lawnmower stolen from a garden shed is told by the police that they no longer visit the scene or make specific inquiries, but only quote a crime number for the owner to pass on to the insurance company. A report of a street disorder is met with the reply that police will attend when they can, but not immediately, and sometimes not at all. Burglary scenes are sometimes not visited until a day or more has passed. Only last week, I drove from the Midlands to North Yorkshire and back the following
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All that produces a police service that is frustrated, confused and disappointed that it cannot give the response looked for by the public. In turn the public are annoyed, feel abandoned and are largely unsympathetic with the police, and relationships deteriorate. The public are a fickle entity, as we know. They applaud the successes achieved by the police when combating matters at the top of the priority list, but simultaneously are naturally preoccupied with the everyday, ever-present minor problems, and they seek improvement. Some will say that the introduction of community safety officers, neighbourhood policing teams and the like will change all that. I hope so, but I rather doubt it, for the matters that we address in this and later debates are grave, and their resolution will remorselessly demand more and more police resources to address them, resources that will have to be diverted from the bottom end of the scale.
I spent much of my later years in the police heavily involved in countering serious organised crime and terrorism. I know what it is like to be a terrorist target; I know what it is like personally to experience a terrorist attack; I know what it is like to live with round-the-clock armed personal protection. To repeat myself, I do not in any way say that we should deflect attention from the very serious matters that occupy us now. I welcome the debates that will take place today and later as we seek to balance additional measures with civil rights. It is not an easy task. Over 200 years ago, Dr Johnson remarked:
What changes? Put more simply and simplistically, total freedom is anarchy and total order is tyranny, and I know that your Lordships are acutely aware of the need to strike the right balance in this regard, notwithstanding the difficulties.
As we remember those words, can we also remember that happiness in that context required a complete, top-to-bottom police response to all demands, small as well as large, serious and otherwise? The police and the public alike deserve nothing less.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, we have just listened to a remarkable speech. It was all about policing, what the police do, what policing does and what the recipients expect of the police, and who could deliver it better than the noble Lord, Lord Dear, in his maiden speech? I congratulate him on that and welcome him to these debates in your Lordships' House. I have known him for many years; I knew him when he was Chief Constable of the West Midlands and when he
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My somewhat insignificant contribution today will be on the constitution. I was fascinated by the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Luce, who said that he was frightened that it would be controversial. I did not think that it was controversial at all, just that it was eminently sensible.
Her Majestys gracious Speech referred, somewhat inevitably, to Lords reform. Somehow, Lords reform seems to be to the Government what a mouse is to a catyou must never leave it alone, but must go on with it, play with it, tweak it, make it miserable, and then sit back with glee and see what happens. After all the hoo-hah that has gone on about cash for peerages, it is odd to see the Government start on again about House of Lords reform. It makes some people look back with mild nostalgia to the days of the hereditary Peers, when those sorts of funny things did not seem to happen.
I was glad to hear, however, that the Government intend to seek consensus on Lords reform, and only if they find it to introduce proposals. The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made it clear that consensus was a requirement before any Lords reform could take place, and I was grateful to him for emphasising that. However, as consensus on Lords reform has proved impossible over the past nine years, despite royal commissions, joint committees, consensus groups and heaven knows whatnot, it would seem a very optimistic person who would think that consensus would suddenly drop out of the sky, as it were.
I wish that the Government would leave the House of Lords alone for a while. We have seen so many changes in the past few yearsand not many for the better. The House needs time to settle down before we start upheaving it all again. If you keep lifting a cabbage out of the ground, shaking all the soil off its roots and then planting it back again, it is not surprising that the poor thing will not grow properly. After all, it is not as if there is a demand for House of Lords reform from the public. It is not as if the House is not doing its work well. Everyonenone more so than Members of your Lordships' Housespends their time saying what wonderful work the House of Lords does and how much it is respected. That is my experience too.
In the big wide world outside the insulated, incestuous confines of the Palace of Westminster, your Lordships House is admired. I respectfully suggest that the way in which it does its work is greatly admired too. Most people are thankful for the
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It is really only intellectual avarice which drives people constantly to search for a democratic utopia in your Lordships House. It will, of course, never be found. There is no magic solution for your Lordships House which will suddenly enable us to relax and say, Ah, now at last we have found the perfect answer. I cannot understand why we never found it before. Now let us sit back and enjoy it. That will not happen.
By constantly nagging at the second Chamber we create uncertainty and destabilise confidence in the constitution. Democracy means rule by the people, rather like aristocracy means rule by the best, but we shall not go down that route. Democracy does not really mean rule by elected peoplealthough we have taken it to mean thatbecause elected people can produce totally different results depending on the method by which they have been elected. Democracythat unobtainable miragereally means trying to ensure that the will of the people is carried out. I venture to suggest that in many instances your Lordships House has better reflected the wishes of the people than has another place. In that way, it could be said on many occasions to have been more democratic.
We witnessed last week the remarkable opening of Parliament by Her Majesty. It was a wonderful occasion. I never cease to be amazed by it, and to be in awe of it. I love the glory, the pomp, the pageantry, the sparkle, the colour and the meaning of it all, with each person in his or her robes or uniforms representing a facet of the constitution, including the Yeomen of the Guard picking up their lanterns and searching the Houseand having a glass of port afterwardsthe Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, the Sword of State, the Cap of Maintenance, your Lordships in your Lordships' robes, and the Queen wearing the Imperial State Crown imparting such dignity.
It was a great occasion and one that everyone enjoyed. The whole panoply depicts and emphasises the constitutionits meaning and what underlies it. That is why we love it, and why people from other countries love it, look on it, admire it too, and envy it.
The fashionable thing is to say, Get rid of the hereditary Peers. Make them all life Peers, so that the hereditary peerage can ride off into the sunset and, when they are all dead, hereditary Peers will no longer be in Parliament. And that will be that. That may satisfy some intellectual debaters, but it does not satisfy everyone. What are you left with? It will be a House that is either appointed or elected. I can never understand why people should want the second Chamber to be elected or part-elected. Those who are elected will feel that they are superior to those who are appointed. The elected ones will always be jumping up at Question Time to get in first, which will make the present behaviour of your Lordships at Question Time look like a vicarage tea party.
The idea of the right honourable Mr Jack Straw to have 50 per cent appointed and 50 per cent elected finds few supporterseven, I think on his own side. As for the leaders of my own party suggesting 80 per
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