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Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it would be a good idea if local authorities were able to set aside some green spaces for allotments for inner-city schoolchildren who otherwise never see a blade of grass?

Baroness Andrews: Yes, my Lords. There is nothing to stop local authorities doing that. This particular planning statement requires them to audit and think about what green space they need and how they will use it. That would be a very good invitation to schools, particularly as school gardens are also coming back into fashion, which is a pleasure to see.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, statutory allotments are the responsibility of parish councils where they exist. Many parish councils would like to provide new allotments but cannot afford the capital costs of setting them up. Very often allotments are quite cheap to run and maintain—obviously a huge amount of voluntary labour is involved—but it is expensive to set them up, to buy the land and to create them in the first place. Would it be a good idea to have a better system of grants to parish councils to set up allotments?

Baroness Andrews: My Lords, parish councils can raise certain amounts of money themselves, of course. I am sure that the noble Lord will be pleased that we are encouraging more parish councils to be created. There are other ways in which a small amount of land can be set aside and bodies such as Groundwork can help in that process. I shall consider what the noble Lord said.

Prisoners: Foreign Nationals

2.58 pm

Lord Waddington asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Immigration and Nationality Directorate’s director-general updated the Home Affairs Committee on 9 October regarding the 1,013 foreign national prisoners released without deportation consideration. That update outlined the progress being made in dealing with those who committed the most or more serious offences. The director-general explained that 38 of the 43 most serious offenders and two-thirds of the 146 more serious offenders have had their cases resolved or brought under control.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for her Answer, as far as it goes. Of the kidnappers, arsonists, rapists, drug traffickers and murderers who the Government say were among the 1,023 criminals released without proper consideration

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of deportation, should the public not be told in plain language how many in each category have been rounded up and deported, and how many are still unaccounted for? Is it not correct that such progress as has been made in rounding these people up has been at the expense of the campaign to get rid of failed asylum seekers? In the past few months, the number of failed asylum seekers still in the country has actually gone up.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we have made those details available, which is why the director-general made her regular reports. The details were contained in her statement. For the purposes of clarity, 20 individuals from that group have been detained, eight have been granted bail by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, four have been removed from the UK, a decision has been made not to deport seven, and five of the most serious are currently not under control. Those figures were given, and we are determined to drive them down.

We have two important issues. First, we must ensure that offenders are dealt with appropriately and not released until the issue of their deportation has been settled. Secondly, we must deal with the tipping point. Both of those issues are being worked at with great energy.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, can the Minister assure us that what is, after all, just a shortcoming on the part of the Home Office will not be used to undermine the Human Rights Act 1998 in any way?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the Human Rights Act is certainly not being undermined. I hear what the noble Lord says about shortcomings at the Home Office. I reassure the House that these issues are decades old, and the Government are tackling them with great energy.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is it not within the power of judges, in sentencing, to order deportation at the end of a sentence? Have they been reminded that they have this power?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Countess is right that judges have that power. We are making strenuous efforts to ensure that people’s nationality is accurately identified. Many do not disclose their nationality at the inception of proceedings. We are doing as much as we can to ensure that that is changed.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, what proportion of prisoners are foreign nationals? What was the percentage when the Government came to office some 10 years ago?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the figures are fluid and I therefore want to give them accurately. About 10,000 prisoners purport to be foreign nationals. I put it that way because some will be EEA, Irish and

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Commonwealth nationals who will have rights to reside in this country under rules made under the last Administration, giving permission for people to remain after 1973. I shall write to the noble Lord about the figures for those who were here before 1997.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, why was the specialist group set up to track down these prisoners disbanded only a few weeks after it was established, when only 86 of the 1,023 prisoners had been found?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the group was disbanded to ensure that another took over. The system we put in place was to deal with these issues effectively. We took strenuous efforts to identify all these individuals, and identified the majority.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, in her answer to me, the Minister referred to a “tipping point”. Will she remind noble Lords what she was talking about? Was it not an undertaking by the Government that they would work for a situation where more failed asylum seekers were being removed from the country than were coming into the system as newly processed failed asylum seekers? Is the truth not that the Government have failed dismally in reaching that tipping point?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, it is not true that the Government have failed dismally. The noble Lord will know that for two quarters the tipping point was met and, in fact, surpassed. In the past two quarters, there has been more difficulty, and the tipping point has been narrowly missed. But the energy to get us to the stage where we are deporting more people than are making applications is certainly continuing and has been invigorated in the past year to make sure that the target is met.

Concessionary Bus Travel Bill [HL]

3.05 pm

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision about travel concessions; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Disabled Persons (Independent Living) Bill [HL]

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to impose duties upon certain persons and bodies in respect of disabled persons; to confer certain rights upon disabled persons for independent living; to amend the Mental Health Act 1983; to amend the Care Standards Act 2000; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

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Administration and Works Committee

Liaison Committee

Procedure Committee

Works of Art Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Administration and Works Committee

Moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to consider administrative services, accommodation and works, including works relating to security, within financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

V Allenby of Megiddo,

L Cope of Berkeley,L Grocott,B Hollis of Heigham,E Mar and Kellie,B Masham of Ilton,L Naseby,L Shutt of Greetland,Bp Southwell and Nottingham,V Ullswater,B Wilkins,L Williamson of Horton;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time.

Liaison Committee

Moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to advise the House on the resources required for Select Committee work and to allocate resources between Select Committees; to review the Select Committee work of the House; to consider requests for ad hoc committees and report to the House with recommendations; to ensure effective co-ordination between the two Houses; and to consider the availability of Members to serve on committees;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

B Amos (Lord President),

L Geddes,B McIntosh of Hudnall,L McNally,L Moser,L Richard,L Strathclyde,B Thomas of Winchester,L Wakeham,L Williamson of Horton;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time;

That the committee have power to appoint specialist advisers.

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Procedure Committee

Moved, that the Select Committee on Procedure of the House be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

L Addington,

B Amos (Lord President),V Bledisloe,L Cope of Berkeley,B David,B D’Souza,L Elton,L Grocott,B Hayman (Lord Speaker),L McNally,B Northover,L Rosser,B Shephard of Northwold,L Shutt of Greetland,L Strathclyde,L Wakeham,L Williams of Elvel,L Williamson of Horton;

And that the following Members be appointed as alternate members:

L Dubs,

L Jopling,L Palmer,V Slim,B Thomas of Winchester.

Works of Art Committee

Moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to administer the House of Lords Works of Art Collection Fund; and to consider matters relating to works of art and the artistic heritage in the House of Lords, within financial limits approved by the House Committee;

That, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Members be appointed to the committee:

L Bernstein of Craigweil,

L Crathorne (Chairman),V Falkland,L Gavron, E Glasgow,L Harris of Peckham,B Hilton of Eggardon,E Onslow,L Palmer,Ly Saltoun of Abernethy,L Thomas of Swynnerton,B Trumpington;

That the committee have leave to report from time to time.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, I shall say a word on advisory speaking times. Occasionally, such advice gives rise to exchanges in the House, but they are

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advisory speaking times. They are not compulsory, but unless the House has some advice from someone who has the job of doing the arithmetic about the number of speakers and the advisory finishing time, which is 10 o’clock today, no one will have the faintest idea of what a reasonable length of speech is. So, with that disclaimer, I am saying that, for us to finish at 10 o’clock, Back-Bench contributions need to be a maximum of 13 minutes long.

Debate on the Address

3.07 pm

Debate resumed on the Motion moved on Wednesday 15 November by the Lord Giddens—namely, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to open this debate on the Queen’s Speech. First, I take the opportunity to thank my noble friend Lord Sainsbury of Turville for his tireless work in your Lordships’ House and within the Government. He has consistently championed the case for UK science and technology and has had a significant personal influence on the drive to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our universities and to bring more of the fruits of their work to the market. My noble friend has inspired enormous respect in the scientific community. He also spoke for the Department of Trade and Industry in your Lordships’ House and worked extensively on primary and secondary legislation in a number of areas, including energy, employment rights and company law reform. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing him well and in looking forward to the continuation of his erudite contributions to your Lordships’ debates.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

My Lords, I also take the opportunity to wish the noble Lords, Lord Bilimoria and Lord Rowe-Beddoe, well with their maiden speeches. We eagerly look forward to their contributions to today’s debate.

I shall start by looking at the economic climate and, in particular, at globalisation and how the Government can help to create the conditions for business success. Since 1997, we have created a strong and stable economy that has underpinned and strengthened the business environment. That has led to record continuous growth and high employment. We have had the longest period of low inflation since the 1960s and historically low interest rates. Over the past nine years, we have had the longest period of sustained growth for 200 years.

Globalisation is one of our major challenges and one of the major opportunities facing business today.

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The rapid growth of emerging economies, such as India and China, provide substantial opportunities for the UK, with new markets for our exporters and investors and cheaper and more diverse goods and services for our consumers. The Government cannot create business, but they can and should create the conditions where business can grow and flourish. This is a key role for the Department of Trade and Industry. We provide support to companies to ensure that this country remains one of the best places in the world to do business. There are now 600,000 more small and medium-sized enterprises than there were in 1997, supported by Business Link and the DTI’s Small Business Service. To maintain our economic position, we must continue to develop technology—£3.5 billion of the department’s budget goes to science and innovation. That is around half of the department’s total budget. That has more than doubled since 1997. That is necessary, as in our global economy we will prosper only if we are at the forefront of innovation and invention.

The UK continues to have an envied record in research. With just 1 per cent of the world’s population, we produce 9 per cent of all scientific papers and receive 12 per cent of all citations. We cannot compete on low wages or low skills, and nor should we. We can and must compete on quality and excellence, skills and high added value and particularly on our ability to innovate.

The UK is well placed to meet future challenges. We are restructuring our economy rapidly and effectively. We lead Europe in a number of knowledge-based industries, such as aerospace and pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, mobile communications and photonics. Since 1997 the value of collaborative research between universities and businesses has increased by more than 50 per cent. In the past two years alone, 20 spin outs from UK universities have floated on the stock market, with a combined value of more than £1 billion. We have developed new business opportunities in the creative industries and microtechnology and nanotechnology.

The UK must respond to globalisation by raising productivity and competitiveness. We are making progress in raising productivity growth over the economic cycle. We have made progress in closing the productivity gap with France and Germany. These improvements in productivity are all the more impressive because they have coincided with a very strong recent UK employment performance.

The UK competition regime is also well regarded. A recent report of individual competition enforcement agencies ranked the Competition Commission joint first in the world.

The DTI’s productivity agenda demands an efficient market framework. That includes, as I have just mentioned, rules to maintain competition to keep markets fair and protect employees and consumers. Regulation should be simple to understand and should avoid unnecessary burdens on business. Creating an effective regulatory regime is key to creating the conditions for business success, especially for small firms.

There can and should be no apology for laws providing for health and safety in the workplace. We

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have shown that you can deliver fairness in the workplace and a strong economy. We are determined to keep it that way. We want to ensure that where we have to regulate, we do so with as light a touch as possible. We need to ensure that the costs imposed are proportionate and do not undermine the benefits provided. We also want to reduce the administrative burden—unnecessary paperwork and red tape—associated with existing regulation. The DTI has already committed to delivering £1 billion worth of reductions in regulatory burdens by 2010.

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