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The amendment is unnecessary because provision to achieve the intention behind it is already contained in the Mental Health Act 1983. The Act gives the Secretary of State and the National Assembly for Wales a duty to keep under review the powers and duties relating to detained patients and directs her to delegate that duty to the Mental Health Act Commission. Section 121(4) allows the Secretary of State, following a request from or after consultation with the commission, and after any other consultation that she sees fit, to direct the commission to keep under review the care and treatment of any patients not liable to be detained.

However, I can give noble Lords a commitment that we will explore making a direction under Section 121(4). This will be no quick fix, because we are required to carry out a consultation and we would need to have discussions with colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Government to explore the options available there. Any future work in respect of Wales, including a formal consultation, would of course require the agreement of Welsh Ministers. However, on that basis and with that firm commitment, I invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Patel: My Lords, on a pleasant note, I thank the Minister for agreeing to look at this further and for recognising that we can address these issues using the existing powers of the 1983 Act. She will be aware that the Mental Health Act Commission has submitted a formal request for existing powers to be used to put a stop to the arbitrary limitations in relation to its inability to address de facto detained patients. I am keen to work with the Government and

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I await their response to the request that we have already submitted. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 52 and 53 not moved.]

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon moved Amendment No. 54:


The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this group of amendments relates to cross-border issues. The majority of them follow from changes made in Scotland which amend the Mental Health Act 1983; the others seek to clarify the position of patients granted escorted leave from elsewhere in the UK or from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man who wish to visit England and Wales.

Amendments Nos. 54, 62 to 65, 90 to 93, 96 and 97 have been laid because of amendments brought forward by the Scottish Executive, in the consideration of the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Bill, which amend the Mental Health Act 1983 in relation to Scotland. The ASP Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament on 15 February; it is expected to receive Royal Assent in March 2007 and to come into force in spring 2008. It will repeal Sections 88 and 128 and remove the references to these provisions in Section 146 of the Mental Health Act 1983, but only as a matter of Scottish law. These amendments reflect the changes made in Scotland to the Mental Health Act 1983 and apply them to the rest of the UK. Their effect will not have a practical impact on the care of patients in Scotland or in the rest of the UK; they simply align the law in Scotland and the law in the rest of the UK. I commend the amendments to your Lordships’ House.

Amendments Nos. 61 and 66 clarify the position of patients on escorted leave in England and Wales from elsewhere in the UK or from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, and the legal powers of their escorts. Under Section 17 of the 1983 Act, the clinician giving leave to a detained patient may determine that it is necessary in a patient’s own interests, or for the protection of others, that the patient remains in custody or be escorted during a leave of absence. Section 137 provides that a patient granted escorted leave in England and Wales is deemed to be in the legal custody of their escort. Section 138 provides for the retaking of a patient who escapes from such lawful custody.

Amendment No 61, by adding two subsections to Section 17, will engage these provisions for patients on escorted leave in England and Wales from other jurisdictions. The effect is to put beyond doubt that a patient who is granted leave in another jurisdiction, under a provision corresponding to Section 17, may be conveyed, kept in custody or detained by their

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escort while in England and Wales and retaken in the event that they escape. This will benefit patients from other jurisdictions, particularly those in hospitals outside England and Wales whose relatives live in England and Wales. A clinician is more likely to grant escorted leave into England and Wales if the patient’s health and safety and the health and safety of others can be protected and the legal position is clear. Other jurisdictions are considering similar legislation to ensure that a patient on escorted leave from a hospital in England and Wales is deemed to be in legal custody and that there is a power to retake a patient who escapes from lawful custody.

Amendment No. 66 is consequential. It amends regulations that apply to people who may be taken into custody under Scottish legislation so that regulations may be made in respect of patients on leave in Scotland from another jurisdiction. I beg to move.

7.30 pm

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Carnegy, who unfortunately cannot be here, has asked me to express her thanks to the Minister for the letter that she kindly wrote on 11 January in response to a point made on these issues by my noble friend on 10 January.

My noble friend has, however, asked me to put a question. Let us suppose that a patient is detained north of the Border under Scottish law and a proposal is made for that patient to be transferred nearer to his or her family south of the Border. My noble friend’s fear is that, unless the basis on which the patient is detained in Scotland accords with English law, it will not be possible to transfer that patient because, were they to be transferred south of the Border, they would have to be released, which would not of course be satisfactory. Does not a practical problem arise out of the disparity between Scottish law and the Bill?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, there is the potential in theory for a patient to meet the criteria for compulsion in one country and not another. In practice, however, that is very unlikely to arise. Prior to any transfer taking place, there will be discussions between the hospital where the patient is being treated and the hospital to which they wish to transfer. It would be questionable whether, as a matter of law, the managers of a hospital in any jurisdiction could agree to accept, as a detained patient, a person who they may have reason to think would not meet the criteria for detention. I trust that that clarifies the position for the noble Earl.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, I suggest that Report stage begin again not before 8.31 pm.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

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English for Speakers of Other Languages

7.31 pm

Lord Greaves rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what provision they will make for the teaching of English for speakers of other languages in England in the next academic year.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this debate is about the provision of English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) in the financial year from this summer. I should declare the interest that my wife is an ESOL teacher.

This debate is timely; there will be an important lobby on Wednesday, which has been organised by the University and College Union and many other bodies on behalf of the “Save ESOL” campaign. I pay tribute to those who organised this campaign and the many people around the country who expressed considerable concern about the Government’s proposals. I thank those noble Lords who want to speak in this short debate. I will listen with great interest to the Minister’s reply.

This is a many-faceted and complex issue. I shall put my own slant on it based on the area that I know best: the Pendle and Burnley area in east Lancashire. What is proposed? The Learning and Skills Council, with the Government’s support, proposes to restrict access to free ESOL classes from this summer. The suggestion is that, apart from those who will be excused fees, people should pay 30 per cent of fees this year, rising to 50 per cent in 2010. ESOL classes lead to examinations under the Skills for Life programme at five different levels: the entry level, E1, which is for beginners; E2; E3, which is the benchmark for the citizenship test; and levels one and two, at which stage one might be able to take GCSEs. They are about speaking, listening, reading and writing; in other words, they are about basic language skills, which are the key to so many things that make a full life possible, and which the Government say they believe in.

What are the Government’s beliefs in this regard? They have a belief in citizenship: it is very important to be a full and active citizen in this country and for people to be able to communicate, and that means fluency in English. They believe in the integration of individuals in the communities in which they live and work and in the integration of communities. Five or six years ago, after the disturbances in some northern cities, there was much talk about parallel communities. We had the Cantle report, the Ouseley report and the report from the Burnley taskforce and the noble Lord, Lord Clarke of Hampstead. The underlying tale in the reports was of the dangers of allowing communities to develop, live and exist separately from the wider community.

In the Pendle and Burnley area, we have a large south Asian community; it is a very traditional community in many ways but it has a great deal to offer. If left without any positive action, it is likely to suffer from the parallel communities problem. Along with those aims and objectives, there is the overriding aim of social cohesion. All those are fundamentally linked to the acquisition of language skills.

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Who will miss out under the Government’s proposals? It will vary a lot in different parts of the country. My understanding is that Nelson and Colne College, in the area where I live, is planning for a 50 per cent cut in ESOL numbers next year. Low-paid workers will miss out. They may be migrant workers or members of ethnic-minority communities on the minimum wage or below—plenty of people are paid less than the minimum wage—or part-time workers, who may be paid the minimum hourly wage but have a take-home pay each week that is a lot less.

The second group of those who will miss out, on which I want to concentrate, is non-employed people—people without jobs who are not unemployed. Many are women who used to be called housewives; nowadays a more politically correct description appears to be “carers in the home”. This involves women who work in the home and keep the family and the home going but who do not have a job—they have never had them—and are therefore not entitled to benefits. There are also older men who may have come to this country 30 or 40 years ago to work night shifts in the mills. Those nightshift workers were almost all Asian and did not need English to work. They are now cut off from proper participation in the wider society because of their lack of English. There are also asylum seekers, whom my noble friend Lord Avebury will discuss. Our experience in Nelson is that the ability of asylum seekers to go to ESOL classes from the moment they arrived was a very important part of encouraging and enabling them to live in the local community.

I want to talk in particular about women. In many ways this is a feminist issue. The Nelson-Colne experience in the past few years is that an increasing number of women of all ages have attended ESOL classes. Some of them are young marrieds, fresh over from the Indian subcontinent; others are mothers who have been here for 30 years, have never found the opportunity or necessity to learn English but have now plucked up the courage to go to ESOL classes. Unfortunately, a traditional aspect in south Asian communities in such areas is that, if those women have to pay, they must get funding from the rest of the family because in many cases they have no money of their own. Given the choice of sending young or older women, or young men—who may have come from south Asia and lack English but who need that ability to get a job—they will choose the young men. Many of these women have been very brave: they have overcome the great reluctance—and, in some cases, opposition—of many of the men folk in their families to go to these classes. The future is bleak for that group.

I want to refer to two initiatives among many in my part of the world. The Briefield Women’s Group, run by Councillor Naseem Shabnam, a colleague of mine, is a multicultural group, half of whose members are white and the other half Asian. It is a real breakthrough. It is a local campaigning and social group in the small town of Briefield.

In Nelson, there is a very exciting regeneration project called the Whitefield Regeneration Partnership. It is regenerating an area of rundown and old terraced houses, many of which are empty, in a heritage-based way in a mainly Asian area. It is innovative and

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exciting and it will be tremendous. Lesley Chisnell-Helm, the secretary of the Whitefield Community Forum, which is the residents’ group, has recently been organising meetings of Asian mothers from the local school and playgroup. These people are excited and have very strong ideas, which are not necessarily the same as those of the men folk from those families. Those are just two groups among many where women are beginning to take part in the community. They are beginning to break down the barriers not just between the communities but within their own community. However, they need language skills to do that and, without such skills, this kind of initiative is impossible.

Some people referred to language-isolated communities. There are certainly many language-isolated households where the common language is not English and where the television is often tuned to a satellite station that does not broadcast in English. It is vital that the women in these households learn English. It is linked to many of the Government’s general objectives and to the education of very young children. If more English were spoken, including by mothers, these children would not start with the handicaps that they have when they go to school, and indeed they could take part in the education of the older children.

Learning English is also important for children’s health and well-being, the regeneration of areas, as I have suggested, integration and cohesion, and friendships across the cultural divide. It is essential that individual friendships develop between people in different communities but, if there is no common language, that will be impossible.

I want to finish by asking the Government some questions. First, have they carried out an assessment of the likely fee levels, and how much are they likely to vary from college to college? Is £300 for 30 weeks, at four hours a week, the kind of level that people might be talking about? Secondly, what proportion of existing students is likely to get the full fee remission? It must be possible to know that because we know who the existing students are. Thirdly, what research have the Government done on the elasticity of demand following the introduction of ESOL fees? In other words, what do they believe the drop-out rate will be? Fourthly, what research have they undertaken into the willingness of employers of migrant workers to pay fees for ESOL classes? Finally, what is the expected increase in class sizes under the new system, which I gather will take place, and what effect do the Government think it will have on the quality of provision?

I want to read to noble Lords an examination answer from an E3 student in response to being asked to:

The answer read:

ABCDEFG John is hiding far from meLooking here, looking there,I can’t see him anywhereIs hiding

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‘Language is not an abstract construction of the learned or of dictionary-makers, but is something arising out of the work, needs, ties, joys, tastes of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground’”.

That really describes the present system of ESOL provision. It is broad and low; it is close to the ground. The student ended by saying, “Take care”. I ask the Government to take a little more care with the ESOL provision in this country.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, perhaps I may guide noble Lords. The digital clock was out by four minutes.

7.44 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, my noble friend has convincingly demonstrated the proposition that he put to your Lordships at the beginning of his speech: that the acquisition of language skills is fundamental to social cohesion. That is certainly the case in my noble friend’s area, where ESOL provision has been, and should continue to be, the key to the social cohesion of his constituency.

However, as my noble friend said, I want to focus, in particular, on the decision to stop ESOL for asylum seekers. I consider this a particularly unpleasant idea which is based on false assumptions and is detrimental to the public interest. The Minister, Bill Rammell, in his Guardian article of 16 January headed, “We cannot sustain current levels of funding for ESOL provision”, justified the withdrawal of tuition from asylum seekers over the age of 19 on the grounds that taxpayers’ money should not be used to support the learning of English by people who are expected to leave the country. At the same time, he extolled the IND’s success in determining 80 per cent of applications within eight weeks, half of them leading to refusals.

According to the latest Home Office statistics, the number of asylum claims has been falling steadily since 2003, so these applicants are not responsible for the,

to which the Minister referred in that article. Both the smaller numbers and the speeding up of determinations will have reduced the cost of ESOL tuition for asylum seekers, although the actual figure is 69 per cent of applications determined within eight weeks, not 80 per cent as the Minister claimed, and the figure has been going down.

Roughly, 20 per cent of the applicants are given leave to remain and another 20 per cent succeed on first appeal. In all, something like half of all applicants are allowed to stay here by the time they have been through the whole process and not 30 per cent, as alleged by Mr Rammell on the BBC programme “The Learning Curve” yesterday evening. So, if all asylum seekers were equally likely to end up

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permanently settled in the UK, half the spending on free English tuition for them would be not only reasonable but imperative if they are to put their talents to full use for the benefit of themselves, their families and the host community. By giving successful applicants a head start in the job market, we have been helping them to contribute to the economy and to repay, through their taxes, the cost of the services that they receive.

In fact, the proportion of spending on those who are likely to be unsuccessful will be much lower than 50 per cent because most of them already are not eligible for ESOL classes. Those who are sent to other EU countries under the Dublin convention, non-suspensive appeal cases—that is, people who do not have a right of appeal in the UK—and those who are fast-tracked are here for much shorter periods and they do not qualify for ESOL tuition at the moment. When you deduct all those categories, the proportion of the remainder who finally get leave to remain is well over 50 per cent, but evidently Mr Rammell’s advisers failed to provide him with that information. So the evidence on which the Government base their case is wrong.

There are also those who, for practical reasons, cannot be sent back to their countries of origin. They include, for the indefinite future, Eritreans, Zimbabweans, Somalis and Iranians. Of course, most Zimbabweans speak good English, but their gripe has been that they do not have access to other types of courses, such as IT, so they should also be deducted from the total of unsuccessful asylum seekers whose participation in ESOL is, according to the Minister, a waste of money.

If there is no prospect in the foreseeable future of removing people who come from other countries, the very least that we can do for them is to help them to speak our language. Bristol, for example, has a large Somali community, among whom ESOL courses in the City of Bristol College are popular. Does the Minister think that it makes any sense to put obstacles in the path of Somali asylum seekers, two-thirds of whom are given leave to remain, while the remainder are likely to gain permanent settlement sooner or later because we cannot send them back?

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