|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I do not have the breakdown of the Pashtun community within the Afghan national army and the police. If we have those data, I will write to the noble Lord with them. Our experience over the past year is that there is a role for the local warlords in the development of auxiliaries as part of the Afghan national army, but it depends very much upon the
10 May 2007 : Column 1538
Earl Attlee: My Lords, what is being done to enable the ANA soldiers to send their pay home rather than having to take it home themselves and then experiencing difficulties in returning to their units?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the noble Earl puts his finger on a key issue which affects the motivation of the Afghan national army. The difficulty is that for the soldiers to be paid they have to return to base. It is difficult for them to distribute their pay to their families. We have recognised this situation and are taking action to improve it. We need to be quite innovative in finding solutions for it. We do not have a good solution at the moment but we are well aware of the problem.
Lord Garden: My Lords, the United States is reported to be spending $3.4 billion this year on training the police and army in Afghanistan and intends to increase that to $5.9 billion in the year beginning in September. What are the comparable United Kingdom figures and do we also intend to increase our spending in the coming year?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the precise breakdown. If we have those figures I will write to him. As he highlights, there has been a real increase in effort by the United States. The primary coalition responsibility for the development of the Afghan national police has been with Germany. It has been recognised that that needs to be supported by an acceleration of new approaches to the training of Afghan police more quickly. That has led to the United States putting extra resources into this area. We recognise the importance of the developmentas the noble Lord, Lord Astor, saidof the police and the army in order to provide the governance that this country is going to need to allow us to hand over responsibility for security. In terms of the balance of resources, our focus is on supporting, training and developing the army, not the police. Whether we will change that focus is not something I am aware of at present.
Why the Home Office has taken no action to establish anti-corruption squads in the Prison Service, as recommended in a report in May 2006 by Jonathan Cox (formerly of the Metropolitan Police) and Peter Siddons (formerly of the Prison Service).
The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, we recognise that there are pockets of corruption in Her Majesty's Prison Service. We are focusing on five steps: properly identifying the extent of the threat; working to improve our intelligence on matters of corruption; working to implement common standards across the prison estate; working to establish a culture where corruption is not tolerated; and working closely with the police and other interested agencies. We are reviewing our approach and the Cox and Siddons report has been and will be useful in helping us to develop our strategy.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for his Answer, and I am extremely glad that we had an answer from the Ministry of Justice, not from the Home Office. I look forward to a fresh start because of what has not happened during the past year. The authors of the report to which I referred state that they found intelligence of corruption against 1,277 serving warders, with staff routinely smuggling drugs and mobile phones into jails for prisoners. They also warned that the current anti-corruption structures in jails were no longer fit for purpose. The Prison Officers Association said, We want rid of corruption. The recommendation was that anti-corruption squads should be put in, in the same way that the Police Complaints Commission has done. I do not believe that more inquiries will get that right. This is a serious problem. It was shown that the Prison Service is not good at disciplining people. Is the Ministry of Justice prepared not just to have studies but to take action against such corruption?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: Yes, my Lords, we are determined to take action. One should in no way understate the level of corruption in the Prison Service, but one must put it in context. The same report stated that the majority of HMPS staff perform a valuable, often challenging role with honesty and integrity. It is worth pointing out that escapes are at their lowest level ever. Drug use in prison, although it certainly exists, appears on the basis of mandatory drug testing to be at a lower level. Absconds are at their lowest level for a long time. I do not for one moment suggest that that shows that there is no corruption, but those three indicators would be higher than they are if corruption were an increasing problem.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, what efforts are being made to extend the time that governors spend in post so that they can get to know their people and show the leadership that might help with the problem?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I cannot answer that question because I do not know the answer. I shall write to the noble Earl with an answer. Since I was nominated as Minister of Justice, 41 days ago, I have visited seven or eight prisons throughout the country and I have been enormously impressed by the commitment of each of the governors of the prisons that I have visited.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, is there a record of the Prison Officers Association not merely making statements but being anxious to help the Minister to eradicate what it accepts is part of the culture in prisons? Make no mistake about it, one of the worst jobs in the country is to be a prison officer given the prison population that we have. I am sure that the Minister will receive a good response from the POA if he is positive in seeking its support.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I could not agree more with my noble friend about the nature of the job of prison officer. My experience of prison governors in the visits that I described has been completely replicated with prison officers whom I have met, who have shown dedication and commitment in difficult times. I am quite sure that the Prison Officers Association will be completely co-operative in trying to fight corruption.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, will the noble and learned Lord reflect for a moment on the importance of education inside our prisonsprisons such as Lancaster Farms where I saw for myself the education programmeand the powerful effect that it can have on weaning young people away from drug misuse, recidivism and re-entry into criminality? Does he agree that in working with those responsible for running our prisons, greater emphasis should be placed on education and trying to ensure that those who go through our prisons come out able to play an active part in our community subsequently?
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, given the concern about the difficulties of prison officers working with such a large prison population, will the Minister be looking very carefully at the continuing professional development of prison officers and improving the supervision they receive from senior officers? In other services with such vulnerable groups one-to-one supervision on a monthly basis has been shown to be a very effective means of improving the retention of such workers.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the noble Earl is right to point to the increase in the prison population. That is also reflected in the increased numbers of prison officers employed. Supervision of prison officers is obviously vital in ensuring both discipline and standards in prisons. I cannot offer an assurance on one-to-one monthly supervision, as referred to by the noble Earl, but on the importance of supervision, I completely agree with him.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I congratulate the noble and learned Lord on becoming Secretary of State for Justice. Is he aware that when Roy Jenkins was Home Secretary in the mid-1970s we regarded a prison population of 40,000 as the absolute limit of a decent Prison Service? Now that has doubled. Does he not agree that something really radical needs to be done to get back to where we were?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, there is absolutely no prospect of getting back to 40,000. Indeed, the prison population is likely to continue to rise in the foreseeable future. It is the obligation of any Government to provide sufficient prison places for those whom the courts wish to send to prison. In everything that the Government do to provide opportunities for punishment by the courts, they must focus on public protection and reducing reoffending. That will often mean alternatives to prison.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Baroness Howells of St Davids set down for today shall be limited to three and a half hours and that in the name of Baroness Pitkeathley to two hours.(Baroness Amos.)
Moved, Further to the Motion agreed to on 8 May, that evidence taken by the committee shall, if the committee thinks fit, be published; and that the committee do meet with the committee appointed by the Commons on Tuesday 15 May at 2 pm. (The Chairman of Committees.)
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, todays debate is an opportunity for Members of this House to commemorate the bicentenary of the passing of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act 1807. I am pleased that so many distinguished noble Lords are taking part. Members of the other place debated this issue at length on 20 March, with some passion and a depth of knowledge. I hope that todays debate will proceed in a similar manner.
For me, whose ancestors were among those enslaved, todays debate provides an opportunity to make a personal, as well as public, contribution to proceedings. I will leave the door open for other noble Lords to speak on present-day illegal trading of human beings. For those not in my position, I realise that it might prove difficult to grasp the strong feelings that the memory of slavery evokes among those of us whose ancestors were subjected to its barbarity and injustice. For many this particular topic lurks in one of historys dustier corners, where, so often, hazy memory and polite but mild curiosity collude to ensure that a measure of amnesia prevails. An acknowledgement that slavery was and is morally wrong is today a given, a default response expected of all. The few dissenters express their views at their social peril, as Lucy Buchanan, a contestant on the Channel 4 programme Shipwrecked, recently discovered.
I would argue that for people like me these emotions retain their depth and strength because the racism that flourished before and after the 1807 Act lingers on, remaining embedded in our institutions and daily life. This bundle of often contradictory and inconsistent beliefs and attitudes continues its quiet, hidden and deadly work, acting as an often unconscious driver to actions that affect lives in a discriminatory, disadvantageous and uninvited way.
Occasionally such actions are thrown into the public arena by one of the many tragedies that are its end product, the most recent and notable being the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The perpetrators of that crime, known to all, remain free, to our national shame. The ensuing Macpherson report revealed the disabling effect of such attitudes and beliefs, and its lasting legacy is to have given it emblematic status in the descriptor institutional racism.
I am in agreement with Sir William Macpherson that the manifestation of that set of attitudes and beliefs is not as overt or clearly articulated as it was when the 1807 Act was passed. In that context it needs to be remembered that the Act did not end slavery, only the trade in human beings. Even when slavery was abolished, attitudes and beliefs that had at their core the idea of racial purity and subsequent hierarchy persisted, and indeed still persist, although often hidden from view.
Neither can it be said that there have not been attempts to address these problems via the use of legislative machinery. Members of this House must be aware of the Race Relations Act, passed by a Labour Government in 1976, and the various statutory amendments to that Act passed in 2002 and 2003. These additions to legislation have played a crucial role in ameliorating the more overt forms of behaviour that did so much to aggravate and inflame racial tensions in the relatively recent past.
I view those pieces of legislation as very much the successorsalthough not the only members of that classto the 1807 Act. I do so because they sought, as did that Act, to remedy an unjust and discriminatory policy that not just acted against those that were its victims, but also corrupted the moral codes of those who chose to act in such a manner. Indeed, it is no surprise that the abolitionist movement in this country was driven by, and gained its momentum from, those working within institutions that formalised, celebrated and maintained such codes. I refer, of course, to the religious institutions.
Within institutions directly under their control, the Government have recently taken the decision to include the teaching of slavery and the slave trade as a part of our national curriculum. The hope is that, by confronting the often uncomfortable truths about our past, we can come to a sophisticated and informed understanding of our contemporary society and its future form.
I also recognise that there are other classroom activities which provide an opportunity to approach these problems without being bound to a particular topic of history. I am aware that such an approach requires a measure of tact and sensitivity. Therefore I welcome the report, recently commissioned by the Government from Sir Keith Ajegbo, which constructively addresses the issues of cohesion and citizenship and their opposites, exclusion and marginalisation, within the education system. I welcome it because I believe that our education system should play its part in attempting to build a more inclusive stakeholder society that is anti-racist in a very positive way.
I realise that a large part of life is lived external to the formal setting of institutions such as the school or the workplace. Here the Governments influence and footprint can be harder to detect or place. However, I remain optimistic in the long-term, if for no other reason than the effects of globalisation and immigration make for nations rich in diversity and accommodating to a plurality of views and beliefs while implicitly recognising core values to which all citizens must subscribe.
The public debate about what it means to be British, encouraged by the Government, seems to address this informal world by stressing values for which Britons wish to be known to possess: fairness, tolerance and respect for the rule of law, to name a few. Londonhome to 70 per cent of Britains black populationexemplifies, at its best, this situation and
10 May 2007 : Column 1544
That makes our task urgent and the case for it compelling. It is inconceivable that a return to ideas, dominant under recent administrations, of a society composed solely of individuals relentlessly pursuing their own economic and other goals, without any thought for, or consideration of, their fellow citizens, could ever offer a solution. The Governments commitment to community cohesion and social inclusion is about nurturing a firm belief in membership with a clear recognition for the responsibilities and obligations that go with that commitment.
Let me return to my original observation about the feelings that those of us with enslaved ancestors often keep close to our hearts and place that in the context of this bicentenary year. I view this year as offering the possibility of making a quantum leap in our attempts to establish a society where racism and its lingering corrosive effects can begin to be banished to the distant past. However, the situation prevalent today means that those of us who are placed in such environments suffer from what we are perceived to be by those who control much of our destinywhere that is more important than what we are or feel ourselves to be capable of. As a result, events of hundreds of years ago often feel like they happened yesterday. For some of us, this signals the necessity of an oppositional culture; for others, a detached culture; and for many, an assortment of differentiated responses dependent on context and emotional well-being.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|