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World Bank: Presidency

2.59 pm

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, Her Majesty's Government will work with other member countries of the World Bank to identify and select the best candidate for the job.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, with the world appetite for neocons somewhat limited at the moment, to say the least, that might rule out Mr Tony Blair. Will the Minister reassure us that the Government will work carefully with leading countries and others over time to secure someone who will give real priority to third-world interests and internal management modernisation of the World Bank?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government believe that the next president must be appointed on merit and should have a strong commitment to development. He or she must be a proven manager. As noble Lords may know, we made it clear in our White Paper on international development last year that the practice of picking the heads of the World Bank and IMF based on nationality should end and that they should be chosen on merit.

Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, the United States has been the major backer of the World Bank by far and it is today. Many other countries are in a position to back and fund the World Bank but do not. The reality is that the United States will have a huge influence on the appointment, but does that excuse the complete secrecy that shrouds the process? Will the Government assure us that they will press for a removal of this non-transparency, which affects the underdeveloped world?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government wholeheartedly agree that the process must become much more transparent and be reformed. However, reform must be agreed to by all the parties concerned. Reaching that agreement takes time, and the reform takes time to be embedded.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, Paul Wolfowitz has led the fight against government corruption through bypassing corrupt Administrations. Such a campaign can be successful only if it is maintained over a long period. Will the Government assure the House that they will put pressure on the new president of the bank to continue this stance?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the Government will put pressure on whoever is appointed to continue to work against corruption and in favour of good governance. That is our objective.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I accept that under the present procedure the appointment of the president of the World Bank is in the gift of the president of the United States and that that cannot be changed overnight, but will Her Majesty's Government, following the principles of their White Paper, press the United States president to agree as part of any deal that this will be the last time that the president is appointed on that basis?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, discussions are taking place with the United States Government. I am sure that among the items being discussed will be the proposal that, next time, there should certainly be a change. It is interesting to note that senior US officials such as Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson have said that they want a wide-ranging and open consultation process, so I think that things are moving.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Prime Minister on his retirement is completely ruled out of being president of the World Bank because the money is not good enough?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is a little below the belt.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the president may well—that was a slip of the tongue. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister may not be in line for appointment because he is not an American citizen. I do not know where the rumours pertaining to the Prime Minister and the World Bank have come from. I think that it is just a coincidence of timing.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, the Prime Minister’s name has come up in this context, and the EU is a larger contributor to the World Bank than is America. However, would it not be a bit rich if he were nominated, given the Government’s track record on BAE Systems and Saudi Arabia and, in particular, the current police investigation into cash for honours?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is not worthy of an answer.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that one person who is absolutely certain not to be put forward either as being eligible for, or for being any good as, president of the World Bank would be Sir Ming Campbell?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I could not possibly comment.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, do the Government want to change the charter so that the president need not be a US citizen? The charter states that he must be.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I realise that that is in the current charter, but perhaps it needs to be amended as part of reform. I am sure that that is one of the many questions to be addressed. All the multinational institutions were born in 1944, a long time ago. They all have to be reformed to address the problems of the 21st century.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the permission of the House, a Statement on home information packs will be repeated by my noble friend Lady Andrews immediately after the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill.

International Tribunals (Sierra Leone) Bill [HL]

3.05 pm

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Digital Switchover (Disclosure of Information) Bill

Read a third time, and passed, and returned to the Commons with an amendment.

Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Bill

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendment be now considered.

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

[The page and line references are to HL Bill 19 as first printed for the Lords.]

Motion A “(d) a duty owed to anyone held in custody.”

The Commons disagree to Lords Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 but propose Amendment No. 10A in lieu—

(a) is in any specified form of custody or detention, or is otherwise on premises of a specified description or on premises in specified circumstances, and(b) is by reason of that fact a person for whose safety the organisation is responsible,(a) may amend this Act so as to specify exceptions with respect to the application of any provision contained in this section as a result of such an order;(b) may make any amendment to this Act that is incidental or supplemental to, or consequential on, an amendment made by such an order.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move Motion A, That the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10A in lieu.

I am delighted to join the debates on this Bill. I am particularly pleased to stand here today as a Minister from the new Ministry of Justice. I pay tribute to my noble friends Lady Scotland and Lord Bassam and to my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General for their work in bringing this Bill to the point that it has reached today.

The Ministry of Justice marks a new departure and provides an opportunity for the whole justice system to work together better than even before. I am determined that we make the most of that opportunity. I am also pleased to be participating in debates on this particular Bill, as it reaches its conclusion. This important Bill has been a long time in the coming. It has received support from noble Lords from all sides of this House and in the other place, and discussion has been probing and constructive. Discussion of the Bill now draws to a close and one issue remains outstanding between this House and the other place: whether the offence should extend to custody. That issue returns to us for consideration again, with an opportunity to complete this Bill’s parliamentary passage. I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Lee, Lord Hunt of Wirral and Lord Dholakia, the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for the time that they have given me to discuss informally the provisions in this amendment.

We have listened carefully to the debate on this and strived to find a constructive way forward. In the other place, my honourable friend Mr Gerry Sutcliffe set out three proposals aimed at addressing the concerns here. At the heart of these lies the amendment proposed by the other place: a power to extend the Bill to custody. This is offered in lieu of the preference of your Lordships’ House, which was to extend the new offence to custody from the outset. The order-making power does not shy away from its purpose. It is explicit and refers directly to extending the offence to custody and detention. It therefore puts the principle of extending the offence to custody clearly in the Bill. Noble Lords will want me to address why we set store in this being an order-making power rather than a straight extension of the offence.

Noble Lords who have followed this Bill closely will know that lifting Crown immunity in this Bill represents a very significant step, but it also brings with it substantial uncertainties about the consequences of making government departments liable to criminal prosecution for the first time. It is right that the new offence should apply to matters such as employee and workplace safety. Those matters, by and large, will not involve significant questions of public policy.

However, the distinction between operational matters and policy becomes more blurred when the issue is one of how a public body discharges its statutory or public responsibilities. It is not enough to say that these are matters of management and not policy. Faults may well lie in management but disentangling those faults from the wider policy context in which they arose can be difficult. We do not believe that the offence should become a vehicle for seeking to examine policy decisions for which Parliament holds the Government to account.

Noble Lords will also understand that the Ministry of Justice has itself only recently been established. We need to discuss carefully with those who would be affected by the extension of the offence, such as the Prison Service and police forces, what the implications would be and how implementation can be managed sensibly. Until we have had a chance to consider how the legislation has bedded down across the public sector more widely, it would not be wise to look to extend it to the way particular public functions, such as managing custody, are carried out.

However, I am very clear that the proposal to include an order-making power in the Bill is done in good faith. It is done because we believe that it is right that the offence ought to be capable of applying to custody. We would not have done that if it was our intention never to exercise the power. The power therefore clearly opens the door to the offence applying to custody—a very significant step in itself—and we would not have done that if we were not prepared to take that further step ourselves.

In the mean time there will be an opportunity to put the ombudsman on a statutory footing, strengthen the arrangements for the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody, and allow those changes to bed in. A statutory footing for the ombudsman will change significantly the basis on which investigations into deaths in custody are conducted, and there is some sense in allowing those changes to become established before seeking to make further changes.

I shall set out in a little more detail the changes I have just mentioned. The ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, has investigated all deaths in prisons, young offender institutions and immigration detention centres since 2004 and, since last year, those in secure training centres. Through this and his wider work investigating complaints, he and his office have developed detailed knowledge of the management of custody. Putting his office on a statutory footing will strengthen the investigation of deaths in custody in three ways. First, there will be a formal duty on the ombudsman to examine all deaths within his remit. He will also decide the scope of investigations and the procedures to be adopted. His remit would extend to the treatment of and conditions for prisoners. As now, we would expect investigations and recommendations to cover management and wider policy issues where he deems it appropriate. Secondly, there will be new High Court powers to obtain evidence, as well as a clear foundation for working with other ombudsmen where appropriate. Thirdly, while the ombudsman is already independent of the organisations he investigates, a statutory basis would strengthen his independence from government.

Noble Lords will want to know when we intend to bring proposals for this legislation before the House. I cannot name a particular vehicle but our intention is to find a suitable Bill in this Session or, if necessary, the next. The Government’s second proposal is to look at the further development of the Forum for Preventing Deaths in Custody. The word “review” has been used but I make clear for the benefit of the House, especially the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, who I see in her place, that the purpose here is to look at how we can strengthen the forum. I believe that the phrase the noble Baroness used to me was, “make sure that you beef it up”.

The forum brings together a wide range of organisations involved professionally in the management of custody and its inspection and scrutiny. It includes representatives from the Prison Service, Department of Health, Youth Justice Board, Association of Chief Police Officers, Inquest, the Prison and Probation Ombudsman and the prisons inspectorate. It is chaired by John Wadham, the deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, and its membership also includes the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, as an observer.

The forum stems from the Government’s response to recommendations from the Joint Committee on Human Rights for a task force dealing with deaths in custody. It works by comparing and contrasting approaches, identifying good practice and drawing attention to issues which need to be addressed by operational bodies or Ministers.

Its terms of reference are:

I understand that its first annual report is being prepared. It has made a good start in meeting some of the criteria that the committee set for a task force, but we acknowledge that there is room for improvement.

3.15 pm

For this critical area of work to be effective, a strong focus needs to remain on personally involving senior representatives from organisations that inspect, investigate and oversee custody. In the review, we will look at issues such as greater autonomy from government and improved interaction with Ministers, including the relationship with the ministerial round- table on suicide, which my honourable friend Gerry Sutcliffe chairs, its powers, resources and capacity. The noble Lady, Baroness Stern, is, I understand, already in early discussion with the forum’s chairman about a seminar to explore views. That seminar would be an integral part of the review, and we will report on progress within six months.

These two proposals are squarely aimed at some of the key concerns that have arisen in the debate on custody: that there should be strong arrangements for the independent investigation of all deaths in custody to find out exactly what happened and to make recommendations for change; and that the Government must take further steps to improve the management of custody to prevent these deaths from occurring in the first place. In addition, we propose a power to extend the offence to custody to enable us to take that further step when the time is right.

I pay tribute to the efforts of all Members of your Lordships’ House and the other place for their efforts in getting this legislation to the point that we have reached today. A single issue remains to be settled. The Government have sought to move positively on this matter and have offered a package aimed at the core issues of preventing and investigating deaths in custody, as well as opening the door to the Bill’s extension. That is a significant move, and I commend the amendment in lieu to the House as a basis on which this Bill can now be brought to a successful conclusion.

Moved, Motion A, That the House do not insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10A in lieu.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I beg to move, as an amendment to Motion A, Motion A1, leave out from “House” to the end and insert “do insist on its Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 10 and do disagree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 10A in lieu”.

When this House debated these amendments on 5 February, I argued then, as I do now, that my purpose was to rectify a glaring deficiency in what was otherwise a generally welcome Bill by including,

I emphasised that there was a stark difference between the rule of law and the Bill on the one hand and, on the other, the Government’s perverse reasoning as to why neither the rule of law nor their own Bill should be applicable to those with a duty of care to those held in custody.

I must acknowledge how far the Minister and the Government have moved since then on this issue, in good faith, and I thank her personally for the courteous, frank and open way that she has discussed and explained her case for continuing to reject my amendment. She rests her case on the three concessions that she has described, which were debated at length in the other place.

The first is the strengthening of the arrangements for the independent investigation of deaths in custody by putting the appointment of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman on a statutory footing. I welcome that, but I remind the House that that measure has a long history that is nothing to do with this Bill. When Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons was reformed in 1981, three aspects of imprisonment were under consideration for inclusion in that role. In the event, inspection of the efficiency and propriety of the treatment and conditions of those in custody was put on a statutory footing but not the inspection of grievances.

It was not until 1994 that the first Prisons Ombudsman was appointed to do that. Since then, successive holders of the office have fought, unsuccessfully, to be put on a statutory footing similar to that of the Chief Inspector of Prisons. In addition, the Joint Committee on Human Rights made a recommendation to that effect in 2003. I acknowledge that the investigation of all deaths in prisons, young offender institutions and immigration detention centres has been added to his remit since then, but the investigation of grievances remains his principal task, requiring a statutory footing.

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