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3.15 pm

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Government have overhauled the law on sexual offences, introduced specialist officers and prosecutors and consulted on changes to the legal system to help build better cases. We are supporting police forces and the CPS to implement recommendations from the 2007 rape inspection and are monitoring performance closely. This year, the Home Office is investing a further £3 million in supporting victims, including through the criminal justice process.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, why is it that while reported rape conviction rates in the UK are 5.3 per cent, in New Zealand they are 22 per cent; in Belgium, 16 per cent; Finland, 16 per cent; Israel, 16 per cent; Switzerland, 15 per cent; and in Germany, 23 per cent—four times the UK rate? The list goes on, and we are still trawling the world. Could the answer be that the law overseas accepts varying degrees of offence and penalty; that some countries use judges and experienced assessors and not juries; and the rejection of approaches such as those from a very powerful women’s lobby in the United Kingdom which is blocking reform of the law and yet not thinking the case through properly?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, there are varying degrees of cases in various other countries because they have different systems of judicial and criminal law. Our system needs improvement and a lot of work is being done to make it. We will of course look at international experience to assist us in that.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, bearing in mind that 50 per cent of the rape cases brought to trial end in conviction, does the noble Baroness agree that the jury system is working extremely well in rape cases?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the jury system has certainly served us well. However, in looking at the review, we have to look at how we can better assist the jury to come to the best-informed decision.

Baroness Gale: My Lords, does my noble friend agree—I am sure she does—that although increasing the number of rape convictions is very important, it is equally important to try to reduce the number of rapes? It is estimated that about 80,000 rapes occur in this country every year. Will she support a public education campaign to educate men and boys, first, to respect women and girls and, secondly, to accept that all forms of violence against women, including rape, must stop? Such violence in today’s society, given that we call ourselves a civilised society, is totally unacceptable. If such a campaign were successful, we would not only see a reduction in the number of rapes but be able to claim to live in a much more equal society.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend how important it is that we reduce the number of rapes and assure her that much has already been done, in the citizenship programmes and the other programmes being rolled out in schools, to assist children to better understand how they should respond in their relationships. However, there is a duty on us all to try to create a situation in this country where violence against anyone, but especially violence against the vulnerable, is totally reprehensible and abhorred.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the real problem is not so much the rape cases that go to court but the rape cases that do not go to court, and that, although there may be a superficial temptation to widen the law on rape, or indeed to change that fine balance between prosecution and defence in rape cases, that might well have a counter-productive effect on the attitude of jurors? Perhaps the best service that can be done to women is to make the procedures of examination and investigation more humane and more sensitive.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, and reassure him that that is exactly what we are doing. It is of great regret that only 6 per cent of rape cases are reported. We have a huge difficulty, because many women feel such shame, hurt and distress at what has happened to them that they never tell anyone at all.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the great increase in drinking among the young—I certainly include girls in this—is really responsible for an awful lot of these accusations, if not the reality?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right that alcohol can play a part in this. This is why the Government’s alcohol strategy and the work that we are doing with young people to help them better to understand what they are drinking are so very important.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, has the Minister evaluated the special measures that were brought in under recent legislation and their impact on convictions? There can be nothing worse for a woman who has been the victim of rape than to find that the perpetrator has been acquitted. The special measures may well put a barrier between the victim and the jury. I have heard it said that it sometimes looks like a television play when the victim gives evidence on television. What consideration has been given to that?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, consideration has been given to that matter. The opportunity to use the special measures assists a number of women who would not otherwise have the courage to come forward and go through the process. Of course a balance must be struck, but we must listen to those victims and do what we properly can to make it possible for them to give their evidence.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, what progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of the report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Crown Prosecution Service, which was published in 2005? As the Minister will recall, the report stated that the scale of false allegations was overestimated, that there was inconsistency over the way in which forensic doctors examined victims, that there was a lack of training for front-line officers, and that it was necessary for authorities to challenge claims of consent much more vigorously. What progress has been made in implementing the recommendations of this very important report?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, a lot of work has been done. As a result, in April, the Government published a cross-departmental action plan on sexual violence and abuse. Improving the response of the criminal justice system to sexual offences is one of the three key objectives of the plan. That is being rolled out right across the country. There is monitoring, and there is assistance to forces and others who do this work. We therefore believe that we have a really good programme of work to achieve this improvement.

Olympic Games 2012: Logo

3.23 pm

Lord Redesdale asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the brand was developed by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. We believe that the new London 2012 brand will establish the character and identity of the 2012 Games, both nationally and internationally. The Government will not ask LOCOG to reconsider it.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, given that a great deal of the financing will be underpinned by merchandising, much of which will be based on the logo, the public’s response to the logo might give rise to the concern that the very large sums of running money that could be raised through merchandising might be lost and therefore might not be available to the Olympics. Will the Government consider an open competition so that the public could participate in looking for a logo that might meet with a good deal more public approval?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I indicated, the logo is the responsibility of LOCOG, not of the Government. The noble Lord will at least concede that the purpose of a logo is to identify the brand in question and bring it to everyone’s attention. This brand has certainly drawn the nation’s attention.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, why did it cost £400,000 to produce such an uninspiring logo?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it may be uninspiring to some and inspiring to others. It is clear that the brand is meant to be a multi-media attraction. The noble Lord may have seen it only within the framework of a newspaper and the rather dated and static concept of the development of the logo. As for costs, LOCOG was concerned that a number of organisations should submit bids. This was the best bid; this is the result.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, does the Minister, or anyone, know what happened to the Millennium Dome logo? Is there not a lesson for us there?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I cannot recall the Millennium Dome logo attracting quite the degree of attention which this logo has done. Already it may have made a step forward towards its objectives.

Lord Addington: My Lords, what is the Minister’s opinion on the failure to make sure photo-sensitive epileptics were considered in taking forward the programme? As a logo to cover the Paralympic Games also, this was rather an appalling oversight. Who is responsible for making sure that the company answers to this, and in what form should that take place?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government and LOCOG share the noble Lord’s concern about the logo’s effect on epileptics—a small number admittedly—and the distress caused as a result of the programme which followed the launch. It is not caused by the logo; it is caused by the subsequent video. Those who developed the logo are responsible for commissioning that launch; therefore, they are taking up with the company that produced that presentation why it did not test it sufficiently to avoid this unfortunate, even catastrophic development for some people. Television companies also have some responsibility for not broadcasting anything which might cause similar distress.

Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, how is the sum of £400,000 made up?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a commercial agreement between LOCOG and the company which produced the logo. It is not out of keeping or out of step with the development of logos in a whole range of private activities. I emphasise that the taxpayer has not subsidised the logo; the cost comes out of the LOCOG budget, which it derives entirely from private resources.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the purpose of a logo is not just, as he said, to bring public attention to the product but to say something about it? What does the 2012 Olympics logo say about the 2012 Olympics?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it says that the Olympics will be held in 2012, although I am sure I am not alone in the House in having taken a little while to tumble to that fact when I first saw the logo. But I am assured it grows on one and I hope that it is growing on me.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the Olympics logo is a very good and very intriguing graffiti tag? Does he also agree that its effect as it spreads out all over London will be to make tagging respectable and that the less good graffiti artists will be discouraged from defacing our city?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure that I can attest to that beneficial result of decreasing graffiti. The logo is certainly different from anything we have seen before or had anticipated. In that respect, it is thoroughly modern.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, does my noble friend recall when the Post Office brand was changed to Consignia? That happened quite a few years ago, but I think he was in his position then. Does he recall how much it cost to put the whole thing right after the public said that it did not want Consignia, it wanted the Post Office?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I recall, the Consignia logo was a failure. The 2012 Olympics logo is going to be a raging success.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does the noble Lord propose to give the same answer to a question about the changing of the logo on the tailfins of British Airways aircraft?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we can all recall the history of failed attempts, but there have been striking successes too, not all of them forecast. We have no reason to expect that this logo will not hit its target, and I am sure that the whole House will join with me in this respect: it is important that we celebrate the fact that two years ago London won the bid for the Olympic Games. The nation looks forward to those Games being hugely successful.

Lord James of Blackheath: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I am sorry, but the time is up.

Corruption Bill [HL]

3.30 pm

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

UK Borders Bill

3.31 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. Last summer, my right honourable friend the Home Secretary launched a comprehensive review of the immigration system. The future approach for the Home Office, in promoting good migration and tackling immigration, was subsequently set out in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate review published in July 2006. During the review, my honourable friends the Minister of State for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State travelled extensively throughout the United Kingdom, talking and listening to staff on the front line, as well as local businesses and public service providers. All of this very valuable work led to a fivefold strategy for reform. This includes the first ever cross-government strategy to ensure compliance with our immigration laws; secondly, new resources for enforcement; thirdly, the use of new technology to count people in and out of the country; fourthly, an international strategy to share information and build closer working relationships; and finally, this Bill.

Careful consideration has been given to these measures to ensure that we achieve the Home Office’s priorities of protecting the public and creating an immigration system that is transparent for those who are eligible to remain in the United Kingdom, and that our immigration officers have the power to deal with those who flout immigration laws. There are four key principles that have determined the content of the Bill. The first is further to strengthen our borders, with additional powers for front-line staff; secondly, to deter and detect the perpetrators of immigration crime; thirdly, to deport and restrict those who abuse our hospitality; and, fourthly, to lay a foundation for the Border and Immigration Agency to improve its service to the public.

The Home Office is working towards a stronger and more visible presence at the border by, for example, the introduction of uniforms for front-line immigration officers by September this year. Clauses 1 to 4 introduce a new power for designated immigration officers to detain for up to three hours any person liable to arrest, or who is the subject of an arrest warrant, until a police officer arrives. This would include British citizens liable for arrest for non immigration-related offences. Not only will this new function support police activity at ports, but it will also contribute to the objectives of the border management programme, to deliver a cohesive and integrated border security infrastructure. Further measures in the Bill designed to secure our borders include those on facilitation and trafficking.

A high proportion of illegal immigration into the United Kingdom is in the hands of traffickers and people smugglers. Clauses 28 to 30 are therefore designed to strengthen our enforcement capability in respect of facilitation and trafficking offences. The provisions clarify at what point an individual will be taken to have facilitated the arrival of an asylum seeker into the United Kingdom and, most importantly, extend our powers to enable the prosecution of those who facilitate or traffic from abroad.

It is essential that front-line staff have the right powers and that the effective use of those powers acts as a deterrent to potential offenders. Measures in the Bill include new powers to seize cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that it has been obtained through, or is intended for use in connection with, unlawful activity under the immigration Acts. This will target those who seek to profit from committing criminal offences and breaching immigration laws. There are also powers to dispose of property seized as part of a criminal investigation, which will have the added effect of removing forgeries and forgery-making equipment from the black market.

Clauses 39 to 42 introduce a new data-sharing gateway between the Border and Immigration Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs and the Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Office. These measures also extend the existing powers of the police and the Serious Organised Crime Agency to share information with the Border and Immigration Agency. These gateways are an essential requirement for effective cross-government working in the fight against illegal migrant working and benefit fraud and to ensure that robust immigration decisions are made.

I can reassure the House that the data-sharing gateway will not allow for the unchecked exchange of confidential tax information. I am confident that we are putting in place the necessary safeguards to protect the public’s data, including a criminal sanction for any unlawful disclosure of information.

The Bill also contains a power of arrest for the new offence of knowingly employing an illegal worker, which links back to the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. That Act set out a civil penalty regime in respect of illegal working offences and, as we crack down harder on employers who flout the immigration laws, we must also provide the necessary tools and support to enable them to comply with our rules and laws. That is why the Bill introduces a new requirement for those subject to immigration control to register for a biometric immigration document. There are currently around 50 old and insecure immigration documents in circulation. It is unreasonable to expect employers and benefit providers to be able to recognise them all to a degree that would allow a clear judgment on authenticity. The biometric provisions will therefore allow us to phase out the old, insecure documents and replace them with a single, secure, identifiable biometric document. Employers and benefit providers will be able to check this biometric document and know whether a person is here legally and is entitled to work and/or to access benefits.

It is vital that the Border and Immigration Agency takes full advantage of such technological advances in order effectively to manage not only those who are here lawfully but also those who no longer have the right to be here. As my honourable friend the Minister of State for Immigration, Nationality and Citizenship, Liam Byrne, said during the Public Bill Committee in another place,

While I believe that the framework for the biometric registration scheme is sound, I appreciate that noble Lords will want to spend time in Committee looking at the detail of these clauses, and I look forward to listening to what I anticipate to be the many and varied views that will be expressed about them.

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