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House of Lords

Tuesday, 10 July 2007.

The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle.

Introduction: Lord Jones of Birmingham

Lord Jones of BirminghamSir Digby Marritt Jones, Knight, having been created Baron Jones of Birmingham, of Alvechurch and of Bromsgrove in the County of Worcestershire, for life—Was, in his robes, introduced between the Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean and the Lord Leitch.

Terrorism: European Court of Human Rights

2.42 pm

Lord Campbell of Alloway asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, when we consider whether new counterterrorism measures are compatible with human rights, we take into account all relevant case law. That includes any decisions of the European Court of Human Rights where these are assessed as appropriate to the measures under consideration. We do not believe that this approach inhibits the introduction in the United Kingdom of counterterrorism measures.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. In the wake of a critical alert and of the evidence up the road at the Old Bailey, should not the following steps be taken to avoid the inhibition: to reclaim the surrender of sovereignty under the European Convention on Human Rights; to enable Parliament to enact and enforce counterterrorist legislation and safeguard sensitive intelligence, and so to that end amend the Human Rights Act; and to seek derogation under the convention? The need for those measures could never have been envisaged in 1953 on ratification, in 1999 on enactment of the Human Rights Act or before 9/11, which transformed the world.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand where the noble Lord is coming from on this issue and respect his point of view, but it is the duty of all Governments carefully to balance human rights and their counterterrorism strategy. This Government have a proud record of undertaking to do that. I am not aware that human rights legislation has inhibited us in carrying out that sacred duty because it is an important balance to strike.

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Lord Henley: My Lords, if the Human Rights Act has not inhibited the Government in any way in dealing with these matters, how many terrorist suspects have been deported from this country since 7/7?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have some data on deportation which I am more than happy to share with your Lordships' House. We are committed to deporting and excluding foreign terrorist suspects. Thus far we have excluded 124 individuals on national security grounds since the terrorist attacks in 2005. A further 52 individuals have been excluded for unacceptable behaviour and we are considering several other cases. That is a total of 176 people in the past two years alone, so that rather makes our point.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I want to ask my noble friend a direct question rather than go round the mulberry bush with it. As the terms of reference for the European Court of Human Rights were established a long time ago and the world has since changed, does he agree that those terms of reference should now be amended?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: No, my Lords, I do not. I have made that case. We approach anti-terrorist measures in a proportionate way and we seek to gather all-party support. Our current endeavours in that direction are well understood by your Lordships' House and that is the right and balanced way and the British way.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, am I not right in recalling from history that Winston Churchill, Harold Macmillan and Maxwell Fyfe, the leaders of the Conservative Party in 1949, were the main architects politically of much of the convention and that they were very careful indeed to balance individual liberty with national security? Is the noble Lord aware of a single judgment of the European Court of Human Rights that fails to strike that balance?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not think that I am.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, with regard to counterterrorist measures, is it the case that not a single armed police officer was on duty at Glasgow Airport when it was attacked? Does the noble Lord agree that it is very much in the public interest and highly desirable that the same counterterrorist measures should be in place throughout Britain, especially at major airports? The European Court has done nothing that would prevent that happening.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not think that I would be well advised to speculate on operational matters.

A noble Lord: It is the right approach.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not sure that it is the right approach, actually. As for the noble Lord’s point, of course we must maintain the utmost vigilance, and our security forces and law enforcement agencies well understand that.

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Lord Soley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, as has been pointed out, we have a very proud history on human rights legislation, which we drew up and insisted that European countries signed up to, even though we did not sign ourselves until some years later? It might also be worth pointing out that the problem of derogation comes from two specific issues, in relation to which continental law is different from British common law. That is the area that we need to look at, but there are ways in which to address it without abandoning the Human Rights Act, which is one of our proudest achievements post-World War II.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I entirely agree with that. My noble friend is right to draw attention to that tradition.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, is worried about getting rid of terrorists at the end of sentences in this country, would he not have to denounce the convention against torture, too?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, that is a danger that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, should address.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, will the noble Lord answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Henley, which was not how many terrorists have been excluded but how many have actually been deported?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I thought that those were the data I gave. Maybe the noble Lord would like to read Hansard tomorrow.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, after the Statement on counterterrorism, the Minister promised, and we agreed to, cross-party talks on this matter. Can the noble Lord give us some timetable as to when this is likely to happen?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my understanding is that it has to take place between now and the autumn. We will want to consider these matters in a balanced and proportionate way, taking into account views from all sides.

Armed Forces: Household Division

2.51 pm

Lord Sheikh asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Rifleman Edward Vakabua, Corporal Christopher Read and Lance Corporal Ryan Francis, who were killed on operations in Iraq this past weekend.

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The Army’s Diversity Thread programme seeks to increase the number of ethnic-minority soldiers recruited into all parts of the Army by engaging with key influencers and the target audience. This involves raising awareness of the Army and its place in society and building interest in the Army, its careers, values and standards, all with the intention of potentially securing a commitment to join or simply to support the ideals of the service.

Lord Sheikh: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister’s response. I chair the Conservative Muslim Forum and the Ethnic Diversity Council. I speak at meetings and seminars encouraging the ethnic minorities to join the police and Armed Forces. My Question was prompted by the fact that, when I attended the Trooping the Colour ceremony, out of some 1,400 officers and soldiers I saw no more than 10 persons from the ethnic minorities. There is something not quite right here. Will the Minister assure your Lordships' House that everything is done to combat racism in any form—I emphasise “any”—in the Household Division, and that if there is a perception of racism, adequate awareness of the Army and its values are raised through enhanced public relations?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I very much agree with the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh. It is very important that we continue all the efforts in the tri-services, not only in the Army, to increase the number of ethnic-minority young men and women who want to be part of our armed services.

Recruitment to our armed services from our ethnic- minority communities has increased year on year for each of the past seven years. However, we start, as the noble Lord indicated, from a very low base. For instance, in 1998-99 only 1.7 per cent of enlisted service people were from an ethnic minority. In 2006-07 that has gone up to 3.9 per cent. Our target for 2013 is 8 per cent, the percentage of the population from ethnic minorities as measured in the 2001 census. We will continue all the recruitment initiatives and training going on in the Army and other services to get to that target.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, we on these Benches add our condolences to the families and friends of servicepeople who have lost their lives recently in Iraq in the service of their country. The Minister will be aware of the National Audit Office figures on recruitment and retention for November 2006, which, as she said, showed an increase in recruitment from the ethnic minorities; but there are also some worrying factors. First, while we have increased the number recruited to some ranks from 1 per cent to some 6.2 per cent in 2006, it has levelled off significantly in the past few years. Secondly, and more importantly, while there has been improved recruitment of ethnic minorities at other ranks, the figures for officers are far lower—only a third of those for other ranks. Will the Minister comment on that and tell the House what the Government intend to do about it?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we intend to increase our efforts to recruit both into the other ranks and the officer ranks. The highest-ranking ethnic-minority

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soldier in the Army is a warrant officer class 1, as the noble Lord will know. The highest-ranking ethnic-minority direct-entry officer is a brigadier. We know that it is a problem and we are on to it. What are we doing about recruiting? We are getting to young people directly by going into schools and youth clubs. We are sponsoring sports events and kit, and doing direct marketing of that kind. We are also trying to get to the people who influence young people, such as their parents, youth leaders and religious leaders.

Lord Ouseley: My Lords, did not the most successful period of recruitment to the armed services and the Household Cavalry in particular follow an investigation by the Commission for Racial Equality which found extensive racial discrimination in the armed services? Since that time, following implementation of the five-year action plan and its monitoring by the CRE, interest has levelled off. Is it not time that another action plan with independent monitoring was put in place to ensure that we hit the targets set for the armed services and the Household Division?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ouseley. The CRE has had a long relationship with the Army and the MoD, looking at the problems, starting 10 years ago, of bullying, perceptions of racist behaviour and so on. It recognised that it had to improve the situation in the armed services. The CRE has worked closely with the Army and the other services. The noble Lord has said in the past:

I understand that they still have a relationship with the CRE but that it is not as formal as in the past. I therefore take on board what the noble Lord said.

Viscount Slim: My Lords, the Minister may not be aware that I spoke recently in Birmingham to some 300 people from ethnic minorities and all religions, mostly Sikhs, about joining the military. It appeared quite clearly to me that there was some holding back because it is felt that this Government, with a little help from the previous Government, have cut the military beyond the quick and that it is no longer a prime service. Ministers need to get around a bit more. Is the Minister aware that I have not heard many Members from the other place trying to persuade ethnic minorities in their constituencies to join the military or the police forces? I am a little suspicious of the Government’s intentions in this area. Not nearly enough force and push is being put into recruitment.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I hear the noble Viscount’s concerns and will convey them to the department, but half a million pounds of last year’s recruitment budget has gone directly to recruiting ethnic-minority members. In particular, we are working with the Sikh community in Southall. Sikh Gurdwara staff are working very closely with the Wembley recruiting office. That is a small example of where we are talking directly to communities that traditionally have not looked to the services.

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Health: End-of-life Care

3.01 pm

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the new outcomes framework being developed by the Department of Health will strengthen local accountability and decision-making. The framework establishes roughly 40 indicators covering the range of health and social care outcomes. Primary care trusts and local authorities will use it to set priorities against clearly benchmarked performance indicators. It is too early to say whether end-of-life care will be in the final set. We are engaging publicly on these outcomes.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply and for outlining the framework. Does she acknowledge that there was a manifesto commitment both to beginning-of-life and end-of-life care, and that the Government with their end-of-life care strategy—and being on the board, I must declare an interest—are trying to establish measurable outcomes to ensure that patients receive the care that they need? Does she recognise that, if one of these domains does not cover end-of-life care, we will effectively not be preparing for the one thing that comes to us all? Given that death will happen to everyone, it must be a core framework for the delivery of health and social care services.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I acknowledge the manifesto commitment and pay tribute to the noble Baroness for her expertise and diligence in following these issues. As I have said, it is too early to say whether it will be in the final set of indicators. However, I readily acknowledge that the framework offers an opportunity to place end-of-life care much higher in the consciousness of PCTs. It is going to affect us all, so we all have a vested interest in it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the United Kingdom’s consultant oral and maxillofacial surgeons were surveyed last year? They deal with perhaps the most distressing forms of cancer, which are so disfiguring and cause difficulty in eating. Seventy-two per cent of the 197 experts consulted in this field considered that it was very important to have a much greater stress on and funding of end-of-life care. Will she take that into consideration?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I was not aware of the views expressed by that group of people, for whom I have high regard. However, I know that, when asked, the majority of the population express a preference for the location of their death. People are concerned to ensure that there is much better end-of-life care. Therefore, those surveyed are reflecting the views of the population.

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The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, in considering this framework, does the Minister think that it might be used to ensure that workers receive regular supervision, particularly those working on their own in the community?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am sure that issue will be considered in the review announced last week by the Secretary of State, which is being undertaken by Sir Ara Darzi.

The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: My Lords, does the Minister agree that chaplains continue to play a vital part in end-of-life care by providing appropriate spiritual care and support to patients and their families, not least by acknowledging and sometimes absorbing the distress—and sometimes the despair and the anger—that is experienced by many in those last days and weeks of life, which other healthcare professionals are simply not in a position to be able to do?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I certainly acknowledge the terrific role that chaplains play in end-of-life care. I pay great tribute to and thank them greatly for their work in this area.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, following the noble Baroness's earlier answer, would it be possible for the department to monitor how many people die either at home or in a hospice as opposed to in an acute hospital—which, as the research shows, is what most people wish to avoid?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that sounds like a very simple question, and I would like to say that it should be possible to monitor those numbers, but I will have to look into it before giving the noble Baroness a definitive reply.

Lord Mawhinney: My Lords—

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, it is time to hear from the Labour Benches.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, can my noble friend indicate how the Government’s excellent strategy for the support of carers will link into this work, since the more people die at home, the more burden and distress is likely to fall on their families?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, one of the most important aspects of the new framework is that it is designed to engage with local people, and carers are extremely important within the community. It is also designed to ensure that there is much more joined-up action between local government and local PCTs. As local government actions and health in the community both have a great bearing on the lives of carers, I think that the framework will have greatly beneficial implications for carers.

Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, can the Minister explain what issues are making it difficult for the Government to decide that end-of-life care should be one of the 40 domains?

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