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I could go on, and sadly I could fill this debate with accounts of all those who are unable to feel part of this society—those who cannot experience the full benefits of citizenship as they should. This is what threatens our communities. So I greatly welcome the Government’s commitment to community cohesion, and this is something in which I have some expertise. Throughout my career, I have had the good fortune to work with a wide range of community groups and individuals from across the whole spectrum of our society. If I am honest, much of the reason for that has been unfortunate because it has come about following some breakdown or conflict within those communities. It may be the increasing use of drugs or alcohol, mental health problems, physical health problems, family breakdown, community tensions or even violence. More recently, I have been working with community groups and the police on issues related to serious crime, including the threats posed by extremism and the risks of vulnerable people being led towards terrorist activities.

So, yes, mostly the reasons why I have become involved with communities have been about disintegration, social confusion and rejection rather than cohesion. I suppose that is what we all tend to do. When we approach the issue of cohesion, we look at it from a perspective of what is not cohesive, what is not together or what seemingly cannot be unified. But cohesion is not about having one single group or community that is unified: cohesion means “pulling together”. In scientific terms it is the force of attraction between molecules and, as you all know, there is no stronger force in nature.

So should we not start to look at what is working well and learn from that? Let me suggest just three simple areas we must consider. First, let us recognise and start to celebrate the fact that we have a great many vibrant and strong communities that contribute significantly to the overall character and wealth of our society. Consider the rich heritage of languages, religions, food, art, music, clothing, fashion, film, poetry, literature and cultures that we have all around us. All of this contributes to who we are as a nation, a country, a citizenship. I do not think that we are very good at recognising this or celebrating it. I found it hard myself, which is perhaps not surprising when you consider that I am a Yorkshireman. After all, we really have to be pushed to see the value in anything that is not from Yorkshire. But I do value diversity, and that must be our starting point in seeking to strengthen communities. Diversity is a strength and not a threat to social cohesion.

Secondly, we should not try to create unnatural or forced communities under the guise of social cohesion. We cannot force people to integrate in ways that go against their natural instincts and ways of being. In

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fact, my own research shows that to do so is potentially harmful. In mental health, for example, the risk of experiencing an acute psychiatric illness increases when people live in areas where they feel isolated. I doubt that surprises anyone. Good mental health, it seems, comes from our sense of belonging, and much of that comes from living among those who are familiar to us. The uncomfortable message here is that living among people of our own background and cultural identity is good for our mental health. Artificial attempts to force greater social integration may in fact increase health and social problems and act against community cohesion. In some ways this goes against the prevailing trend of trying to create a greater mix of ethnicity in estates and schools, but we ignore these messages at our peril—or, more particularly, at the peril of those we expect to live in these newly envisaged communities.

This brings me to my last point: how do we know what works? I have pointed to some evidence on mental health, but what about other models? What other models should we be using in our attempts to build stronger communities? Your Lordships know exactly what I am going to say now: we do not need expert-led models; we do not want professors telling us what we should be doing—and I speak as a professor who enjoys telling people what they should be doing. No, what we need—and it is all we need—is the active engagement of the communities. They are the only ones who can truly tell us what works.

The things that seem most difficult to face, such as drug use, mental health, the fear of terrorism, are transformed once communities are involved in the changes. So, as we continue our debates on this crucial area, I shall be asking what kind of national indicator is being used by the Department of Communities and Local Government to measure its success, and how does that reflect engagement with the communities concerned. These are some of the most pressing issues we face as a society and we have to get this right. It is not only the fate of all those who currently feel excluded on which these matters depend but, very possibly, the fate of us all.

4.54 pm

Lord Borrie: My Lords, Members on all sides of the House have welcomed over a period any and various early warning signs of the Government’s legislative intentions, whether they come in the form of consultation papers, Green Papers, White Papers or draft legislation. We must therefore welcome the publication in October of the three consultative papers on certain aspects of the governance of Britain. I want to make some preliminary remarks about two of them; one on the making of war and treaties and the other on judicial appointments.

As my noble friend Lord Morgan indicated a short while ago, I favour in principle the idea that in a democracy such as ours the Government should be accountable to Parliament for decisions to enter into armed conflict on our behalf. Yet, almost inevitably, the idea of “parliamentary approval” raises more questions than it solves. In an emergency there is a clear need for the Government to be able to act without advance parliamentary approval. What are to be the consequences

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of the Government not acting with parliamentary approval, whether given in advance or retrospectively? What information must be given to Parliament to enable it to perform its function without endangering military action? The distinguished journalist Charles Moore puts the point rather neatly in the current edition of the Spectator; just one sentence puts it very neatly:

The consultation suggests something that must interest Members of this House: whereas the House of Commons should have a voting role in the matter of war and peace, the Lords should merely deliberate on the matter. To my mind, that rather diminishes the great weight of expertise that we know exists in this House on foreign affairs and defence matters, referred to only last week by the Leader of the House, my noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland, when she referred to the “intimidating” expertise on these matters in this House.

I am rather surprised to see—and am therefore more critical of—the Government’s consultation paper on judicial appointments. Only two years ago in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 an important and, to my mind, desirable change was made when the old system of the Lord Chancellor’s complete discretion was replaced by an independent Judicial Appointments Commission having not the only role but the key role in the selection and appointment of judges. However, the new consultation paper suggests further changes might be made, such as removing the remaining vestigial powers of the Lord Chancellor. The possibility has even been mooted of a role for Parliament in approving judicial appointments. I am glad that the Government have said in the consultation paper that if Parliament were to be involved in questioning applicants for judicial posts there would be a danger of politicising the whole process, but the consultation paper seems to favour post-appointment parliamentary hearings for the most senior posts of Lord Chief Justice and the heads of the various divisions on their administrative roles. I share the anxious doubts of Joshua Rosenberg, the much respected commentator on legal matters, on the effect of such hearings on judicial appointments. He says this is,

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, is going to wind up in this debate and is sitting here at this moment. I was surprised to hear him, on 25 October at col. 1158 of Hansard, express support for the “advise and consent” process of the United States Senate in its application to judicial appointments. Perhaps we shall hear at the end of the debate whether that is official Conservative policy.

I see very little substance in the consultation paper on judicial appointments. Of course, one must search for new roles for Parliament, but this is the wrong role. It would involve politicising the process, and the Lord Chancellor’s existing powers under what I might call the 2005 settlement are limited to requiring the Judicial Appointments Commission to think again about a particular appointment that it puts forward—a very modest power indeed. The time lag since 2005—or

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rather, I should say, the implementation of the Act in 2006—is so short that there has hardly been enough time in the way of experience to guide anyone who might be moved to respond to the consultation paper.

I share the view of my noble friend Lord Morgan that the Government’s prerogative powers need to be re-examined, but we dealt with judicial appointments satisfactorily two years ago. If there is anything wrong in detail, as I dare say there must be, it is far too soon for us to revisit that already.

5.01 pm

Lord Trimble: The gracious Speech made reference to devolution and the devolved Administrations in what I shall refer to in the rest of this contribution as the regions. Consequently, I shall look at what continues to be a significant issue, in respect of which some interesting proposals have recently been made—I am talking about the West Lothian question and the Barnett formula. Before I come to the substance of those, I make it absolutely clear that I am in favour of devolution, as I always have been, and I approve of the present devolution arrangements. However, it is important to remember that the devolved bodies in Belfast, Cardiff and Edinburgh are not on a par with this Parliament. There is a very simple principle here: devolved power is power retained. The power devolved to those bodies can be recalled, as we in Northern Ireland know only too well, and their views overridden. The power of this Parliament to override the devolved bodies is enshrined in legislation. This is the only sovereign Parliament in the United Kingdom, a point which is sufficient in my mind to settle the West Lothian question as being neither serious nor substantial.

However, we have to address an important point: there seems to be increasing dissatisfaction with devolution in England and a growing feeling that devolution has worked out unfairly in practice. In response to that feeling, it has been suggested that, within this Parliament, some form of English grand committee should consider English business. That is not a good idea for a number of reasons. It would introduce two classes of Member with regard to the business of Parliament, which is wrong in principle and extremely difficult to operate in practice—for example, it is difficult to define “English-only business”. My noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy pointed out that there are eight Bills with Welsh clauses in the Queen’s Speech, and a further four Bills with framework clauses empowering the Welsh Assembly to legislate. That illustrates the difficulty of definition. In addition, such an arrangement would lead to there being potentially different majorities in the House with regard to different issues. Jack Straw was right to remind people of the experience of the three Irish home rule Bills. Three different solutions to that issue were canvassed in each, ending up with a very crude compromise, which, although I shall not discuss whether it was successful, is worth looking at.

We should also consider the way in which Government formulate policy and the way in which that operates. We have a Government of the United Kingdom; they have Ministers who make policy and who are generally allocated a particular subject—it may be health or education and so on. As far as the Government are

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concerned, each of those Ministers is their lead on that subject, but those subject departments are by and large also the so-called English ministries. In addition to subject ministries, there were, and still are, three territorial departments—for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—and in those departments various junior Ministers from time to time would be given particular responsibilities for particular policy areas. But the policy that was made in the subject departments in Whitehall was the Government’s policy as a whole, and the territorial departments simply implemented that policy. In Westminster, if a Scots, Welsh or Ulster Member wanted to get involved in a debate on government policy on a particular issue, such as health or education, his only real chance to do so was in the debates created by the English department—the Whitehall department. Has devolution made a difference to this? I do not think so. And here we have to look at the issue of finance and the Barnett formula.

We should remember that the Barnett formula means that if there are increases in public expenditure in England, the devolved regions will get the per capita equivalent. It is a simple formula that transfers the increases that have occurred in England to the regions on a per capita basis. Those increases in expenditure in England are done on the basis of the Government’s policies. Therefore, the per capita equivalent that goes to the regions is the money that they need to implement the Government’s policies. So financial considerations effectively determine policy for the regions, which in theory have the freedom to vary those policies; but the financial considerations have meant that the variations are modest. That leaves out of the account the joint ministerial committees, which are designed to co-ordinate policy between Whitehall and the devolved regions. If a Scots Member could not vote on an English matter, he would have limited input into a policy that will, in all probability, apply in Scotland and which the MSPs will probably accept with only minor changes because of the influence of financial and other pressures. So the result of the adoption of a grand committee in this Parliament to deal with English matters will only diminish the quality of democratic accountability and policy-making with regard to the regions.

I note in passing that the Barnett formula is actually deflationary for the regions because, if their existing expenditure is above the UK average, which is the case in most of them, per capita increases in the regions will bring about a lower percentage increase in the regions compared with the percentage increase in England. In the long run, if Barnett is applied without any variation, there will be a regression towards the mean in terms of expenditure. But that has not happened, and we are entitled to wonder why not. I am not in a position to give an answer; why we have not just Barnett but Barnett plus in respect to the regions is for the Treasury to answer.

The problem that I mentioned at the outset was the growing feeling in England that the system was operating unfairly. I am not in a position to say that this problem should be ignored; some things need to be done, and there are three things that could be done. First, we should make the operation of the Barnett formula absolutely transparent, requiring the Treasury to publish the calculations that it makes with regard to increase

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of expenditure, to identify clearly what is coming as a result of the Barnett formula, so that the Barnett plus element, where it exists, can be identified, and people can consider whether it is justified. It may be justified in some cases because of the different circumstances in the regions, but let that be clearly seen and let people know what is happening in that respect.

The second thing that should be done is to tackle what I regard as the real problem—namely, that in some respects expenditure in the regions is often inefficient and simply too high. There is a very simple explanation for this factor: Thatcherism and even new Labour scarcely touched the regions. It certainly had virtually no effect on Northern Ireland policy; public services in Northern Ireland still operate on what is basically a 1970s model. There has been an element of Thatcherism and new Labour in Scotland and Wales, but not to the same extent as in England. What should be done, rather than to look at procedures, is to look at the problem, which is the comparative inefficiency of public services in the regions. It should be borne in mind that those inefficiencies and the variations in government practice that give rise to this problem are the result of Executive decisions within existing budgets, so changing the procedures for legislation will have absolutely no impact upon that. It is unwise to tell the man in the English street that an English grand committee will solve a problem which does not arise from legislation but Executive decision-making. That will not help.

I saw the interesting suggestion by Peter Riddell in the Times last Thursday that expanding powers of taxation would be appropriate but I do not think that will work either. It is like the existing 3p in the pound variation that the Scottish Parliament can make. It has never used it to have a higher level of taxation, and I cannot see that a devolved region will have a higher level of taxation than that applying nationally. If it is used to have a lower level of taxation, the Treasury will retaliate by calculating the block grant on the assumption that the local tax yield is at the same rates as that in England, so that is not a solution.

The third thing which I think should be done to deal with the problem in terms of English public opinion is to reform local government in England in such a way as to give substantial authorities real discretion with regard to how they spend their budget. I listened with interest to the comments of my noble friend Lady Shephard on the desire of people in Essex to retain their present local government set-up. I note that there is in England no strong feeling as regards regional devolution but that there is strong feeling as regards county councils. So why not return to them some serious, substantial power? That will mean accepting that there can be variation, just as the devolved Administrations can bring about variation, but I do not see that being a problem if it is clear that the basis of funding for the regions and the local authorities is entirely fair. For that we need greater transparency and a greater commitment to achieving effectiveness and efficiency in spending in the regions.

5.12 pm

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, I have been horrified recently by what seems to be a concerted attempt by

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the Government and their appointees to ratchet up once more the fear of terrorism among the people of this country. In particular, the police are calling for a longer period of detention without trial, without presenting any evidence as to why this is necessary. At the same time, unaccountably, the director-general of the CIA, like Pooh-Bah in the “Mikado”, wishing to provide corroborative detail, tells us that there are thousands of teenagers in this country,

This may be true but I cannot be the only person in this country who mistrusts every word uttered on this subject since the invasion of Iraq. I learnt the terrible tale of Matilda by Hilaire Belloc very well when I was a child. Let us believe them all for once and then instead of finding ever more draconian measures to curtail our freedom in this country, let us address the causes of terrorism and what inspires people to support terrorists or even to become terrorists themselves.

Tony Blair was told many times that British foreign policy was fuelling terrorism here and abroad. His response was that Muslims have a completely false sense of grievance against the West. I disagree and not just for the reasons so eloquently put by the noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford. For many years before 9/11 the West knew of Osama bin Laden and his campaign against us. Many people had already died as a consequence of his ideology and perverted form of Islam. It is a perversion and bears no relationship to the cultured and gentle Muslims whom many of us know. Some people thought that the danger was being exaggerated, but he was an inspiration for many young Muslims all over the world. They saw him as a way of taking up arms against the degenerate and greedy people in the West who are grabbing all the world’s resources for themselves in collusion with some Muslim partners in the oil-rich Middle East while two-thirds of the world starved.

It is worth remembering that while 2,800 innocent people died at the twin towers on 9/11, across the world 24,000 people would have starved to death on that same day—many due to our inaction and many in Afghanistan where a famine raged at the time. So we bombed Afghanistan, killing thousands more.

Watching the latest “Robin Hood” on the BBC with my grandsons a couple of weeks ago, we saw the sheriff of Nottingham string Robin up over a pit full of snakes—do not ask me where they got the snakes from; it was a long time ago. Robin, cheered on by my grandson, shouted, “Kill me, and a thousand Robin Hoods will spring up in my place”. Why did I think of Osama bin Laden? The bombing of Afghanistan and our foreign policy since then have spawned a thousand bin Ladens here and all over the world, all inspired by their sense of injustice and humiliation and their willingness to die as martyrs of their Islamic perversion.

We learnt nothing; we continued to follow America’s lead into the abyss. I will not bore noble Lords with the mistakes made over the illegal invasion of Iraq. I still find it unbelievable that Bush and Blair, or at the very least some of their advisers, have not been called to account as war criminals. We now seem to be getting up steam to commit the same crime on Iran. Our mistakes are legion. We encourage conflict

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by still selling arms to countries that will use them for external aggression and internal repression. We say that we support human rights, but we fail to act on Guantanamo Bay and extraordinary rendition.

For decades, we have turned a blind eye to the gross abuse of human rights being committed on Palestinians by the Israeli Government, and we have failed to press for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement, when Israel is clearly in breach of its conditions. We support democracy; and we invade Iraq to impose it. That is an oxymoron if ever there was one. We refuse to recognise the democratically elected Government of Palestine. We lecture developing countries on corruption; and we cover up our own dodgy deals with Saudi Arabia. We uphold international law, but we allow Israel to break it, ignore UN resolutions and disobey the Geneva conventions.

We put sanctions on Iran for building up its nuclear capability, and we take no action against Israel, which has nuclear weapons and has not signed the non-proliferation treaty. We rightly condemn the actions of suicide bombers who kill so many innocent people, but we carry on bombing and targeting populations of civilians from helicopters and bomber planes at 30,000 feet; a cowardly way of waging war, it has always seemed to me. Finally, we welcome the King of Saudi Arabia on a state visit; an outrage to decent people in this country. Maintain economic and diplomatic relations if we must, but to hear Kim Howells trumpet that our two countries have “shared values” was disgusting.

We are introducing curbs on our rights and freedoms in this country to try to deal with Islamic extremists, and yet we give a royal welcome to one of the finest examples of Islamic extremism in the world. What hypocrisy! And we wonder why young Muslims have a grievance against us. I am ashamed of our Government. I had hoped for something different from the new Prime Minister and a recognition that to be safe at home our foreign policy must change. I want diplomacy practised with honesty and integrity, as I thought it used to be. I want once again to be proud of being British.

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