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Noble Lords will know that we believe that awareness-raising campaigns, mentioned by a number of noble Lords, are of great importance. In the past few years, we have run a number of campaigns aimed at addressing attitudes and behaviour regarding violence against women. We have had the Consent campaign aimed at men obtaining consent, the Enough campaign aimed at third parties reporting domestic violence, and a kerb-crawler campaign aimed at deterring men from kerb crawling. I am confident that these campaigns will go on. We need to do this, just as we have eventually brought about change regarding other pernicious forms of crime that we have campaigned on for a number of years. I can assure noble Lords who have spoken that we will look at this very seriously indeed. We will continue to look at what more we can do, working with our partners, to raise awareness of these crimes.

We know that some groups in society are particularly vulnerable to sexual violence, such as people with a learning disability or those involved in prostitution. We have introduced specific offences in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 to offer additional protection to these groups, and continue to support initiatives, such as schemes to share information on sex buyers who are violent, and personal safety training for women involved in prostitution. I say to my noble friend Lady Kingsmill that we recognise that there is considerable support for our work on tackling the demand for prostitution and the impact that this work has on trafficking. Earlier this week, my colleague Vernon Coaker announced a short-term review of what more we can do in this area. This will involve further exploration of approaches adopted in other jurisdictions—including Sweden, which has a specific offence of paying for sex—and consultation with stakeholders. We expect this work to take about six months.

Those who commit sexual offences face a tough regime. The average length of sentence for rape has doubled since 1984 and we have introduced indeterminate

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sentences for public protection. On release, serious sex offenders are managed through Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements—MAPPA—by the police and offender management services. The evidence shows that MAPPA works, because in 2006-07 only 0.08 per cent of high-risk offenders managed within MAPPA were charged with a serious further offence. The police have a range of tools to help minimise risk of reoffending, including sex offender registration, civil orders and information-sharing systems. But sex offenders should also be offered treatment to try and reduce the motivation and opportunity to offend. We are delivering sex offender treatment programmes to more than 1,000 sex offenders in prison and to some 1,200 sex offenders in the community every year.

The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours—for different reasons—indicated that the figures are not as bad as they might appear at first blush. I should say immediately that they are certainly not as acceptable as any of us would like and need to get a lot better. As a number of noble Lords have said, rape is a very difficult offence to prosecute. According to the British survey of 2001, some 54 per cent of rapists were current or former partners of the victim and only 17 per cent were strangers. So for the very reasons that have been mentioned today, these offences are incredibly difficult to prosecute.

One thing we must do is enable more people to come forward; we should celebrate the fact that many more people are having the courage to come forward, because the real problem was not people lying about these terrible, vicious offences, but the fact that they have been too frightened and intimidated to say anything at all. We need to direct our attention to changing that balance. Therefore, all the things that we have done in providing health and support services—the £10 million to increase the opportunity to give that support—are important.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, this seems a logical moment to ask the noble and learned Baroness about that period between the person having the courage to come to the police and the trial. I entirely agree with her that there are considerable difficulties regarding people coming forward, but it seems that the deficiencies are really stark where, once a report has been made to the police, in the end only a small percentage of such cases are tried. She may be about to address that point, but I hope that it will not escape her during the remainder of her speech.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, that is why we have properly concentrated on the work of sexual assault referral centres and the support from the Independent Sexual Violence Advisory Service, whose advisers walk with the individual. One of the big issues is that, even after someone comes forward, the enormity of what going to court actually means can so oppress the victim that they do not have the courage to go further. Thereby, all the things that we are doing in that regard have become critical.

Sexual assault referral centres were first created a while ago and represent a holistic approach to meeting the support and health needs of victims and the evidential

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needs of the police. As my noble friend Lady Gale said, there are now 19 SARCs with a further 17 under development, supported by funding from the Home Office. The evidence shows that these centres work and ultimately we want to see access to a SARC for all victims of serious sexual assault. The Home Office is also funding and evaluating 38 independent sexual violence advisers, based in SARCs and voluntary organisations. These trained professionals carry out risk assessments for victims of sexual violence, help them to access the services they need and ensure that clients who go through the criminal justice process are supported from start to finish.

Noble Lords will know that we took such action in relation to domestic violence. We created independent domestic violence advisers, who I refer to always as “divas”, because they are so wonderful—and we have male and female divas. They have massively improved the ability of the victim to remain engaged in the process and have supported and enabled victims to go right the way through. We see creating a specialist sexual violence voluntary sector as crucial in the provision of therapeutic services for victims. The Home Office has supported the sector through the Victims Fund during the past four years. We recognise that sustainability for these organisations continues to be an issue and we are working with our stakeholder advisory group on sexual violence to look at how we can increase stability and capacity in these services. We are already implementing some of its early recommendations. We have funded two national umbrella groups—Rape Crisis England and Wales and the Survivors Trust—to strengthen support for the sector and are working with them to develop national service standards, commissioning guidance for local authorities and primary care trusts and an indicator for local strategic partnerships, all aimed at increasing access to these services for victims of sexual violence.

I turn now to the delivery of justice for victims of rape. If we are to improve the criminal justice response, it is important to understand what underlies the low conviction rate. The first and greatest cause of attrition is in the decision by up to 85 per cent of victims not to report the offence to the police, in some cases because they fear they will not be believed or lack confidence in the system. As I have already indicated, the willingness of victims to report and stay in the system is one of the most important things.

Therefore, we have invested not only in support for the victim but also in training and support for those who carry out other duties within the system. Specially trained officers and specialist rape prosecutors have been introduced across England and Wales, and we continue to improve training and guidance for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. We are now working with the Bar Council to deliver accredited training to all counsel who act in rape cases, be they for the defence or the prosecution. We have overhauled the procedure in a way that we think will strengthen the opportunity for a successful prosecution.

I heard the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours about the system and his condemnation of the law but I have to say to him that

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the assessment of the noble Lord, Lord Elystan-Morgan, was right. We now have the system—the law and the structure—about right.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, yesterday’s response document, says that appropriate specimen directions on the issue of capacity of consent would be necessary. If those directions included references to alcohol, would that not mean that we were effectively rewriting Section 30(2) of the 2003 Act because we would be bypassing a debate in Parliament? I am not convinced that Parliament would support what those appropriate specimen directions might include. In any case, what is the intention of Parliament? The document refers to “operated as intended” by Parliament. Where is what Parliament intended on these issues defined?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, because he follows these matters very closely, my noble friend will know that the Court of Appeal had an opportunity, in a case called Regina v Bree, to look at the definition given in the 2003 Act. That case settled the issues quite well and clarified precisely what was meant in the 2003 Act. On that basis, we felt that there was no need for further legislative change because that matter had been clarified. There is now an opportunity for training from the Judicial Studies Board and others to ensure that it is followed through.

Many issues have been raised in the debate, all of which I agree with—for example, the matter of female genital mutilation raised by my noble friend Lady Rendell. It is absolutely right that these issues should be looked at and I agree with the calls that she made.

In relation to a point made by my noble friend Lady Massey, although the national plan has not been formally updated, it has been implemented and a number of improvements have been made. In April 2006, we saw the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre publication—the main inter-agency guidelines. It is important not just to update but to implement that plan to ensure that our aspirations are followed through.

We agree with my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley on the issue of pornography. We have continued to address these matters rigorously and believe that they need to go further.

I am sorry that I have run out of time—

Noble Lords: There are another four minutes.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I thought that I was limited to 20 minutes but I am glad that I can say a little more.

As I said, the importance of these issues cannot be overstated. The work of the umbrella groups and the strengthening of that work, together with investigation and prosecution, will be of enormous importance.

The increase in the willingness of victims to come forward has meant that we have seen some improvement, and I want to say a word or two about the figures. The

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conviction rate, which stands at 5.7 per cent for 2005-06, represents the percentage of convictions against reported crimes. Although it is right that the overall conviction rate has fallen since 1997 from 9.3 to 5.7 per cent, that has to be seen in the light of a significant rise in the number of reported cases. They rose from 6,628 in 1997 to 14,449 in 2005-06 and that is indeed welcome.

The importance of all the participants in the criminal justice system playing their part cannot be overstated. Your Lordships will know that the report on rape published in January by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate made a telling observation. It said:

The recommendations from the inspection focused on the importance of the police and the CPS working together to build cases, on ensuring that cases are effectively supervised and reviewed, and on learning lessons from case outcomes. Every police force has put in place an action plan to implement the recommendations from the inspection, assisted by an operational support team funded by the Home Office. The CPS has established a Rape Delivery Unit to ensure that the prosecution recommendations are delivered, and rape co-ordinators from every area now provide a quarterly report to chief Crown prosecutors and to headquarters identifying trends, good practice and aspects for improvement.

It is also vital that we in central government understand and manage performance effectively. We have established a Cross-CJS Rape Performance Group, which monitors the performance of police and the CPS and raises any concerns with chief constables and chief Crown prosecutors. In turn, they are provided with support by the operational support team that I mentioned earlier to address the particular issues facing their area. The criminal justice strategic plan, published earlier this month, makes it clear that local criminal justice boards should include a key focus on the most serious offences, such as rape, that cause the most harm to victims.

I hope that all those matters will ensure that we do not have a postcode lottery and that all victims in our country will receive a similar standard of support.

2.07 pm

Baroness Gale: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said, we have covered a very wide range of topics under the title of sexual offences. I thank my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland of Asthal for her excellent response and for reminding us of the work that the Government have already done and will do, I know, in the future. Many suggestions have been put to her and I hope that she will look at them and come back to us. If what my noble and learned friend said about having chalked up one first today is correct—that is, agreement among all the lawyers—that is absolutely fantastic.



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Once again, I thank everyone. I am sure that this is a topic that we shall come back to at some point but, for now, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Remploy

2.10 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend Peter Hain, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. The Statement is as follows:

“I wish to make a Statement on the modernisation of Remploy. Since Remploy was founded in 1945, it has played a central role in the lives of thousands of disabled men and women by providing supported employment for those who need it and, increasingly, placing others in mainstream employment.“Both as a local MP and as a Minister, I have for the past 17 years worked closely with and supported Remploy and, as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Remploy workers will continue to have my full support. May I also record the grateful thanks of the House for the diligence and commitment of my honourable friend the Minister for Disabled People? “Of course, the world has developed dramatically since the end of the Second World War, not least in how the aspirations and expectations of disabled people have changed, and changed for the better. The vast majority want jobs in mainstream employment, and that is the Government’s priority. That is why we extended the scope of the Disability Discrimination Act. That is why we have been transforming the support that we give to disabled people, moving away from a system that abandons people at the margins to one which helps them to realise their potential. “That is why we spent £66 million last year on the Workstep programme to support 17,000 people. That is why we spent £62 million on Access to Work to help 24,000 people. These programmes are already helping disabled people to take their place in an inclusive society. That is why we are introducing the employment and support allowance which will replace incapacity benefit next autumn. That is why we are extending Pathways to Work across the country by April of next year, offering tailored support to help people on incapacity benefit back into work. That is why last year, Remploy’s employment services division placed 5,000 disabled people into mainstream employment, for the first time outstripping the number employed by the factory network. “We have helped more disabled people into jobs than ever before. For example, since 2001, the New Deal for Disabled People has helped more than 150,000 into work. None the less, there remains a vital role for supported employment, providing a

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chance to work for thousands of disabled people who might not otherwise be immediately ready for mainstream work. That has been a central part of Remploy’s work since it was founded. But increasingly, Remploy has struggled to fulfil its role effectively. “Low-wage, low-skill competition from countries such as China and the EU accession states have put Remploy factories under enormous pressure. In turn, Remploy has failed adequately to move into higher value, higher skill work. Losses have spiralled, and Remploy’s ability to support disabled people has been put at risk. Change is therefore essential for Remploy’s 83 factories across the country, and the 5,000 people they employ.“Following the National Audit Office’s report in 2005 and the independent report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Dr. Stephen Duckworth of Disability Matters last summer, Ministers asked Remploy to develop a new five-year restructuring plan. This was to modernise the business, avoid compulsory redundancy for Remploy’s disabled workers, support substantially larger numbers of disabled people into mainstream work, and to stay within a funding envelope of a £550 million taxpayer subsidy over five years to ensure that escalating costs do not put at risk funding for other DWP programmes for disabled people.“The reality is that without modernisation, Remploy deficits would obliterate our other programmes to help disabled people into mainstream work. With no change, on current trends, in five years’ time Remploy would require £171 million a year—in other words £60 million over the £111 million funding envelope. This represents nearly the entire current annual Workstep budget. “In May 2007 Remploy proposed for consultation with the trade unions to close or merge 43 of the 83 Remploy factories. But when I took over as Secretary of State a month later, it was clear that national and local management had not exhausted procurement opportunities to maintain the maximum number of Remploy sites. There was a huge gulf between Remploy management and the trade unions, and the likelihood of destructive confrontation. So, in August, I asked Roger Poole, a former assistant general secretary of Unison to act as the independent chairman of fresh negotiations. I record my thanks for the way in which he managed to achieve real dialogue and progress. Although there was no agreement on factory closures, there was for the first time very significant common ground. There was agreement on: the £555 million funding subsidy; quadrupling to 20,000 the number of disabled people Remploy would help into mainstream work; significant cuts in management jobs and costs; more efficient working practices; the vital importance of generating more public sector contracts and, in consequence, the need for fewer factory closures.“In September I reaffirmed government policy on Remploy: that everyone should do their utmost to get a negotiated outcome; no factory closures without ministerial agreement; and that all public authorities should be encouraged to take advantage

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of European procurement rules allowing contracts to be reserved for supported businesses. I reaffirmed, as I do again today, that there would be no compulsory redundancies for Remploy’s disabled workers and that they would retain the protection of Remploy’s terms and conditions, including—uniquely for workers facing plant closures or transfers—their salaries and final salary pensions. Both workers and management now need certainty to end the insecurity and worry for Remploy employees and their families, and to allow Remploy management to begin the radical changes that we all recognise are needed.“The final proposals I am announcing today represent the best package for Remploy’s disabled employees in these difficult circumstances. Copies of the modernisation plan are available in the Vote Office and a letter with agreed proposals to the trade unions has been deposited in the Library. There will be 15 fewer factory closures with 55 factories remaining open and 11 merging—down from 32 closures to 17. The sales target for public sector procurement will increase to £461 million over five years, up from £298 million since the company’s proposal in May. This is a huge and challenging 130 per cent increase over the current rate of sales of £200 million. There will be a cost saving of £59 million from around 25 per cent fewer managers, changes in working practices and reductions in non-wage costs.“Last week I had productive discussions with the leaders of the GMB, Unite and Community, joined by Remploy chairman, Ian Russell. I pay tribute to Ian Russell for his energy and commitment to get the best for Remploy workers. As a result we have reached further agreements to protect Remploy’s future and its workers. New skills in public procurement will be brought in to ensure that its marketing and sales effort is targeted appropriately. Appropriate employment advice will be available to all disabled employees whose factories are closing. Remploy will provide a travel-to-work package wherever necessary, when employees transfer as a result of mergers.“Furthermore, Remploy has been contacted by third parties interested in keeping some form of production or training at six of the sites due for closure: Lydney, Glasgow Hillington, St Helens, Treforest, Ystradgynlais and Brynamman. At four other sites—Mansfield, Pinxton, Plymouth and York—there is the possibility of staff transfers to nearby and mostly local authority-supported plants.“I know that there will be disappointment that we are unable to keep even more factories open but the reality is that it is simply not viable. For those sites, including those mentioned above, my message is this: if management, trade unions, MPs and others come up with a credible option involving a takeover or transfer, we will of course co-operate and Remploy will help facilitate. But time is very short. The new funding envelope starts in four months from 1 April 2008. We have managed to keep open 55 sites only on the basis of very stretching procurement targets and a tough forward plan. It will be up to everyone with an interest in Remploy—
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