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The Law Commission was therefore asked in spring 2007 to commence a fresh review and to prepare a new draft Bill. Its review is the best and most effective means of working out proposals for a new law. It published its consultation paper on 29 November 2007 and consultation closed on 20 March. We look forward to receiving its report and a draft Bill this autumn, and will seek to introduce new legislation as soon as parliamentary time allows.
Lord Hylton: My Lords, are cases related to corruption pending against British citizens in the Republika Srpska, a component part of Bosnia-Herzegovina which has recently completed a major privatisation programme?
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, I do not have a brief on that specific question. We have many investigations in the UK, and 144 allegations of overseas corruption recorded by the SFO. The SFO has brought 15 foreign bribery inquiries and the City of London five more. Forty-four allegations are under preliminary investigation. The SFO has discontinued one inquiry, BAE-Saudi. Preliminary investigations on 35 additional cases were closed due to insufficient evidence. No action has been taken on 40. We have also provided additional funding to the City of London Police dedicated to the international anti-corruption group. We will nevertheless write on the detail of the question.
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, I declare an interest as a trustee of Christian Aid, which, as your Lordships will know, is an organisation dedicated to the relief of poverty and the eradication of its causesof which poor governance and corruption are among the most pernicious. Can the Minister say what engagement there is with the international development agencies to assess the impact of corruption on the worlds poor and also indicate how our own legislative provision compares with that available in our EU colleague nations?
Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, the World Bank assesses that corruption costs more than 5 per cent of global GDP. About $1 trillion is paid in bribes, and corruption adds about 10 per cent to the cost of doing business globally. Corruption causes a 25 per cent increase in the cost of procurements in developing countries and has a negative impact on foreign direct investment that is equivalent to a 20 per cent tax. As for the United Kingdoms position in what one might loosely call the league table as determined by the internationally recognised standard of Transparency International, it is second in the G8 countries after Canada and twelfth cleanest of the 179 countries surveyed.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, following the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and declaring an interest as a member of the advisory council of Transparency International UK, may I ask my noble friend to clarify whether or not any prosecutions have been brought under our present legislation over the past few years?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the national closed circuit television strategy was published in October last year and a national CCTV strategy programme board has been established. The programme board is currently reviewing the strategys recommendations, and the Government will have the opportunity to approve the work of the board later this year.
Lord Harrison: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with ACPOs view that the contribution of CCTV cameras will be as significant as that of DNA and fingerprinting? In order to fulfil those ambitions, though, will he ensure that the cameras are properly positioned, primed, loaded with film and capable of producing images that can be recognised so that leads can be followed up? Will he ensure that the police who operate the cameras are properly trained, motivated and, where necessary, such as in viewing the footage, supplemented by modern and updated technology?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there are apparently some 4.2 million CCTV cameras in the United Kingdom, not all of them in the public sector. It is right to say that we need to make good and effective use of CCTV because it has an important impact on the detection of crime, the deterrence of crime and the reduction of the fear of crime. The issues that the noble Lord raises regarding training, motivation of staff and improvements in technology are the right ones to address, which is why we have a developing national strategy, many of the recommendations from which address those very issues.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does the Minister know that Westminster Council finds CCTV extremely successful, but that it was said on radio recently that, on the whole, nationally they are a waste of time? Westminsters answer was that people need the time to look at the films. Will he confirm that that will be one of the factors taken into account?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am sorry to hear that the noble Baroness was attacked in that way. That is appalling. CCTV can make an important contribution to dealing with incidents like that. I am a
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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, the Ministers enthusiasm for CCTV seems to ignore the evidence from the 2004 Home Office study that only one in 14 CCTV systems that it studied in great detail actually had any effect on the rate of crime. Would it not therefore be better to put more effort into getting police on the beat and less into CCTV?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is not a case of either/or; it is a case of using CCTV intelligently along with neighbourhood policing and community support officers on the ground so that they can work together. Most CCTV control rooms ensure that the controller there has a radio connection with police in the field and can advise them on particular problems in order to deal with the sorts of low-level disorder that CCTV can easily pick up.
Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I have asked this question before, and I think that the Ministers figures are way out of date: how many CCTV cameras are currently registered with the Information Commissioner?
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, following the Joseph Sebastian case, over which there are question marks and which was referred to the Criminal Cases Review Commission, is there not an argument that prosecution authorities should not use speeded-up versions of CCTV material in court because that may well influence cases in a way that is prejudicial to the person being tried?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there have to be proper legal protections when using material obtained by CCTV: I do not think any of your Lordships would argue with that. The important thing is to ensure that if CCTV is to be used in a courtroom, the quality of images is usable and that it provides additional information and evidence to that which the prosecuting authorities will, no doubt, provide to the court. Those issues are extremely important.
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, as the Minister has said, it is believed that there are more than 4 million CCTV cameras in this country. It is also assessed that we are the most surveilled country in Europe and, indeed, in the wider world. Are the Government at all concerned about the civil liberties aspect of that?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if I had to debate with the noble Baroness, I could fairly argue that I am one of those who are civil libertarians. Yes, of course, one has to get a balance between protecting civil liberties and ensuring that we provide proper protection on the streets from the very people who attacked the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes. That is the exact issue we need to grapple with, which is why operational manuals and codes of practice are, importantly, in place. Those things ensure that liberty protections are, rightly, balanced against the need to protect people.
Lord Harrison: Yes, my Lords, but does my noble friend not recognise that the tenor of questions following my original one demonstrates that, if we are to have CCTV cameras among us all, they need to be properly used and manned so that we can get the benefits that are clearly available when those conditions apply?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend. That is why the national strategy is addressing the issues of quality, training and motivation and ensuring that we take maximum benefit from improvements to digital and other technologies relating to CCTV.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, with the permission of the House, after the first debate today my noble friend Lady Crawley will repeat a Statement on the cyclone in Burma. I should also take this opportunity to advise the House that, if Back-Bench contributions to the final debate, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, are kept to nine minutes, we should be able to rise tonight around the target time of 7 pm, and that the timing for the first debate, in the name of my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen, is extremely tight. Noble Lords contributing to that debate should sit down before the clock says 12.
Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Baroness Massey of Darwen set down for today shall be limited to three hours, and that in the name of Lord Bilston to two hours.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
Moved, That the Draft Financial Assistance Scheme (Miscellaneous Provisions) Regulations 2008 be referred to a Grand Committee. 18th report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments.(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to introduce this debate, and I look forward to speeches from all sides of the House, from the array of talent that has agreed to speak. Truly, this is an impressive list; all are committed to the well-being of children and have experience of promoting equality of opportunity for children.
When we discuss issues related to children in this House, it is always invigorating and moving. We are all genuinely concerned, including my noble friend the Minister, for children and their welfare beyond party politics. That was evident in recent discussionsvigorous ones, I might addaround the Children and Young Persons Bill. The Minister proved his patience and skill by obtaining many changes to that Bill, much to his and everyones credit, and to its improvement.
I should declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Group on Children; I am also a school governor in London. The all-party group has a large membership, partly from the voluntary sector, and I want to pay tribute to them for their tenacity in seeking the best for children and for the excellent briefings and discussions that they instigate. I also pay tribute to the Childrens Commissioner and his office for their continuous highlighting of issues significant to children and families. They held a wonderful reception yesterday in the Cholmondeley Room, where children gave presentations on what makes them healthy and happy. Again, it was shown that listening to children matters.
All of us here today believe that the well-being of children should be a key aim for any society. So, I believe, is equality of opportunity, and that starts early in life. The Childrens Plan rightly puts parenting at the heart of childrens welfare and achievement. We need to raise expectations and standards for all but focus on particular need, be it to do with gender, race, sexuality or disability. These are deep-rooted issues which no one initiative can tackle. This Government have done more than any other, I believe, to support children and families. There has been real progress towards equality. The Childrens Plan is an ambitious,
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I give two and three-quarter cheers to the Childrens Plan, which is not bad. I would give three cheers if the concerns I shall express today were met. I cannot, of course, go through the whole document today and I know that other noble Lords will raise specific issues. I shall talk about implementation of the plan and refer also to the primary school curriculum and leisure facilities. More of that in a moment but, first, I want to focus for a moment on the Governments record on supporting children and familiesand this does deserve three cheers.
The total spend on education rose from £29 billion to £64 billion between 1998 and 2008a massive increase of £35 billion. There are around 2,500 Sure Start childrens centres offering services to almost 2 million children and their families. More than 10,000 schools provide access to extended services in conjunction with local providers. All this strengthens community services. Total funding on children in schools has risen from just under £3,000 to just over £5,000an increase of £2,520 or 87 per cent. There has been a large building programme for schools. Academic results have improved. For example, the number of schools where 70 per cent or more pupils gain five A to C GCSEs has risen to 891, up from 83 in 1997a tenfold increase. Teenage pregnancy rates, thanks to a deliberate focus on this issue, are at their lowest for 20 yearsthe under-18 rate falling by 13.3 per cent and the under-16 rate by 13 per cent since 1998.
Some will say that there have been too many Bills, White Papers, plans and policies around children in recent years. The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth of Breckland, a great stalwart of childrens services, cannot be here today. She is, together with a few others who would have had something to say, at an EU meeting somewhere on a boat. I know her views because we have discussed them. She would have said, I dont want to see any more plans. I want implementation and proof of it. She went on to say that if one-tenth of this Childrens Plan were implemented, it would be a great achievement. I stand here today to praise the Governments record on the well-being of children but also, I hope, to open up an honest debate on the implementation of this plan.
UNICEF and other childrens organisations share the concern about implementation, as does the House of Commons Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families. They point to a lack of priority among objectives and the absence of a timetable for implementation. They point out that in long-term planning it is important to stick to objectives. There are now three sets of indicators that the DCSF is using: five Every Child Matters outcomes; six strategic objectives; and five PSA objectives. This will be very confusing. I hope, as does that committee, that this will all be clarified when the progress report promised by the Government appears in a years time. Perhaps the Minister can clarify that for us.
Achieving some measurable goals by 2020 seems a long way off and surely some improvements could be apparent quickly. I think, for example, of children in care and children in custody. There are not great numbers of these children and surely we could focus efforts here to achieve speedy results. I am aware that much is being done but can the Minister give me some reassurance that clear priorities will be set and some precise interim objectives set out for the Childrens Plan within the year? I cannot, as I said earlier, cover the scope of the plan in the short time available, but some central themes follow government initiatives closely: tackling poverty, placing families at the centre of integrated services, the extended role of schools, the role of childrens trusts, a guarantee of play facilities, and higher educational standards. This will all be familiar and has clear relevance to equality of opportunity.
A few highlights from the Childrens Plan for me are the emphasis on parenting and the introduction of parenting advisers in every local authority and the improved Outreach for Sure Start centres. Outreach often works better than a single-site service alone, however good it is. The plan introduces Family Pathfinders, especially for young carers. At last, maybe, these extraordinary young people may get some benefits and more support. There is a commitment to better short-break facilities for disabled childrena welcome inclusion. There is a promise of new playgrounds and new adventure playgrounds in deprived areas. How often do we hear from young people that they have nowhere to go and nothing to do? We certainly heard this from young people at the Childrens Commissioners reception yesterday. There will be a new child health strategy and a review of child and adolescent mental health services, action on bullying, personalised learning, a focus on gifted and talented, more attention to behaviour and discipline, encouraging meaningful staying on in education, managing risks, and sex education as part of programmes of social and emotional health. The Minister knows well that I always have said that this should be compulsory anyway. I will not go into that now. I welcome the prospect of a Green Paper on the education of young offenders. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will have something to say on that and I am grateful, as are we all, for his passion on that subject.
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