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Let us go right back to 1997. Labour’s 1997 election manifesto stated that all modern countries,

That was a clear promise that the control would continue, but Labour abandoned its promise and abandoned the control, doing its best to conceal from the public what it was up to. In fact, it was a lot worse than that. Decent people who expressed concern about what was going on, and who fully recognised the great contribution made by newcomers over the years but doubted whether we could continue with an almost open door, were branded racists and the Government made every effort to stifle debate.

I do not know precisely why things happened as they did. The Government may have concluded that it was easier to import people to fill vacancies than to take unpopular steps to get back to work the millions of economically inactive people already here. Probably they just allowed the Home Office to become so inefficient and demoralised as to be incapable of operating the control effectively. They allowed it to become, in the words of John Reid, “unfit for purpose”.

Whatever the reason, the control collapsed, and the figures are there to prove it. There should be no room for argument about this. In the 1980s, net immigration was below 50,000 a year and in 1997 it stood at 48,000, but by 2004 it had soared to 586,000. A lot of people left in that year, but even if we take account of the leavers the net number of permanent entrants was an enormous and unprecedented 244,000. The net figure for 2006 was a little lower, but last year it was back to 237,000, even though by then there was a pronounced downward trend in people coming from eastern Europe. I am talking about legal immigration. Like Mr Blunkett, we do not have a clue how many are here illegally, but there must be hundreds of thousands of them because 285,000 failed asylum seekers are unaccounted for.

A few weeks ago there was an outbreak of common sense, but it was very short-lived. Mr Phil Woolas said that there was a need for a cap on immigration and that he would not let Britain’s population go over 70 million. The next day, after, apparently, having received a rocket from the Secretary of State and after a Labour colleague had accused him of “pandering to right-wing extremists”, he recanted. However, he started a debate that will not be so easily stifled this time.

Recently, this House debated a report of the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee and its conclusion that Britain had not benefited from the influx of newcomers over recent years. Even if we reject the committee’s conclusion, we still have to ask ourselves whether in the long run it is really in anybody’s interest for the population of our tiny island to continue to

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grow at the rate at which it has been growing recently. In October 2007, the Office for National Statistics predicted that Britain’s population, which grew by 2 million between 2001 and 2007, would, with 70 per cent of the increase due to new immigration, surge to 71 million by 2031, 75 million by 2051 and 85 million by 2081, making us by then by far the most densely populated country in Europe.

How will we house these people? What will be left of our countryside when we have done so? Between 1997 and 2005, the last period for which figures are available, no fewer than 592,000 houses were needed solely for new immigrants. According to the Library of the House of Commons, 41 per cent of the 3 million houses that Mr Brown says he is going to have built by 2020 will have to be built only because of the new immigration that is at present forecast—that is, new immigration from now.

According to the CPRE, 3 million more houses by 2020 means our having to lose an area of greenfield land the size of Birmingham to accommodate them. That would be an environmental disaster, but it is one that can still be avoided. We have to stop saying, “X number of people are going to come, so Y number of houses must be built”. Instead, we must ask ourselves whether the vast number of new homes that we are told immigration policies require is not in itself an argument for stemming the flow. If we can bring immigration and emigration into a rough balance—if we can achieve a situation in which those coming match those leaving—the need for additional housing identified in the Barker report will largely be removed.

There is nothing in the gracious Speech that is calculated to achieve a result remotely like this. Let us be clear: the Government’s points system, which places no limit at all on work-related immigration, actually guarantees further immigration growth. How can it be otherwise when, as newcomers fill vacancies, their demand for services creates others? How can it be otherwise when the Government boast of 800,000 jobs being available to non-EU immigrants without their even having to be advertised here? These are not highly skilled jobs, but jobs such as care workers and cooks—not Gordon Ramsays, but people capable of earning £8.20 an hour. How can it be otherwise when the government scheme allows people with skills to come here on spec and then take unskilled work?

There is only one answer, which is an annual limit on non-EU immigration designed to achieve a rough balance between leavers and entrants—the cap on immigration that Mr Woolas advocated. So one or two cheers for Mr Woolas and a plague on his bullying detractors.

5.23 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, when I read Hansard for the second day of the debate on the gracious Speech, I was very struck by the words of the noble Lord, Lord Howell of Guildford, who used the word “anorexic” to describe the content of the foreign affairs part of the Speech and went on to say that he was interested more in what was not in it rather than what was in it. I feel exactly the same about the criminal justice content of the speech, particularly its failure to

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address the crisis situation in prisons and probation, which has been made worse by a combination of government action and inaction over recent years and months; both avoidable if advice had been listened to.

I hope that the silence in the Bill signals that in fact a time for reflection has been called for after the hectic pace of legislation in previous years, which was so graphically described by my noble and learned friend Lord Lloyd. I hope, therefore, that in that reflective period the Government will have time to listen to some of the points that people have been making for years about what needs to be done; people from all parts of the House, all parts of the community and all parts of the penal system. Somehow, they seem to have been ignored.

I would like to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, that her concern about speech and language problems was picked up in the Education and Skills Bill and is, I understand, being carried forward into this Session. I hope that that at least is being taken care of.

The success or otherwise of organisations should be judged by outcomes. In the case of our prisons, for years these have been measured by what is called the reoffending rate—something that you cannot measure with any accuracy, because you do not know who has reoffended until they have been charged and reconvicted. In 1997, the reconviction rate stood at 55 per cent of all adult male prisoners within two years of release, which was, to my mind, a disgraceful figure, of which everyone concerned should be ashamed. If you use the same measurement, that figure has increased to 67 per cent, which is even worse. Why? It is because, I believe, the Government have accentuated all the old mistakes by a combination of ill-thought-out legislation, grossly expanded bureaucracy, failure to rationalise the prison estate and the management system of the Prison Service, and concentration not on the work done with and for offenders but the methods by which such work is contracted.

If you think through the principles of what you need to do to put a system of people to work, the principal reality, which has been so consistently and blatantly ignored, is that, although it is much easier bureaucratically to treat them as commodities, offenders are people. The second principle, which marches with that, is that the most effective weapon when trying to influence other people for good or evil is other people. Therefore, if you have what you call a national offender management system, whose role is to protect the public by preventing reoffending, it stands to reason that at its heart should be as many people as possible dealing face to face with offenders. Those people need space in which to do the work, and resources and programmes with which to conduct it. One of those resources is time. Therefore, if you have a system in which 90 per cent of the time of the governors of those prisons is taken up with bureaucracy, leaving only 10 per cent for staff and offenders, something must be wrong. If trained governors of prisons stay an average of only 18 months in post—one prison had five governors in a year—and there is no consistency in treatment, clearly something is wrong.

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Therefore, in the past Ministers have failed to recommend that the workers need to be selected and trained, and led by people who are responsible for what they do and accountable for how well they do it. That is how schools, hospitals, businesses and Armed Forces are run and organised. When planning budgets, heads of those organisations try to ensure that as much as possible is sent down to the people who have to do the operational work and as little as possible is devoted to bureaucracy. If you look at the chart of what is called the National Offender Management Service, you will no longer find a director-general of Her Majesty’s Prison Service or a director of the National Probation Service, but you will find directors of capacity programmes, heads of commercial and competitions units, national commissioning and stakeholder relations units. What on earth are they doing in a bloated monster filled with worthy and hard-working people, performing tasks whose necessity is at best questionable, when set against what more could be done to protect the public if the cost were put into programmes with and for offenders.

What worries me in addition to that, as I have said many times, is that one illogicality of the way in which our prisons are run is that no one knows the cost of imprisonment. Of course we know how much is voted each year by the Treasury and how much is then allocated to each prison, but we do not know how much it would cost to do all that the Government say they want to do with and for prisoners. Until we know that figure, we will not know what cannot be afforded, which is equally important. Bearing in mind that further cuts are on the way for an organisation that has already had its funding cut by 7 per cent since 2001 in real terms and is progressively overcrowded, surely it is time that Ministers asked themselves whether we can afford to continue with the current grossly inefficient penal system as far as reducing reoffending is concerned, while developing bloated bureaucracies with demands to satisfy meaningless and false targets that they have created, which deflect from the main purpose. Therefore, I saw with interest that mention was made in the gracious Speech of protecting the public by providing a more effective, transparent and responsive justice system for victims, witnesses and the general public. I hope that that will be so.

However, what causes me concern is the tone and temper of recent pronouncements from the Ministry of Justice. I listened aghast to Jack Straw introducing his latest mantra, “punishment and reform”, not only because it seems to be a rather populist slogan designed to show how tough people are but because it is so wide of the mark of what preventing reoffending is all about. It is not up to the prison and probation services to punish offenders; that is the task of the courts. Glib words about reform ignore the reality that far too many offenders have never settled, let alone resettled, in the community, and therefore you are talking about not reform but form. Then we find that community sentences are put in Day-Glo stocks, and yesterday there was talk about amending the Human Rights Act. Now, governors must ensure that activities for prisoners meet the test of what a reasonable member of the general public would consider acceptable and appropriate for prisoners. Who on earth will measure

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that? As I said, I welcome the silence on legislation but I hope that it signals a period of reflection, leading to better management of our prisons.

5.32 pm

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I start with two brief remarks. One is that I strongly agree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, about reform of the law on murder and I equally strongly disagree with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, on the subject of the Supreme Court and the role of the Attorney-General. The other is that tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a document that has been of historic importance throughout the world. I am a little surprised that, although I am the 13th speaker in the debate today, I am the first to have mentioned that coincidence.

Three main factors are necessary for a good legal system. The first is the observance of the rule of law; the second is the protection of human rights; and the third is access to justice for all who need it. Rule of law means, among other things, that the actions of the Executive must be subject to the law, that the courts must have jurisdiction over breaches of the law, that the judiciary and lawyers must be independent and non-corrupt, and that in both criminal and civil cases there must be a right to a fair hearing for all parties involved.

Of course, the rule of law is essential to a good legal system but on its own it is not enough. South Africa, for example, broadly maintained the rule of law during the apartheid period but the non-white population was deprived by law of almost all forms of human rights. Therefore, to make a good legal system, you have to add human rights to the rule of law.

Elements of human rights can be found in the Magna Carta but the real parent of human rights was the Enlightenment, which gave birth to the American Bill of Rights—the first 10 amendments to the American constitution. Ironically, for 75 years the constitution recognised the legality of slavery, which deprived men, women and children of all their human rights, and it was another century before those rights were capable of being enjoyed by most of the black population.

The United Kingdom’s record on the rule of law and human rights is, I believe, pretty good by international standards. However, human rights are, sadly, under threat because the Conservatives are talking of repealing the Human Rights Act and replacing it with a new Act which will withdraw or restrict some of the existing rights. If we do this, we will be inviting every other one of the 47 member states of the Council of Europe to cherry-pick the parts of the European Convention on Human Rights that they like and to ignore the parts that they dislike. That would, I believe, be a disaster. The European Convention on Human Rights was largely drafted by British lawyers nearly 60 years ago. I believe that it has worked well throughout Europe, and I would go as far as saying that it is a modern equivalent of the Magna Carta and should not be tampered with.

The last of the three necessary factors is access to justice, because the most perfect set of laws will be valueless to those who have no access to them. In this

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respect, the United Kingdom is moving towards a real problem which is likely to be aggravated by the financial crisis, particularly when the money which is spent in the near future will have to be reclaimed by cutting government expenditure later.

Future cutbacks in government expenditure are no doubt likely to extend to the legal system, which is already suffering from previous cutbacks. We now have young lawyers turning away from legal aid work, the steady disappearance of small firms of solicitors in small towns and unpopular parts of cities, and the appearance in some parts of the country of legal aid deserts. There is no doubt some room for saving, and the legal profession must play a part in that.

I shall now say something which may be regarded as treachery by some of my barrister colleagues. Hearings in court are by far the most expensive part of litigation because everyone has to be present throughout. I think that the costs could be reduced substantially, without damage to the standards of justice, by putting more of the proceedings on paper or the internet, at least in civil actions and appeals. After all, in the American Supreme Court, which is plainly the world’s most important court, hearings last for only half an hour for each side.

Reducing the cost of trials would be unlikely to produce enough savings and would take time to achieve. The gracious Speech forecasts legislation,

That is an admirable purpose which I wholly support, but I ask that it should not be at the expense of the existing legal aid system.

So where should the Government look for savings for the Ministry of Justice which would do the least damage? I listened with great attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, and I believe that savings could be found in the prison system because prisons are not only underachieving but overspending. When in 2006 Tony Blair announced that he was going to create a Ministry of Justice and transferred some of the responsibilities for criminal justice from the Home Office to the new Ministry of Justice, many of us welcomed the proposal. After all, it makes good sense to put responsibility for criminal and civil law under the same roof. However, the transfer of the functions, like the scorpion, had a sting in its tail, and that sting was the inclusion of prisons. The transfer of prisons unbalanced the Ministry of Justice. Prisons are responsible for more than two-thirds of the ministry’s spending. Spending on them is going up, even while the level of crime is going down, and much of the money is being wasted.

I shall give one example of that. Last month the Chief Inspector of Prisons and the Chief Inspector of Probation published a report on indeterminate sentences introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003. That is one of the most devastating reports I have ever seen. Indeterminate sentences may be given for relatively minor offences, for which the normal tariff would be only two years, but they have turned out to be a total failure and are adding a great deal to the costs of prisons. They should never have been introduced and they should be abolished as soon as possible. Of

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course, that does not apply to a life sentence, which is effectively an indeterminate sentence, but to the indeterminate sentences introduced by the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

The Government should also cancel their plans for the huge and expensive new Titan prisons. They should aim to end what the Prison Reform Trust, in a letter circulated in the past couple of days to Members of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Prison Health, described as sentence inflation: that is a ratcheting up of the length of sentences in response to articles in the tabloid press.

We need more community sentences in place of prison, but without the ludicrous orange jackets being suggested. That seems to me to be one of the most remarkably silly ideas that we have heard. It is 150 years out of date and one wonders what we will borrow next from the worst of American practices. Will we have chain gangs?

We are facing a real crisis over access to justice. We know that we pay more in legal aid than other countries, but that should be a source of pride and not an excuse for cutting back on legal aid. Legal support is needed for disputes over the care of children, over housing rights or over the right to benefits. It is difficult to obtain and, as court fees have rocketed up, for those on average incomes who cannot obtain it—almost everyone who is not on benefits—it is impossible to go to court. Access to justice is a key element in the legal system. It is already in decline and is facing an even steeper decline. If the Ministry of Justice is required to contribute to spending cuts—no doubt it will be—those cuts should come out of overspending on the prison system and not by denial of access to justice. As I said at the beginning, tomorrow is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, let us remember that human rights are meaningless without access to justice.

5.42 pm

Baroness Henig: My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to comment on the Government's intentions to increase the effectiveness and public accountability of policing to local people and to reduce crime and disorder. I must first declare an interest as president of the Association of Police Authorities for the past three years, and as the current chair of the Security Industry Authority.

I congratulate the Government on some initiatives, many of which do not need legislation but which will make a real difference to policing. The first is the work being taken forward by Jan Berry to review and to reduce bureaucracy in the police service, which is being complemented by the review, under Sir David Normington, aimed at reducing the data collection which the Home Office undertakes in relation to the police service. Both of those are welcome developments towards ensuring that policing is firmly focused on the front line. They will be supported by a third review, looking at subsidiarity, with the aim of ensuring that decisions are made at the right level, be they national, local or the area in between, which I suppose could be described as regional. In principle, that is a sensible

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step to provide greater clarity, and I hope it will support the Government’s aim of greater devolution to the local level.

In the past 15 years, two major trends stand out clearly in relation to policing in the UK: a dramatic and sustained fall in levels of crime and a steady increase in levels of satisfaction and of confidence in the police. Our chances of being a victim of crime now are lower than at any time since the early 1980s and, therefore, it is crucial that nothing which the Government propose to do in this next Session undermines all the good work that has gone on since the mid-1990s.

A third development worth noting is the increase in effectiveness, strength and diversity of police authorities. They are now holding local police forces to account far more effectively on behalf of local people, and they are collaborating with forces to improve performance and the quality of service delivery. I welcome the Government's stated intent to build on the work of police authorities as a central plank of local police accountability arrangements. I also strongly support the Government's aim to become more strategic in their oversight of policing, with forces freed up from central targets so that they can be more locally responsive. I suspect that is easier to say than to do, but the good intentions should be applauded and encouraged.

I want to single out three developments which I believe go far toexplain why satisfaction levels with the police have risen so markedly, why police authorities have improved their performance so much, and why a range of local partnerships have been so successful in driving down crime levels. The first is the reforms of the early 1990s which introduced new-style police authorities, with independent members and a clear focus on working to hold police forces to account. One of the most important aspects of those reforms were the clauses to ensure that the councillor majority on police authorities had to reflect the political make-up of the force area, which meant, in effect, proportional representation and no party-political domination. Policing will always be political; after all, it is directly involved with issues of power at various levels; but in my view it should never be allowed to become party political. That was certainly the view of your Lordships’ House in the early 1990s, when it helped to improve the legislation introducing police authorities, by ensuring that authorities were politically balanced and that the Home Secretary of the day did not exercise political control by appointing all the police authority chairs.

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