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I am led to believe that groups of people, usually young people, going to have a drink frequently nominate someone who has consumed no alcohol to drive them
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Intelligent speed adaptation is a system that can prevent drivers exceeding the speed limit. It is being developed and tested at the moment. I drove such a vehicle some years ago in its infancy. The speed limit can be exceeded by a certain action, but overriding the technology is noted within the system and can be downloaded, if required. Analysis of future accidents has concluded that there would be a minimum reduction of 10 per cent in fatal accidents, 6 per cent in serious injuries and 3 per cent in slight injuries if ISA were used. Those are considerable reductions in human and financial terms. What steps are being taken to produce a digital map showing every speed limit on every road in the country to enable this technology to be fully developed?
The Driving Standards Agency has a monopoly on driver training and controls the entry of instructors into the industry, the exit of instructors who fail to pass their check test and the standard of ability required for a member of the public to pass a driving test. In no other areas is it responsibleapart from its responsibility for statistics on accidents and fatalities on our roads. Within their first two years of motoring, people aged 16 to 29 are responsible for 42 per cent of fatalities on our roads. Should the DSA not concentrate its abilities on raising and controlling standards and let national associations issue certificates to train people to drive? Learning has always taken place before long-term retention by being able to read and research a topic with assistance from qualified individuals. Publishing the question bank does not encourage long-term retention and should therefore be abandoned so that candidates who wish to learn to drive study the whole syllabus and work through a series of workbooks to understand and gain long-term knowledge for safer driving. The DSA should channel its efforts towards the assessment of driving ability and let qualified instructors certify the manoeuvres prior to the driving test, thereby allowing more time in the driving test for examiners to assess driving ability.
When the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill passed through this House, I had two amendments accepted that were not, strictly speaking, to do with organised crime. With that in mind, I draw attention to a matter that could be included in the police and crime Bill rather than waiting until a more suitable Bill comes along. The Highways Agency has automatic number plate recognition camerasANPRon the strategic network, but current legislation does not permit it to share data with the police. The agencys system batches number plate readings, encrypts the data and sends them back every five minutes, and the information is automatically deleted after two weeks. Police systems send data back in a matter of seconds and they are stored for a year. Therefore, if data were shared, changes would have to be made. However,
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The noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, has on more than one occasion brought to your Lordships attention the advantages of bringing forward our standard time by one hour so that we are at GMT plus one hour in the winter and GMT plus two hours in the summer. It is estimated that 100 lives would be saved every year by adopting this change. It would therefore be beneficial if it were applied for an experimental period so that drivers could experience the benefits of lighter evenings. At the least, a comprehensive study into the likely beneficial effects should be commissioned. Saving lives is important, and this proposal will not go away because it will save lives.
We all laugh and think how stupid it is that a tree has to be cut down in order to nullify the possibility of a conker falling on to somebody's head or that a gardener who has tended a flower bed in a village for many years has to have an assessment about the possibility of having an accident. However, a report by the Transport Committee in the other place drew attention to the fact that the vast majority of work-related deaths are not examined by the Health and Safety Executive purely because they occur on the roads. Why is the HSE not being required to be much more active in recording and investigating work-related road casualties rather than being the laughing stock of so many people?
Baroness Greengross: My Lords, as a member of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, I declare an interest and welcome the thrust of the Government's proposals for the equality Bill, on which I shall concentrate my remarks. I stress that in this context equality does not mean sameness. It means that there must be fairness to enable everyone to celebrate their differences and fulfil their potential without being blocked or hindered by attributes over which they have no control, such as race or disability. If the new legislation succeeds, everyone in our diverse society will know that it is there for us, if and when we need it.
However, the legislation needs to go beyond traditional approaches to equality. The current economic climate means that reducing economic inequality is more important than ever. We must protect the most marginalised people in our society, who are liable to carry the heaviest burden during an economic downturn. While recognising the pressures on businesses at present and that they need space to enable them to recover, they must do so in a way that maintains an approach
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In respect of the proposed public-sector duty, I am delighted that the Government propose to streamline the three existing separate duties into a single equality duty. I hope that the legislation will apply that duty to any and all organisations that deliver public services and/or are substantially funded from the public purse, and that they will be required to act proactively to implement the new requirements. The new duty should provide for more citizen involvement to enable individuals to be active in holding public authorities to account. However, just as it is important for the new legislation to recognise the economic circumstances in which we live, it is also important to ensure that the new duty is feasible and not unduly burdensome on smaller public-sector organisations that are under enormous pressure to deliver cost efficiencies. However, that must not be allowed to be an excuse for not implementing the requirements of the new law. I hope we will monitor progress on that and will keep it at the forefront of our minds.
Applying the duty to all organisations that provide a public service and/or receive substantial public funding should help address the vexed questions around the responsibilities of private-sector organisations that provide long-term care. I very much hope that the new law will also address the position of carers, who play a vital part in our society but who are frequently unjustly discriminated against. The ban on associated discrimination, together with this legislation, should improve their situation quite a lot. The commission is also looking for the legislation to strengthen the role of inspectorates to monitor the requirements of the law, following the excellent example of Northern Ireland.
On positive action, the concept of allowing employers in all sectors to select a candidate from an underrepresented group in a tie-break is absolutely right. Indeed, I may go further and say that they should be required to take such action, but I believe that this is as far as one should go in this direction. I would be opposed to any requirement compelling employers to employ someone who was not the best candidate, merely because of an imbalance in the employee profile. The Childrens Society makes a very good point when it suggests that schools are an ideal place to promote awareness of equality policies. Perhaps the new law should build in a requirement to include equalities as a subject in the national curriculum. That would really be positive action.
Perhaps the most important change which the Government propose relates to transparency. Some public sector organisations publish clear information about their progress on important equality issues, and I pay particular tribute to the Greater London Authority and its constituent organisations in this regard. Such transparency allows the proper monitoring of progress as well as the identification of best practice. Procurement can indeed be used as an effective lever to deliver
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Religion and belief need to be treated with the utmost respect, but in some ways differently from the other strands or domains that come under the remit of the Bill. In this, I agree with noble Lord, Lord Lester. The thresholds for incitement to hatred and harassment need to be higher because of the possible effect on freedom of speech. Religion and belief are also the only domain in which one persons belief can be totally opposed to that of another person, particularly regarding sexual orientation and gender. We must also be mindful if someone abandons their religion or belief and is still subject to discrimination or hatred. This has evolved into a form of ethnic or racial hatred, for which the full force of the law must apply.
As a nation, particularly today, we can be proud that 60 years ago, after the horrors of World War Two, this country, led by Sir Winston Churchill, was party to establishing the human rights convention. We need to ensure that the high ideals in this convention are fully integral to life in the UK today. As Eleanor Roosevelt, another of its founders, emphasised, human rights must apply not only to government or at the top level of society but in the smallest of places, such as the hospital ward and the care home, where respect for a persons dignity must be upheld.
The proposed equality Bill will build on what has already been achieved, and by putting new powers together with existing legislation in a single Act, it will make policy and the law easier to understand, implement and enforce. It must focus on outcomes, with measures that will enable its success to be measured against the real changes achieved in communities, public services and beyond.
Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible ... In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others.
Lord Graham of Edmonton: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on successfully embracing all the topics that form this debate. I shall concentrate on local government, localism, and measures to strengthen and enhance more effective co-ordination and collaboration at a local level. These are all part of the ethos of the Co-operative movement, in which I declare an interest, which is registered.
Incredibly, it will be 70 years ago next year since I began to work for the Co-operative movement. At that time, there were 1,000 separate co-operative societies, which meant that there were 1,000 separate management committees, education committees and very many political committees. They were all little pockets of democratic working, but by virtue of the economic changes over the past 70 years, those 1,000 separate co-ops are now down to fewer than 30. They are bigger and, one hopes, more efficient, more profitable and more responsive to the needs of their people.
I simply say to the Minister that she should not be disheartened by the negative reception to her many policies and initiatives from some parts of the House. I say unto her, Be not dismayed. Lift up your heart. Tomorrow is another day. Ambition, in my book, is a laudable trait. It is easier to do nothing in the midst of the crisis that we have, so the Government should be congratulated on not being put off and persuaded to do nothing. A range of problems has to be solved, and we are looking tonight for a way in which they can be solved.
Almost 50 years ago, I was the leader of a local authority and chairman of housing. I remember the 1960s and 1970s, when the most depressing thing that we had to do as councillors or Members of Parliament was to listen with sympathy to the housing problems that were brought to our surgeries. Some people had houses that needed improvement. Others lived in part of a house, but had bad relations with their landlord. Some people did not have a house at all and lived with their relations. As leader of the council, I invited and received Bob Mellish, the then housing Minister, and Evelyn Dennington, the then GLC chair of housing. They came to the council chamber of Enfield Council and inspired us to help people with their problems. This Government recognise the need not merely to leave people to get on with what they can, but also the need for leadership and strategy. The Minister has laid out the mechanisms of how that can be achieved, which will come before us in a Bill.
Housing is the greatest challenge facing many people. A well built, warm house is the bedrock of a good family relationship. It makes me cry, as I did more than once when I left my surgery having listened to such tales, to find that there are familiesa man, a woman and three or four childrenliving in abject despair. The Minister should not hold back on anything that can improve the housing situation.
I have wondered whether there has been any progress on the community land trust, a matter which I successfully raised. It received approbation from all around the House and from the then Minister. In essence, noble Lords should know that the community land trust separates the cost of the land from the cost of the house. If a house costs £300,000, much of that value is in the land. There are councils, individuals, trusts or industries, for example, which are willing to offer land at advantageous prices to the community, provided that the houses built on it remain part of the community and that the land does not become part of a sale.
I will not land the Minister with a need for answers because it is early days. Among the many weapons in her and her colleagues hands is the community land
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In many places, credit unions are inspired by local councils. They do all that the Minister has said in her speech today is the intention of the Government. They are small businesses, which are local, democratic, encourage thrift, foster local pride, are an alternative for many people who need small loans at sensible interest rates and produce joint workings.
In conclusion, I welcome the comments in the Ministers speech and the proposed Bills to strengthen consumer rights, which are near to the heart of the Co-operative movement, tenants rights and participation. A lot has been done. The regional development agencies, a child of this Government, have done a major job of work. Perhaps noble Lords can see that I am wearing a One NorthEast badge. It is a regional planning authority, which has done a marvellous job, but needs perhaps national support and a network that may not be present now. I congratulate the Government on their initiatives and the Minister can count on my support and participation.
Baroness Prashar: My Lords, I am sorry that I was unable to be here for the opening speech. I am afraid that my best laid plans were disrupted due to a change in a timetable, and I have conveyed my apologies to the noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, through the Whips Office. I shall confine my comments to the question of equality because in the 21st century we need equality legislation that is for everyone and that helps to promote social cohesion and inclusion. The Government have indicated that they will introduce a Bill to promote equality, fight discrimination and introduce transparency to the workplace in order to redress the difference in pay between men and women. My hope is that the new legislation will enable us to move towards a world where equality is more than a collection of different strands and various groups, and that it will make a real difference to achieving equality and fairness. That demands legislation which is clear, comprehensive, effective, practical, easy to implement and, above all, user friendly. It demands legislation that encourages a proactive, non-adversarial approach and avoids unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, and which is designed to deal with some of the underlying fundamental issues and barriers, thus leading to a real step change.
Any new legislation must be assessed against these criteria because, despite our longstanding anti-discrimination legislation, we have made little progress. This is mainly due to a lack of clear articulation about the legal and policy framework, an absence of accessible guidance and confusion about the law. We should take
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First, I urge the Government to include a constitutional equality guarantee in the Bill to confirm that everyone is equal before the law and that everyone has equal protection under and benefit from the law. The premise of robust and meaningful equality legislation is that all laws, proceedings and acts of public authorities must respect the right to equality, with safeguards to protect people against the violation of that right.
Secondly, while I support the Governments proposal to extend the public sector duty to cover age, sexual orientation and gender reassignment, I have strong reservations about extending it to religion. Discrimination on the grounds of religion is unlawful, and that is absolutely right, but extending the public duty to religion would be divisive and deviates from the objective of promoting cohesion and inclusion. I therefore urge caution. This issue has been debated in the House and the arguments about freedom of speech have been well rehearsed. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Lester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, referred to them.
Thirdly, public sector procurement offers a powerful means of leveraging equality in the private sector. All those wishing to provide services to public authorities should be able to demonstrate that they have taken the necessary steps to ensure equal treatment in employment and service delivery. I recognise that this is a complex area and that the current legal and policy framework is far from clear about how to take into account equality objectives in procurement decisions. Such a provision in law must therefore be backed by clear advice, guidance and an understanding of how equality can be essential to improving quality.
Fourthly, we all know that despite legislation, the gender pay gap has persisted. The Governments intention to bring equal pay within the scope of the legislation is welcome, but further work is needed on relevant comparators. It is also important that multiple discrimination is taken into account when determining appropriate comparators to use in equal pay cases. For example, if an employee is female and from an ethnic minority, it may be that the manifestation of discrimination is dissimilar from both a white female colleague and a black male colleague. The law should reflect the multifarious nature of discrimination. Furthermore, this is an area which is ripe for a more proactive approach, where positive action should be encouraged. Employers should be required to conduct pay audits, develop pay equity plans, and actively address the question of pay rather than rely on individuals to take action.
Fifthly, the provisions to allow positive action are welcome, but these areas of the law can cause confusion and ambivalence if they are not absolutely clear about what is permissible and how the provisions should work in practice. It is important that the legislation provides a clear understanding of how these things will work in practice.
In conclusion, I will say that a single equality law is long overdue, but we must ensure that we get it right in the light of very long experience. All the contributions to the debate have urged simplicity and practicality in this regard. We all know that the law alone is not sufficient; it provides the framework. It must be backed by an effective, independent and bold Equality and Human Rights Commission and a clear policy framework from the Government. We need to get all three components right. I look forward to the Ministers response.
In that regard, I welcome the Marine and Coastal Access Bill and look forward to contributing to the debate on it. On protecting the environment, noble Lords will be aware that the Government commitment is to reducing CO2 emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. It is a long way away but 80 per cent is a challenging figure and I congratulate the Government on producing it. Some noble Lords will no doubt be around to see it; I am sure I will not be, but there we are.
The Eddington study highlighted transports pivotal role in supporting the UKs future economic success. It recommended a number of reforms to the planning, funding and delivery of transport interventions to maximise sustainable returns from investment, as well as recognising the need to improve the environmental performance of transport.
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