13 Jan 2009 : Column 1107

13 Jan 2009 : Column 1107

House of Lords

Tuesday, 13 January 2009.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.

Death of a Member: Lord Lane of Horsell


The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death on 9 January of Lord Lane of Horsell. On behalf of the House, I extend our condolences to the noble Lord’s family and friends.

Energy: Renewables


2.37 pm

Asked By Lord Teverson

Lord Brett: My Lords, the ECGD aims to support UK renewables exports through a wide portfolio of products. It has introduced a number of changes to its procedures, including a relaxation of its foreign content rules, to provide cover for more foreign/local content and a willingness to consider longer credit terms, thus giving improved availability of its support for renewables. The ECGD continues to work with DBERR, UK Trade and Investment and renewables trade associations to raise awareness of the support available from the ECGD.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I remind him that in the debates over the Climate Change Bill and various other things the Government have said that the UK renewables industry should be one of our big growth areas, and yet, as I understand it, the ECGD has not had one application for its £50 million annual underwriting fund. How will he fix that? I suggest that one way, which is used for other sectors, is to put a member of that body on the industry group for renewables.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the answer to that question comes in three parts. First, it is true that there has not been a take-up of the £50 million set aside in 2002, and research by the ECGD along with feedback from within the sector shows that the majority of the UK renewables industry is either concentrating itself on the home market or exporting to more mature economies. Very few companies are venturing into the emerging markets where the ECGD can give support. I remind the noble Lord that it is the role of the ECGD not to create but to facilitate opportunities. On the last part of the question, on the membership, I shall take it on board and write to the noble Lord.

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Viscount Waverley: My Lords, is country cover being impeded by historical bad debt? If so, what is being done about a solution? Could there be a case for privatisation of the ECGD?

Lord Brett: My Lords, in the present climate of the economic credit crunch, I cannot imagine the proposal of a privatised ECGD would get a great deal of support within the City. It also seems to me a long way away from the original Question. In my decade in the House, I have always been interested by Members’ ingenuity in building a bridge between the original Question and the supplementaries. This, I believe, is a bridge too far.

Lord Tyler: My Lords, on a bridge that may be rather closer, the Minister referred just now to the home market for the renewables industry, which will clearly be extremely important not least during the recession. Can he explain why there will be a hiatus in support for small-scale domestic microgeneration over the next few months? Will there not be severe damage to the whole industry if the programme is hit by the closure of the low-carbon building scheme in June of this year and then a long gap before the feed-in tariff comes into place in 2010? Given that other EU countries seem to have filled that gap rather more effectively, does he agree that the comment made yesterday by the New Economics Foundation—

“The Government couldn’t organise a windmill to spin in a gale”—

might be true?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I am always in favour of quotes from journalists and others that have a high degree of hyperbole; but while “spinning in a gale” is obviously very topical, it is not true. Effectively £48 million is available, only £24 million of which has been bid for. This week, in responding to that quote, the Department for Energy and Climate Change called on voluntary organisations and others to bid for the half of the money that is still available.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, is the noble Lord convinced that the ECGD terms are competitive with those of European credit agencies such as Coface and Hermes?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I have not closely studied that but will happily take it away and ask officials to do so. We seem to have a problem at the moment in that British industry, presumably on the basis of less risk, is concentrating on the home renewables market and on mature economies. If our industry can establish a reputation in those economies then it believes that it will be time to move into the developing world. At the moment, it is not a lack of willingness by government to encourage and support; it is some of our renewables companies’ unwillingness to go into what might seem to them a more risky market.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the guarantees issued under the temporary guarantee scheme announced in the Pre-Budget Report will be subject to the ECGD’s case-impact-analysis procedures?

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Lord Brett: My Lords, one should never forecast. We know what the Pre-Budget Report outlined and expect further development of that. I can only invite the noble Lord to await statements.

Lord Jones of Birmingham: My Lords, perhaps I may help the Minister in building a bridge between the question and the necessary answer—because it is bridge building and other civil engineering projects in which Britain excels around the world and for which the ECGD is so desperately needed. Is not the lack of take-up of this fund due to the United Kingdom business community having no confidence in the ECGD? Do not many chief executives of multinational British businesses use it to market test, so that if the ECGD ultimately says that it will do a project, the project will not need insurance? Can the Minister please provide a comparative between the credit agencies of Europe and the ECGD so that, when the pick-up comes, this country will be ready to take advantage of it around the world?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I listen to the noble Lord with great interest and acknowledge his expertise from previous positions in both government and British industry. I cannot say that I heard him spell out those views quite so clearly in either of his previous positions. However, I take on board the question and will respond to it.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, did Her Majesty’s Government notice that there was not much wind during the recent cold spell of weather? If so, has that done anything to diminish their enthusiasm for wind power?

Lord Brett: My Lords, I can only say that the wind is where it is. Where I was for the past two weeks, there were gales of force 6 and force 7. So I can only congratulate the noble Lord on his position in Europe, where obviously it was not quite so windy.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the Minister must have been in a very windy place. Where I was, in Reading, there was no wind. There was also no wind in many other places in this country. The problem with wind turbines is that, in very cold and frosty weather, when there is no wind, they do not turn. They are therefore useless in making any contribution to meeting the need for energy.

Lord Brett: My Lords, the noble Lord ignores the fact that we are creating storage facilities. More importantly, it is a question of where you are. I happened to be on the high seas, which is why I was getting a force 6 gale. We have again strayed far from the Question. I shall therefore leave it at that.

Secure Training Centres: Physical Restraint


2.45 pm

Asked By Baroness Stern

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, the effect of the court’s decision is to remove the legal authority for custody officers to remove trainees at secure training centres from association with other trainees, or to use physical restraint, for the purpose of ensuring good order and discipline at the centre.The Youth Justice Board has advised secure training centres on the implications of the court’s ruling.

Baroness Stern: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and welcome the involvement of the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Does she agree that the Appeal Court not only ruled against widening the grounds for using force against young people but actually implied that there should be a reduction? When does she expect the number of occasions when force is used to fall? The Youth Justice Board has just reported figures for the third quarter of 2008 showing that force was used in secure training centres 510 times, a 30 per cent increase on the preceding quarter.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Question and congratulate her on the passion and tenacity that she has brought to raising awareness of her concerns about the use of restraint in the secure youth estate. Coinciding with the court decision that she refers to, the Government were considering a review of the use of restraint in juvenile secure settings. Combined with those judgments and the review, the Government have announced an overview of the use of restraint in juvenile secure settings. Many of the review’s recommendations were aimed at reducing the use of restraint and, in accepting those recommendations, the Government have the aspiration that the use of force should fall.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, the Minister will know that the background to this change in the amendment rules was the coroners’ reports on the deaths of two children in secure training centres following restraint. What specific changes are being made to the contracts and risk-assessment training of STC staff who restrain children? Further, what have the Government done to establish the mandatory accreditation scheme for all restraint-techniques training and trainers, as recommended by the independent review and with which they have announced their agreement?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, first, on the contracts, the provisions to make these changes are already there. We have accepted the recommendation that all staff in the secure estate should have consistent and comprehensive training in the awareness of risk factors in restraint, the monitoring of warning signs in young people and the need to take action quickly. The Government have accepted these recommendations, and the National Offender Management Service is developing a new control and restraint technique, called for in the report, which is specifically appropriate for use with young people.

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Baroness Verma: My Lords, has a decision been taken on the future of Oakhill secure training centre, considering that the recommendation to close it was made by the chief inspector last March?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am advised that there have been significant improvements at Oakhill in particular. However, noble Lords should be reassured that there will be another independent inspection of the institution soon and we will be able to look at an independent assessment of the Youth Justice Board’s view that significant improvements have been made.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, is there not a colossal irony in this situation in that, as has already been referred to, the problem arose in 2004 when a 15 year-old boy died directly in consequence of restraint and a 14 year-old boy died from suicide indirectly in consequence of restraint? Rather than accepting the blameworthiness of the institutions concerned, the Secretary of State for Justice sought to legitimise the conduct which had caused those deaths in that he sought to elongate the law enabling pain and violence to be used as a means of controlling persons, some of them as young as 12 years old. In the circumstances, will the rules and the code of practice be gone over with a fine toothcomb to make certain that such uncivilised behaviour is not allowed to be part of the care of children in these institutions?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I do not entirely accept that analysis. It is extremely difficult for us gathered here in the House of Lords to imagine that it would be appropriate to use pain to control the behaviour of young people in a secure institution. We have called for, and had, a detailed, independent review of the rules. The recommendations are far-reaching. The Government have accepted almost all of them. We are committed to an overhaul of the use of restraint in secure settings.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the review to which she referred caused widespread disappointment because it failed dismally to call for a very substantial reduction in the use of restraint in custody? Will she confirm that in future the issue of physical restraint will be part of all staff appraisals and performance reviews throughout the custodial setting for juveniles?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I cannot accept that the report did not call for a reduction. A number of recommendations within the review are about reducing the use of restraint. We have asked the independent authors whether they will act as independent monitors of the implementation of those recommendations. That is important. We are expecting the entire workforce in the juvenile setting to be retrained to have a full understanding of the risk factors and the warning signs, and for that to be driven home to staff. The report is very important, important developments have occurred and we are promoting change.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords—

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The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are almost into the 17th minute. We ought to move on.

EU: Lisbon Treaty


2.53 pm

Asked By Lord Dykes

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, I refer the noble Lord to the Statement on the European Council made to this House by my noble friend Lady Royall on 15 December.

The European Council agreed a package of measures to offer Ireland the reassurances that it needed on the Lisbon treaty covering taxation, defence, social issues and the size of the Commission. These do not change the Lisbon treaty and the legal guarantees are in line with the red lines the UK secured in the treaty.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he agree that in paragraph 4 the Irish Government again committed themselves to seeking ratification of the Lisbon treaty, armed as they understandably are, as is the rest of Europe, with the realisation that the Lisbon treaty is the only method for 27 sovereign countries to work effectively together? Is he therefore hopeful that this time round there may be a better outcome in terms of the Government’s policy, not least because of the rather startling and sinister revelations of the main sources of financing for the main “No” campaign, which included the National Association for Freedom and the Heritage Foundation?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the Taoiseach believes that these guarantees are what he sought, and he is satisfied that they allow him to return to the Irish people with a further referendum. We very much hope that the outcome will be favourable.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, is it not a fact that the Irish people voted against the proposals that were then available, and that many other countries would have done the same? Is it not wrong that they should then be encouraged to vote for another set of proposals in the hope that they will accede to them? Is that not a question of bullying?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, 24 of 27 countries have ratified and are now ready. Ireland sought and has received guarantees, but the treaty has not been reopened. In that regard, it is a referendum on the same treaty as before.

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Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the treaty may not have been reopened, but the presidency conclusions specify that these proposed legal arrangements, providing they satisfy Ireland, should be to the mutual satisfaction of all member states. I understand that among other things they include that we should go back to or remain with one commissioner per country, contrary to what is proposed in the treaty. In that case, can we therefore assume that the new legal arrangements will come before this Parliament for further examination and approval before everything is signed, sealed and pushed ahead?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we are waiting to hear what form these guarantees will take in terms of exactly how they are implemented. Of course, anything that requires to come back before Parliament will do so.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Lord explain why those who prate on about democracy and the will of the people will never accept no as an answer when it suits them? Do the Government understand that the French and the Dutch rejected the constitution and then the Irish rejected the Lisbon treaty? Is that not “No” enough for the Government, or are they prepared to accept the will of the people?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the constitution that was rejected by the Dutch and the French led to very big changes, which led to a treaty that was no longer a constitution. With 24 countries having approved the treaty, I am not sure whether the voters of Ireland should have a right of veto over the aspirations of all the other people of Europe. I am not sure whether that is or is not democracy.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords—

Lord Teverson: My Lords—

Noble Lords: This side!

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, it is this side’s turn.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, noble Lords should not confuse the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, with being “this side”; he is “that corner”.

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