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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, my noble friend is aware more than most that, if we are to ensure that the safeguarding work which is vital for childrens safety is undertaken, we must have an adequate number of social workers in post in local authorities. We recently announced the establishment of an expert task force to look at how social work should be developed in the light of recent concerns and the review of the noble Lord, Lord Laming. We are investing more than £70 million in a range of pilots to look at recruitment and retention and how social workers can
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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, is the Minister aware that some children in private fostering do not see their social workers as often as they should and, perhaps even more important, they do not see them on their own? What more can the Government do about that?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right. It is a requirement in the regulations that privately fostered children have the opportunity to speak to their social worker alone and that local authorities are responsible for ensuring that this requirement is met. Our guidance emphasises not only that but that the child can at any time seek to see his or her social worker. That is part of the national minimum standards, and we will of course make sure that Ofsted look at it when it undertakes its inspections.
To ask Her Majestys Government, in light of the death on 7 January of Mr Andy Miller, whether they will bring forward their draft bailiff regulations.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, the House will want to offer its condolences to Mr Millers family. My right honourable friend the Justice Secretary immediately ordered an urgent investigation into Mr Millers death. The Ministry of Justice has been working on the underlying draft regulations for the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007. Prior to implementation these far-reaching reforms will require full public consultation and at least 12 months for careful preparation by the industry.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I join the Minister in extending condolences to Mr Millers family. We have been waiting for these draft regulations for rather a long time. They were promised for the summer, for October and for before Christmas, and still we do not have them. Life is getting very rough out there because people are getting short of money. Bailiffs are finding it harder to extract money and we are getting a lot of cases where a serious level of distress is being caused. These are vulnerable people to whom we owe a duty, which we can exercise through these regulations. Should we not get on with it?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord, who in this field of enforcement has a well deserved reputation for being at the forefront of trying to improve things. Having said that, we want to move forward as fast as we can, but he will know that enforcement law in this area is complex, confusing and, frankly, difficult to understand. Since Royal Assent in 2007, we have commissioned and received a business case from the Security Industry Authority; we have commissioned and received a comprehensive assessment
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Bailiff law goes back, I am told, to 1267. It is found in common law and a number of statutes, many of which are centuries old. We need to get this right. If it takes a bit longer to get it right, that is better than doing it too soon.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I understand that guidance is offered to bailiffs on when they should make forcible entry when trying to recover moneys. I understand that only about half that guidance is made available to us and others, and that the rest is kept confidential by the Government. Why is that the case?
Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Lord surprises me. There are certainly important guidelines for bailiffs, whether they are in private industry or government bailiffs. Frankly, I do not know whether part of that guidance is not published to the outside world. I will find out and let the noble Lord know.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, there was consultation of the public over the Regulation of Enforcement Agents document, to which the Government responded in March last year, saying that they preferred the option of bailiffs being regulated by the Security Industry Authority. They promised to publish a full impact assessment by autumn 2008. Nothing has happened. Have the Government moved from their decision to have the Security Industry Authority regulate enforcement agents? What is the current position? Would regulation not prevent the sort of tragic event that has happened in the case of Mr Miller?
Lord Bach: My Lords, indeed, it remains our long-term intention for all enforcement agents who are not Crown employees to be overseen by an independent regulatory body. It is well known that our preferred option is the Security Industry Authority. We have commissioned, received and considered a business case from that authority. We have also received an alternative proposal, which needs to be looked at carefully, from the British Parking Association. We believe that, in the long term, regulation is necessary in this field, but we want to make sure that this regulation is appropriate and proportionate, and that those who carry out enforcement action do so properly and well.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, the Minister mentioned 1267 in relation to the laws governing who may seize property and the behaviour of bailiffs. I think he will find that in one of the clauses of Magna Carta itself undertakings were given as to how bailiffs should behave. Does the Minister agree that, the way things are going, international investors in the United Kingdom will soon be thinking about draft bailiff regulations?
Lord Bach: My Lords, all I can say is that I am grateful to the noble Lord for his history lesson.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, what are the current qualifications necessary to be a bailiff?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not have them in front of me, but strict conditions are now laid down for
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Lord Lucas: My Lords, one of the problems arising recently is that bailiffs are increasingly refusing to accept card payments and are insisting on cash. Does the Minister find it acceptable that when an HMCS fine is enforced through a bailiff it should not be payable by credit card? Are the bailiffs who insist on cash licensed by the Inland Revenue to deal with cash in the quantities that they now receive?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I was not aware of that particular difficulty. It is one of the issues that will have to be sorted out during the consultation on the regulations so that we come up with a system that is fair both to bailiffs and to those who owe money and have not, for some reason, paid it.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I am afraid the 30-minute time limit has been reached.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it might be helpful if I alert the House to a change in the business advertised for tomorrow. We will no longer take the Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order 2009 after tomorrows balloted debates. As my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has announced, it will be withdrawn today. As a consequence, the three Ministry of Justice instruments will therefore follow the conclusion of the debate in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said earlier today, my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons will seek further discussions on how to proceed, with a view to securing again cross-party consensus on this issue.
Copy of Bill
Constitution Committee Report
31: Clause 2, page 2, line 10, at end insert
( ) The MMO shall co-operate with any existing body or body established in the United Kingdom with similar or the same functions as the MMO by means of Memoranda of Understanding, including in relation to areas where both bodies are exercising their respective functions.
Lord Tyler: In moving Amendment 31, in the name of my noble friend Lord Greaves and me, I detect that the rapid exodus from the Chamber is due entirely to the fact that my noble friend Lord Greaves unfortunately, through a sad coincidence, has to take part in the proceedings in the Moses Room on the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. It is extremely unfortunate that a number of Peers who have been taking an active part in this Bill are equally interested in that Bill and I hope that the business managers of the House will find it possible in future to avoid these coincidences. It does no credit to the way in which the House manages its business that Members have to be in two places at once.
The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I have every sympathy with noble Lords who are interested in both Bills. I take very seriously the noble Lords point and I shall raise it with the usual channels.
Lord Tyler: I am grateful to the Minister. I know that he takes this seriously and I am glad to have that assurance.
The amendment, which deals with co-operation between the different Administrations within the United Kingdom, is extremely important. I hope that my noble friends Lord Livsey and Lord Wallace of Tankerness will speak about the Welsh and Scottish dimensions of this issue.
Before I come to the main issue with which the amendment is concerned, I express, on behalf all Members of your Lordships House, my thanks to the Minister and his team for the effective briefing we were given yesterday, including the substantial advice in the form of maps about the way in which the various Administrations will need to co-operate to give practical expression to the new arrangements under the Bill. We are all grateful to the Minister for his care and attention on this extremely difficult issue. Having said that, the fact that the Minister felt it desirable to have that briefing and that so many Members of your Lordships House attended demonstrates the importance of achieving clarity on the issue to which Amendment No. 31 refers.
The purpose of this amendment to Clause 2(2) is to ensure really effective consistency and co-ordination between the MMO and the devolved Administrations. Where such an Administration are delivering activities within the UK marine area, there is currently no effective requirement in the Bill for the MMO to co-ordinate with it. Clearly, it is extremely important to ensure that an ecosystem approach to marine resource management is effective. On these Benches, we believeand Committee Members on other Benches may perhaps agreethat it is necessary urgently to address this general objective for the MMO.
It is clear that marine activities are not restricted to any political borders, least of all in the seas around our islands. The management regime must therefore reflect that. We believe that the marine environment must be seen to be dealt with holistically; cross-border areas will, therefore, have to be managed effectively.
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This amendment, which noble Lords will surely agree is probing, therefore seeks to fulfil the point raised by the Joint Committee chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Greenway, that:
The relationships between the MMO, the Welsh Assembly Government and the equivalent Scottish body should be formalised in the Bill.
It is not, in our view, sufficient to leave that to further secondary legislation or to guidance and instruction following thereafter. It also seems to me extremely important to go one step beyond the Joint Committee, by considering the relationship with the Northern Ireland Administrationanother point raised at yesterdays briefingand, indeed, that of the Republic of Ireland. These matters will take no notice of any lines on the map.
While Clause 2 seeks to ensure a consistent and co-ordinated approach to marine management within the MMO area, there remains a gap, given the need for the MMO to co-operate with the activities of equivalent bodies in the various Administrations outwith its area. If the MMO is to be the strategic delivery body for the UK marine area that we all hope and intend, it should clearly be obliged to co-operate with devolved equivalents through a memorandum of understanding, and to reach co-ordinated decisions for areas with a mix of reserved and devolved functions.
There are probably several options to meet that requirement. The Minister might be able to indicate which option is preferred, but there clearly has to be one and it cannot be left in the air. The effective purpose of this amendment is to require the Bill to indicate the Governments preferred option. There could be a joint body, for example, or a series of joint bodies or regional fora, following how this problem was faced in the JNCC model for UK conservation bodies as set out in Part 2 of the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006. That involved the establishment of a joint body or bodies with distinct functions to advise on matters of common concern.
The Joint Committee on the draft Marine Bill adopted that approach. Paragraph 201 of its report suggested that,
Any brief look at the maps produced by the Minister and his team yesterday will obviously demonstrate the need for that co-operative and co-ordinated approach. We cannot wave maps around to any good effect in your Lordships HouseHansard does not record itbut all those Members who took advantage of yesterdays briefing will agree that that approach is clearly extremely important. I therefore hope that the Government will give further consideration to the recommendations of the Joint Committee.
Another way would of course be to impose a specific duty on the MMO and devolved Administrations. Whether that would work or whether it is better to seek some form of specific mechanism is a matter on which Members of the Committee will hope to hear from the Minister. In the mean time, I beg to move Amendment 31.
The Duke of Montrose: I shall speak to the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach. In doing so, perhaps I may echo the sentiments of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, about the difficulties we have with business taking place in the Moses Room at the same time. We hope that we will hear before too long from the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, because we always value his contribution.
Once again, the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and my noble friend have tabled amendments that appear to seek to address much the same concerns. They are an effort to assign a little more meaning to the rather airy hope that the Marine Management Organisation will act in a way that is consistent and co-ordinated, as it is put in the Bill.
The MMOs area of responsibility is not an isolated and hermetically sealed area of water where policies can be implemented in laboratory conditions. On our first day in Committee, my noble friend Lord Kingsland argued powerfully that the marine environment should be seen as an ecosystem and that decisions should be made with full awareness of the consequences not only for the environment in the immediate area but potentially for that in remoter areas as well. The MMO must therefore take note of the effect of its decisions not only in areas within its remit but in those outside its boundaries. Similarly, it will have to be aware of decisions taken in nearby areas by other organisations.
Amendment 42 would therefore ensure proper consultation, rather along the lines that the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, was talking about, with bodies that have similar responsibilities in areas likely to affect the MMOs area. Such bodies could be devolved Administrations, land-based organisations or international bodies.
Amendment 65 goes a little further into the devolution of performing functions under the MMO and seeks to ensure that a formal arrangement is made with the relevant bodies to ensure that difficult decisions are handled appropriately and effectively. It is all too easy for an area to be overexploited by one organisation and for the cost of repair to fall on another. The amendments would prevent that. I have no doubt that various agreements could be drawn up without Amendment 65. The Bill contains several measures in Clause 15for example, to ensure that the agreement is publicly availablethat would be of benefit to any memorandum of understanding. I hope that the Minister will consider establishing to a much greater extent interactions between the MMO and the enormous variety of relevant bodies that will be critical to its work.
Lord Howarth of Newport: These are helpful probing amendments. Perhaps I may probe in particular whether the Government expect the MMO to collaborate and co-operate at a practical level with organisations that have responsibility for the heritagethe cultural heritage, if you likeof the sea, particularly with English Heritage.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: I, too, found yesterdays consultation extremely helpful in the context in which Amendment 31 is tabled. The amendment would give some teeth to the general objective on page 2 of the Bill, especially where bodies and legislatures are coterminous, so that there is no doubt about the status of agreed co-operation between them. Hence, the MMOs co-operation with bodies that have the same functions in the UK would be the subject of memoranda of understandingI think particularly of agreements struck between the Welsh Assembly Government and the MMO. The nature and detail of what was contained in the agreement to co-operate in certain circumstances would then be quite clear.
I am thinking in terms of what may occur in the Irish Sea, the Severn Estuary or on the north Wales coast if both the Welsh Assembly Government and the MMO were involved. The same may, of course, apply with the other devolved Administrations, and I am sure there will be comments on that. Where Wales is concerned, it may be appropriate to secure, as we heard yesterday, a fair and equal marine boundary between Wales and the Republic of Ireland. It would prove beneficial in a UK context in stabilising, for example, offshore fishermen in the Irish Sea. A memorandum of understanding there would be extremely helpful.
With regard to the Conservative Amendments 42 and 65, Amendment 42 refers to the MMO only having to consult with any relevant body with functions in adjacent areas. No agreement would be struck, only consultation. Amendment 65 refers to an agreement and as such is more acceptable. But a Memorandum of Understanding, as in Amendment 31, is by far the best outcome. It would ratify an agreement and produce an important reference document.
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