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2 Jun 2009 : Column 104

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Viscount touches on one of the critical issues here. Sessional orders and House of Lords stoppages orders have no real effect beyond the walls of Parliament. I think that we started giving these in 1713, but primarily they affect what happens inside Parliament. They give an indication to the commissioner of what we want to happen, but they give him no extra powers. This was the problem, and this is why Sections 132 and 138 of SOCPA were arrived at, which I am afraid were unsatisfactory and did not work.

We hoped that they might resolve the situation, but they are for stationary demonstrations and they have not worked. We are now having to re-examine the situation. We are consulting on this and hope to come up with a proposal with teeth to actually achieve this. To be quite honest, in allowing demonstrations in this country, as we do, it is extremely difficult to be absolutely certain that the Metropolitan Police Service can guarantee that every single road is open and there is access on every route into the House.

We need to look at how we do that. It is not easy, as demonstrated by the fact that Sections 132 and 138 of SOCPA have proved so difficult, which is why they are being removed. The Joint Committee on the draft constitution also said that the sessional orders and the stoppage orders should stop because they have no real impact. We need to come up with a proposal that will resolve this, and we have not done that yet.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, do the Government accept that SOCPA was very deficient, because it affected lone demonstrators in Parliament Square? What people are worried about today are the blockages of the roads. There are two different issues; SOCPA has tied the police down under mounds of paperwork, because they have to give permission to individuals.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I have said, SOCPA does not meet the bill and that is why we are getting rid of it. There are Acts in force which enable the police to keep roads open and things like that, but it is quite difficult when there is a major demonstration. The police have done a remarkably good job in what they have achieved.

Police: Protests


3 pm

Asked By Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the overt taking of photographs at public order events is a well used and highly effective tactic for intelligence gathering and for detecting offences. The Court of Appeal has

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endorsed that tactic. Clearly, it is a matter for chief officers whether officers retain or delete images of individuals. However, I expect the police to act in accordance with the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, what regulations govern the retention of these images? Does the Minister think that the regulations are adequate, because numerous innocent individuals—including pensioners, members of the CPRE, students and environmentalists—take part in protests and have their photos taken as if they are criminals? The photos are retained by the police, apparently with no regulation at all. Do the Government intend to change this situation?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as a result of this judgment, police forces are looking at all their procedures for taking and retaining images. As I have said, the Court of Appeal endorsed the tactic of taking photographs as being valid. Within the Metropolitan Police Service, the Public Order Branch, CO11, is going through a manual review of all photographs taken of individuals. It is going through each case specifically to see if it is valid to keep the photographs for any reason. For example, in cases such as that of Mr Woods, it would not be valid and the photographs would be deleted and removed.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is there not a contrast between the regulations that apply to the retention of photographs and those that apply to biometric data, whereby a person has to go through a complex and costly procedure even to get the forms to apply for the data to be removed? Why should there be one set of rules for biodata, whereby a person has to go through those procedures, and, as the noble Lord said, a review by the police themselves as regards removing images that they have taken?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, that is a very good question. These things will be addressed in our consultation on DNA, for example. His question also raised the point as to whether there should be some specific centralised view or guidance on exactly what is done with photographs. These issues need to be addressed.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, while it is entirely proper and lawful that such photographs should be taken, should not a line of distinction be drawn between circumstances of general public order and other circumstances which go much deeper into the whole issue of the security of the state?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I may have missed the point of the question, but I assume that the noble Lord is talking about automatic number-plate recognition, CCTV and the like. There is a difference, but equally, in areas such as automatic number-plate recognition, we intend to look at the exact rules for how this is handled and how the information is kept and dealt with, because there is a real risk with some of these things of increasing our capability exponentially. Police forces rightly try to use these techniques because

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they make us safer and enable us to get serious criminals and others, but the techniques have to be properly monitored and controlled. There is a real issue there.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, will those examining the matter have regard to the practice in the Scottish Parliament whereby, in the parallel case of DNA retention, the length of time of retention is geared to the degree of the offence?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, we have gone somewhat off the Question but I am happy to talk to this specific issue. We have come up with various proposals where, yes, we are looking at a shorter time for a lesser offence than for the more serious offences. A consultation document is out which we will be discussing. A bigger issue in the DNA area is our view on holding and keeping samples. My own view is that it puts no indication of guilt on anybody. I am happy for my sample to be held by someone. Some people argue that it is helpful to have a composite and full database of DNA, while others argue that it is not a good idea. If we are keeping only the profile and not the actual samples, I see no risk in that at all.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords—

Lord Morgan: 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 think that it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Morgan.

Lord Morgan: My Lords, is it not worrying that we are talking about individuals who have committed no crime and who are not even suspected of having committed a crime? Nevertheless, their data will be stored on criminal evidence databases for an indefinite period. Is that not profoundly unsatisfactory and a major reason why civil libertarians all over the country are disillusioned by our Labour Government?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I assume that that question has gone back to the original Question about photographs taken in a demonstration. I understand that they are not put on a criminal database; they are being sorted through and will be removed. If I am wrong I will get back in writing. Some big issues need to be addressed in terms of how one monitors the new capabilities that we have for making sure that our nation and our people are safe, and ensuring that we stop serious crime. I agree that they are there, but I absolutely disagree that this Government have pushed us down the route of the so-called surveillance society. Some of these measures are crucial and, as long they are there, they ensure that our people will be safe and secure, which is extremely important for the nation.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, why should the police not be allowed to have photographs of people who are not guilty? There is nothing wrong in that, as the noble

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Lord said. After all, the people who complain are probably those who had their house Googled, so it is all in the public domain anyhow.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Earl raises another important point, which is that a lot of private concerns have considerable data about us. That needs to be properly regulated. If you have a card from the very big supermarket chains to help to reduce the price of things, they know exactly where you have been, where you have shopped, what you buy, and can then pass those data to others. It is unbelievable. These things need to be monitored and checked, but it is part of our modern society. I am a lot happier about how the Government look at some of those practices because we put measures in place to stop them. It is an important issue.

Constitutional Reform Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision to repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and the Human Rights Act 1998; to introduce binding referendum powers at national and local level; to require the approval of Parliament to enter into international treaties and to declare war; to make provision about the work of Parliament; to devolve legislative responsibility for certain policy areas to local authorities; and connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Willoughby de Broke, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Online Purchasing of Goods and Services (Age Verification) Bill [HL]

Order of Commitment Discharged

3.08 pm

Moved by Baroness Massey of Darwen

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, as no amendments have been tabled and no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee, I therefore beg to move that this order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes

Second Reading

3.09 pm

Moved By Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, the Government are committed to putting children and young people at the centre of policy-making. We want to ensure that services for children and young people work together across disciplines to offer the best possible network of support so that all young people are given every opportunity to become fulfilled adults. Investment in skills and training is vital if we are to secure Britain’s place at the forefront of global competition, innovation and productivity. It is the only way that we will build the strong workforce and the strong economy that we need for the future.

Last year the Education and Skills Act raised the participation age in education, employment or training to 18 from the year 2015. Now, because we believe that local decision-making is the key to meeting the needs of all young people and ensuring continuity of learning pre-16 and post-16, the Bill will devolve responsibility for the education and training of all 16 to 19 year-olds to local authorities, along with £7 billion of funding.

A light touch national body, the Young People’s Learning Agency, will support authorities in this role, and the new Skills Funding Agency, working closely with the sector skills councils, will create a stronger demand-driven system for adult skills, more responsive to the needs of employers. The Bill also builds on what we have already done to bring apprenticeships back from the brink of extinction, with their number increasing from just 65,000 to a quarter of a million this year. Completion rates are at an all-time high. The Bill will establish the entitlement to an apprenticeship for every suitably qualified young person who wants one, set national standards for apprenticeships as a guarantee of quality for apprentices and employers alike and ensure that young people get appropriate careers advice on apprenticeships at school. Of course, training should not end with the award of an apprenticeship certificate. Most businesses are already investing in their staff by making time for training, but this Bill will make sure that every workplace has a culture of training and improvement by giving all employees the right to request time for training.

Since 1997 we have made huge progress in driving up standards in schools. Twelve years ago, more than half of all secondary schools were below the basic benchmark of 30 per cent of pupils achieving five good GCSEs including English and maths. Today the number is just one in seven. We are determined to reduce that number to zero over the next two years, because every school should be a good school. Through National Challenge, we are providing £400 million of funding and extra support to help those schools, many of them already improving, to rise above our benchmark. We are working with local authorities to deliver that target. However, where authorities are not providing the support that their schools need, they can be held to account. This is why we are proposing new powers in the Bill to require local authorities to act.

Academies also have a vital role to play. We remain firmly committed to the academies programme and reaching our target of opening up to 400 academies. We know that academies are working, but as the

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programme expands, DCSF will find it increasingly difficult to deliver the individualised support that it has given to academies up to now, so the Bill allows the Secretary of State to ask the Young People’s Learning Agency to carry out specific academy functions —essentially funding and performance management—on his behalf. Academies prove that with determination, extra support and good leadership, it is possible to break the link between deprivation and achievement. I take this opportunity to thank noble Lords on all sides of the House, and the right reverent Prelates, who play a direct role in the sponsorship of academies, for their contribution that they have made and will make.

Good schools and excellent teaching are the cornerstone of a successful education system. We want schools that are free to teach, accountable to the parents and communities that they serve, and safe, so that teaching and learning can take place without disruption. The Bill seeks to make progress on each of those aims. By giving Ofsted the power to publish health check statements, the Bill supports the move to a more tailored and proportionate approach to inspection. This will mean that inspection is targeted on the schools where it is most needed, while the best schools benefit from a lighter-touch regime. Where something has gone wrong and parents are unhappy with the way in which their school has handled a complaint, the parents will be able to go to the Local Government Ombudsman instead of taking the more drastic step of appealing to the Secretary of State as the system currently demands.

Almost all secondary schools are now working in partnerships to challenge poor behaviour and attendance. This has had a positive impact. In 2007, Ofsted told us that behaviour was inadequate in just 2 per cent of secondary schools. We are not complacent —much more needs to be done—but, to be truly effective, all schools should be involved in a partnership. This Bill makes partnership a requirement for all secondary schools, academies and pupil referral units. For the schools and colleges that need it, the Bill also extends the power that staff already have to search pupils for weapons to cover drugs, alcohol and stolen property.

The Bill will support the development of a good curriculum and qualifications system. By establishing Ofqual, we want to create a strong, respected and independent regulator so that standards are maintained and are seen to be maintained. Ofqual needs to make judgments about standards without fear or favour, so, like Ofsted, it will report directly to Parliament. The Bill will give Ofqual all the powers that it needs to safeguard standards of exams and tests and to speak out if standards come under threat. This is crucial to maintaining public confidence. Ofqual will inherit this regulatory role from the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, which will evolve into the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency. This will be the Government’s expert adviser on qualifications, the curriculum and assessments, and it will deliver national curriculum tests.

We know that education and training play a vital role in young offenders’ resettlement and life chances, so the Bill takes the historic step of ending the

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disapplication of primary education law to young people in custody. Local authorities will take on the responsibility for learning in custody alongside their mainstream responsibilities, and will ensure that as far as possible young people in custody are offered the same learning experience as those in the community.

As noble Lords are well aware, the progress report of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, on the protection of children in England highlighted a number of areas in which the current arrangements for the safeguarding and welfare of children could be improved. The Bill responds directly to recommendations made in his March report and to commitments in the Government’s response. It gives the Secretary of State the power to set children’s services authorities in England statutory targets for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in accordance with regulations. It seeks to open up local safeguarding children boards to greater public scrutiny and engagement by requiring that each board in England includes two lay members to represent the local community. It also requires each local safeguarding children board in England to produce at least once a year a report on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in its area. This will be a full and frank report and, when published, a copy will be sent to the local children’s trust board.

A decade ago, there were no children’s centres. There are now more than 3,000 Sure Start children’s centres around the country. Children’s centres have revolutionised the support that is available to families during the early years, and have helped many more children get off to a good start in life, including many of the most disadvantaged around the country. The next stage of our reforms is to make sure that every family can have access to this support, and this Bill requires local authorities to ensure that there are sufficient Sure Start children’s centres to meet local demand. Meeting all the needs of children and families means ensuring that different services work collaboratively together.

There are many examples of local services working effectively together through a children’s trust. The Bill will make it an obligation for every local authority to have a children’s trust board, with responsibility for improving the well-being of all the children in its area. The Bill also extends the list of relevant partners who will have a duty to co-operate to promote children’s well-being, so that all maintained schools, academies, colleges, Jobcentre Plus and youth offending teams are included. Short-stay schools will be added through regulations. This measure will provide proper area-wide accountability for the well-being of all children and young people across all the different services.

The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill is wide-ranging legislation, but every measure is driven by a very simple objective; namely, our determination to create a world-class education and training system through a process of reform that has children and young people at its heart. I look forward very much to hearing the views of noble Lords during today’s debate and to engaging with them in Committee. I beg to move.

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3.20 pm

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining this Bill, which attempts to address a wide range of areas of policy across the spheres of the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Children, Schools and Families. In that regard, I note with regret the lack of a Minister from the former department to speak today. However, it is reassuring to have here the Minister, given her experience, as well as so many experts who have chosen to speak today, as we very much hope that they will in Committee and on Report, to ensure that the Bill is subjected to the exceedingly stringent and effective scrutiny that it needs.

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