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DNA techniques have helped bring thousands of serious offenders to justice, helping police solve around 1,000 rapes and murders in 2006-07. More than 18 million employment checks have stopped over 80,000 unsuitable people working with children and vulnerable adults in the past four years alone. Focused targeting of dangerous individuals has helped us to pre-empt many attacks and bring serious criminals and terrorists to justice. Indeed, if these opportunities were ignored or not put to their full benefit, it is not just your Lordships who would criticise the Government, but the general public in their millions.

The Government will always take a proportionate view of what needs to be done to protect the public and respect individual privacy and we will need to be flexible in our approach if circumstances require it. The debate about the new world we live in—the 21st century as the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, put it—and respect for privacy is a central part of our approach to security. Being open about this is also why

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we have set out a principled approach to the use of information in preventing crime and terrorist acts. In reviewing existing policies and processes, the Government will seek to ensure that due consideration is given to the following key principles at all times.

First, are robust safeguards in place to protect information and individual liberties? Secondly, are our plans and actions proportionate to the damage and the threat they are seeking to prevent? Thirdly, are we being as transparent as possible? Fourthly, are citizens being given the right amount of choice? Those four principles underpin our approach to privacy and security: proportionality, safeguarding, transparency and, perhaps above all, common sense. Applying the common-sense test throughout, we need to make sure that policies and processes are proportionate and balance the respect for privacy with the potential harm. We need to ensure that robust safeguards are in place. We will be as open and transparent as possible with the public about what we do and why we do it.

As part of the Government’s commitment to proportionality and necessity, we have made several announcements recently. I make no apologies for consulting the public on these vital issues and referring the committee to the consultations in our response. On DNA for example, we have set out clear proposals and are asking for views on them as one part of the policy-making process. That must be right. We would certainly be criticised by noble Lords if we pre-empted the conclusions of those consultations.

Let me turn to some of the large topics raised. I apologise in advance for not dealing with all of them. On DNA, which is a very important topic, as the House knows well, the European Court of Human Rights found on 4 December last year in the case of S and Marper a violation under Article 8 because of the “blanket and indiscriminate” retention policy for DNA and fingerprints. However, the court also indicated that it agrees with the Government that the retention of fingerprint and DNA information pursues the legitimate purpose of the detection and therefore prevention of crime, and recognised the need for,

We in this country have long recognised the importance of DNA as an investigative tool in helping to detect offenders and bring them to justice and, as important, if not more important, in helping to eliminate the innocent from inquiries. We know from the research that between March 2001 and 31 December 2005, there were approximately 200,000 DNA profiles on the National DNA Database, which would previously have had to be removed, before legislation was passed in 2001, because the person was acquitted or charges dropped. The startling fact is that of those 200,000 profiles that applied to those arrested but not convicted, approximately 8,500 profiles, from some 6,290 individuals, have been linked with crime scene profiles involving nearly 14,000 offences. Those are offences of all kinds, but they include 114 murders, 55 attempted murders, 116 rapes, 68 sexual offences, 119 aggravated burglaries and 127 supply of controlled drugs offences.

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I suggest to the House that that is a startling fact and one that we cannot forget in the arguments about DNA. We, of course, fully accept the judgment of the European Court and the need to implement the judgment in open and public debate. That is why we published our proposals in a public consultation document on 7 May. I have been asked when we will complete that consultation. We aim to publish the summary of responses to that paper in September of this year and to consult on draft regulations to be laid before the House towards the end of the year.

That document, Keeping the Right People on the DNA Database, sets out a statutory framework aimed at striking the right balance in this difficult area. To achieve that important balance, we have made proposals in a number of key areas in which noble Lords have been interested. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, in particular, asked me some questions about them. Among those proposals are, first, that all samples, whether from people who are arrested and not convicted or convicted, will be destroyed. Secondly, profiles for adults arrested and not convicted will be retained for six years, and for those arrested for a violent, sexual or terrorist-related offence for 12 years. Thirdly, we propose specific arrangements for juveniles to delete profiles and fingerprints on their reaching 18 years old, provided that they have not been involved in more than one offence.

Your Lordships will be aware that at paragraph 467 the Select Committee report recommended the replacement of the existing statutory framework and the provision of regulatory oversight of the national DNA database. On the statutory framework, we have submitted proposals to replace it and, indeed, to go further. Beyond what I have already outlined, we propose to place in regulations the criteria for the person to apply for the deletion of DNA data ahead of the expiry of the six or 12-year period. We are also proposing to put in place an independent monitoring and scrutiny process, of the applications of the regulations and enhance the independent membership and accountability, of the national DNA database strategy board. We hope that those measures will achieve the same aim as the recommendations of the committee on this important area of policy.

The noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, talked about a universal database. Let me reply in this way. We acknowledge that of course there is support in some parts of the public for a universal database, but there are similarly strong objections to it. It is a subject that requires much wider public debate, not least to consider the ethical and practical issues involved. We also want to consider the resource implications. We have no plans to introduce a universal database.

The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, asked a series of questions. If he will forgive me, I shall write a letter to him, which of course will go to all Members who are here, dealing in some more detail with his questions. In general terms, the figures that I have specifically concentrated on about the DNA of those who were arrested but not convicted, and the fact that the profiles linked so closely to some really serious offences in the following few years is, in my view, an important answer to the noble Lord. Research has also been carried out

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by the Jill Dando Institute which suggests that those who are arrested and not convicted have a propensity to offend that is similar to those who are arrested and convicted but who have not been given a custodial sentence. I refer the noble Lord to that research, but I would take up too much of the limited time I have left if I were to attempt to answer him any further. Also, I have not forgotten his last question about the chief constable or some judicial authority.

We believe that CCTV is a powerful crime-fighting tool. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, gave the figure of 3 per cent for the number of extra convictions. What he did not mention was the crime it deters. There is no doubt in my mind that CCTV deters crime. If I may say so, if you ask anyone outside—the general population sometimes have considerable wisdom—they will concur with the general suggestion that CCTV is indeed a powerful tool, and that they are grateful that widespread CCTV exists. Police operational experience and various research shows that it deters and detects crime and helps to secure convictions. What seems to have been slightly dismissed in the argument today is that it also reduces fear of crime, which I would have thought is pretty important to this House, as well as to the rest of the country. In case there is any doubt about it, we remain committed to the use of CCTV in helping to make communities feel safer.

My noble friend Lord Peston raised interesting questions about CCTV and specifically asked what is happening to be independent inquiry. The National Policing Improvement Agency, will be disseminating the Campbell collaboration review, to police and key stakeholders later this summer. The review will be made publicly available by being placed on the internet.

Moving on to RIPA, I was most interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, had to say about that. Our public consultation seeks to explain and obtain views on the public authorities which have been permitted by Parliament to authorise key covert investigatory techniques under RIPA. We are seeking the public’s views on questions such as which public authorities should be able to authorise investigatory techniques, such as covert surveillance in public places; when and why such techniques should be used; whether the rank of authorising officers in local authorities should be raised to senior executive; and whether elected councillors should also play a role in overseeing any use of covert techniques by local authorities.

There were a number of interesting comments from noble Lords in this debate, several of which centred on the role of local government as regards RIPA. As the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, reminded us, RIPA did not create a new power to enable local authorities to carry out covert surveillance. It established a regulatory framework to ensure that the powers were used appropriately and that proper consideration was given to human rights. Of course, there are examples of those powers being used inappropriately. However, I say to my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon, that the example he gave of a local authority using RIPA against a Traveller who defrauded an elderly householder by pretending to do much more work than he had done did not seem to be the best example that could be chosen of local government

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snooping. One would naturally think that the elderly householder who was being defrauded was the victim of a serious offence and someone the courts would seek to protect by imposing a long prison sentence. We have to make sure we get the balance right. As my right honourable friend Jacqui Smith said in her speech in December, this power has been misused. The importance of the inquiry that we are entering into is to make sure that it is not misused in future.

A lot was asked about the Information Commissioner. Many important points were made about that role, not least by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller. I think the House will want to thank the Information Commissioner, who is about to retire, and will be pleased that he was honoured in the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours List. There are some important points around the Information Commissioner’s role, which I do not have time to go into during this reply. The noble Baroness will know well that a Bill is going through this House to make available to the commissioner powers to assess central government departments’ and public authorities’ compliance with the Data Protection Act 1998; to impose a deadline and location for providing information relating to investigations; and to require any person where a warrant is being served to provide any information required to determine compliance with the Data Protection Act. We are also proposing to commence the provision made in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008—some of us will have happy memories of it—to impose civil monetary penalties on data controllers for deliberate or reckless loss of data.

I think I have reached the end of the time I should take in troubling your Lordships' House. If there are matters that I have not touched on, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Goodlad, and distribute the letter. This has been an excellent debate on an excellent report, and the Government thank the noble Lord and his committee. I have done my best in the few minutes I have had to try to show that the Government do, and always will, attempt to take a principled and proportionate view of what needs to be done to protect the public and respect individual privacy. We must never be complacent, and where change is required, we will make it, but I strongly believe that we do not live in a surveillance society and that this Government are determined to make sure that we never do.

12.04 pm

Lord Goodlad: My Lords, I echo the tribute paid by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, to the late Lord Dahrendorf. He was, if anybody was, truly a citizen of the world. He had almost uniquely wide experience—frequently harsh experience—of the world. All those who knew him over the years, who from time to time thought they were vaguely expert on a particular subject, always found that he was totally up to speed and had some wise comment, gently communicated, to contribute. I was never taught by him, but he must have been a truly great teacher. He will be deeply missed by all those whose lives he touched and enriched, not least your Lordships’.

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This has been an extremely helpful debate, and I am most grateful to all those who participated in it. Great expertise has been brought to bear both from the Back Benches and the Front Benches on a range of self-evidently important, sometimes disparate but linked, issues. I am particularly grateful to the Minister who, with his invariable courtesy, omniscience and, given the range of his responsibilities, apparent ubiquity, has sought to reply to most of the considerations that were raised. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, who is, I think, the senior member of your Lordships’ Select Committee, said that the Select Committee’s work on this matter has been brought to a conclusion, and that is true. It has, certainly for the moment. However, the work of Parliament on these issues has certainly not been brought to a conclusion. We will scrutinise with the greatest care what the Minister said. As parliamentarians and possibly, in future, as the Select Committee, we will look at this issue all the time. Like General MacArthur, we shall return.

Motion agreed.

Schools: Statutory Instruments (Merits Committee Report)

Copy of the Report

Motion to Take Note

12.07 pm

Moved By Lord Filkin

Lord Filkin: My Lords, in moving this debate, I shall briefly set out why the committee felt an inquiry was desirable, what it found and what it recommended and then conclude with one or two thoughts about what might be some wider implications of its inquiry recommendations. Before launching into that, I shall thank the committee’s staff, especially Paul Bristow, for their excellent work. I mention Paul by name because he no longer works with the committee. I also thank the witnesses, including officials from the department, because they gave extremely good evidence, and the Minister, who engaged positively with the inquiry. Finally, I thank my fellow committee members who are quite outstanding in their diligence and commitment to our work.

It is perhaps obvious why we had the inquiry. The committee had particularly noticed that the Government’s thrust to reduce the burdens of regulation on business had not been matched by a similar thrust to reduce the burdens of regulation on the public sector. It has marked that point for some time. The committee was also concerned about the high volume of secondary legislation that the Government impose on the world out there, particularly when it bears on one common point. Therefore, the committee was concerned to see the cumulative impact of secondary legislation on schools as a case in point. It chose schools because they seemed a good example and because the committee was aware that, in 2006-07, DCSF made over 100 new

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statutory instruments addressed to schools. We clearly wanted to inquire why there were so many statutory instruments; what the schools that were being regulated and instructed think about this; and, fundamentally, whether this welter of secondary legislation achieved its objectives, which goes to the heart of the committee’s terms of reference.

As noble Lords would expect, and as is right, the Minister Jim Knight said that statutory instruments are a necessary instrument of policy and that the objective of improving schools and education is a goal that all of us would support. He also said that the department had been working to reduce the volume of legislation, but what we found did not fully support this. The department had carried out a survey on the effects of the New Relationship with Schools that started in 2004, and schools had noticed no diminution in the volume of regulation coming to them.

The Implementation Review Unit, which gave excellent evidence to us, also told us that this welter of legislation being generated from the department was perhaps made worse because there was no single point in the department with an overview of the totality of what bore on schools and that made the sort of judgments that perhaps should be made as to whether cumulatively this would work or whether the cumulative consequences would be negative. The National Association of Head Teachers also said that the department made no attempt to take an holistic view of the legislative impact.

Schools also said that the issue was wider than the department itself. They would have loved it if the department acted more as a gatekeeper to consider the other regulations generated by the Government that bore down on schools, and had an holistic view of whether the system could sensibly bear and positively respond to this level of innovation and instruction. So those who are being regulated cast strong doubts on whether this was an effective, efficient or sensible system.

We as a committee therefore recommended addressing some of the immediate problems and having a common commencement date for the vast majority of regulations so that schools knew when most regulations were going to come in. We also recommended that there should be at least one full term’s notice that this was going to happen in order to give schools a proper lead-in time to prepare for it. If those two recommendations were taken, the notice period would in effect be from 1 April each year to the beginning of September. In our view, that would undoubtedly improve preparedness and, we hope, have a consequential benefit. The fact that the department had to bring in all those instruments on 1 April would, one would hope, make it more likely that someone in the department would ask whether the system could cope with the volume of this legislation and regulation and whether it was likely to have the beneficial effects desired or, to quote the BRE, whether more would be less. In other words, does the volume of activity reduce the likelihood of getting the outcomes that you want?

The next major thing that we recommended—I will not cover all the points because my colleagues on the committee will cover many of them—was a fundamental review of the effects of the Government’s

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action. There is no point in public expenditure or government action unless the Government find out whether they work in practice. Why is that so? It is so because, unless you know whether your policies have worked, you do not know whether they are succeeding or failing. More fundamentally, unless you actually find out what works and what does not work, you have no feedback mechanism or learning system, and you therefore have a culture that does not learn what forms of action work and what do not. The Implementation Review Unit—a respectable body—said that the department is very poor at feedback and evaluation. Others said that there was little evidence of post-legislative impact assessment. Most of our committee built up a picture of a world in which too much was being attempted too frequently and with too little understanding of its impact.

What, then, might be some of the wider lessons from this? I have mentioned the New Relationship with Schools, which I think was initiated by Charles Clarke in 2004 and launched in 2005. I had the pleasure of serving with him as a Minister at that point. It considered whether it was possible to cohere what the department did in order to reduce the burdens and to focus its actions on the most important. I have mentioned the evaluation by researchers afterwards that schools regrettably had not noticed a difference.

The other conclusion—these are personal comments which the committee does not necessarily share—is that the model of change exhibited by the picture painted by the report is open to question and challenge. In essence, it starts with what may be a rather crude understanding of how people shift their behaviour both individually and institutionally. It is, in essence, a model that says: “We will issue a regulation and instruction and then the world will respond”. That is often the case, although regrettably not always. It would be wonderful if it were; we would have much greater success in public service reform.

It is a crude model of change because it does not necessarily recognise that, while an instrument on its own might get results, you have to look at what is happening to the system in total, and to consider with deep understanding how an organisation is coping and whether the cumulative impact will make change happen. Although I have the greatest respect for many civil servants, not many of them who are involved in making policy and legislation necessarily deeply understand the managerial realities of how a headmaster or headmistress of a busy school is actually coping. Therefore, the individual official who makes the secondary legislation often has a very small, blinkered view of what is most important: the statutory instrument itself. They make it without the wider picture of what else is happening and without a real understanding of the collective burdens on and challenges that face a head.

As a consequence, the headmasters and headmistresses who gave their evidence to us did not see what the department was doing to them as beneficial; they often saw it as an impediment to progress. From a Government whom I support and applaud, that is deeply worrying—even though one may take that with a pinch of salt, because members of professions do moan—because it casts doubt on whether this is an effective system of promoting change.

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In essence, I suggest that the model whereby you keep on generating a whole number of small, specific input specifications and regulations is weak in its motivation and in developing effective accountability for outcomes. It would be marvellous if we got results only by specifying inputs, but there is not much evidence to support the idea that that, by itself, is an effective model of change.

We were emboldened in this view when we looked across the pitch and saw what the Government were doing with academies. They had generated academies as a completely different model: bodies that are exempt from the vast majority of departmental statutory instruments and held to account through their governance arrangements for the outcomes that they generate. The question that we asked the Minister was this: if you believe that top-down regulation is burdensome and a potential impediment to success, and that you should hold academies to account through the results that they achieve, why do you not do that for other schools? The Minister’s response was in part that the Government have different governance and accountability models for academies compared with other schools. I do not think that all members of the committee were convinced that that was a sufficient answer.

I therefore hope that the forthcoming White Paper will show that some of the messages that we and others have sent to the Government about how to improve the educational system and how to ensure the educational standards of our children are taken deeply to heart. There are some signs that it might do that.

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