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22 Jun 2009 : Column 1348

Lord Barnett: My Lords, I note the views of the noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Strathclyde, as well as those of my noble friend, but will she note the fact that the views of the three Front Benches bear no relation to those of the Back Benches?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for bringing that to my attention.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that some of us—we may be constitutional anachronisms—believe that there should be at least a partially elected second Chamber?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I do indeed recognise that and I would never think of the noble Earl as an anachronism.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, are the Government not putting the cart before the horse? Would it not be more sensible first to retrieve our democracy from Brussels, where the majority of our national law is now made? We should then organise the Select Committee procedure in the House of Commons to hold the Executive to account. Having done that, we should decide whether we want a second Chamber, how it should be composed and what its powers should be.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I do not think that the Government are putting the cart before the horse at all, as the noble Lord puts it. We have an excellent relationship with the European Union; it is a relationship of partnership. The House of Commons is considering how it organises its Select Committees, which is entirely a matter for the other place, but I am confident that that is what it is doing. One of the next great reforms should be the reform of the House of Lords.

European Parliament: Expatriate Candidates


3.06 pm

Asked By Lord Dykes

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, the Government welcome the fact that UK nationals and the nationals of other EU member countries actively exerted their rights under the Council directive of 6 December 1993 to vote and stand as candidates in other member states at the recent European Parliament elections and are actively participating in public life in their adopted country.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Was it not gratifying to see the growing diaspora of people not only in general, but as candidates and political activists mainly in Spain, France, Italy

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and Germany, but in other countries too, where the British diaspora resides not only presumably as patriotic British citizens but as enthusiastic citizens of the European Union? That was decided by the then Conservative Government under the Maastricht treaty, in sad contrast to the antics of the Conservative Party which is now joining up with extreme right wing neo-cons of a peculiar bent in some countries, who are unable to join any consensus in the European Parliament for future progress.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Lord’s last point is truly astonishing. His earlier point is also interesting. At least five people from other EU states, who are resident in Britain, stood in the British elections to the European Parliament. The wonderful, delightful irony is that the only one who was successful belonged to the United Kingdom Independence Party.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, in that case I take it that the Government welcome the election of the EU’s former chief accountant, Marta Andreasen, to the European Parliament. I shall repeat a question that I asked on Thursday 18 June, which was not answered at the time. Has the Minister read her new book, Brussels Laid Bare?If so, does he believe that that book will do anything to endear the project of European integration to the British people?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am afraid that I have not had the opportunity of reading the lady’s book, but I plan to take it on holiday with me to Portugal. Whether I will get round to it, I am not sure.

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord has been asked what conclusions the Government have drawn from the growing involvement of British expatriates and others in the European elections. What conclusions have they drawn from their own dire performance in those elections, and will they bring on a general election?

Lord Bach: My Lords, our performance was not good, but that of the noble Lord’s party, at 27 per cent, was not a result of which they can be very proud. It comforts me slightly that in 1999 the Conservatives got a full 7 per cent more than that—34 per cent. Two years later they were well beaten in a general election, and in 2004 they got 26.7 per cent. Less than a year after that, they were thrashed again.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, would the Minister comment on the decline in turnout right across Europe? Should we not be worried by the alienation of voters and the growth of fringe parties such as the British National Party, which gained the seat in my own North West region? In that context, will he look again at the closed party list system, which does not involve people at all in elections? When it was first introduced, we were promised that it would be reviewed as a matter of course. That has never happened.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I know that there is strong feeling around the House about the system that we are bound to employ in the European elections. I share the noble Lord’s view that the turnout was depressing; not just in the United Kingdom but in Europe too. The decrease of only 2 percentage points across Europe

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since the last ones was the smallest ever, but that is hardly a very strong argument. As the European Parliament continues to establish itself in the EU institutional structures, and as it has an increasing say in European-level legislation, we hope we will see a reverse in this trend in the future and we will continue to work on it.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the lack of enthusiasm throughout Europe for the elections to the European Parliament is a good reason for our lobbying hard for the abolition of direct elections to the European Parliament? We would thereby save ourselves a mint of money, and reinforce the fact that the bureaucracy in Brussels is accountable to the elected representatives of the member countries throughout Europe.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not agree. Of course, the turnout is much too low, but I would remind the noble Lord that the European electorate is the largest in the world, with a population of just under 500 million. An eligible electorate of 375 million, directly electing their MEPs, makes it the second largest democratic electorate in the world, after India. I am proud to be in the Government who support the elections that have just taken place and who support the European Union.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, do the Government have accurate figures for the number of British citizens now resident—living, working, studying or retired—in other EU countries? I understand that it is somewhere between 3 million and 5 million. Does that not increase the incentive for Her Majesty’s Government to co-operate with other European Union Governments, on, for example, police, health services and access to other services—unlike the Conservative Party in what it is really prepared to accept?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am not sure what the figures are. I thought they were not quite as high as the noble Lord mentions, but they are clearly in the millions—more than 2 million, as I understand it. One of the great things about today’s times is that British Citizens can go and live in EU countries, take part in democratic life there, if they want to, and, likewise, EU citizens can come to this country and take part in civic life too.

Arrangement of Business


3.13 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it may have come to your Lordships’ attention that the other place will be electing a new Speaker today. It may therefore be of interest to the House if I set out the proposed arrangements for the Royal Commission that will be held for the approbation of the new Speaker.

The precise timing of the Royal Commission is, of course, at this stage uncertain, and depends on how the election proceeds in the other place. I can advise the House of the following. In the event that a decision

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is reached in the other place after the first ballot, the Royal Commission will be held later this afternoon, at a time to be notified to the House. If the other place has completed the election of a new Speaker by our expected rising time, around 10 pm, the Royal Commission will take place tonight, either immediately after business or after an adjournment of the House. In this event, the time for the Royal Commission will be displayed on the annunciators. If, however, the other place is still in the process of electing a new Speaker when this House rises, at around 10 pm, the House will resume at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning for prayers, followed by the Royal Commission. The House would then be adjourned again until 2.30 pm for Oral Questions. This would be indicated on the annunciators tomorrow morning.

I am sure that the whole House will join with me in wishing the other place well in its important business today.

Autism Bill

First Reading

3.14 pm

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Policing and Crime Bill

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
10th Report from JCHR
15th Report from JCHR
9th Report from DPC

Committee (1st Day)

3.15 pm

Clause 1 : Duty of police authorities in relation to public accountability

Amendment 1

Moved by Baroness Harris of Richmond

1: Clause 1, page 1, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) In section 6 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (general functions of police authorities) after subsection (2) insert—

“(2A) Every police authority must make arrangements to obtain the views of children and young people in their area about policing in that area.””

Baroness Harris of Richmond: I declare an interest at the start as a former chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority and as a former deputy chair and now vice-president of the Association of Police Authorities, as well as having other police authority roles over a 25-year period.

Clause 1 inserts into the Police Act 1996 a requirement for police authorities, when discharging any of their functions, to have regard to the views of the public concerning policing. This duty is intended to complement the duty of police authorities under Section 96 of the Police Act 1996, again, to obtain the views of the public concerning policing. The Standing Committee for Youth Justice, to which I am indebted for its amendment, is concerned about how this proposal may impact on children and young people. The Children’s Commissioner for England has referred to a widely held fear of children within our society and to the negative portrayal of young people in the media. Children and young people are too often portrayed

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solely as perpetrators of crime, and the latest concluding observations from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, published in October 2008, note the very negative coverage on youth issues and recommend that the UK Government,

Negative media and the raft of legislative measures to deal with youth crime and anti-social behaviour have created a climate in society where any children’s activity may be seen as anti-social. For example, the Standing Committee for Youth Justice is aware of a number of cases in which complaints about anti-social behaviour have turned out to be about young people playing football in the park. In this context, there is a significant risk that public opinion based on negative stereotypes of young people, as distinct from informed public judgment, could result in policing priorities that are skewed against the interests of this group. This could seriously undermine the approach of existing multi-agency partnerships, both within and without the criminal justice sector, to tackling youth crime. The Government’s recent youth crime action plan, the YCAP, recognised the high incidence of children and young people as victims of crime, and this must also be reflected in these provisions.

Evidence submitted to the Good Childhood Inquiry, commissioned by the Children’s Society, illustrated that children and young people have strong views about crime and anti-social behaviour in their local communities. An 11 year-old boy said, “When I go out and I see so many teenagers swearing and littering, it makes me ask myself if the Government realise what goes on”. To this end, I believe that it is vital that consideration is given to the question of how police will ensure that they obtain the views of children and young people. In the past, many crime and disorder partnerships failed to take into account the views of children and young people in their planning processes. Children and young people are important members of the community and their views and ideas can make a positive contribution to improving community safety. I ask the Minister how the police will canvass public opinion about what policing should focus on and, specifically, how this will include the views of children and young people. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: It may be convenient if I speak to Amendment 2 now so that we can debate the whole group together. Before I do so, and because it will be relevant during the course of the Bill, though not necessarily on this aspect of it, I declare two interests—one as a sitting magistrate in both the adult and family courts, the second as an elected member of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which will be relevant when local government issues become pertinent to the discussion.

The matters raised by the noble Baroness have shown how important it is to ensure that there is increased public involvement at all levels of local policing, and that this is done in a sensible way. We agree strongly that the police must become more accountable to the public—our policies on police reform, which I will not go into today, go much further than this modest amendment.

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The danger with adding “just one more” matter that a police authority must have regard to is that there is no clarification of how the new matter will interact with the existing priorities, and what will actually change. Will the police authority continue much as before, but now take note of when an initiative is particularly popular or unpopular? Or will it seek to integrate a concern for public views into policing priorities?

In a very helpful brief that the Minister sent to me, for which I thank him very much, he says that Section 96 duties require police authorities to obtain information for consultation, but that, except when drawing up their priorities, they are not required to do anything with the information. That is clearly the reason why these amendments on consultation have been tabled. The new duty means that police authorities must consider information whenever they exercise their functions, which will ensure that the views of the public are a core part of any and all work that the police authority does. That is a direct lift from what the Minister said to me, and clearly underscores the reason why these amendments on consultation have been tabled.

Local communities have a valuable contribution to make to effective policing and we do not want to see the provisions watered down to the point that they become just a PR exercise. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, highlighted when moving Amendment 1, if attention is not paid to implementing this clause properly, that could be counterproductive. Without an impartial process that analyses the public’s views, there is a danger that the police will end up selectively listening to those who agree with established priorities while disregarding those that seek a new focus. Together with the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, I would be grateful if the Minister will give us more detail about how the police will seek out the public’s views. How will that consultation be undertaken? As my amendment suggests, I would like to know whether they will rely on those with a strong opinion writing in or whether they will prioritise any sector’s views above another. If the police rely on the public to come to them with concerns, there is a great danger that only the most vocal views, and probably those that are the widest apart, will be heard. Many sectors of the community lack any form of representative body, while others have numerous organisations that are accustomed to making representations.

The noble Baroness’s amendment quite rightly deals with the concern that the perception that has developed significantly in the past 10 years of children and young people as a threat will or might colour police attitudes to criminal behaviour and further isolate young people from the institutions and organisations that are there to protect them. I take her point that if children and young people are involved in the consultation, their views are being expressed in a way. We have had young people’s parliaments, we have young people’s citizens’ juries, and it is amazing how adult they can be when they are asked to put those views forward. That is an important aspect.

Perhaps equally important is the fact that we know that we are in the middle of an outbreak of violent crime that is flourishing around the knife culture, which has become rife, and that young people do seem

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to be involved in crime. As we may not quite understand why that is happening, perhaps a consultation that included young people would be helpful.

My honourable friend in another place asked whether the police take enough account of the impact that crime and disorder have on businesses, so I have included them in the list of sectors that I suggest should be listened to and whose views would be sought under this amendment. The British Chambers of Commerce highlighted the fact that the police response to business communities’ concerns is inconsistent across authorities and fails to appreciate the growing cost of damage that crime inflicts on businesses. Therefore, it is essential that business is included.

Will the Minister say whether there is any intention of reviving the national Commercial Victimisation Survey, or whether the Government are making any effort to assess what help can be given to the business sector to protect it against the damage that crime can inflict on it?

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