Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

15 Oct 2009 : Column 324

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the judgment in fact said that it was wrong for us to keep them indefinitely. It did not say that it was wrong to take them. It is an issue of timing and how long these should be held for. I cannot give details of the exact numbers but I shall get back in writing on that. We are looking at this. There is a balance here. We have to weigh up the risk to our people and the very positive results in terms of our safety and justice where horrendous crimes have been committed, which DNA has helped to solve, against safeguarding the rights of the individual. That is what we intend doing. We shall not do it in a great rush. We have now consulted and will shortly come out with our proposals, based roughly around the figures we have given. I know that the Scots have come out with a different figure but all my analysis of that shows that it is not based on any proper analysis at all, so I am quite interested in how they arrived at their figure. However, we have a very clear view of where we are going on this.

Parliament: Reporting of Proceedings


11.30 am

Asked By Lord Taverne

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, the ability to report proceedings in Parliament remains unaffected by recent events. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said yesterday in another place:

"The Justice Secretary has talked to the parties concerned and is looking into this issue".

He went on to say that he hoped that,

Lord Taverne: My Lords, I welcome the reaction of all parties, the Prime Minister and the Government, to the questions that arose yesterday out of Mr Paul Farrelly's Question to the Commons. However, the threat still exists. These so-called super-injunctions are becoming more common and can be very oppressive. Will the Government take this opportunity to make it absolutely clear that similar actions to those of Carter-Ruck would be a clear breach of Article IX of the 1688 Bill of Rights, which states that,

Will the Government also take note of the remarks made yesterday by Lord Justice Laws on the law of libel and set up an urgent review of whether what he called the delicate balance between the right of reputation and the right to free expression has not perhaps tilted too far in favour of the former? Will they also look at whether so-called libel tourism should not be restrained?

15 Oct 2009 : Column 325

Lord Bach: We are looking at all the matters that the noble Lord raises. Of course, the courts have always had the right to restrain publication that would frustrate the very purpose of their orders, but it seems that they have used that power more during the past few years than previously. The Government will not seek to intervene in any way in what a newspaper or magazine chooses to publish. The press must abide by the law just as we all must. However, the issues that the noble Lord raises are very live ones in the Ministry of Justice. My right honourable friend the Justice Secretary is seeing Mr Speaker this afternoon, a senior official from my department is meeting the lawyers of the major newspapers today and the judiciary is being consulted.

Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, will my noble friend take this opportunity not only to assure newspaper editors that they will have a continuing right to report proceedings in Parliament but to put it to them that they have a responsibility to extend their typical coverage of Parliament beyond what the sketch writers choose to describe or the latest story of political embarrassment? After all, how are we to have an informed and responsible democracy if the print media fail to mediate the proceedings of Parliament in a reasonably broad, balanced and serious way?

Lord Bach: My noble friend makes an excellent point, which will win a lot of support around the House. I very much suspect that my right honourable friend will make that point to the newspapers in the same way as he makes his other points.

Lord McNally: My Lords, is it not ironic that tomorrow we celebrate the opening of the Supreme Court, which underlines the separation of powers? Is it not time to remind the judiciary that the separation of powers is a two-way street and that judges should not be lured into imposing injunctions that impinge on parliamentary privilege? The letter sent by Carter-Ruck to Mr Speaker is far from penitent. Would this matter not be settled far more quickly if Mr Speaker summoned Carter-Ruck to the Bar of the House?

Lord Bach: The only answer that I will give to the noble Lord is that I look forward to seeing him at the opening of the Supreme Court tomorrow.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Is there not an absolute privilege for the press to report proceedings in Parliament, so long as they do not comment on them?

Lord Bach: There is absolute privilege; I am hardly surprised that the noble Lord is correct about that. Proceedings in Parliament are subject to the absolute privilege accorded by Article IX of the Bill of Rights. That article provides that proceedings in Parliament ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court. As I understand it, that means that we in this House and those in another place receive absolute protection from court proceedings for things done while engaged in parliamentary duties. There is of course the principle of qualified privilege as well, which means that in the reporting of proceedings material can be produced

15 Oct 2009 : Column 326

provided that it is fairly reported. In particular, reports that were motivated by malice would not be protected by the privilege.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, further to the point raised by my noble friend Lord Howarth about the responsibility of reporting proceedings of this Parliament and, indeed, other matters accurately, does my noble friend agree that the current Press Complaints Commission is toothless and useless? Would he consider legislation to replace it with a statutory body?

Lord Bach: That is a very big question, which I am not prepared to answer.

Lord Goodhart: My Lords, will the Government consider looking more thoroughly at the libel laws? At present, they seem to be making the United Kingdom, particularly the English courts, a centre for worldwide applications to secure substantial damages by people who think that they have been libelled. Should we not try to get rid of that?

Lord Bach: There are some important considerations around the law of defamation and libel at present, particularly in relation to costs. We are aware that the costs associated with defamation proceedings have what has been described as a chilling effect, particularly where the impact of success fees under conditional fee agreements is taken into account. The question of what might properly be done to address cost issues in relation to defamation remains under consideration by the Government. These issues, as the noble Lord will know better than most, form part of the important consideration that Lord Justice Jackson is making on costs in civil proceedings generally. His final report is expected at the end of the year and will be considered with interest by all parties.

Administration and Works Committee

Membership Motion

11.38 am

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

Motion agreed.

Autism Bill

Order of Commitment Discharged

Moved By Baroness Pitkeathley

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Unless, therefore, any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Motion agreed.

15 Oct 2009 : Column 327

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Explainatory Notes
8th Report Delegated Powers Committee
14 Report Joint Committee on Human Rights

Committee (8th Day)

11.39 am

Clause 88 : Encouragement of education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention

Amendment 198

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

198: Clause 88, page 59, leave out lines 12 to 23 and insert-

"(a) encourage individuals to undergo post-19 education and training;

(b) encourage employers to participate in the provision of post-19 education and training;

(c) encourage employers to contribute to the costs of post-19 education and training;

(d) monitor and report to the Secretary of State and Parliament on levels of participation in post-19 education and training"

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 213A and 213B. They are separate, as was the case on more than one occasion yesterday. I shall first speak to Amendment 198 and then address the others, which raise different issues, but I thought it best that they remained grouped together, partly for the sake of time.

Clause 88 sets out the duty of the chief executive officer of the Skills Funding Agency to encourage post-19 education. There is an ambiguity in the Bill. Last night when we were addressing Clause 84, I spoke about what is reasonable and proper. Both clauses have ambiguous headings. Clause 88, which refers to Clause 84, is entitled:

"Encouragement of education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention".

Clause 84 is entitled:

"Education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention".

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said my amendments to Clause 84 were inappropriate because he did not think that the issue of what is proper and reasonable necessarily applied to those in detention. However, Clause 84 states that the chief executive must promote the provision of reasonable facilities for,

I take it, therefore, that that applies to all adults. Perhaps the Minister could clarify this when he replies.

Exactly the same wording applies in Clause 88, which is about encouraging education and training and applies to all those referred to in Clause 84(1)(a) within the chief executive's remit. I take it that that applies to all those who are over 19, other than those who have a learning difficulty assessment, as well as those who are in adult detention. Therefore, it is not just related to those who are in adult detention, as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, implied in relation to my

15 Oct 2009 : Column 328

earlier amendments. I was a bit taken aback and, in the light of that, felt that my amendments were inappropriate. However, after thinking about it, it seems to me that the amendment actually applies to all those over 19. We are looking at the issue of the "encouragement" of education and training for all those who are over 19.

This amendment comes from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. In general, as a society we want to encourage this ethos of lifelong learning, as the amendment sets out. There are all kinds of reasons as to why this is so: in lifelong learning when people stay in education, they remain happier, healthier and better socially adjusted. They contribute more to society as volunteers. There is a great deal of evidence for that among those who keep up their studies in one form or another, whether they are younger in terms of CPD and training or later on in adult life when they participate in adult learning of one sort or another.

11.45 am

In the global society in which we now operate, we know also that we need to encourage people to maintain and upgrade their competencies and skills; and, on occasions, to switch careers and move into new areas. The Government have been anxious to emphasise that there are very good economic reasons for investing in lifelong learning. It is in the forefront of the Government's skills agenda.

The NIACE report Learning Through Life that I mentioned yesterday recognises that responsibility for learning through life should be shared between the individual, the employer and the Government-all should make contributions. We discussed yesterday NIACE's idea that there should be the equivalent of what some people call a learning bank. The City and Guilds institute has also proposed ideas for what might be termed a learning bank. I also raised yesterday the concept of individual learning accounts and whether the Government were still backing some help for the individual, perhaps to encourage them to continue in lifelong learning. I was very encouraged by the Minister's reply that these ideas are still very much on track. I hope that they will develop into something like a learning bank, to which the individual, the employer and the Government can all contribute. People will have a certain number of credit hours in the bank that they can take for their learning-this will encourage individual learning.

The amendment seeks to take the spirit of encouraging lifelong learning and set it into Clause 88. The wording of Clause 88 is lifted straight from the Learning and Skills Act 2000. We propose a reformulation of the clause to capture more of the spirit of lifelong learning. We want the chief executive officer to be the champion of lifelong learning and to encourage individuals and employers to participate and employers to contribute. The new element that we are introducing is paragraph (d), which ensures better scrutiny of what the chief executive officer of the Skills Funding Agency achieves.

The remit letter to the LSC required it to increase and widen participation in learning, and to improve levels of achievement and retention of adult basic skills. Both requirements had quantitative targets attached,

15 Oct 2009 : Column 329

yet because of the reasonable and proper distinction that I was talking about yesterday that was written into the Learning and Skills Act and repeated in this one, the LSC has always been able to evade the broader remit of promoting lifelong learning and concentrate on the narrower one of promoting basic skills-and even there, it has concentrated on 16 to 19 year-olds rather than adults. The notion put forward in paragraph (d) of the amendment is that scrutiny should be not only by the Secretary of State, but also by Parliament. This would keep the wider remit in the public arena. For that reason, it would be a very good idea if, in addition to the CEO acting as a champion for lifelong learning, there was greater scrutiny of what was achieved by the chief executive officer.

Amendments 213A and 213B address a totally different issue. However, they pick up on the issue that I raised yesterday with the Minister about the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, to Jim Brathwaite at SEEDA, and the degree to which regional development agencies are now to play a substantive role in developing local skills strategies. Until the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, the position was that, with the exclusion of Greater London-one can see from Clause 110 that Greater London is excluded from the general SFA remit-local authorities were working with sub-regional groups to develop their strategies. In many senses, this is very sensible. In the south-east region, to which I belong, the issues facing employment and skills within, say, the Thanet area are totally different from those in the Guildford area, and in the Oxford area they are very different from those that we face in the Guildford area. Therefore, it seems to me very sensible to look at skills strategies within sub-regional groups.

That is reinforced by another Bill that has been through this House this year-the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill. It was not a Bill that I think the House liked very much; nevertheless I think that there are repercussions regarding this issue. Clause 85 of that Bill encouraged local authorities to come together, as in London, to form statutory economic prosperity boards, and Clause 118 encouraged local authorities to formulate multiple area agreements listing partner authorities. Interestingly enough, within that remit Jobcentre Plus was mentioned as a partner authority but the LSC and skills issues were not mentioned as partner authorities.

On top of that, in the 2009 Budget, Greater Manchester and Leeds were both designated as core cities, presumably with the idea that they, like Greater London, would create economic prosperity boards analogous to the London Skills and Employment Board, which has powers over adult SFA funding. Therefore, just as in London, Manchester and Leeds would effectively opt out of the SFA remit and do their own thing.

Therefore, the questions raised by Amendments 213A and 213B are, first: how powerful will the RDAs be in developing skills strategies? We on these Benches have some scepticism about the extent to which RDAs should run the local skills strategies, partly because we think that the RDAs are too big and, as I explained a little earlier, the sub-regional groupings are in this sense more appropriate. As I said, we prefer the notion

15 Oct 2009 : Column 330

of local authorities working together. Therefore, Amendment 213B questions whether we want to have the RDAs playing a substantive role in this.

The other question is: how far is this Bill compatible with the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act, which envisages these multiple area agreements? How far do the Government envisage areas such as Manchester and Leeds following along the lines of Greater London and taking over from the SFA adult skills policies and funding within their areas?

Those are the three substantive questions that I put to the Minister in relation to the developments that are taking place, and they are, as noble Lords will recognise, totally different issues from those that I raised under Amendment 198, which is all about encouraging lifelong learning. I beg to move.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, we returned after a two and a half month Summer Recess to find that a change of government department in charge of the Bill has led to a dramatic change of direction. Instead of a central operation, we find that regional development agencies, and thus a regional strategy, will now be the key focus for assessing and managing demands. We share the scepticism of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, concerning the role of the RDAs here, so I look forward to the Minister's explanation of why such a change in policy and direction can have been allowed to occur without any information at all being provided to the Committee charged with scrutiny of the Bill. I understand that the Government consider that no amendments are needed to the legislation to achieve that. Nevertheless, the Minister must admit that this is a fairly dramatic change in policy, and we can legitimately demand a detailed explanation of changes behind the legislative framework.

Noble Lords will be aware that we on these Benches have always preferred a sectoral approach. We continue to intend to enshrine the sector skills councils into legislation and put that in the Bill. We stand by that policy and are concerned that we in Committee are not alone in being ignored by the Government. Businesses have not been consulted regarding the Government's change in approach either. I very much hope that the Minister can provide a full explanation.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): In our view the proposals in the Bill will enhance the role of local authorities in identifying and meeting local skills needs. The transfer of responsibilities to local authorities of 16 to 19 funding will of itself enhance their position in skills locally and regionally.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page