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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I apologise if I did not answer the Question of the noble Viscount correctly. I meant to indicate that, even when such

22 Oct 2009 : Column 810

children are over 18 and they are still in full-time education, they are allowed to be here. They are allowed to be with their families under other circumstances as well, but those circumstances are too complex to list them all. If they are over 18 and in full-time education, it is absolutely right that they should stay with their families.

On the passport issue, this is the hub-and-spoke system, which we have talked about a number of times in this Chamber. There have been teething problems with it, but it has saved the Foreign and Commonwealth Office a gigantic amount of money, which it needed to save. We need to squeeze down and give better value for taxpayers. I accept that there have been teething problems, but I believe that we are overcoming them all. This is done very efficiently with standardised procedures and we do it in various parts of the world. I know that some people have felt that there are delays and that this has slowed things down, but overall we are very satisfied. We shall have to keep refining it and do better, but I think that it is the right thing to have done.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, notwithstanding the need for proper border controls, is there a general predisposition by the Government to encourage skilled and highly trained immigrants from Latin America in view of the huge talents existing now in the Latin American communities already in Britain?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as I said, there is no doubt that immigrants have added huge value to our country. However, we have to be much tighter on our controls as regards South America, as with everywhere else in the world. We now have our points-based system, which is working well. It enables people to get into this country and it enables flow and movement. Interestingly, the net migration figure is dramatically down, which shows that there are checks and balances. People move to where there are opportunities. We have tightened the controls and I think that we are going in the right direction, but it will take time to get this sorted out. E-borders will help. At long last, we are getting real control of the borders, which had not really happened for 40 years or so.

Prisons: Inspections


11.35 am

Asked By Baroness Falkner of Margravine

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord Bach): My Lords, the general policy on the transfer of prisoners is set out in prison order 1810. This specifies that each prison area must produce and implement a local strategy incorporating instructions on the movement of prisoners in a range of circumstances, including moves on grounds of discipline and security

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and moves on grounds of difficult or disruptive prisoners. It is definitely not policy to transfer any prisoner solely because of a forthcoming inspection.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, the whole House will condemn the dereliction of the duty of care towards the 11 prisoners at HMP Wandsworth and HMP Pentonville, as outlined in the report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, but can we see the Government take some responsibility for the state of prison overcrowding, which results in prisoners being moved on a regular basis due to operational capacity requirements? Will they reflect on the impact on vulnerable prisoners and those undergoing medical care and reassure the House about what they will do to ensure that those kinds of prisoners are never impacted by this again?

Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Baroness is both right and entirely wrong. She is right when she says it was absolutely down to the behaviour of certain senior prison staff. It is clear that, as the Chief Inspector of Prisons said, the attempt was a pointless and irresponsible attempt to undermine the inspection process, and we, like her, condemn it completely. However, the noble Baroness is wrong in saying that it had anything whatever to do with the setting and maintenance of targets or with overcrowding in prisons. The fact is that in local prisons-and both these prisons are busy local prisons-there is always substantial movement in and out to court and back. Local prisons, especially those in London, are very difficult to manage, and we pay tribute to the staff. This has always been the case, but we have engaged in an extensive building programme, and, so far, we have kept prisoners out of police cells for at least the past year.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, it is one thing to have a strategy, but another thing to have it implemented, and because of the numbers of people in prison, there appears to be no way in which population management-the department of the Prison Service responsible for the movement of prisoners-can prevent what is demeaningly referred to as "horse trading" of prisoners between prisons, such as the disgraceful transfer exposed by the chief inspector. One of the Prison Service's recent successes has been a project in the north-west called "Pathfinder", in which the population management of all male young offenders was delegated to the prison and probation regional managers. Can the Minister tell the House whether the lessons of the Pathfinder project have been learnt and whether it is intended that in future population management of all prisoners in all regions will be delegated to regional directors of offender management?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I pay tribute to the noble Lord who was, of course, Dame Anne Owers's predecessor. I know that he spoke to her about this matter earlier this week. I cannot confirm what he asked about Pathfinder, but we are always looking at ways of doing this better. As far as these incidents are concerned, they stand on their own. We are looking to see whether this has happened anywhere else, but at the moment, they stand on their own, and, as the noble Lord rightly described them, they were disgraceful.

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Lord Elton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his noble friend Lady Morgan of Drefelin is taking through this House the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill? The Bill completely changes the way in which education is delivered to young people in prison and its success is dependent on them being in one place for a considerable time. Will he therefore do his best to ensure that the lessons learnt from the Pathway scheme will be applied universally as soon as possible?

Lord Bach: Yes, my Lords, we will do our very best to do that. There has been a transformation in the nature of prison regimes over the past 12 years. Inspections are part of that as are performance standards and substantial investment. At the risk of overquoting the present Chief Inspector of Prisoners, she said that prisons today are more decent, more constructive and considerably more secure.

Baroness Stern: My Lords, will the Minister say why he thinks two such experienced and respected prison governors felt the need to hide these 11 individuals? What was happening to these individuals that had to be hidden from the Chief Inspector of Prisons?

Lord Bach: My Lords, it was a pointless, irresponsible attempt that would not have affected the inspections in any way, as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons has made clear, because inspections have nothing to do with performance targets; they are about looking at the whole of a prison, as the noble Baroness knows very well. However, I am really not in a position to comment on what individuals thought or did not think. There are disciplinary proceedings at present, and it would be extremely foolish of me to comment any further.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am surprised that the Minister dismissed the very important point raised by my noble friend Lady Falkner. It is easy to dismiss the culture in prisons that affects the results of performance indicators, performance targets and audits followed by prison inspections. I talked to a governor only this morning, and it is pretty clear that many people at that level are demoralised. Why have we created a culture that ultimately will result in many good governors leaving prisons? More importantly, will the Minister confirm that the inquiry will look not only at the vulnerable prisoners who were transferred but at their families and friends, who are concerned about the impact on them in relation to suicidal tendencies, self-harm and so on? These are very serious matters indeed.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, to whom I also pay tribute for his experience in this field, that this was a very serious matter. Self-harm and suicides in prison are serious matters and involve relatives as well as prisons, so I will consider his question.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, may I remind noble Lords of paragraph 5.24 of the Companion, which relates to Oral Questions in this Chamber? In essence,

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this paragraph says that we should have short supplementary questions and short ministerial answers. I recognise that the latter is my responsibility, but we all have a responsibility for the former.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I congratulate the Leader of the House on reminding us of those points. She is absolutely right; the questions have gone on for far too long, as have the answers. If they are both short, not only is it more fun but it prevents an awful queue and people being unable to ask questions.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, is not the answer to this question for someone to intervene and to stop people asking long questions and Ministers giving long answers? Until that happens, we will have interventions from the Dispatch Box that are meaningless and lead to nothing.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, if I may intervene-

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, should not the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, whom we all respect and like, answer both the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friend Lord Ferrers? They have asked perfectly reasonable questions to which the Leader of the House should be able to respond. I hope that she will do that, and I am sure that we will listen with rapt attention to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, in a minute.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, too long!

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments from the noble Earl opposite. Next week, we have a Question from my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours, and we will leave that debate until that Question.

Arrangement of Business

Announcement of Recess Dates

11.44 am

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons has made a Statement today announcing the next Session's proposed recess dates for the other place. As is current practice, I intend to match these dates, subject to the progress of business. These dates are as follows, so pencils at the ready. We will rise for the Christmas Recess at the end of business on Wednesday 16 December, returning on Tuesday 5 January. We will rise for the February half-term on Wednesday 10 February, returning on Monday 22 February. The dates for the Easter Recess will be announced in due course. A note of these dates is now available in the Printed Paper Office.

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Saving Gateway Accounts Regulations 2009

Financial Restrictions (Iran) Order 2009

Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1962 (Amendment) Order 2009

District Electoral Areas Commissioner (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Order 2009

Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2009

Private Security Industry Act 2001 (Amendments to Schedule 2) Order 2009

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

11.45 am

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed.

Autism Bill

Third Reading

11.45 am

Bill passed.

Welfare Reform Bill

Main Bills Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes
9th Report Constitution Committee
14 Report Joint Committee on Human Rights

Report (1st Day)

11.46 am

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Northbourne

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause-

"General duty to have regard to the well-being of the child

(1) The Secretary of State, in discharging his functions under this Act, shall have regard to the well-being of any child likely to be affected by his decisions.

(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the meaning of "well-being of any child" includes-

(a) physical and mental health and social and emotional well-being;

(b) secure attachment and protection from harm and neglect;

(c) education, training and recreation;

(d) the contribution made by the child to society;

(e) social and economic well-being;

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(f) age appropriate childcare, supervision and guidance."

(3) In the Jobseeker's Act 1995 (c. 18) after section 1 insert-

"1A Well-being of the child

The Secretary of State, in discharging his functions under this Act, shall have regard to the well-being of any child likely to be affected by his decisions."

(4) In the Welfare Reform Act 2007 (c. 5) after section 1 insert-

"1A Well-being of the child

The Secretary of State, in discharging his functions under this Act, shall have regard to the well-being of any child likely to be affected by his decisions.""

Lord Northbourne: My Lords, I am delighted that the Government have accepted the importance of protecting the well-being of any child or children whose lives may be affected by the Bill. As people are talking, I can take advantage of this time to thank the Minister very much for his courtesy in letting me know about the proposed amendments before they were tabled. Maybe the government amendments will make my proposed new Section 1A under Amendment 1 unnecessary. None the less, I will move it because I believe that it raises two important issues.

I will speak first about the proposal to define "well-being". I have come to the conclusion that it may be a mistake to put this or any other definition in the Bill. There is no doubt in my mind that the points covered in my definition are valid and important. The problem is, as so often with lists, that if they are incorporated in primary legislation they cannot easily be changed when circumstances change and, as we know, they almost always do. I believe therefore that there is a case for a definition of "well-being" in the guidance, but not in the Bill. I should be interested to know whether the Minister agrees.

I turn now to subsections (1), (2) and (3) of the proposed new clause to be inserted under my Amendment 1. I have set these down rather boldly at the start of the Bill because I want to convince the House and the Government that the well-being of the jobseeker's family should be at its very heart. I suspect that when the Bill was originally drafted, the primary objective, which is very important, was to reduce the number of people freeloading on the back of the taxpayer when, with a little help, they could be in paid work. It also has a very worthy secondary objective, which is to stop people wasting their lives and lead them to greater fulfilment through engaging in paid work. Finally, there came the realization of the need to protect the well-being of the jobseeker's children.

Pondering on the Bill since Committee, I have become convinced that its priorities should be the other way round. This Bill could be one of the most exciting pieces of legislation that this Government have introduced if it is presented as what it is; that is, a Bill to empower families. It will do so by making profitable work a real possibility for many more families, thus enhancing the life chances of both adults and dependants. This should be a Bill to improve quality of life for the whole family. It will save on benefits, and that is another advantage, but I do not believe it should be the main purpose. That is why I have proposed this amendment at the very start of the Bill. In itself it

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may well not achieve my objective because it is in a sense probing or symbolic, but if the Government thought that by any chance I had a point with it I would expect them to craft their own amendments, and I would be willing to help. I beg to move.

Baroness Butler-Sloss: I support the words of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, in moving this amendment. I wonder, as he does, whether it is necessary to have this in primary legislation. I have to say that I am comforted by the amendments which have been tabled by the Government. However, it would be wonderful if the wise expressions of the amendment were to be set out in guidance, a statutory instrument or whatever it might be because a general duty to have regard to the well-being of the child could be helpfully set out somewhere.

I add only this point, arising from my previous life. The Children Act 1989 puts the welfare of the child as paramount, and it is the duty of the courts to have that absolutely up front in considering anything to do with children. In the various criminal justice Bills that have gone through the House, great effort has been put into making sure that the welfare of children is treated as equal to the need to deal with them by way of sentencing. It should be made clear somewhere in this extremely important Bill that regard should be had not only to-as the Government say-children's well-being, but to what is meant by that when people have to have regard to it.

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I, too, support most warmly my noble friend Lord Northbourne both in his amendment and in what he said about it. I also add my tribute to the Minister for the way that he has kept us all informed by circulating helpful reports to us, not just during the Recess but also since we have returned.

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