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One matter that interests me particularly is what several local government councillors and officials have said about the benefit system, which is very relevant to child poverty. We heard the old familiar stories about delays and reassessments with benefit claims throughout the country. Local authorities would welcome working with the DWP to provide a more flexible and localised approach to all benefit claims, not just housing and council tax benefits. Can the Minister tell us whether
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I have not mentioned many of the important issues to be explored during the rest of the Bill's passage-such as the importance of consultation with children themselves, and whether Clause 15 weakens the Bill and is a get-out clause for the next Government. I look forward to the rest of the debate, particularly the maiden speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, it is my great pleasure to join in welcoming this important Bill, which could make such a big difference to the lives of so many of our children. I am most grateful for all Her Majesty's Government's efforts on behalf of children growing up in poverty. I was grateful to be reminded of the Government's investment in children's centres and Sure Start. It is unacceptable that, in a nation as prosperous as ours, so many children continue to grow up in such poverty.
As a reflection on what the Minister said, I regret that there is no strong voice for social work because social workers should surely be the champions in this area. I hope that the investment the Government are now making in social work, including the social work task force and the development of a royal college for social work, may raise the status of the profession and that, in future, social workers will be a powerful voice in eradicating child poverty.
I listened with great interest to the noble Lord, Lord Freud, and was pleased to hear what he said about tackling addiction in parents. I was also pleased that he highlighted the UNICEF report and how poorly we perform against all other developed nations in regard to children. I wonder whether he and his colleagues will give special attention to the proposal in the forthcoming schools Bill to put personal, social and health education on a statutory basis. That will contain sex and relationship education. The clear evidence from the Netherlands and the United States is that good quality sex and relationship education reduces the number of teenage pregnancies and will help to achieve the target that the noble Lord wishes of more stable parents and more successful families.
I hope your Lordships will forgive me if, in the interests of brevity, I read from a script on this occasion. As vice-chair of the Associate Parliamentary Group for Children and Young People In and Leaving Care, I have a particular interest in the children we are speaking of as there is such a strong association between poverty and children being taken into public care. It is hardly surprising to find that where families find their basic needs are not being met, the result can be family dysfunction and risk to the children.
I am utterly persuaded of the need for a strategic approach with a strong mechanism to ensure that strategy is implemented. Governments have too short
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A few years ago, visiting families in West Ham with a health visitor, we saw some of these conditions: a mother sharing her one room with her two young children; another mother with three young children and water running down her mildewed walls; a man showing us the flooded basement of his family home; and a father showing us the lavatory which combined as a shower. More recently, again visiting a family with a health visitor, this time in Walthamstow, we spoke to the mother of a seven week-old baby. A lone parent and a refugee, separated from her own family in Africa and with the father of the child expressing no interest in the child's welfare, she shared the kitchen and the bathroom of this accommodation with five other families. Further testimony of our failure to plan to meet the housing needs of our people has been provided to us by users of Barnardo's Families in Temporary Accommodation Project. So many of these families are separated by long multiple bus journeys from their extended families and communities because of the lack of appropriate accommodation in their area. I pay particular tribute to John Reacroft, who has led this project for many years and has supported your Lordships in understanding this area. A proper strategy to address child poverty that is robust, well implemented and resourced is vital if we are to avoid the same failure as we have witnessed in housing.
By contrast, the Government's rough sleepers' strategy of 1998 delivered. A clear target was set to reduce rough sleeping to one-third in three years and a robust implementation mechanism was established. Louise Casey was appointed to get this job done. I saw for myself the change that she and the Government wrought. A winter shelter for homeless 16 to 23 year-olds with which I was very familiar was transformed. Prior to 2009, it had seen the least experienced staff working with the most vulnerable young people. The staff were young, some of them were just globetrotters overwintering in the UK and picking up what work was available to them. Among the residents was a young man who had been on the street injecting heroin. His time in the hostel was the opportunity to get him off drugs and into work, training or study and proper accommodation. Another young man had communication difficulties, easily isolated himself and was frustrated at his inability to connect with others. Both of these young men's needs were unmet and the chance to intervene was lost. However, the following year, a crack team of professionals was introduced to the shelter. I had the honour of working with one of them for some time at
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Having clear targets and timeframes and sufficient resources can ensure that the differences we would all wish to see in improving outcomes for our children and young people do happen. Many times I have heard my noble friend Lord Laming call for a clear strategy for children's homes in order to address the shortcomings in that sector. To make a difference we need to make a sustained and focused effort over a number of years and certainly over more than one Parliament.
Turning to the detail of the Bill, I share the concern expressed by Barnardo's and others that the Bill should not miss the needs of the most needy. I hope we can strengthen the targets to ensure they reach down to the most vulnerable and that no especially needy groups are overlooked. Sure Start has proven a great success, but its early efforts were put under a cloud by the first evaluation, which found that it failed to reach the most vulnerable group: teenage parents. In framing this Bill, I hope we can ensure that Travellers, black and ethnic minorities, care-leavers, families of ex-offenders and other important groups are not overlooked.
I welcome the new duties on local authorities and other local agencies to work together to combat child poverty. I would like to be certain that there are sufficient levers to ensure the development of good quality childcare and appropriate accommodation in particular.
I declare my interest as a trustee of the Sieff Foundation. At last September's Michael Sieff conference, Professor Melhuish, Professor of Human Development at Birkbeck College, University of London, made a powerful presentation on the effectiveness of good quality pre-school education on improving the educational attainment of children in deprived areas. He clearly demonstrated that children from similar deprived backgrounds had quite different educational trajectories depending on their exposure to good quality pre-school. In particular, he showed that good quality pre-school care inoculated children against the effects of poor quality primary education. At the age of 11, those children who had experienced good quality pre-school were, on average, doing well in education, whether they had experienced a poor primary school or a good one. Good quality childcare is a key factor in breaking the cycle of failure, and I hope that this Bill will make it more available to families in poverty. Professor Melhuish's presentation on the long-term effects of good quality early years care is on the Sieff Foundation website.
There is much public concern about the increasing prevalence of gang culture and gang violence in some of our communities. Last year, a number of parliamentary groups, including the parliamentary group for children and its chairman, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, whom I see is in her place, met to learn about gang violence. We were addressed by Professor John Pitts, who is a youth worker as well as an academic. We heard from him that what was at the root of this
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To conclude, I applaud the Government for bringing forward this much-needed legislation. Of course, on its own it means nothing, but if local authorities and governments show themselves determined to meet the challenges set out in this legislation it can be an important force for good. I very much regret that I will be absent from your Lordships' House from 26 January to 5 February but, as far as I am able to participate, I look forward to working with your Lordships to improve the Bill in Committee.
The Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Adonis): My Lords, if it is convenient to the House, I will now repeat a Statement made in the House of Commons by the Home Secretary on aviation and border security.
"On 24 December, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian citizen, travelled from Lagos to Amsterdam, where he boarded Northwest Airlines flight 253 to Detroit. As the flight was approaching Detroit on Christmas Day, he detonated a device that was strapped to his upper thigh and groin area, which resulted in a fire and a small explosion. He was restrained and subdued by passengers and flight crew and he remains in custody in the United States.
Authorities in the United States, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Nigeria and Yemen are now doing everything they can to piece together Abdulmutallab's movements shortly before this attack, and are considering what urgent steps need to be taken to prevent further attacks of this nature.
As has been widely reported, Abdulmutallab attended University College, London, between 2005 and 2008, where he completed a degree in engineering. During this time, he was known to the Security Service, but not as somebody engaged in violent extremism. His family and friends have stated their belief that he turned to this during his time in Yemen.
From the information we currently have available, it is not possible to chart with absolute certainty his exact movements after he left the United Kingdom in
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He came to the attention of UK authorities again on 28 April 2009, when he applied for a multi-entry student visitor visa to attend an eight-day course provided by Discovery Life Coaching, based in east London. The UK Border Agency refused his visa application because Discovery did not hold a valid accreditation with a UKBA-approved accreditation body and was not eligible to sponsor international students. Since March 2009, only institutions which are either tier 4 sponsors or hold valid accreditation are permitted to bring in short-term foreign students from outside the EEA. Universities and colleges must be able to demonstrate that they are offering genuine courses that will benefit students seeking to study in the UK. This new regime has reduced the number of institutions able to bring students to the UK from over 4,000 to approximately 2,000. Following the refusal of his application, Abdulmutallab's name was added to the UKBA watch-list.
In the light of the serious questions this incident has raised, I want to set out today the immediate steps we are taking to tighten aviation security, what measures we are taking to prevent radicalisation in our universities, and the actions we are taking to disrupt al-Qaeda in countries where it is known to be active, in order to prevent future terrorist attacks and to improve co-operation with our international partners.
It is of great concern that Abdulmutallab was able to penetrate airport security at Amsterdam. The device he used had clearly been constructed with the aim of making detection by existing screening methods extremely difficult. Abdulmutallab underwent a security check at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, as do all passengers transferring from Nigeria to another flight. Although Schipol Airport is trialling body scanners, they were not in use for that flight. He passed through a metal detection gate, which would have detected objects such as explosive devices with metallic components, knives and firearms. However, certain types of explosive without metallic parts, and which can be concealed next to the body, cannot be detected by this technology, which is the reason why airports also search passengers at random.
To defeat the terrorist threat requires constant vigilance and adaptability. A great deal of progress has been made in enhancing aviation and border security since 9/11. But terrorists are inventive, the scale and nature of the threat changes, and new technology needs to be harnessed to meet new threats, while minimising inconvenience to passengers.
Last year, we issued new public guidance to the industry on our technical requirements for screening and the detection of improvised explosive devices. The Prime Minister instigated an urgent review of airport security following the incident in Detroit. My noble friend the Secretary of State for Transport and I have been intensively engaged in this review and we are today setting out our initial steps.
It is clear that no one measure will be enough to defeat inventive and determined terrorists, and there is no single technology which we can guarantee will be 100 per cent effective against such attacks. We therefore intend to make changes to our aviation security regime. Air passengers are already used to being searched by hand and having their baggage tested for traces of explosives. The Government will direct airports to increase the proportion of passengers searched in this way. There may be some additional delays as airports adapt, but I am sure the travelling public will appreciate the reasons behind this.
The Transport Secretary has also brought into force new restrictions which tighten up security screening for transit passengers and is reviewing the support we provide for security standards in airports operating direct flights to the United Kingdom. Passengers will also see an increased presence of detection or sniffer dogs at airports to add to our explosives detection capability.
We also intend to introduce more body scanners. The first scanners will be deployed in around three weeks' time at Heathrow. Over time, they will be introduced more widely and we will be requiring all UK airports to introduce explosive trace detection equipment by the end of the year. We are discussing urgently with the airport industry the best way of doing all this, which will include a code of practice dealing with operational and privacy issues.
BAA has started training airport security staff in behavioural analysis techniques, which will help them to spot passengers acting unusually and target them for additional search. Beyond this, we are examining carefully whether additional targeted passenger profiling might help to enhance airport security. We will be considering all the issues involved, mindful of civil liberty concerns, aware that identity-based profiling has its limitations but conscious of our overriding obligations to protect peoples' lives and liberty.
These measures build on the substantial progress we have made in recent years to strengthen our borders. The roll-out of e-Borders, which will check passengers, including those in transit, against the watch-list, will be 95 per cent complete by the end of this year. This makes us one of only a handful of countries to have the technology that can carry out advanced passenger data checks against our watch-list before people travel to the United Kingdom.
Those who apply for a visa-whether they do so from Bangkok, Lahore or Pretoria-have to provide fingerprints and their records are checked against our watch-list, which holds over 1 million records of known criminals, terrorists, people who have tried to enter the country illegally or been deported, and those whom agencies consider to be a threat to our security. Through the e-Borders programme and through screening passengers against this watch-list, we have made 4,900 arrests for crimes including murder, rape and assault since 2005. In addition, UK Border Agency staff based overseas working with airlines prevented over 65,000 inadequately documented passengers travelling to the United Kingdom during 2009.
Abdulmutallab's failed attack highlights the importance of information-sharing between the various agencies about people who pose a threat to our security. The UK watch-list is managed by the UK Border Agency and incorporates intelligence from the law enforcement and security and intelligence agencies into a single index. Although the integrated approach works very well, we want to see whether we can further strengthen it. The Home Office will therefore be conducting an urgent review of the robustness of our watch-list. The review will report to me in two weeks' time, and I will report, subject to security restrictions, the findings to Parliament.
The House will no doubt also be concerned about the possibility that Abdulmutallab's radicalisation may have begun or been fuelled during his time studying at University College, London. It is important to remember that the values of openness and intellectual scrutiny and the freedom of debate and tolerance promoted in higher education are some of the most effective ways of challenging views that we may find abhorrent but that remain within the law.
However, we know that a small minority of people supporting violent extremism have actively sought to influence and recruit people through targeting learners in colleges and universities, and we must offer universities the best advice and guidance to help prevent extremism. As part of a measured and effective response to this threat, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has published guidance on managing the risk of violent extremism in universities and is working closely with universities in priority areas to provide targeted support.
Alongside this, each university has a designated police security contact that university management can discuss concerns with. The Prevent strand of our counterterrorism strategy works closely with the higher and further education sectors and funds a full-time Prevent officer at the National Union of Students. As I have said, Abdulmutallab's family believe he turned to violent extremism after leaving the UK, but we need to ensure that this close co-operation continues in our efforts to stop radicalisation of young people in our colleges and universities.
Finally, I want to say something about our work internationally and the steps the Government are taking abroad to disrupt al-Qaeda wherever it is active. Our success in tackling the international terror threat depends on strong relationships with our international partnerships. In our efforts to thwart al-Qaeda, we have a long-standing, productive partnership with the United States.
I am not prepared to go into detail on this particular case about what was shared with the US and when. It is an established and accepted principle that we do not routinely comment on intelligence matters. Moreover, some of these issues are still current and are highly sensitive. However, I would like to clarify that while we did, in line with standard procedures, provide information to the US linked to the wider aspect of this case, none of the information we held or shared indicated that Abdulmutallab was about to attempt a terrorist attack against the United States.
This morning, I met Jane Lute, the United States Deputy Secretary of State for Homeland Security. We discussed how, over the coming months, in the light of this failed attack, we will work together with our other international partners to maintain public confidence in aviation security and deepen our partnership to disrupt al-Qaeda's activities overseas.
Pushed out of Afghanistan and under increasing pressure in the border areas of Pakistan, affiliates and allies of al-Qaeda-like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the group claiming responsibility for the Detroit bombing-have raised their profile. With the failed Detroit attack they have again demonstrated their intent to attack innocent people across the world. The aim of our counterterrorism strategy is not just to reduce our own vulnerabilities, but also to dismantle those terrorist organisations which pose a threat to the UK, whether at home or abroad.
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