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It is the Government's wish that those things can take place. Nevertheless, we have this relatively unique private prosecution in UK law; it is in the same form only in Australia and New Zealand. We need to look at its role. There are these three things to look at together: universal jurisdiction, the matter of the leaders and

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private prosecution. Those three coming together do not make this a simple problem, which is why it is taking some time. The Government are seized of the need to address this with urgency.

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, the last exchange referred to the specific circumstances that gave rise to the urgent review. In conducting that review, will the Minister accept that important legal and constitutional issues arise, particularly given the serious nature of the offences involved? Given the statement last July by the Justice Secretary on the relationship between the Attorney-General and, inter alia, the Director of Public Prosecutions, guaranteeing prosecutorial independence, does he not think that there is, at the very least, an argument for reform in the opposite direction-namely, that charging decisions in such cases should move from the Attorney-General to the DPP? Can the Minister offer any reassurance that such a change will be considered? Does he agree that it is always better to consider law reform on the basis of principle rather than as an ad hoc response to a particular case, however sensitive?

Lord Tunnicliffe: My Lords, without getting into the generality of that question, let me say that my understanding of these crimes is that they are handled by a specialist unit in the Metropolitan Police. The decision to go to charge is made by the CPS. In the present situation, the Attorney-General enters the process only on the final decision of whether to prosecute.

Education: Language Trends Survey


11.28 am

Asked By Baroness Coussins

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, the Government are taking action on a range of policies to reform language learning. We aim to boost take-up, post-14, in line with the late Lord Dearing's recommendations in his 2007 review. We are introducing compulsory language learning in primary schools and encouraging increased take-up at secondary schools through the Routes into Languages programme. We are confident that, over time, these and other measures will mean more young people learning languages.

Baroness Coussins: I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he accept that the achievements in primary schools will be completely undermined if secondary schools continue to ignore the benchmark of 50 to 90 per cent of pupils taking a language until they are 16? Will he tell the House why Ofsted inspections

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no longer even ask a question about the take-up of languages, despite languages being designated-along with science and maths-as strategically important and vulnerable subjects?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: We continue to recognise the ongoing challenges posed by issues such as the impact of the transition from primary to secondary school on language learning; that is a concern. We know from research by the National Foundation for Educational Research in 2009, published by the OU today, that some progress has been made in schools over the three years of the project, but we are not complacent. We have taken steps to address the issue for the key stage 2 framework for languages, such as guidance for teachers in the primary languages training zone. As I am sure the noble Baroness knows, we have trained a lot more teachers in languages for primary education.

It is not true to say that Ofsted no longer examines languages at secondary level. The inspection of schools will continue to cover the quality of teaching and learning in the curriculum and how it meets the needs of pupils. There has never been a specific requirement to cover modern foreign languages. Ofsted continues to carry out its rolling three-year subject reports into the teaching of each national curriculum subject, including modern foreign languages. The next one for languages is due in the autumn term of 2010.

Lord Harrison: Can my noble friend say a little more about the Business Language Champions programme, such as how many schools are involved? Has he recognised that there is a discrepancy in the report between state and independent schools in the teaching of some of the lesser-taught languages like Mandarin? What can he do to repair the damage within the state schools? What more can be done to bring independent and state schools together for the purpose of these specialised language opportunities?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: There is significant, but mostly anecdotal, evidence among UKTI colleagues and business development professionals in the regions and overseas that UK businesses, in common with most EU economies, lose out due to a lack of language skills and awareness. So we understand the need.

On encouragement, while the numbers enrolled in courses for joint language honours degrees have increased by 5 per cent, the broad trends also conceal differences between individual languages; for example, numbers for Spanish, Chinese and Japanese studies have increased dramatically. In addition, an unrecorded number of students take a language module as part of their degree, and more than 25,000 are doing courses in their spare time. The National Centre for Languages is producing guidance and case studies on schools engaging with employers, and is working with employers to engage with schools.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that foreign exchange trips are really helpful to young people who are learning languages? Yet a lot of schools are very reluctant to carry them out; indeed,

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the survey says that only 40 per cent of schools have them. What are the Government doing to help schools overcome the practical difficulties, and the anxieties of parents about the safeguarding of their children and the vetting procedures in the foreign countries concerned?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I will have to get back to the noble Baroness about the safeguarding; I have no comment on that. However, there are other ways to achieve the same benefits. For example, there is a good project, Connecting Classrooms, which uses the internet as a way of achieving contact between schools from different countries. The British Council is involved in a number of those projects. I am not denying the importance of foreign trips. I am just saying that we ought to use the technology in imaginative ways to encourage young people to stay with language learning.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that foreign visits and family exchanges play an important role in learning a foreign language and about different ways of life? Can he tell me whether the new vetting scheme is likely to deter even more schools from organising these visits?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I agree with the noble Baroness about the importance of foreign trips, but I will have to get back to her on vetting.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I am sure the Minister agrees that we are living in a global economy. Therefore, languages are absolutely crucial to most of our economies. What are the Government doing about training and retraining teachers in this important aspect to ensure that they get the message over to their students?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, we have trained more than 5,000 teachers in primary languages specialism and will continue to support the training of the workforce through this programme. We will continue to provide professional development opportunities for existing teachers to develop their language teaching skills.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, with four out of 10 children leaving primary school-

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords-

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am afraid it is the Government's turn.

Baroness Verma: It was the turn of the Front Bench.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: Speaking from the Back Benches, and going to the original point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, about the transition from primary to secondary, does my noble friend agree with me that the most important thing in embedding a love of language in young children is that it should be enjoyed for its own sake and not as a means to an

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end? In what ways are the Government encouraging primary school teaching to instil a spirit of enjoyment in those who learn languages?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I thank my noble friend for that question. I absolutely agree with her. We know that compulsory language learning in secondary education did not guarantee success. CILT, the National Centre for Languages, is spreading best practice on imaginative approaches to teaching foreign languages. Schools are adopting interesting approaches. A school in Devon is introducing French into the teaching of physical education and there are other examples of schools teaching languages alongside other subjects to sustain interest in learning languages.

Business of the House

Timing of Debates

11.37 am

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, it has come to light that the time limits shown on the speakers list for the second debate today, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, add up to four minutes more than the two and three-quarter hours proposed for the debate. Rather than reducing the Back-Bench time limit from six minutes to five, it may be for the convenience of the House if the time limit for the second debate is three hours.

Motion agreed.



11.38 am

Moved By Lord McNally

Lord McNally: My Lords, this debate takes place against two interesting pieces of data that have been published this week: first, the figures showing that the UK is barely out of recession; and, secondly, the study of the growing disparity between rich and poor in our society. The timing is good for another reason. In all probability, this will be the last Liberal Democrat debate day before the general election and perhaps the last time that we will sit on these Benches for such a debate. We have divided the day into two parts united by the common theme of fairness. First, we will discuss our taxation and how its fairness, or lack of it, impinges on all aspects of our society. Then we will look at

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constitutional reform and how progress on that front, or lack of it, influences the quality of our politics and political institutions and public respect for both.

The debate and themes are timely not only because of the impending general election but because it is exactly 100 years since this House took on the great reforming Liberal Government over the People's Budget; the clash over that was the catalyst for the first attempt at House of Lords reform, which passed this House 100 years ago this coming August. However, our emphasis on fairness is not simply part of some historical tradition. We on these Benches believe that fairness has to be at the core of government policy because, if it is not, we will not retain our social cohesion in the hard times that lie ahead.

Let me give two illustrations of what I mean. Your Lordships will recall that a couple of weeks ago I complained about the disruption on the Bedford to Brighton train line. Some of those disruptions were caused by a pay dispute with ASLEF drivers. I criticised the drivers at the time and called on them to act with a sense of wider social responsibility to those who rely on their services. In the years ahead, how are we going to persuade workers in the public and private sectors to accept any kind of pay restraint or wider social responsibility while the bonus culture runs rampant and senior bankers insist on paying themselves in figures that look like telephone numbers?

Let me give a more poignant example. I recently saw an interview on television given by the father of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan. In simple terms, the father said that his son had pride in this country and believed that he was fighting to defend it against its enemies; he said that both he and his son thought that such sacrifice was worth while. How do we repay such patriotism if we give in to those who say, "Pay us what we want or we are going to leave this country"?

Although today's debates are timely in their historical context, it is about tomorrow that we want to talk. We do so because the social cohesion-the togetherness-that is needed to weather the coming storms will require an awareness of that need, which is absent thus far from the approaches of both Labour and the Conservatives. Labour and, in particular, the Prime Minister told us that they had discovered the alchemy that ended boom and bust, but then led us into the worst recession in 80 years. Now the Prime Minister sits brooding in his bunker wondering whether to unleash class war against Mr Cameron and the rest of the Bullingdon Club.

Mr Cameron and Mr Osborne, meanwhile, talk of our broken society, but then are specific only about tax breaks for the rich. Perhaps the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, can clarify the confusion over tax breaks for married couples, which on our last analysis would affect about 6 per cent of them. Off-message talk from the hard men in the Conservatives' ranks, such as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, is of a slash-and-burn approach to our public sector, reminiscent of the 1980s when Conservative dogma destroyed 20 per cent of our industrial base and left scars in many communities that have not healed to this day.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Will the noble Lord give way?

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Lord McNally: Ah!

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: I am most grateful to the noble Lord. I think that he is referring to the fact that I said that by the end of the next Parliament it would be necessary to reduce public expenditure by £75 billion. Given that the structural deficit is nearly £90 billion, how on earth can he describe that as slash and burn? Should we not have an honest debate with the electorate?

Lord McNally: Deus ex machina. I am sorry that the noble Lord did not put his name down to speak, because he would have made a great contribution. This debate turns on exactly that issue. There are lots of very easy-rather, relatively simple-ways of saying how we can correct the deficit. I would argue that, if you do that in a way that is perhaps appealing to him and some of his colleagues, the social disruption that will ensue will cause great damage to the fabric of our society.

That is why, in response to these twin failures, the Liberal Democrats' response has been to put forward proposals on public spending. These caused the Financial Times to write of Nick Clegg, in an editorial on 20 January:

"On the deficit, the Lib Dem leader is proving that honesty is the best politics".

Our approach to taxation has been equally frank. We do not believe that we will retain cohesion in our society if the poorest wage earners pay a greater proportion of their income in tax than the richest. That is why we will close tax loopholes for the rich and take those earning £10,000 a year and less out of income tax altogether. Our tax reforms would also mean that aspirational middle-class families would receive a fair return for their hard work. The rich and the super-rich will be asked to pay more. In return, they will have the continuing benefit of living in a country that has social harmony and is at peace with itself. We on these Benches take second place to no one in defending individual freedom and the right of everyone to develop his or her talents to the full, but we also insist that, in pursuit of a fair and just society, all should contribute to ensuring that all our citizens enjoy a certain quality of life.

I think that we all know that we are in a phoney war period. I acknowledge that there are tough times ahead, but very few of us have yet to feel the pain because of the stimulus measures that the Government have taken, which we support. Vince Cable spelt out the dilemma on Monday, including the question of,

What lie ahead are hard choices and fine judgments. That is why, as the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, has just mentioned, we need a much more candid and open debate about both tax and spend. A week ago, Nick Clegg started that process by putting on hold some cherished Liberal Democrat policy pledges and spending commitments on free personal care, more generous

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citizens' pensions and universal childcare. These are undoubtedly popular but not realistically affordable, given the mountain that we have to climb.

Both Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have been equally frank about other commitments, including a public sector incomes policy, fundamental reform of public sector pensions, cuts in welfare spending where it impinges on the rich, and attacking the command and control system of Britain's central government, which puts such a burden on both local government and the NHS. We also have to take a serious look at the substantial costs of defence procurement.

Neither Labour nor the Conservatives have matched the Liberal Democrats for candour, yet the next election cannot simply be a competition about the various alternatives of joy through suffering. Last week, I was sent a report by a symposium looking at the Canadian experience, where tough decisions were taken against a background of open debate and widespread government consultation. The scare stories have already started about the dangers of a hung Parliament, but I believe that a far greater danger is if either the Conservatives or Labour continue to conceal their real intentions and then, in government, try to force though a hitherto hidden agenda on the basis of support that in fact could reflect less that 30 per cent of the electorate.

Whatever Government are in power after the general election, they will, as I said, have to retain social cohesion and widespread public support for the measures necessary to right our economy. The public have to feel that the process is fair, that the pain and rewards are fairly distributed and that those who caused the crisis are justly dealt with.

That brings us to the question of banking reform. It is a matter that goes beyond the remit of today's debate; nevertheless, it is at the heart of social cohesion. Again, my colleague Vince Cable has been clearest on this matter. In that respect, he has heeded the words of that great Liberal, Winston Churchill, who warned more than 80 years ago against policies that raised finance too high and brought industry too low.

On that front, my noble friend Lord Cotter will be dealing specifically with the challenges facing medium and small-sized businesses-so often the generators of new jobs and new wealth in any economy. What is certain is that sustained recovery will rely on the private sector, especially small and medium-sized businesses, to generate jobs. For this to be possible, we will have to create a business environment conducive to starts-ups and small business, centring on moderate taxes, getting rid of red tape, securing intellectual property rights and ensuring that there is a flow of credit on competitive terms. My noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Hamwee will be making similar calls for joined-up government as it applies to young people and to local government.

What the country needs now is not disjointed panic measures but a clear understanding not only of the specific measures that the parties intend to put forward to deal with the present crisis but also of the underlying philosophy behind them. I return to the Financial Times editorial that I quoted earlier. It said:

"Over the past year, the British politicians have mastered the art of talking about fiscal policy without saying anything".

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