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"If there is ever a time for women to make a decisive breakthrough in corporate boardrooms, it is surely now. Many boards, especially in financial services, are in flux after the testosterone-fuelled excesses that led to financial disaster".
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, following on from that, will my noble friend comment on the fact that the SSRB, a public board, has not a single woman member? That is a matter of some concern to Members of this House, where we discuss the board's report.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, it is a matter of concern to me, too. I spoke about it to the chairman of the SSRB, who pointed out-quite rightly-that when the board sought new members recently it did not have the number of women coming through to be interviewed. Quite frankly, that is not good enough. There are women out there who could come forward, but perhaps the advertisements and the headhunters who were used did not identify them. That is something in which we must all engage constructively.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, not only are there no women on the SSRB, but we were told categorically that there were no adequate women who could be put on it. Excuse me! Does the noble Baroness really think that we ought to employ these people again?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: I would not wish to comment on the noble Baroness's latter point, but I think that there are many, many women out there who would serve admirably on that board and on many others. We have to ensure that they are properly identified and know that the opportunities are there for them to grasp.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Do the Government recognise that women are underrepresented in many senior positions, such as in academia across university deanships and so on, and that many women do not have a linear career path? Part of the problem for headhunters is that they look at CVs that reflect a linear career path, but these do not represent women who have stopped off, had children and developed their careers at different times. There is an endemic culture of not recognising how women peak at a different time in their careers because of their different responsibilities.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I completely agree with the noble Baroness. Job specifications are extremely important. I do not think that headhunters understand these things at the moment. That is why my noble friend Lord Davies and others are working with them to ensure better understanding in future.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, should not the Leader of the House and the Government specifically focus on women being on the boards of directors and on the remuneration committees, particularly in financial companies, as a very effective way of deterring outrageous bonuses?
Lord Berkeley: When the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Davies are talking to private and public company chairmen, could they find time to talk to the chairman of Network Rail? He has just appointed some new board members, but there is still only one woman among a board of 16.
Lord Acton: My Lords, has my noble friend read the speech that the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, made in December 1957 on the subject of women? Is she aware that the question that he has just asked is a model of enlightenment compared to that?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I have indeed read the speech by the noble Earl. I did not know whether to cry or to laugh. However, I know that the noble Earl has made a huge change in his views since then and I am glad that he is now the enlightened person that he is.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that at that time, which was some years ago, I was giving the views of the youth and the young generation, which is what everyone wants to listen to? Of course, as time has progressed, you change your views, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot, but you are still the same person.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): The Government are committed to tackling all forms of extremism. CONTEST presents our strategy to reduce the risk from international terrorism. The Prevent strand aims to stop people from becoming or supporting violent extremists.
The international terrorist threat is mainly from al-Qaeda and AQ-influenced groups, which primarily seek to recruit vulnerable individuals from Muslim communities. Muslim communities, though not the sole focus, remain a priority for Prevent support.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, does the Minister think that the recent permission given for a hard-line Muslim priest-Yahya Ibrahim, banned in America-to come to Britain to speak in a number of British universities might just be adding to the extreme concern expressed by the State Department in America, and have led to the House of Commons Select Committee to describe our approach to the al-Qaeda programme as "lethargic"?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness touches on a very sensitive point: who we deal with, who we talk to, and who we allow to come into the country. There are very specific rules about who we can stop coming in and, in the assessment of the Home Secretary, the particular individual talked about did not meet the cut-off level for not being allowed in. We are always dealing with some organisations which, one could argue, are on the cusp of these things. It is vital that we engage with them because sometimes they can make a genuine difference in stopping violent extremism, though they might have views that we abhor.
This is a very difficult balance. We have done a lot over the past two and a half years. I think that we have got better at this, and that we have got a better understanding. We have made some mistakes, but we have learnt from those and we are much better at it now. As far as the Americans go, they are really impressed with our Prevent strategy. They did not have a similar strategy, and they see it as a very good example. They have some views about how they would adjust it, and we are in very close dialogue. But we are doing the right thing, and it is very important that we have done that.
Lord Wright of Richmond: Surely a major cause of Muslim extremism is the failure of our Government and other members of the quartet to stop the continuing expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the eviction of Palestinians from East Jerusalem.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, over many years I have travelled to the Middle East in various guises, whether as Chief of Defence Intelligence, First Sea Lord, commander of a battle group or whatever, and now of course as a Minister. This is a significant and important issue, and there is no doubt that it poisons a lot of other issues. The British Government are clear on our views on it. The noble Lord is right that a resolution of the affairs in the Middle East would make a huge difference to extremism; it would change it fundamentally.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, does the Minister accept that a large number of people from the Muslim community are law-abiding citizens and that it would be wrong to generalise about or stereotype that community
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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Lord is right-Prevent is not about stigmatising any communities at all. There is no doubt that the vast majority of Muslims oppose violent extremism; only a tiny minority are violent extremists. That is why we have close liaison with a number of people from all faiths and communities within the Prevent strategy.
With regard to funding, we have spent £240 million on Prevent over the past two years, a level of spending that had not been there before, within this country at community level and above. Foreign Office spending on Prevent is at about £80 million over the past three years. That is a lot of money, and it is more than has ever been spent. There have been constraints on some of that but overall it has still increased, and it is an important part of the whole package.
I am proud of our Prevent package. We had not really talked about these issues until about two and a half years ago; we had certainly not done very much. We were all culpable, in that in the 1990s we did not understand this pernicious radicalisation of tiny numbers of people in our midst-we just had not spotted it. That was an error. We picked it up in our CONTEST strategy and we pointed it out. We now understand it to a degree; we are still learning, but we are doing a lot of good things to try to counter it.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the unintended consequences of the Prevent strategy has been at times to reduce trusting relations between Muslims and those of other faith communities in some of our cities? Does he agree that programmes designed to build up those trusting relations, like Leicester City Council's mainstreaming moderation agenda, are a more productive way forward?
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate raises a valid point. I see these programmes as being complementary-they all work together. Things like our Channel programme do a huge amount in identifying and pulling out those who are vulnerable and working with local communities. The vast majority of our Muslim community understand this and are becoming linked in to the Prevent agenda. I am not pretending that we have got everything right; this is a difficult and sensitive area, and we are working hard and learning lessons all the time. These things all work together, though, and all of them are needed.
That the report of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee on What happened next? A study of Post-Implementation Reviews of secondary legislation (30th report, Session 2008-09, HL Paper 180) be referred to a Grand Committee.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Brett will repeat as an Oral Statement an Urgent Question allowed in the Commons on the use of fake passports by the persons implicated in the murder of Mr Mahmoud al-Mabhou at a convenient point after 3.30 pm. At another convenient point after 5.30 pm, my noble friend Lord Bach will repeat the Statement entitled, "Prisons: Early Release".
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, I shall also speak to Amendment 4. It is a pleasant change to be moving the first amendment in Committee instead of being last up at 10 pm, as I have been on several recent occasions. However, I can be as brief in moving this amendment as one is obliged to be at 10 pm. At Second Reading, the noble Baroness asked me to work with the Government to make the Bill and its guidance stronger and more effective. It is in that spirit that I move this amendment today.
The amendment would make it a legal requirement for service providers to involve users of those services in decisions on how they will discharge their functions under the regulations. Apart from this being good practice as a matter of course, there is a particular reason for making this a legal requirement in the Bill. Two recently introduced statutory instruments-2655 and 2678-made two very welcome changes to benefit rules applying to service users who are paid for their involvement in the work of a variety of bodies in the health and social care field. One concerned the treatment of reimbursed expenses as earnings and the other the application of what are known as "notional earnings".
However, the new rules cover only those whose involvement is required by law. Those whose involvement is merely a matter of good practice or a response to policy guidance are not covered. The new rules do not apply unless the involvement of service users is required by statute or is commissioned by a public body that is required by law to involve service users. I am moving this amendment to make absolutely sure that service users who are involved in decisions about how the new regulations are implemented will be covered and able to derive the benefit of the new benefit rules. I beg to move.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I speak very briefly to support the noble Lord, Lord Low, in all that he has said about service user involvement. He has cited various good, technical reasons why his amendment should receive sympathetic treatment from the Minister, but what troubles me about the Government's policy for rolling out free personal care to the elderly is the prescriptive feel of the policy. It has a kind of "take what you're given" feel. As such, I cannot help feeling that it cuts across the trend towards greater personalisation in social care, on which-to be fair to the Government-there has been a lot of encouraging progress in recent years.
Before you can get free care, you have to tick a whole series of boxes, at the end of which you are either entitled to the service on offer or you are not. By contrast, the premise of the personal budget is the exact opposite: it starts from the position of saying that service users should have choice and control over what they buy to meet their care needs.
The policy will also, I think, serve to disincentivise people from engaging in prevention programmes before serious health problems set in. If people are led to
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