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Perhaps I may commend to noble Lords an exhibition in Westminster Hall about child migrants, which I visited this morning. It is very informative and deeply moving. I urge all noble Lords to have a look at it.
The Lord Bishop of Leicester: My Lords, I speak for this Bench in saying how deeply moved we are by the stories of former child migrants who were deported to the colonies as part of the misguided policies of the 20th century and in affirming the Prime Minister's view that the first duty of the nation is to protect its children. We, for our part, recognise, respect and express our gratitude for the Prime Minister's apology. The
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Perhaps I may speak as the chair of the Children's Society trustees in acknowledging the regret of some 30 charities and private bodies which agreed to migrate children abroad, acting out of what seemed like the best intentions at the time. I know that the Children's Society and some other charities now offer a service to child migrants to help them to gain access to their records and after-care counselling. Can the Minister assure the House that the conditions which allowed that gross injustice to be perpetrated although those years ago could not conceivably be repeated under any circumstances today?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for the support of his Benches. He is absolutely right to say that we, as a Government and as legislators, must pay attention to the consequences of legislation. As the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, said earlier, we have to learn from our past mistakes and I hope that is exactly what we are doing today. I trust that we would never, ever repeat what was done in the past in our name but give a firm undertaking that that would not happen. I trust that it will not happen and I am sure that all in this House will do everything we can to ensure that it will not happen again.
Lord Martin of Springburn: My Lords, I welcome the apology. I have met Margaret Humphreys and many former child migrants who came to the Palace of Westminster. I know the good work that she has done. I also know that money cannot compensate for the terrible things that happened to the children who were sent to Australia, Canada and the former Rhodesia. Is it Her Majesty's Government's intention to pay compensation to those former child migrants?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we have not spoken about compensation. Today, we have set up the restoration fund which we believe will enable families to be reunited; it will enable people to come together with their loved ones. We believe that that is the best way of healing the very deep wounds of the past.
Lord Eden of Winton: My Lords, I strongly support what was said by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde. Can the noble Baroness give any information about whether a review is taking place into why those appalling events have taken so long to come into the full light of day and for pronouncements of this kind to be made? Are there not lessons for us all to learn here about the fact that sometimes early warning signs can be lost, put aside or ignored and sometimes rather irritating observations can also be brushed aside? Should we not be very careful indeed to ensure that if anyone, even a small voice, challenges what is going on in the public domain or in their personal life, officialdom should take heed or should be alert and examine carefully and objectively what is being put to it?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, there are many lessons to be learnt from this horrendous episode in our history. The noble Lord is right in saying that we must pay heed to all early-warning signals and that they should not be lost or ignored. I do not know whether a review has taken place but I know that we will all learn the lessons that are there to be learnt. In today's world, things are so much more transparent and while, as the noble Lord says, we must pay heed to early-warning signs, it is more difficult than it was in the past to cover things up and brush them under the carpet. I hope that we will take pride in the new transparency, which we all welcome.
Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne: I welcome the Statement very warmly indeed. Speaking as the treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Trafficking of Women and Children, I thank the noble Baroness for drawing this House's attention to the exhibition in the Upper Waiting Hall and confirm the importance to Members of both Houses of seeing that exhibition. We should recall that at the time the children were sent to Australia, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child did not exist. A simple statement-a 10-point plan-was brought up in 1927 by the League of Nations and repeated in the United Nations but the full United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was not begun until 1979, not put in place until 1988, and not implemented until 1993. Therefore, the child's rights were not at the centre, as they are today.
Given that child migration, or transportation, is now the fastest growing sector of organised crime, and given the horrifying statistics of the thousands of children that are now travelling unaccompanied, unknown, unidentified, and for malign purposes, across the globe, including to and from European Union member states, are the Government prepared to put their hand to the plough today and not just look to the past and apologise for something which was undertaken in a different legislative framework and which, although abhorrent, was acceptable according to norms then? Are they going to work today to stop the trafficking that is going on at present? In central and eastern Europe, particularly on the perimeters of the EU member states, the Government have withdrawn funding from the Foreign Office and not invested in assistance on the ground. The main sources of trafficking now are Transnistria, Ukraine and Moldova. Children are pouring through and I urge the Government to act.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes some important and valid points about child trafficking today, which is a crime just like the crime of the past that we are apologising for. I assure the noble Baroness that, together with our partners in the European Union, we are doing as much as we can and should be doing. Clearly, the noble Baroness does not agree, but we are doing an awful lot of things. I cannot cite them today at the Dispatch Box but I will certainly write to her to explain what we are doing to try to ensure that this evil practice of child trafficking ceases. I recognise that it is a blot on our consciences and it is a great crime which we must stop.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, the noble Baroness has, with commendable caution, stated that she will not be able to give an absolute guarantee that no authority would ever replicate what has happened in this situation. Does she accept that the statutory provisions of the past 20 years for childcare, the making of care orders, and adoption make it virtually impossible for it ever to happen again?
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, the Bill will permit the Northern Ireland Assembly to delegate powers in relation to the setting of salaries and expenses for Members of the Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly. Currently, the Assembly is explicitly prevented from doing so under Section 47(7) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which states that the Assembly may not delegate such functions. The Bill therefore removes this restriction, thereby enabling the Northern Ireland Assembly, should it so decide, to confer the functions of setting salaries and allowances for Members of the Assembly on an independent body of its choosing.
Although this is a short Bill with only three clauses, we have had a thorough and constructive debate throughout all of its stages in this House. At Second Reading in Grand Committee, it became clear that noble Lords wished to use the Bill as a means to address the issue of dual mandates. The Government recognised the strength of feeling on this issue, and on Report I returned to the House with two government amendments. The effect of these amendments was that any MLA who was also a Member of either House of Parliament or Member of the European Parliament would not receive any salary for their position as an MLA. Noble Lords recognised the Government's willingness to seek a compromise on the sensitive issue of dual mandates and agreed to the amendments, for which I am grateful. This means that the Bill before us has the full support of the House. Through effective co-operation, we have shown yet again how the House can work together in order to find common ground.
Lord Kilclooney: My Lords, I will be brief. I spoke on this previously. I was uneasy about the restriction on people having dual mandates. I mentioned that there were people in Northern Ireland with triple mandates. The Nobel laureate, Mr John Hume, was an elected Member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, an elected Member
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Lord Kilclooney: I was coming to my next point, which was brought to my attention in Northern Ireland. Can a Member in Northern Ireland be elected to the Irish Parliament in Dublin, and will this in any way affect his allowances or salaries?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, first I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, said: all that the Bill does is restrict salaries. If the people of Northern Ireland wish to elect one person to two posts, that is entirely up to them. I am told by my noble friend that this has no bearing on allowances in the Irish Parliament, but I do not think that that answers the noble Lord's question, so I will come back to him in writing. However, I do not know of anyone who serves in two Parliaments in two jurisdictions. I may be wrong about that, but I will come back to the noble Lord in writing. I am floundering here. I think that the best thing for me to do is to come back to him in writing and to put a copy of the letter in the Library.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, on Second Reading I raised two questions regarding the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly: first, the re-election of the Speaker; and, secondly, the pension arrangements for the Speaker. The Leader of the House responded very constructively and undertook to write to me on those, and I am in a position to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Kilclooney, that when she says that she will write, she does. She responded very constructively to the questions that I raised and I want to acknowledge that.
The noble Baroness made it clear that in respect of the re-election of the Speaker, the intention of the Northern Ireland Office and Her Majesty's Government was to explore the question with the parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly after the devolution of policing and justice, and that if there was agreement on that, they would bring forward a legislative instrument in your Lordships' House and in the other place. As for the pension arrangements, she rightly pointed out that although it is currently a matter for the Northern Ireland Assembly Commission-and perhaps subsequently for an independent body-the matter had been brought to the attention of the authorities. I want to acknowledge that, too, as it was discussed off the Floor of the House. It is important to record my appreciation, and I think the appreciation of others, that the noble Baroness took this seriously.
Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness and everyone else who has taken part in the very constructive debates we have had over the various Readings. I should also mention Mr Goggins, in another place, with whom I have had a number of conversations in trying to reach agreement on our amendments, despite the fact that he was involved in Hillsborough and other things. As the noble Baroness said, this has been a very good example of what this House can do to get sensible results out of a certain amount of disarray.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): The Bill has received thorough scrutiny in the other place. We have listened to both stakeholders and parliamentarians and now have before us an even better Bill than that introduced three months ago. I think that all parties recognise the importance of the provisions. I am looking forward to working with the House in maintaining momentum, ensuring that this vital Bill makes it on to the statute book.
Noble Lords will be aware that the core of the Bill implements Sir Michael Pitt's recommendations requiring urgent legislation from his review of the devastating floods of 2007. Although climate change projections suggest that severe weather events will occur more frequently in future, we all know that flooding can happen anytime. The recent floods in Cumbria were a stark reminder of that.
We will have to continue living with the threat of flooding. One in six homes in England and Wales are in flood risk areas, including vast swathes of major cities such as Portsmouth and Hull. We cannot write off these areas. We are an island nation that is becoming ever more crowded, yet we want to see more new homes built, new businesses founded and communities thrive, and rightly so. That is why the Bill is so important. The risk of flooding will not go away, so we must manage it.
Just as we must help to protect people from the dangers and costs of too much water, we must also protect and manage the supply of water to the consumer. Therefore, where opportunities have presented themselves, we have also included priority water legislation in the Bill. We recognise that there is still much proposed water legislation to bring forward from the draft Bill, and from the recommendations of the recent reviews by Anna Walker and Professor Martin Cave, and we remain committed to bringing forward further legislation at the next opportunity.
Part 1 of the Bill is about defining roles and responsibilities for all sources of flood risk. The Environment Agency will have a duty to develop a national strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England, and Welsh Ministers will
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As the House will know only too well, water pays no heed to political boundaries, so the Bill encourages partnership working by introducing a duty to co-operate and by enabling all flood risk management authorities to enter into agreements with each other. This is crucial, as flood risk will only ever be successfully managed if all those involved succeed in working together.
In conjunction with wider works powers and the adoption of a risk management approach, these national and local strategies will ensure the effective management of flood risk and the delivery of wider objectives. Regional flood defence committees will be replaced by regional flood and coastal committees with a remit that is extended to include coastal erosion. These committees will retain their executive function in determining the use of the local levy and will approve the regional spending programme of the Environment Agency.
Schedule 1 gives powers to protect assets that perform an important role in protecting communities from flooding or coastal erosion. The schedule provides for compensation where powers of entry are used unreasonably and requires comprehensive appeals mechanisms to be set out in regulations.
Schedule 2 makes important but detailed changes to existing legislation, including provision for local authority overview and scrutiny committees to hold to account all flood risk and coastal erosion risk management authorities in their area.
Schedule 3 will help us to manage the risk of surface water flooding by encouraging the use of sustainable drainage systems. New developments and redevelopments will need to have their drainage approved by the county or unitary authority. In addressing a key recommendation of Sir Michael Pitt's review, there will no longer be the automatic right to connect surface water to the sewer system. Having listened to debate in the other place, we have amended the Bill so that we can ensure that applications for the approval of drainage are processed in a specified time, so the planning system is not held up. We have also been speaking to Water UK to clarify how water companies will feed information on sewer capacity into the development process.
Sustainable drainage systems that drain more than one property will be adopted by the county or unitary authority. We are committed to ensuring that this new burden is funded, and we will publish a clear way forward that takes account of the circumstances faced by both local authorities and developers in time for the implementation of these provisions.
Reservoir legislation must be brought up to date so that reservoirs are regulated on the basis of the risk that they pose and not on how large they are. This will make communities living near to reservoirs safer. The criteria that will be used to determine what constitutes a high-risk reservoir will be set out in regulations and guidance, on which there will be consultation.
Part 2 of the Bill contains a variety of provisions, including powers for the Environment Agency, local authorities and internal drainage boards to carry out flood works for nature conservation or cultural heritage. This complements the provision in Part 1 of the Bill that places a duty on flood risk management authorities to contribute to sustainable development objectives in their flood risk work. Similarly, it builds on the risk management approach in Part 1 by amending the Building Act to enable any future regulations requiring flood resistance or resilience to apply to smaller repairs as well as major work.
Part 2 of the Bill also contains priority measures that would better prepare us for times of water shortage, and protect water supplies to the consumer. We have widened the list of uses of water that water companies can control through hosepipe bans during periods of water shortage, and the UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government can remove uses from the list, as well as add to it. There are also several other measures around the regulation of water companies, including reform of the special administration regime and the introduction of a new regime for the delivery of large, complex or unusual infrastructure projects. Water companies will be able to introduce concessionary schemes for surface water drainage charges. I know this is a provision of particular interest to the Bishops and others, as it will safeguard religious and community groups from unaffordable rises in their water bills-a feature known to the House in the not so distant past.
We go further in this Bill to address water affordability. The other place seized the chance to enable water companies to bring forward other charging schemes, including social tariffs to help vulnerable groups in society who are struggling to pay their bills. We have also taken action to alleviate the burden of bad debt in the water industry, which increases the bills of normal law-abiding citizens by an average of £12 per year. For household customers, water companies will now have a named person responsible for paying bills, when the occupier of the property is not the owner of the property. This will help lessen leaver debt, which is responsible for about 44 per cent of the bad debt problem. These were priority recommendations from Anna Walker's review of water affordability, and we intend to consult on the best way to implement them, just as we intend to consult on the rest of the review as a whole.
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