Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Let me summarise why this is an important issue. A statutory target will create pressure to divert resources in a particular direction: households with children. Indeed, that is the specific intention. Clearly the Government can hardly be concerned if those resources are raised out of the economy as a whole. They should, however, be concerned if those resources are derived by reducing resources available to other poor people.

The figures suggest that that is exactly what has been happening as a result of the child poverty target. I remind noble Lords of the figures from the House of Commons Library that I cited in Grand Committee. In 2007-08, the minimum support for a childless couple was 32 per cent below the poverty definition used in the Bill-60 per cent of the median income line. That compares with a figure of only 4 per cent for households of a lone parent with one child.

That has happened because, over the years, income support for children has risen much more rapidly than benefit levels for adults. That is a particularly dangerous trend because single adults and childless couples become parents, and the effects of previous poverty will tend to have pernicious, long-run effects on their children. Indeed, there is an immediate issue, which we have debated, of the deleterious effect of poor maternal nutrition on newly pregnant females who will be subsisting on income 22 per cent below the poverty line if they are reliant on benefit and it will be their first child.

I remind noble Lords of the conclusion drawn about the problem by the Rowntree report, in its publication, Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion 2009. It stated:

"The argument for the much bigger rises in child benefits acknowledges no external point of reference other than the need to progress towards the child poverty goal as 'cheaply' as possible. Given the historically unprecedented differential between child and adult benefits that now prevails, this is just no longer enough. Instead, we have to look at the system of social security benefits in the round and decide how their values should stand in relation to one another".

I beg to move.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Freud, has raised a very interesting question, which goes back to a much earlier debate in Committee about what weight we put on individual members of the family in calculating overall benefit. He is absolutely right to say that younger single people-single people of working age-have, relatively speaking, a poorer level of benefit than almost anyone else.

Why is that? It is because the Government, from the beginning in 1997, has been concentrating on three strategies. The first was to help to lift pensioners out of poverty; and pensioners are no longer poorer than anyone else in society. The second was to tackle child poverty, especially through tax credits, which can compensate in a way that wages cannot for family size. The Government have been able to support children in poverty. The third was people with disabilities. Although that may not have gone as far as many of us would wish, none the less, the disability living allowance, introduced by a previous Government but built on by this one, together with additional disability benefits, has helped most disabled people out of poverty.

Across society, I think that that leaves only single people of working age who have not had a similar

9 Mar 2010 : Column 203

uplift. Why is that? It is because, if they are not disabled, there is every assumption that the best strategy to help them out of poverty is to help them into the labour market. The Government's whole strategy, from Jobcentre Plus onwards through the New Deals, and so on, has been to help those people into the labour market. The noble Lord himself said earlier that a pound earned for yourself is of far more value than a pound received from benefit. That is what the government strategy has been and I am sure it is the right one. Those who are dependent, rightly so, on the state-whether they are children, or pensioners or have disabilities-have had the upliftings of benefit. Those most able to help themselves, quite rightly, have had the support of the Government to help them to re-enter the labour market. That surely is the right strategy for the Government to employ.

7.30 pm

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his amendment; I will be brief in responding to it. The amendment requires that, in preparing the UK strategy, the Secretary of State must consider the impact that any measure taken will have on "other people" in poverty.

We debated this amendment at Committee, as the noble Lord acknowledged. As I said then, it cannot be the remit of the child poverty strategy to consider the impact of every proposed measure on other groups that may be living in poverty. However, the Secretary of State will not be able to take policy and spending decisions on measures to prevent and tackle child poverty in isolation. Indeed, such decisions will be taken in the round and through prioritisation at key fiscal events, including the Pre-Budget and Budget Reports, and Departmental Spending Reviews. This addresses the issues and strategies that my noble friend Lady Hollis referred to.

In addition, the Bill already includes a better safeguard than the noble Lord proposed in his amendment. Clause 15 requires the likely impact of any measure on the economy and on taxation, public spending and public borrowing to be taken into account by the Secretary of State when preparing a UK strategy and by the commission when considering any advice to be given to the Secretary of State or the devolved Administrations. The effect is to require the commission and UK, Scottish and Northern Ireland Ministers to have regard to budgetary constraints and value for money in developing and advising on strategies. This will necessarily need to balance the impact of any measures on other policy areas and priority groups. I hope the noble Lord is reassured by this.

However, I make no apologies that this Bill aims to tackle child poverty and focuses firmly on measures aimed directly at the child, putting their needs first. Requiring in law that the child poverty strategy must consider every impact on every "other group" would be the wrong approach and would not help us to reach our goal of ending child poverty. I urge the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Freud: My Lords, this has been short debate. It deserves more thought than we have given it here. It

9 Mar 2010 : Column 204

goes to the heart of some very difficult issues. The noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, drove at those when she discussed the implications of the working of the poverty trap. She said that if people have low levels of benefit they have more incentive to go to work. We discussed that in the context of the iron triangle, the poverty trap and those issues-

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I did not say and would never say that benefits should be kept artificially low for single people in order to drive them in desperation into work. I am saying that the more appropriate strategy is to encourage them into the labour market.

Lord Freud: I thank the noble Baroness for that. I am not quite sure I understand the distinction. For all groups, that argument basically works: if you have no money, you are incentivised to go into the labour market. That might be true-it is a question of degree and where you draw the line. We spent a lot time discussing that.

The issue that I am most concerned about in this area involves young people who are least supported, and particularly young girls. We go straight back to the maternal nutrition argument and the argument that the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and the noble Lord, Lord Rea, made earlier that nutrition at the point of conception and even pre-conception matters so much for the development of the child. If we get a badly imbalanced benefits system, which is what the Rowntree Foundation is telling us we have now got, we are building problems in that area for the future.

I cannot accept the Minister's assurance that the protection for this is in Clause 15. That talks about the impact on the economy as a whole, not on any poor groups within it. I do not think we have a defence for this. If we do not have a defence here we will not have a defence and the likelihood is that the trend we are already seeing, which is to get a more and more unbalanced benefits system, is likely to be locked in. With that warning, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 16 withdrawn.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, may I suggest that further consideration on Report be now adjourned? In moving this Motion, may I suggest that the Report stage begin again not before 8.35 pm?

Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 (Renewal of Temporary Provisions) Order 2010

Copy of the Order
8th Report from the JCSI

Motion to Approve

7.36 pm

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon



9 Mar 2010 : Column 205

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Today marks the first anniversary of the murder of Constable Stephen Carroll and I am sure that the whole House will join me in sending our thoughts to his wife, Kate, and their family and friends.

It is also appropriate to mention the debate that took place earlier this afternoon in the Northern Ireland Assembly, on the transfer of policing and justice powers. Today is an historic today for Northern Ireland. The Assembly voted, on a cross-community basis, to request the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. This is a key moment in the process first envisaged in the Belfast agreement of 1998 and restated by the Joint Declaration of 2003 and the St Andrews agreement of 2006.

Most recently the agreement at Hillsborough Castle set out a timetable which would see the transfer of powers by 12 April. The vote today will enable the Secretary of State to bring forward legislation in Parliament to give effect to the transfer of powers by this date. He will lay these orders tomorrow.

The Government have long maintained that it is in the best interests of the people of Northern Ireland that decisions on policing and justice matters should be made by local politicians. The vote today means that the completion of devolution is now a reality and I welcome the decision of the Northern Ireland Assembly. I look forward to the debates on the orders in this House in due course.

I turn to the renewal order which continues the temporary provisions for the appointment of police officers and police support staff for a further-final-year to March 2011. There are two reasons for bringing forward this further renewal order. First, we are committed to achieving our target of 30 per cent Catholic composition and, secondly, appointments from the latest campaign and outstanding appointments from earlier campaigns ought to be made on the same basis and under the same provisions.

As many of the noble Lords are aware, the temporary provisions have been debated extensively both here and in another place on numerous occasions. Indeed, this is the third renewal of these provisions. However, much has changed since the first renewal in 2004. At that time, some elements of Northern Ireland's community remained uncommitted, unsupportive and unco-operative with the police service. Today, the climate is noticeably different. All main parties support policing and the rule of law and we all look forward to 12 April when the final piece of the devolution jigsaw will fall into place and policing and justice transfers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Government are committed to the need for this legislation. To drive forward the vision of policing with the community, the police service must have the confidence of the community and this requires the service to be reflective of the community. As the composition has changed, confidence in the police has increased. From a baseline of 72 per cent in 2003-04, 82.2 per cent of survey respondents today feel that the PSNI treats both communities equally. These temporary provisions are one of the most significant reasons why public confidence in policing is increasing across the community.



9 Mar 2010 : Column 206

In the 16 competitions since the PSNI formed in 2001 there have been in excess of 107,000 applications from across the community. The latest campaign was launched on 14 January 2010, less than a week after the murderous attempt on Constable Peadar Heffron. When this campaign closed on 12 February, there had been 9,008 applications. This is a clear indication that the work of a minority who are attempting to disrupt the peace process is not accepted by the majority of people in Northern Ireland, who are intent on making it work.

The first new recruits joined the PSNI in November 2001. They joined a service that was only 8.3 per cent Catholic. Today, thanks to the temporary recruitment provisions, the Catholic composition in the PSNI stands at 27.88 per cent, and 3,807 young men and women have been appointed to the PSNI. They have helped to bring about tremendous change to policing in Northern Ireland, making the PSNI a world-renowned police service.

It is clear that the temporary provisions are achieving their aim of a more representative police service within a limited timescale. I acknowledge that certain noble Lords remain opposed to these measures, but I believe that the benefits that these provisions have had on increasing Catholic composition, as well as the positive impact on increasing community confidence in policing, justify the continuation of the provisions for a final year.

I of course sympathise with individuals who, although qualified, have not been appointed as a direct consequence of the temporary provisions. In the first 14 competitions, there were 88,822 applications; 10,854 reached the merit pool, and 3,749 were appointed. Of the 7,105 who were not appointed, only 984 were unsuccessful because of 50:50. The rest would not have been appointed, regardless of 50:50, as they did not score highly enough in the merit pool. In other words, less than 3 per cent of all non-Catholic applications have been affected by these measures.

The community in Northern Ireland is becoming increasingly diverse. The PSNI has implemented a number of outreach measures that are aimed at encouraging recruits from ethnic minority backgrounds, including attendance at community events such as the Belfast Mela. There are currently 32 ethnic minority officers in the PSNI from a variety of backgrounds, including Indian, Chinese and black Caribbean. This represents 0.44 per cent of the regular officers: a figure that is comparable with the overall level of the working age ethnic minority population in Northern Ireland, which is 0.48 per cent. The proportion of females in the PSNI has also increased significantly since 2001. At the time of the Patten report, female composition stood at just 12.6 per cent. Today, it is 24.87 per cent. The gender action plan will ensure that measures are put in place to retain these female officers and monitor their progression through the ranks.

The increase in composition of all these under-represented groups is to be welcomed. A more representative police service will assist the PSNI to engage consistently and effectively with all sections of the community, thus helping officers to solve crimes and keep our communities safe. The renewal order

9 Mar 2010 : Column 207

that we are considering today will continue the temporary provisions that are in force for a final year to 28 March 2011. However, the Government are committed to returning to Parliament to end the provisions at whatever point in the year it is clear that we shall reach the 30 per cent target.

As we look forward to a new future in Northern Ireland, following the vote in the Assembly this afternoon, with all sides working together constructively, it is important that the temporary provisions are continued for a final year. This will ensure that the Government's target of 30 per cent Catholic composition is achieved and that the new Northern Ireland has a police service that works with and for the community. I beg to move.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for what she has said. She has significantly broadened this debate, as I had hoped. This might not happen tonight, but she has opened the doors on several fronts. First, I associate myself with her comments on the anniversary of the deaths of Stephen Carroll and the two soldiers at Massereene. That was a terrible time, but sadly this is still going on.

On the vote today, my party and I are absolutely delighted that the issue of policing and justice has been brought to a conclusion, but had we not had the interference of Americans and goodness knows who else, and had the Secretary of State behaved very differently-he tried to bully us as well as everyone else-we might have had a unified vote as opposed to a divided one. That was entirely down to Mr Woodward and his attitude and behaviour to Northern Ireland. He must be the worst Secretary of State in my 11 years here with whom I have ever had to deal. In fact, I have not had to deal with him because he does not speak to me. Those are my views on where we are. As I said, I am delighted, and so is my party, that we got there and that policing and justice have been devolved. I am disappointed that the vote was not 100 per cent for devolution, but it could have been in different circumstances. That is the frustration. I like perfection and I like things to be done well. This was not.

My party entirely agrees with the renewing of the order for one more year. I believe that the noble Baroness will reassure us when she winds up the debate that it will be renewed for one year and only one year. Where has it left us? It has achieved a great deal. The PSNI-she gave us all the figures-is a very different force from the Royal Ulster Constabulary. However, it has suffered from a significant lack of experience and ground intelligence throughout the process and there is still a serious void in detectives to investigate and keep up with the ever increasing sophistication of the terrorists who still attempt to destroy our Province.

7.45 pm

The other thing that needs to be noted and that should concern us is that almost as many Roman Catholics are leaving the service as are being recruited. That, too, is a very sad reflection on where we are. One recruit said a few months ago that he did not join the PSNI to be shot at. It was reported in the press that it was not the sort of job that he had expected when he

9 Mar 2010 : Column 208

joined the PSNI. I have some sympathy with him, although I am not sure that I have a great deal, because that has been the nature of policing in Northern Ireland ever since time was.

The noble Baroness mentioned diversity and ethnic minorities. She is right. The number of ethnic minority members has increased and they are playing an ever increasing part in the social structure and fabric of the Province. Most contribute extremely well, because they are great entrepreneurs. A large number of them are being supportive and helpful.

To sum up, we are delighted that policing and justice have been devolved. We are prepared to agree to the Government extending the provisions for one more year and we hope that that will be the end of it. We hope that the PSNI will be able to hold its recruits for a little longer, however that needs to be done-whether through pay, training, accommodation or managing the areas in which they live. A lot of these people are very brave; they live in areas in which their enemies are down the road and are increasing. Overall, I support the order.

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I, too, thank the Leader of the House for introducing this order. Before I debate its merits or otherwise, I pay tribute, as others have done tonight, to the PSNI and in particular to all officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. We particularly remember Constable Stephen Carroll, who was murdered by dissident republicans in Craigavon on this day in March last year. We place on record our gratitude to the officers of the PSNI, who are doing so much to move policing forward in Northern Ireland in continually difficult circumstances.

We remember the Patten report and its recommendation that in order to address the religious imbalances in the police in Northern Ireland,

That was implemented in Section 46 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. It is worth remembering what the Act said on the matter:

"In making appointments under section 39 on any occasion, the Chief Constable shall appoint from the pool of qualified applicants formed for that purpose by virtue of section 44(5) an even number of persons of whom one half shall be persons who are treated as Roman Catholic and one half shall be persons who are not so treated".

I remember that section well because it was the first time that I ever spoke on Northern Ireland matters in your Lordships' House. I had come from a background of working with the police in England and Wales, as a member and, latterly, chair of a police authority. I had no idea at all of the differences that I would find in the policing of Northern Ireland. I remember the late and much missed Lord Fitt-Gerry Fitt. He told me in no uncertain terms in this Chamber that I did not have the first idea how Northern Ireland was policed. He soon put me right.

I also remember saying at the time that such a move as was being proposed could and should last for as short a time as possible. As we have seen over the

9 Mar 2010 : Column 209

intervening years, it has proved to be a difficult issue in Northern Ireland. It was important at the time-and let us not forget that-to get the SDLP to join the Policing Board, but it has also caused great concern among the Protestant community. It even led to a High Court case from a Protestant applicant who, while being included in the pool of qualified candidates, was nevertheless not picked to go forward. The High Court subsequently upheld the 50:50 recruitment policy.

The 50:50 recruitment provisions were initially implemented for three years, from 2001 to 2004, and the provisions were renewed in 2004 and 2007 for two further three-year periods. That made a total of nine years altogether. In 2007, these Benches told the Government that we would not support a further extension of three years for this provision, but that we would support an extension of one year, bringing the total length of time during which the provisions have been in place to 10 years.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page