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In 2009, 65 per cent of Britain's prison population were serving sentences of less than 12 months' duration. Many of them were illiterate, a quarter were addicted to drugs or alcohol, and half were suffering from some form of mental illness. The system today is designed in such a way as to make it easier to commit another offence rather than to break the habit of a lifetime. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, referred to the tariff on mandatory sentences for murder. An immediate task for the new Justice Ministers in this Government is, in the name of fairness, to tackle the shame and disgrace of indeterminate sentences. I quote one of the conclusions of the thematic review by the inspectorates of prisons and probation in March this year:
"The current situation is not sustainable. IPP prisoners now constitute around one in fifteen of the total prison population. As of December 2009, only 75 IPP prisoners had been released and stayed out, while there were around 70 newly sentenced IPP prisoners every month entering prison. Of the 5,788 IPP prisoners in custody, 2,393 had passed their tariff date, i.e. the period announced by the judge as the due punishment for the offence".
I recently defended a man of 58 years of age who was sentenced to an IPP for manslaughter with a tariff of nine years. "It is", he said, "a life sentence. I will never come out". He will never come out because of the way in which the system is organised today. These sentences have done immeasurable damage both to those imprisoned and to their relatives. It is Kafkaesque; despite trying to do everything that is asked of them, there is no way out.
The second task that I put to Justice Ministers is to review the effectiveness of the system of civil orders-ASBOs-that were adopted by the previous Government in an attempt to control behaviour. A report by the Metropolitan Police that was published on 13 May-a fortnight ago-shows that in London there are currently 1,261 ASBOs, and, in 2009, 1,127 arrests were recorded for their breach. These ASBOs do not work. Although trumpeted by the previous Government, there are no violent offender orders, although the Metropolitan Police have applied for one this year: the first in the United Kingdom. There is one risk of sexual harm order and one foreign travel order in the London area. The court charges £200 fees for sitting, and legal costs are considerable, but no overall cost has been calculated.
The feature of these orders is that they may be obtained under civil procedures, which include proof on a balance of probabilities that is based on hearsay evidence, which is usually no more than the report of an investigating police officer. Breach of the order is a criminal offence. Two youths may go into a pub. One is doing nothing wrong. The other is committing a criminal offence because he is in breach of a condition on his ASBO. These orders are a fundamental breach of the principles of fairness on which criminal law is based. Will the Ministers please consider whether they work and are effective? If not, let us get rid of the whole apparatus.
"Dispersal orders convey stark messages about the status of young people in society and the way they are regarded by adults. They can reinforce a view of young people as a risk to others, obscuring the extent to which they are understood as at risk".
The third task-here I come to a matter raised by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, naturally enough as he was my tutor-is to reconsider the age of criminal responsibility, which was highlighted this week at the Old Bailey. The proposal to reduce that age to 10 years was put forward by the party opposite in the Crime and Disorder Bill. On 9 March 1998, an amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord McNally-the Minister today-was moved in his absence by my noble friend Lord Goodhart. All the usual suspects, including me, spoke in support of the amendment. But the most compelling contribution was this:
"What worries me is not what the intention was in the drafting of the Bill, but that the effect of this part of it plays to a social attitude which wants to pile all the blame onto the shoulders of the young child who is in court; that it fails to accept the collective social responsibility for the situation in which the child finds itself. The child may come from an environment of appalling schools, appalling housing; media which plays to sensationalism and violence and parents who had no chance to develop their sense of responsible parenthood in their education, upbringing and environment".-[Official Report, 19/3/98; col. 833.]
Everyone will recognise the tone and the passion of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and I am privileged to be speaking from the place where he normally, in the past 13 years, has addressed this House. I have also warned
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I should like to say a brief word on Wales, since the noble Lord, Lord Livsey of Talgarth, cannot be here today. The Queen's Speech promises to implement the recommendations of the Calman commission in Scotland, which gives them £200 million. Wales is seeking fairness-the implementation of the Holtham commission report on funding by the reform of the Barnett formula. We in Wales are being short-changed to the extent of £300 million per year on the basis of actual needs. The previous Government talked about it and did nothing. I look forward to an assurance from the Minister today that this Government are committed to equality as between the devolved nations.
In my adoption speech in that 1964 campaign, as reported in the Rhyl Journal, I called for a Parliament for Wales, proportional representation and the abolition of the hereditary principle in the House of Lords. We are nearly there.
Lord Bichard: My Lords, it is, I know, the custom of this House for maiden speeches to be short and uncontroversial. I should like to take this opportunity to reassure noble Lords that I hope that all my contributions will be succinct. I have not always, however, managed to avoid controversy quite as easily even when I have been trying to do so, but today I will make a particular effort.
Perhaps I may say at the outset what a privilege it is to be a Member of this House and how grateful I have been for the warmth of the welcome that I have received from other Members and from the quite excellent staff supporting us. In this respect, my thanks go beyond the routine. I have been genuinely overwhelmed and delighted to meet so many old friends-or should I be more delicate and say long-standing friends? I like to think that the warmth and civility that I have encountered derives at least in part from the fact that all Members of this House share a common purpose; that is, to add value and to make a positive difference to the society in which we live. We may do that in different ways and from different perspectives, but we all entered public life because we felt that we had some small contribution to make and I think that we recognise that commitment in all our colleagues.
In my case I have for more than 40 years served as a public official, but unusually perhaps in very many different roles; namely, the chief executive of two local authorities, Brent, and Gloucestershire where I now live; the chief executive of a government agency, the Benefits Agency; a Permanent Secretary at the former Department for Education and Employment; a vice-chancellor; the chairman of two non-departmental public bodies, including at the moment, the Design
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In all those roles, I have always enjoyed, not endured, the company of politicians of all parties-well, almost always enjoyed. But I have remained determinedly apolitical, so I feel that I could not have ended in a more appropriate place than these Cross-Benches and I very much look forward to playing an active part in the life of this House. But-and this is where I hope I can avoid the controversy-I sit here as someone who believes passionately that our public services need significant reform. In spite of the collective best efforts and dedication demonstrated every day of the week by countless public servants and, let us not forget, elected representatives, too many vulnerable people, too many households and too many communities still receive services which fail to meet their needs. That is not always because of a lack of resource: I believe that very often those services are more expensive than they need to be. This is not the result of some malign intent or conspiracy, nor has it been desired by any political party in this House. But it is too often the current reality.
As we enter a new Parliament, facing unprecedented fiscal and social challenges, we can do one of two things. We can set our sights primarily, solely perhaps, on saving money by reducing the cost of existing services. But if that is the sum of our ambition, many of the current flaws will remain and perhaps be accentuated. Alternatively, we can take this opportunity to look more fundamentally at the way our public services operate, their purpose, their shape and the way in which they work, or do not work, together. What might that kind of fundamental review seek to address? It might address perhaps some issues which have sometimes been overlooked. It might, for example, seek to address seriously the way in which Whitehall departments too often continue to work and develop policy in silos at a time when our most pressing problems do not fit neatly into bureaucratic boxes. Meeting the needs of an ageing society, reducing levels of chronic health conditions and reducing the unacceptable levels of reoffending are not the responsibility of a single department and will not be resolved unless we ensure that departments, Ministers and officials work much more effectively together.
This is also perhaps the time to ask ourselves why vulnerable individuals and families still too often receive unco-ordinated services from what seems to them to be countless public local bodies-statutory and non-statutory. Those clients are often confused. The services are often ineffective and those who want to do more to help themselves find it very difficult to find a way of doing so. It sometimes seemed to me that the best we could do for some families was to provide them with a diary secretary to arrange the huge numbers of meetings that they need with public agencies. We can surely simplify these arrangements and reduce the number of narrowly defined targets, performance indicators, inspection arrangements and ring-fenced budget allocations, all of which take away the incentive and the space for enterprising public servants to use their initiatives-and sometimes just to use their common sense-to the benefit of citizens and taxpayers.
Might we not also expect greater co-operation between all of our public agencies and the way in which they purchase and use basic resources? When we spend, as we do, £220 billion a year on purchasing goods and materials, why is it that we still have no convincing public sector purchasing strategy? Why do we need now so many separate public sector offices around the country when more and more business can be done online? If we are honest-and I have played a part in this-the answer often has more to do with territory and sovereignty than it does with logic or service to our clients.
In the past, of course, our response to many of these questions has too often been to restructure our public organisations-and, again if we are honest, more often than not that has failed. At the Institute for Government we calculated recently that every time a government department is reorganised it costs £15 million to start with, and very rarely do those reorganisations deliver results. Surely the time has come to jettison our obsession with redesigning the structures of government and to concentrate instead on redesigning the services themselves so that they are shaped around clients, not around providers; so that they are seamless, not fragmented; so that they are functional, not unreliable; and so that they are accessible, not impenetrable. We spend billions of pounds on services but the public sector still rarely uses the skills of our world-class service design industry to ensure quality and cost effectiveness. Now is the time for people in the public sector to realise the potential power of service design to create better services at less cost.
Finally, our work at the institute has shown that we now have probably the most centralised governance system in the world, with power concentrated in Whitehall and Westminster. It has shown, too, that this has accentuated many of the problems I have touched upon. There are few here or in the other place who do not now agree the need for this change and for power with accountability to rest closer to local communities, and for our civil society to take its place as a genuine partner in our activities.
Improving our public services is a priority but success will not be achieved by yet more targets, reorganisations and pilots. Success is more difficult: it is about changing the way people behave and the way they work together. The very good news-and the reason why what I have said is not controversial-is that there are ever larger numbers of staff, elected representatives, trustees and governing bodies out there who want to bring about this kind of change because they want to focus more and more on their clients and outcomes. This is a moment of opportunity as well as a moment of crisis. Equally, it is a moment for leadership rather than control. I thank your Lordships for your attention.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, it is a delight to welcome an old colleague and friend, the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, to our deliberations. I am sure that I speak for the whole Chamber when I say that we have already seen in the quality of his maiden speech what we had expected and what we have to look forward to in terms
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The noble Lord has hinted already at the richness of his public service life, which is why he will give such value. He has been a chief executive of local authorities, some of which were extremely difficult at times; he has been a Permanent Secretary with-how shall I put it?-ambitious politicians; and he has been called in to sort out difficult issues such as the Soham inquiry and the Legal Services Commission's problems, thankless tasks where so much could have gone wrong.
The noble Lord also understands policy. You would expect a Permanent Secretary to do so, but he has demonstrated it by the remarkable way in which the Institute for Government has filled an aching void in our public debate over the past few years. We cannot imagine what we would have done without it. It has been brilliantly led by him and his able staff.
Most important, the noble Lord understands delivery and he understands real life. Many people can make policy or give speeches, but the ability to turn policy and ideas into action on the ground is fundamental. I suspect that this is partly because he has been rooted in the reality of running public services and is still rooted in civil society in rich ways. As well as being a director of the University of the Arts and chairman of the Design Council in past functions, he is currently either a board member or a trustee of bodies concerned with management, education and the arts and of a wide range of charitable bodies. I have demonstrated the richness of his experience, but it causes me a slight worry: I do not want him to spend so much time on those bodies that he does not bring the benefit of his wisdom to our deliberations. I urge him to spend time in this Chamber.
I turn to more difficult issues. It has been a dreadful 18 months for this House. We collectively know that we have been vilified, belittled and damaged. This matters to us personally-many of us feel that we have been belittled as a consequence-but, more than that, it matters because we are not a club but a part of the constitution. Therefore, the public regard for whether we do our constitutional job well, with integrity and effectiveness, matters not only to us in a self-regarding way but to society more widely. Rebuilding the trust and confidence of the public and civil society and convincing them that this Chamber is capable of fulfilling its constitutional role matter enormously.
In that spirit, the Lord Speaker invited a number of eminent external people to talk informally to Peers and to give their perspective on where we sat last October. To correct the record, she did not initiate the three working groups; she was aware that that happened on the back of the seminar, with the chairmanships emerging, in the dreadful way that the House knows they do, through a mixture of persuasion, cajoling and bullying.
The Deputy Leader of the House, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred to the three working groups in his speech. They essentially looked at three issues: how
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Let me, in my limited time, give your Lordships a quick taster of some of those points. First, the role of scrutinising legislation is fundamental. It is what the public think we exist for, so how we do it matters greatly. Five points were made by the group that I had the privilege of chairing. The first was the need to scrutinise if legislation is fit and ready to come into the House-there have been times, I regret, when I have been guilty of not always carrying that standard as a Minister or as a member of the Government. The second point was to spend more skill and time scrutinising the policy behind the legislation. Too often we dive like eager lawyers for detail and lose sight of what the legislation is meant to achieve, what success would look like and whether the legislation looks likely to achieve it.
Next, we recognised the need to involve the public in our processes. Your Lordships should not faint; it already happens in the Commons. For all Bills that start there, there is a public Bill process whereby the views of the public are listened to and representations made. We should have a similar system for those few Bills that start in the Lords. It is normal, good practice. To cheer the Leader of the House, we say that we should make greater use of Grand Committee-we shall explain why in the report. It is beneficial now. We should not always use it, but it should be the default rather than the exception. Lastly, we should stop talking about post-legislative scrutiny and start doing it.
I shall not talk about the procedures of the House, because there is not time. I shall say a few words instead about governance of the House. It is clear that the failures of the past 18 months are failures of individuals, but they are also failures of governance. We have to face up to that fact. It was we who made the system that allowed things to go wrong and the public hold us collectively to account for that. It is a particular duty of bodies that are still self-governing-there are not many of them left-to have proper processes for periodically reviewing their governance. Otherwise, who is to do it to us? I am not aware-I stand to be corrected-that this House has ever had a formal, let alone an independent, review of the quality of its governance and of whether it meets current good practice standards. Such standards are known and most public bodies would now expect to have to meet them. This House has not reviewed its governance, let alone asked anybody to give a view of it. That is needed; we are not a club.
Our governance is a mystery to many of us. It is not clear who is responsible for what or who is responsible for putting things right or taking a systematic view of whether the governance arrangements are appropriate to each task. I ask your Lordships to read the one quotation about how the usual channels dominate internal governance. However, their role is nowhere made explicit and it is more focused on the interests of the Government and of the political parties than those of the House or of the public.
The failures of governance are failures not of individuals but of us collectively to review our processes. I was therefore delighted that both the Leader of the House yesterday-I take his words at face value-and the Deputy Leader of the House signalled their willingness to open discussion on these issues with me, the noble Lord, Lord Butler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, my co-chairs of these three contributions to the debate.
Lord St John of Fawsley: My Lords, I join the noble Lord, Lord Filkin, in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, on a speech of great modesty and depth. If that is the level of contribution that we can expect from him, the more we hear from him, the better. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Filkin. I regret to say that I agreed with almost everything that he said, but the tone of politics has now changed-thank heaven-and congratulations are now in vogue until we get bored with them.
I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on his speech, which, rather like overripe gruyère, was full of holes and held together only by some very good jokes. I warn him about jokes: they can be dangerous and can lead to a sudden change of career. Let him wait until people say, "Where are the jokes? Where is the Lord McNally of yore? We want him back". That is the moment to start up again, because it is safer in today's world of politics to be a co-respondent than a wit.
I am pleased that the noble Lord made the case so well for there being no hurry about this part of the Queen's Speech. Let us learn from the experience of the previous Government: you cannot evade the natural consequences of your actions. Let that be constantly in the minds of Ministers; it is essential. Why not leave the House of Lords alone? It is a modern miracle. One should not drop names, as his Holiness the Pope said to me only the other day, but I tried to explain to him the concept of a Cross-Bencher. Well, he is the infallible one, so I gave up.
We do not want a clone of the House of Commons here. We are a revising Chamber; we are a Chamber with independent views; we are a Chamber where we want more distinguished people. Above all, we want more Cross-Benchers. That case was brilliantly made by example, which is always more convincing than precept, by the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, today. We do not want a lot of people elected by proportional
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