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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I had not intended to speak, but the Minister's answer raises a number of questions. First, when will the control order study be finished? Are we looking at something that is fairly
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Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the Government will not-I repeat not-put the safety of this country at risk. As for the noble Lord's question on the review of control orders, I can tell your Lordships' House that we are looking at it now; it is an issue for the present. I cannot tell your Lordships exactly when the review will be completed. It is more important that it is done properly than that it is done very quickly.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, we are studying closely how police forces are enforcing the law and how courts deal with the matters brought before them. We are also considering how to deal with the lessons learnt from the recent terrible events in Ipswich and Bradford. We are committed to tackling exploitation and harm caused to those involved in prostitution. All local agencies must work together to ensure the safety of the women involved.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, on the first occasion that my noble friend has appeared at the Dispatch Box to answer a Question, perhaps I may warmly congratulate him on his appointment. In the light of Miss Claire Finch being acquitted by Luton Crown Court at the end of April of running a brothel with three other women at her home in Bedfordshire, will the Government encourage the CPS to issue guidance to police forces on the undesirability of prosecuting the hundreds of other women in similar situations? Given that it is 10 times riskier for prostitutes to work on their own, will the Government invite stakeholders such as the English Collective of Prostitutes and the Safety First Coalition to a consultation on how women engaged in providing sex services can be safeguarded, including an examination of the law in New Zealand, where it is lawful for up to four people to work together in the same premises, as my noble friend Lady Miller has reminded your Lordships on frequent occasions?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his good wishes. On the question of consultation and the organisations that he referred to, yes, we are in listening mode and we will be very pleased to have further discussions with him. As I said in my initial reply, we have studied what the courts were doing with cases brought before them. That will also affect the development of future policy.
The 2009 Act was first implemented on 1 April. At the moment, we must see how it beds down. As it stands, it is for the decision of local police forces, but there is a lot of learning to be done about how to respond to these issues and I hope that that will continue to be so at both national and local level.
Lord McNally: As the noble Baroness is aware, that was very much the thrust of the 2009 Act. We shall see whether the Act causes a drop on the demand side. Having done a quick crash course on these issues, I do not believe that there is a silver bullet for this. As noble Lords know, some countries such as Sweden go for the demand side, while others such as Holland go for decriminalisation. The department is looking very carefully at the experience of countries abroad in how to deal with this as well as at how various experiments in approach in this country are progressing and what impact they are having on this problem.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, will the Government legalise brothels on health grounds, as has been done in other countries? I am not sure whether I am up to date, but my long-held views have certainly been shared by the Women's Institute.
Lord McNally: That is a daunting endorsement, which any Minister would have to ponder. But seriously, this is a matter that we have to look at and on which we must develop policy. We must get away from talking about "the game". In fiction we see the "happy hooker" and "belle de jour", but this is not "belle de jour". This is squalid, dangerous and criminal, and we must approach it as a society with that in mind. I assure my noble friend that we are looking at the experience of countries that have taken a different route and will learn the lessons from them in developing our policy.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, can the Minister comment on the fact that a great deal of the incentive towards prostitution is driven by drug addiction? Can we have an assurance that one way in which to deal with this issue is to ring-fence the current provision of rehabilitation facilities for those dependent on drugs who are likely to end up in prostitution or, indeed, to see that provision enhanced against a background of public service cuts?
Lord McNally: My Lords, any commitments on ring-fencing are made at one's peril, but I am aware that the three issues that come up time and again in any study of this problem are drug dependency,
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Baroness Stern: My Lords, I welcome the Minister to his post. I am sure he accepts that street prostitution is very dangerous and that not all street prostitutes could work from premises, even if they were legal. Is the Minister aware of projects in place to help prostitutes to be safer and to work with the police to take to court those who rape and assault street prostitutes? There are two of these projects, one in Bristol and one in Liverpool. Will he find out about them, perhaps invite those who run them to come and see him, and then take a view on whether it would not be worth increasing the number of such projects?
Lord McNally: My Lords, I could not agree more. Both those projects were referred to in my briefing and I am aware that the department is in discussion with those local authorities. There is a strong sign that local authorities, the police and the courts are talking to each other and co-operating; there is also a lot of first-impression evidence that where that co-operation takes place women are able to get out of prostitution. What is more, on the other side-I think this was in the 2009 Act as well-we are going to go against the perpetrators, not only those who buy sex but those, particularly in organised crime, who make vast profits from it.
That a Select Committee be appointed to consider hybrid instruments and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:
That a Select Committee on the Standing Orders relating to private bills be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, at a convenient point after 12.30 pm, my noble friend Lady Neville-Jones will repeat the Statement on the Cumbrian shooting incidents. As there are 49 speakers signed up for today's debate, if Back-Bench contributions were to be kept to seven minutes the House should be able to rise this evening at around our target time of 7 pm.
"Most Gracious Sovereign-We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, it is with a great sense of humility and honour that I rise to open the debate today. When I had the privilege of working in government earlier in my career, I conceived a
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I start by welcoming the noble Lords, Lord Hall of Birkenhead and Lord Kakkar, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. They, like me, will be making their maiden speeches in today's debate and I greatly look forward to those. I fear that your Lordships, having endured my own effort, will look forward even more keenly than we already are to hearing those who are to come. I also thank my noble friend Earl Howe, who will be closing today's debate.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and I seem to be linked together. We were introduced to your Lordships' House on the same day. We discovered that we shared the same surname and, owing to some confusion in the Pass Office last week, we briefly shared the same wife. I know that the Church of England is inclusive, but that was perhaps carrying inclusivity a little far.
Entering this House and becoming a Minister at one and the same time is doubly daunting. In my department I follow the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who started the last Parliament with a similar challenge. If I am able to meet that challenge with a fraction of the skill and dedication of the noble Lord, I will feel that I have served this House and Government well. I am particularly grateful to all those noble Lords on all sides who have greeted me so warmly and given me such generous advice this last week. I am acutely conscious of the depth of experience and knowledge in this House and I will endeavour always to listen and to learn.
Returning to Whitehall after a gap of some 16 years, I am struck by how much seems familiar. The quality of officials in public service and the advice they give seems to me to be as high as ever. In many ways, the rhythms of Whitehall feel much the same. Only perhaps in the expected speed of response to the pressures of the media is there a noticeable change. There seems to be less of a place for the pause for thought in public life. I am not sure whether that is progress, but it certainly underlines the importance of the full and careful scrutiny of legislation that is the work of your Lordships' House.
Like many people who care about education, my mother was a teacher. I grew up thinking that there was nothing more important than education, that teaching was a high calling and that books and learning have the power to transform lives and set people free. I still believe that today. I therefore consider myself very fortunate to have the chance to play some part, alongside so many others in all parts of this House, in trying to extend to others the kind of opportunity that I was lucky enough to enjoy.
Today's debate brings together four issues: education, health, welfare reform, and culture. All are vital to a strong society and a prosperous future for individuals and for our nation as a whole. If we are to secure Britain's success, we must give people the skills and opportunities that will lead to personal success: a good education, decent healthcare and the chance for people to get on. In all our endeavours, we must strive to close the gap that sets the most disadvantaged in our society apart from the rest.
At the heart of the programme of legislation set out in the gracious Speech is the principle of trust. By trusting people-teachers, doctors, parents, patients-we hope to improve services and deliver more freedom, more fairness, and more responsibility. Her Majesty the Queen underlined those core principles in her gracious Speech, and set out a comprehensive programme of reform to uphold them.
A health Bill will strengthen the voice of patients and the role of clinicians in the NHS. We will allow doctors, nurses and other health professionals to make more decisions about the management of day-to-day care and services. The Bill will seek to place GPs firmly at the centre of the commissioning of care, and I am personally pleased to see the wheel come full circle, having worked at the Department of Health in the late 1980s for the then Secretary of State, Mr Kenneth Clarke. We will give more choice and control to patients over their care, and the Bill will secure on statute an NHS free from political interference.
Work is the best route out of poverty. We must therefore make sure that people see a link between work and reward. We cannot have a situation whereby someone who gets a job and moves off benefits is actually worse off in work.
The current system is also very complicated: there are 30 different types of benefit, four government agencies and a £3 billion cost of fraud and error. We will therefore introduce a welfare reform Bill to simplify the benefits system and give people a greater incentive to work. People will be supported into work, but there will be sanctions for those who are deemed capable of work but refuse available jobs. We will also review the timetable for increasing the state pension age and legislate if the current timetable is deemed by the review to be no longer appropriate.
It is also important to invest in those areas of business, culture and innovation that will help Britain to remain economically prosperous. We will therefore support investment in new high-speed broadband internet connections, to be rolled out across the UK. We will ensure that BT and other infrastructure providers allow the use of their assets, through which the fibre-optic connections can be delivered. This will reduce deployment costs, increase availability of the connection and open up the market to new providers.
It is above all in our schools that the task of building a fairer, more fulfilled and more responsible society must start. Despite the best efforts of successive Governments and despite some progress, it is still the case that half of all pupils do not get five good GCSEs, including English and maths. Since the first OECD PISA international league tables were published in 2001, the UK has fallen from eighth to 24th in maths, from seventh to 17th in reading and from fourth to 14th in science. Improving standards in schools must be our immediate objective.
Academies have a proven track record in transforming schools in difficult circumstances into high-performing centres of excellence. At GCSE in 2008 and 2009, academies saw double the national average increase in results. Last week I was lucky enough to visit Mossbourne Academy in Hackney. There, an inspirational head teacher and sponsor have transformed what was previously
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More schools should have the opportunity to enjoy such freedoms if it would best serve the needs of their pupils, so we have introduced a Bill on academies to give all schools the opportunity to apply to become an academy, including-for the first time-primary and special schools. All schools which have been rated "outstanding" by Ofsted and which want to apply will be fast-tracked through the process. However, I stress that the purpose of the Bill is primarily permissive, not coercive. We intend to invite schools, their head teachers, governors and others involved with the school to take up this opportunity. In due course we also intend to work with failing schools to transform them as well. Although the Bill enables this, it is for the slightly longer term. In those cases where a school is in real difficulty, the Secretary of State will have the power to require the local authority to relinquish control of the school and free the school to appoint a head with a proven track record in excellent leadership and school improvement.
In support of these reforms we will introduce further legislation to improve school standards, reduce bureaucracy and give schools more freedoms. However, delegation of responsibility to the school and the classroom must be supported by clear systems of accountability. Therefore, in a second education Bill we will simplify the current framework for assessing schools' performance. We will work with Ofsted to establish a new framework which will scrutinise four core areas of a school's performance, rather than the current 18. We want to concentrate on what is really important, namely the quality of teaching, the effectiveness of leadership, pupils' behaviour and safety, and pupils' achievement.
Children cannot learn properly in a disorderly environment. Currently, more than 1,000 pupils are excluded for physical or verbal assaults every day. In 2007-08 nearly 18,000 pupils were suspended for attacking an adult. Only 950 of those pupils were excluded. That is not acceptable. Pupils should not have to suffer disruption caused by the bad behaviour of others, and teachers should feel confident in enforcing discipline. We will therefore give teachers wider powers to search pupils for items which disrupt learning. We will remove the bureaucratic restrictions around the use of search and detention powers. We will clarify teachers' powers on using force, strengthen home-school behaviour contracts and abolish independent appeal panels to ensure that decisions about exclusions rest with the head, which is where they belong.
Raising standards, lifting aspirations and tackling behaviour are crucial. That will help all children but, above all, it should help those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, who have suffered the most. Figures published two weeks ago showed that bright children from the poorest homes are seven times less likely to go to top universities than their wealthier counterparts. That is not acceptable. We will introduce a new pupil premium, which will direct resources to those children from deprived backgrounds who need them most. These wider reforms, such as the pupil premium and
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