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I cannot speak about government and society without mentioning how personally hurt I was yesterday by the Saville report and the Government's capitulation to what we saw on television last evening to be a well orchestrated hangover from a 30-year campaign of terrorism. Of the families of the 496 who died in 1972, over 97 per cent were ignored. The report lacked balance-3,720 died during the terrorist campaign, so the £192 million pounds spent on Saville represents a mere 0.37 per cent of the victims. I know that the Prime Minister tried valiantly to balance his remarks, but from my perspective 40 years of education is no substitute for 40 years of hands-on experience. For 99.6 per cent of those families, the Government's identification with civil society was absent, just as was any apology from the Northern Ireland Assembly's Deputy First Minister and one-time terrorist commander and killer, Martin McGuinness.
I conclude my remarks with a practical proposal that deals with one of the most pressing issues affecting the relationship between government and society-law and order and our escalating prison population. We now have over 85,000 in our prisons. I am glad that the right honourable Ken Clarke has recognised the extent of the problem. If I were to evaluate it in financial terms, I would point out that the £45,000 that it costs annually to keep a person in prison-maybe this comparison makes sense-is greater than it would cost me to send a grandchild to Eton for a year. Over 40 per cent of prisoners reoffend within five to six months of release from prison. These are the Government's own figures.
On this issue, the Government are letting society down. The nub of the problem is largely that we have failed to differentiate between criminals and offenders. I shall define that. Criminals are those who, as a profession, dishonestly exploit society for a living, who virtually dictate what happens in our prisons and who dominate young offenders. My definition of "offender" is one who breaks the law through a deficit in his character, which may be, and often is, that he lacks proper communication skills-certainly that represents 25 per cent, some would say as high as 40 per cent, of our prison population. We send them to share the company of those who are dedicated to crime and then release them to a disorganised and inadequate lifestyle where their godfather mentors are able to exploit them further. According to Marina Kim on "Talking Politics", in 2007-08 recidivism cost our economy more than £9.5 billion.
Rather than repeating myself, I refer to a speech that I made on 19 December 2008, at col. 334, when I proposed a clearly segregated two-tier prison system, where we would not provide the criminals with a steady stream of potential offenders but where we would accommodate offenders within a safer, protective system that allowed the probation service, social workers,
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Today government and society seem to exist on different planes. We have allowed that to happen as we scrambled over one another to get a bigger and bigger share or control of the power of money when times were good. The chasm between government and civil society was not inevitable, but we allowed it to occur. Perhaps now, in more straitened times, we can grasp the opportunity to pause and consider how we can effectively restore the ethos of decency and responsibility and bring a greater degree of humanity back to our relationships.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, this debate is about partnerships. What does the word "partner" conjure up in your Lordships' minds-a business partner, a transient dancing partner or perhaps a serious domestic companion? My wife detests being called my partner, and "domestic companion" refers only to our cat or our dog.
The dictionary defines a partner as a "sharer", someone of equal standing in a relationship-not a wholly owned subsidiary or a camp follower but someone on an equal footing, a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, made at the beginning of the debate. When we speak on the Motion about partnerships between government and civil society, we must avoid any latent assumption that the Government are inevitably the senior partner or the managing director, the holding company that at the end of the day calls the shots. Perhaps the Motion would have been better worded the other way around: to call attention to the role of partnerships between civil society and government. Which is the more primary reality, society or government? Surely this society.
The various agencies of civil society should stand alongside the agencies of government, whether local or national-or big or small, for that matter. Partnerships on education illustrate the point. The churches, especially the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, have a major stake in our education system. The Church of England alone sponsors nearly 5,000 schools, and our schools and boards of education have many fine people working for them. We have great expertise. Head teachers, teachers and education officers welcome the wider partnership with government, but they sometimes feel that they are not taken as seriously as they deserve to be and that local education authorities regard themselves as the senior partners. Perhaps the same feelings surround academies. I chair the governing body of a newly formed academy, and for all the theoretical freedoms of the academy it can feel like quite a regulated environment, not so much by local government as by central government.
There is a prevailing sense in some areas of the media, particularly encouraged by vociferous secularists, that church schools are interlopers in the state system. Actually, considered as a matter of history, the state interloped on the original church provision. The churches
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The growth in the size and power of government in recent decades is a complex phenomenon, as we have learnt already in the debate, with many factors and causes behind it. In the circumstances of modern western society, it is inevitable that government, central and local, will have an important and vital role, but Governments always need to know their limits and avoid the slide into an ever greater role in the lives of citizens. A key way would be through a commitment to work through partners and civil society not just functionally in delivering services but in the self-understanding of what makes for a mature and healthy society, as many speakers have emphasised. We can easily oscillate between the corporate power of the state and the rights and freedoms of the individual, flowing a little this way and that way between the two, but both depend on a multitude of intermediary bodies including and especially the family.
Politics is fundamentally about power, as events surrounding the recent election and the emergence of the coalition Government so clearly remind us. Most of the headlines in recent years have been about either power or wealth. The management of both are central to society and important, but our vision of society is deeply impoverished if we focus too much or too narrowly on the dialectic of power and wealth. Civilised society is about much more-about the virtues of altruism, love, mercy, beauty, truth and justice, which are not subsets of power and wealth. It is those virtues that lead to a civilised society, which government and private businesses will not easily sustain without the deep partnerships with the agencies and institutions of wider society.
Much is already happening in society but it does not make the news. It is not bad news; it just does not make the headlines. I turn for a moment to the role of faith communities in promoting the common good. A number of surveys have been conducted in recent years in various parts of the country. The north-west of England, where I come from, has taken a particular leading role. Ten years or so ago, the various denominations in the north-west got together and funded a full-time churches officer for the north-west specifically to promote the interaction of the churches with the various agencies of government. The post has been held by a very able Roman Catholic priest, Monsignor John Devine, and the Northwest Regional Development Agency recognised the potential of this appointment by providing office space while we provided all the salary costs.
For 10 years or more, he has tirelessly promoted partnership working between the churches and other faith communities in government at all levels with striking results. Several surveys have been conducted
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That is a key finding. It is in the areas of highest social need, where the agencies of government find it hardest to deliver the services that are needed, that the faith communities are there on the ground and most able to work alongside those in need. It is non-governmental agencies, charities, that are best able to meet these needs.
I illustrate this briefly by reference to two or three examples where I have some personal involvement. These examples are not exclusively faith-based. Indeed, it is interesting that partnership working is often between faith communities and other agencies on the ground with a common interest, rather than others who share the perspective of the faith concerned. Take a major social priority to which several noble Lords have referred, including the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis: the rise in the prison population, with persistent reoffending as a major cause. The noble Lord, Lord Low, also touched on this in his speech. It is becoming clear that programmes of restorative justice have a key role to play in reducing reoffending and, beyond that, in re-establishing people in society.
In my diocese there is a young offender institution, Thorn Cross, where an excellent chaplain runs a Sycamore Tree Project. This was originally developed by the charity Prison Fellowship and it is the leading example of a restorative justice programme in this country. It takes the parable of Jesus and Zacchaeus, the crooked tax collector, as a model for raising victim awareness and helping prisoners to understand the dynamics of criminality and crime. Last year the course ran in no fewer than 36 prisons and involved nearly 2,000 prisoners. More than 90 per cent completed the course and were credited with level 1 credits in the Open College Network. Research that is being carried out at the University of Sheffield is beginning to show benefits in reduced reoffending. It will be interesting to see what the longer-term statistics and evidence show in this area. I could say more about the splendid work that is being done, but the key point is that a restorative justice programme is more likely to be effective if it is not run by the Government or the prison authorities but delivered by agencies of wider civil society. It makes it much more credible for the prisoners involved. Already, the funding for this sort of programme is a soft target when the prison budget is frozen. That point applies across many of these issues.
I provide another example, again from the margins of society where social need is greatest-work with homeless people. When I first became Bishop of Chester, each day two or three homeless people, or groups of people, would call at my house asking for a mug of tea and a sandwich. Today, there are one or two a month, if that. I rather miss the conversations that I used to have with these interesting people who regularly turned up at my door. The change has been made by the
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I could give many other examples, both sacred and secular, of the value-in every sense-of partnerships between wider society and government, especially in our support for those on the margins of society. In the current cost-cutting climate, these activities are soft targets. I hope that the Minister will reflect on this and comment on the Government's approach to try to prevent local authorities simply diminishing the grants that are given and that multiply their value many times over due to the partnership relationships in which they stand. The wisest course would be to promote many of these partnerships, which are key to the development of the common good in our society.
Viscount Eccles: My Lords, I add my thanks to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester for introducing this debate and my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Wei. As I follow the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, I wish to make a boxing analogy with regard to partnerships. If you get into a boxing ring as the most fleet of foot lightweight in the world and you meet a heavyweight, the heavyweight has to land only one punch. When we think about partnerships between the state and whoever, we should not forget that.
At this time in the evening, following the speeches of four right reverend Prelates and one most reverend Primate, it is difficult not to reflect a bit on how we have got to where we are. We probably would not have our democracy if it had not been for the Church of England. The way in which powerful institutions stood between the king and the people has got us to where we are. Sometimes when we get into all the detail, we forget how we got to where we are. Indeed, the Motion refers to "shaping social policy". In saying that, it distinguishes between policy implementation and the creation of policy. It asks us to think a bit about directions of travel rather than detailed implementation. Probably 10 people can make a contribution to policy shaping whereas probably only one or two are very good at implementation. If one takes child poverty as just one example, it is easy to have a pretty clear idea about what you would like to do about it, but not so easy to achieve it. I wish to separate policy and implementation.
Many people have shaped social policy-classically, Charles Dickens, and later, Orwell. I interpose here that some of these people were romantics. Some of the comment on getting from romanticism to reality disregards the fact that the people who start these processes are
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Today, we have talked a lot about the big society and the shaping of social policy under it. Social policy has developed far beyond Beveridge. Some of the developments have been extremely beneficial and some of them much more questionable. Why has this happened? I suppose the principal reason is that science and technology have moved on, particularly medical knowledge. When we think of that, we need to remember that Governments do not control the pace of technological advance. I can remember 1942 and the excitement of the Beveridge report. We were then relatively poor; now we are relatively rich. Today, civil servants-like those who formed Beveridge's team-are at a discount; advisers are at a premium and there are 170,000 registered charities. In today's circumstances, who will get themselves heard and to whom should we listen?
These are complicated issues. I suppose that examples might include Frank Field. He could reasonably aspire to be a successor to Beveridge. We can then think of some of the institutions whose research and thinking we all admire, and which have been in existence for a considerable period-the King's Fund on medical matters, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Howard League for Penal Reform. All are notable for their independence. I could add-I hope that I can add-the Church of England to that list. It is, I hope, also notable for its independence. Then there are the media, particularly the weeklies. There is much that we can absorb from their thinking, which is nothing to do with the detailed implementation of particular policies-although these institutions will of course comment upon that. However, they sit somewhat apart from the thrust of day-to-day activity.
Then there is implementation. As the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, said, diversity is a wonderful thing, but it can become a muddle. When thinking about the way in which our social policy should develop, we could, if the right reverend Prelates will forgive me, be rebuilding the tower of Babel.
I offer these final thoughts about those to whom we need to listen. The best people to listen to are those who receive no taxpayers' money and are genuinely independent. The institutions that I mentioned do not receive significant amounts of taxpayers' money. Some are involved in small projects for which they are paid public money, but, in general, they are private and independent. I include among them university departments as well as the philosophers-even the unpopular ones; of course Mr Scruton immediately comes to mind-and the writers of today. They are the successors to Dickens, Orwell and TS Eliot.
Second best is when government come into it; they should come in at arm's length, not with a partnership but with a contract, with clear terms of reference and transparent accountability. You cannot expect the state to act in the way that the Oxford English Dictionary defines a partnership, whereby you share equally in
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Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate for introducing this important debate. I want the right reverend Prelates to know that I miss sitting behind them. I had made my home sitting at their backs, hoping that if God's hand was at work, providing guidance to them as they participated in the House, it would spill over on to me and I would get a bit of spiritual intervention, too. I shall have to work harder for it now.
This debate is so important because it is about how the Government can work better with the public in the interests of our society as a whole-how we might build the good society. We are very lucky in Britain in that we are rich in social capital-those words have been used frequently in this debate. This is not a broken society. Our civil society is strong. Of course there has been a rise in materialism and narcissism, but people in Britain continue to volunteer in huge numbers to support many fine voluntary organisations, many of which have been mentioned. People run in marathons for charity. They hold car boot sales to raise funds for good causes. They take part in red nose days and wear ribbons for cancer or AIDS. They sit as school governors, do prison visiting and read in schools with children who have learning disabilities. They take part in school races and run the school disco. They find funds by all manner of means in order to support things local. They coach teams and run football leagues. They also support and run soup kitchens for the homeless and care for the elderly. It is right-I say this with recognition-that many of their contributions are channelled through churches, synagogues, mosques and Quaker institutions, as well as through secular bodies and trade union organisations.
Good things are also done by professionals, and I was very happy to hear my noble friend Lady Perry speak about that. I feel that often professionals are not given recognition for the contribution that they make well beyond their daily round in giving pro bono work in various fields-in law, for example, the area in which I work. Teachers also do it by giving tuition and so on. People come together in many ways, even if it is just by signing petitions for better street lighting and more frequent bin collection. They send their savings to victims of tsunamis and want to end world poverty.
We in Britain are great creators of bonding social capital. By and large, we do not "bowl alone" as the social scientist, Robert Putnam, has described what happens in America. British people-particularly women-contribute enormously to our common weal. It is one of our nation's really great strengths. However, as our societies change, we must endeavour to ensure that there is not just bonding social capital but also bridging social capital, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Wei, our new addition, in his very fine maiden speech. Bridging social capital crosses between
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We must always remember to exercise caution when we talk about communities. Of course, we laud the good things in communities, but close communities can also harbour and nurture our worst behaviours, which were spoken of by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. I refer to a lack of forgiveness because of long-held grievances, and the ways in which tight communities can harbour intolerance, snobbery and repression. Inside communities there can be ill treatment of the less powerful, domestic violence, child abuse, forced marriage, hostility to homosexuals and antagonism towards the "other". Opening out communities to other influences is what moves societies to become better places.
I am interested to know what the Government mean when they talk about the big society. I certainly welcome a strengthening of links between government and civil society in partnership. I like it when we can persuade people to join in. I also like the very independence of which the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, spoke. It is important that a civil society is independent and does not have too much government crawling all over it. Therefore, I ask people to bear that in mind, too, when we talk about partnership. Civil society must not be drawn into the purview of government where the differences are not clear.
I do not want this big society to be a proxy for minimising the state so that less is done by the Government and they divest themselves of responsibilities for the poor and disadvantaged in our midst, for the disabled and the elderly, and for the asylum seeker and the drug addict. It would be an extreme folly if we were to see that happen. I am all for devolving central government to the local and, as a democracy reformer, I have argued for that. However, if going local means passing yet more responsibilities downwards without the necessary supporting revenues, it will be a travesty of ideas about local empowerment. Creating new burdens is not empowering.
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