Jonathan Andrew Kestenbaum, Esquire, having been created Baron Kestenbaum, of Foxcote in the County of Somerset, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Sainsbury of Turville and Lord Puttnam, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Mair Eluned Morgan, having been created Baroness Morgan of Ely, of Ely in the City of Cardiff, was introduced and took the oath, in English and in Welsh, supported by Baroness Royall of Blaisdon and Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): The UK's transposition of the European arrest warrant complies fully with the concept of habeas corpus. UK implementation of the European investigation order will also be fully compliant. However, I understand that the noble Lord's principal concern is the separate issue of European arrest warrants being issued for trivial offences. The Government share this concern and are talking to other EU countries, bilaterally and through the European Union, to stop this happening.
Lord Vinson: I thank the Minister for her considered reply, but I am not as optimistic. The fact remains that hundreds of UK citizens are being compelled to appear before any EU court without the merit of the often frivolous charges being first assessed. They can be locked up without pre-trial. Is she not concerned that this totally overrides the ancient liberties of the British citizen enshrined in Magna Carta and habeas corpus? Will she assure the House that this will be resolved?
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Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the Government are concerned, as I have just said, with the disproportionate use of the European arrest warrant for trivial purposes. That is one of the reasons why we have asked Sir Scott Baker, with the panel that he is heading on extradition, to look specifically at the operation of the European arrest warrant. He is able to take submissions from Members of this House and others and I hope that the noble Lord will take advantage of that.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, of course one must share the Minister's concern about the civil liberties principles at stake, which sometimes are being breached, as the noble Lord said. On the other hand, will the Minister confirm that some serious criminals charged with terrorism or other equally serious offences have been brought back to Britain to face trial through the use of the European arrest warrant?
Baroness Neville-Jones: Indeed, my Lords, and I suspect that that is why our predecessors signed up to this measure when they were in office. It is the case that it has facilitated the return of prisoners to jurisdiction, so the noble Lord makes a perfectly valid point.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I hope that I have just indicated what we are doing. We think that we need some expert advice, so we have asked Sir Scott Baker to look at the operation of the European arrest warrant. He is due to report in September of this year and the Government will take action in the light of his report.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: Does not the Minister agree that habeas corpus is a process and not a principle? It is designed to make sure that a person who is in custody is there legally. If a European arrest warrant has been issued improperly, a writ of habeas corpus will succeed and, if not, it will fail. It is a simple issue and there is no conflict between the principles.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, in this House of legal eagles I hesitate, as a non-lawyer, to get on to the grounds, but I understand that the principle of habeas corpus is indeed a legal remedy against unlawful detention. It is therefore right to say that the European arrest warrant in principle is compliant. I accept entirely, however, that there is dissatisfaction with the warrant's operation, which is what the Government have asked Sir Scott Baker to look into.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I think that I will have to write to the noble and learned Lord about that. There are figures but I do not entirely have them to hand. The numbers are not huge, but they are sufficiently significant, and we wish to know how well this remedy is operating.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that one of the prime duties of government is to protect the interests of the citizen, particularly when abroad. She will be aware that members of the British public have been extradited to other countries without the production of any prima facie evidence at all. Moreover, they often go to countries that do not have the same respect for law and individual interests as we do in this country. The Government were warned about this when the Bill was discussed in Grand Committee. It is a serious matter and I hope that the Government will understand the level of concern about it throughout the country.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the point that the noble Lord makes about the Government having been warned at the time of the passage of the legislation is perhaps to be directed at the other Benches. We are concerned about the operation of the European arrest warrant, which is precisely why we believe that it needs to be looked into. I would add one point about the European supervision directive-I may not have the title quite right. There is a framework agreement on an arrangement that will come into operation whereby individuals who have been summoned for jurisdiction can nevertheless return to their country of origin during the period of bail and, if sentence is passed on them, can also serve that sentence there. Extra remedies are coming into operation to protect people's rights.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, could my noble friend not take some advantage of the provision of European arrest warrants? We also have the problem of control orders. Perhaps she could get some friendly European country to take those who are currently subject to control orders and bang them up in a jail somewhere, without the need ever to bring them to trial. That would seem to be a most convenient solution.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, we will be discussing this topic shortly. All I would say is that, of course, control orders arise when there is insufficient admissible evidence to bring a successful prosecution.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, the Question refers to the European investigation order. Can the Minister tell us whether the Government are satisfied with the operation of that order and whether the demands placed on UK police forces as a result of such orders are proportionate?
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the European investigation order is, of course, not yet in operation; it is still being discussed. Its objective is to facilitate mutual legal assistance between sovereign legal systems. We are endeavouring in the negotiations on this to ensure that its operation, when it comes into effect, will be satisfactory from the point of view of the traditions and the standards of this country.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, the Government have no current plans to restrict the right of second home owners who meet the residence requirement to register in two places, but we will keep the issue under review. An individual may be registered at more than one address if it appears to the electoral registration officer for the local authority area in which each address is located that the individual is resident in that area. However, it is an offence for a person to vote twice in a general election or European Parliament election.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. Is it not a principle, just as we have for one person one vote, that for a national election an individual should be able to cast their vote where they really are a resident and a stakeholder in the community? Will the Minister make sure that that is clarified for returning officers, and will the Government take steps to ensure that people are able to vote in national elections only where their main residence is located?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank my noble friend for that question. The electoral registration officer is responsible for defining this particular issue. I also thank him for suggesting nominating a main residence, and I can confirm that the Government are considering this further. Noble Lords will recognise the difficulties that can arise from such definitions.
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, does the Minister think it is fair that students have two votes in local elections, one in the place where they are studying on a temporary basis for three years, and the other in the home where they are presumably resident?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: This matter has been a long-standing feature of our electoral system. The whole business of permanent and temporary residence has been defined by case law, and two English cases that set out the principles state that a person may have two residences that qualify them for an interest in the outcome of the elections in two local authority elections.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, returning to second homes, I wonder whether, since the Government have so rightly emphasised the importance of getting equity between the value of votes, they should address this issue of giving some people two votes, while everyone else, including those of us who are allowed to vote in whichever elections, have only one.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: This is a matter which, as I said in my original Answer, the Government are reviewing. It is a long-standing tradition that people can register in two different addresses where they have an interest. I should emphasise that it is against the law to vote twice in the same election to the same body.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: Does the noble Lord not agree that the real problem that real democrats are concerned with at the moment is that 3.5 million people are not registered and are therefore not entitled to vote? Could he update the House on what the Government are doing to try to reduce that number?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Government are trying to make sure that all databases and the electoral register, which is in effect a database, are made as comprehensive as possible. I answered a Question not so very long ago, as the noble Lord will remember, on the census, as I did on election registration. There is currently a review to produce a national address gazetteer, which will assist both electoral registration officers and the census process in providing information, so that a more positive approach can be taken to address the issue that the noble Lord has raised.
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: I do not think, with respect, that the Minister has precisely answered the question put by my noble friend Lady Trumpington. She asked whether it was right that a student should have two votes-one at home and one at the university-when he or she is likely to be at the university for only two or three years and is therefore electing someone who might well be in office for many years after they have left the university.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The opportunity for people with two residential qualifications to register is long-standing; it is part of the law of the land and would require amendment for it to be changed. It is not for me to pass comment on whether it is fair.
Lord Campbell-Savours: Does not the Government's decision to set their boundaries on the basis of the December 2010 register, which includes this flawed material on second homes and the registration of voters, further confirm how the data that are being used for boundary setting are just unacceptable and should not be used?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I wondered when that question would be posed, because it ties in with the debates that we are currently having on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill. The distortions that all databases have-the census is no exception, because it, too, has to be assessed in various areas because of low returns-are distortions to the electorate numbers and would affect electorates in university towns and coastal recreational areas in particular. I should emphasise, however, that residences that are used primarily for recreational purposes are not, in general terms, considered to be second residences and should not be registered.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, the noble Lord has properly reminded the House that it is illegal to vote twice in the same general election. Will he say, under the present arrangements, how it is possible to
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, the Government believe that design is an important tool for innovation and economic growth. The strategic use of design can be transformative for companies, for the commercialisation of science and for the delivery of public services. The Government will promote design through their continued support and funding for the Design Council and the delivery of its mission to place design at the heart of social and economic renewal in the UK.
Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that positive answer. Does she agree that there have been seminal reports from Sir James Dyson and Martin Temple explaining the importance of design to economic success, contributing, as it does, about £15 billion to GDP directly, quite apart from its wider impact? If she does agree, will she be a little more specific as to what the Government will do to ensure that the widest national expertise is brought to bear on giving design its proper place in strategies on innovation and growth?
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, the Government have welcomed the reports of both Sir James Dyson and Martin Temple, to which the noble Baroness referred, and the insight that they have given on the role of design in social and economic renewal. The Government are committed to continued funding and support for a restructured Design Council and we are working together to implement the recommendations of the Temple review. One of the recommendations was that the council should restructure to incorporate a broader cross-section of industry and society, with representation at both national and local level. This will ensure that the widest national design expertise can be utilised to contribute to our strategies for innovation and growth and to help to return the United Kingdom economy to strong, sustainable growth.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: The Minister will know that the Design Council has done good work and produced good results in the National Health Service in controlling infection and other improvements. Will she do her best to ensure that the council is not overlooked and that it will make a contribution to our reorganisation of the NHS?
Baroness Wilcox: I am delighted to answer that question from my noble friend. The Design Council has done some excellent work with the National Health Service and the Department of Health. The Design Bugs Out project demonstrated how the design of equipment can reduce hospital infections. These are wonderful ways of extending the use of the great talent that we have in this country for innovation in these areas. I am sure that other government departments will start to look at the sort of help that the Design Council could give them in saving money and promoting better practice.
Lord Bichard: As chairman of the Design Council, perhaps I should declare an interest. Does the Minister agree with me, as I think she might, that design is a powerful driver for economic recovery and for creating better public services at less cost? Will she ensure that her department takes the lead in developing a strategy across government for design? The lack of that at the moment suggests that design is not fully understood and is not given the priority that it deserves in all departments.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, I am aware that, as chairman of the Design Council, the noble Lord has a particular interest in this subject; if I remember correctly, he made it the centre-point of his maiden speech in your Lordships' House. The Government recognise the excellent work of the Design Council in promoting the use of design to create more efficient and effective public services. For example, Lewisham Council's homelessness service now costs £1.2 million less than in 2008 as a result of mentoring through the Design Council's Public Services by Design programme. There are other excellent public sector examples, such as in the NHS, as we have heard, and the Department of Health's collaboration with the Design Council. These programmes have helped to raise awareness of the value of design across government. I know that this is an absolute personal crusade for the noble Lord, Lord Bichard, and no doubt he will continue to ask me questions in this area until we have fulfilled his every want.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, the UK's internationally recognised strength in design was built on 150 years of investment in design education in some of the world's best colleges. The Government's HE funding system takes no account of the economic value of any subjects, apart from science, technology, engineering and maths. If design is mission-critical to UK plc, as the Minister suggests, will she say how much will be invested in English design education in the 2011-12 academic year and what policy guidance the Government will provide?
Baroness Wilcox: Future funding for all university courses will increasingly flow from graduate contributions. Our universities will be able to secure an equivalent flow of income and, if their course provision remains attractive to students, some may be able to attract more income. Universities must consider, therefore, how to structure and design their courses in ways that make them as attractive as possible to students. The students will be making the choices, so the more attractive the courses, the more students they will attract.
Baroness Wilcox: I think that the noble Baroness is referring to the work of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. We recognise that good design of living environments can greatly enhance the quality of life for inhabitants. Following the decision by DCMS to withdraw funding from CABE, we are actively considering future arrangements for delivering its functions. An announcement is imminent.
Lord Broers: Does the Minister agree that, in many areas, design and engineering are inseparable? It seems strange to me that they have been separated in terms of university funding. Will she ensure that design plays an integral part in the new technology innovation centres?
Lord Razzall: Perhaps I can slightly broaden the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Whitaker. Does the Minister accept that the creative industries, of which design is a significant aspect, will have to play a key part in the growth of the British economy? In the light of the GDP figures yesterday, does she not think that this is the moment for the Government to set out their plans to ensure that the creative industries provide a spur for growth in our economy?
Baroness Wilcox: Work on the creative industries is going on all the time, as my noble friend knows. He is right that the UK design sector has a worldwide reputation for creativity and innovation. Research indicates that £15 billion was spent on UK designs in 2009, so there is every reason for us to encourage every aspect of this that we can. I thank my noble friend for his question.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Freud): The Government recognise the need to help young people into work and the adverse effect of long-term unemployment. Personalised support for young people through Jobcentre Plus, coupled with the new work programme will enable young people over 18 make the transition into work. We will help young people to make an effective transition from learning to work,
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Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, given that these are the highest numbers of 16 to 24 year-olds recorded as unemployed since records began in 1992, does the noble Lord think that it is time for the Government to reconsider their decision to abolish the Future Jobs Fund, the guarantees on youth employment and the education maintenance allowance, as there is now a real danger of another lost generation? That concern is reinforced by the latest lack-of-growth forecasts, as I like to call them.
Lord Freud: My Lords, the figures for unemployment among young people aged 16 to 24 have risen with the recession and have been broadly flat from around the middle of 2009. They are still too high at 951,000 but they have been broadly flat in that period. However, I am worried about the number of NEETS in this country, which rose over the period of the previous Government by 250,000 to 1.4 million. That is a serious, long-term structural issue, and we have long-term structural plans to sort it out.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that despite the huge sums of money that were spent by the previous Government, he has inherited the worst legacy of youth unemployment that any Government have inherited in our recent history?
Lord Freud: My Lords, I confirm that I am very worried about the situation in respect of NEETs, which is underlying and structural, as I said. We have now transformed the programmes to do something about it. We are introducing the work programme in the middle of this year, and we are also transforming the nature of provision in Jobcentre Plus, making it far more flexible and designed to look after people as individuals rather than in broad groups based on their benefit, as has been the case.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, given the Minister's concentration on NEETs, which many of us would agree is entirely right, is there more that companies could do to encourage young people to come in part time but be trained at the same time? Can he say more about that?
Lord Freud: Yes, an effective strategy has to be built around employers, and we are doing quite a few things. The most important one was the introduction earlier this month of work experience. The idea is to give eight weeks' work experience to young people aged between 18 and 21 who are not in university, while they continue to collect benefit. We are also looking to introduce later this year the academy programme, which combines work experience with elements of training to introduce people to work.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, as a Minister, I introduced something very similar to those new work experience programmes. We should note that between 1997 and the beginning of the recession claimant youth unemployment fell by 40 per cent. We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Young, that unemployment for 18 to 24 year-olds increased from 17.7 per cent to
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Lord Freud: My Lords, I think that it is important that we do not get cheap on the movements: this is, as always, a very complicated set of movements. During the last month, for instance, the claimant count went down a little for the youngsters. It went up by 30,000 or so, but has been broadly flat since 2009. There will be reasons for the figure being up a bit, but I do not think that is the point. The point is that we have a serious underlying structural problem. We have about 600,000 youngsters who have not managed to get sustained employment after education. Within that figure, I do not have the exact number about whom we should be seriously worried. Of the 16 to 17 year-olds, it is about 50,000. These are youngsters who may never make the transition into proper economic activity. It is vital that we have structures to help them make that transition.
Lord German: My Lords, in the year 2009-10, there was a 99 per cent increase in the number of people who were taking the job seekers allowance for more than 24 months. Among that group, who are the hardest to get into work, there must be a significant number of young people without qualifications. What actions are the Minister and the Government taking to deal with many of these people who were parked by training providers because they were too difficult to deal with?
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement made earlier today in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department.
The review has taken place in the context of a threat from terrorism which is as serious as we have faced at any time. In dealing with that threat, it has been the consistent aim of this Government not only to protect the security of our citizens but also the freedoms of us all. We reviewed counterterrorism legislation because too much of it was excessive and unnecessary. At times it gave the impression of criminalising entire communities. Some measures, such as the extraordinary attempt to increase the period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects to 90 days, were rightly defeated in Parliament. Others, such as the most draconian aspects of control orders, were defeated in the courts. These measures undermined public confidence. So I am delighted that the Leader of the Opposition has made it clear that he will support me in preventing the excessive use of state power.
I make no apology for the time that this review has taken. It has rightly been deliberate and thorough to ensure that we safeguard both security and our freedoms. The review has taken account of all sides of the argument. It has received evidence from academic experts and civil society groups, from communities across the country and from the law enforcement and security agencies. I have, of course, consulted regularly with my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, has provided independent oversight of the process. He has had access to all relevant papers and has played an invaluable role in ensuring that all the evidence was given proper consideration. I should like to thank him for his contribution in ensuring that the recommendations of this review are not only fair but seen to be fair. I am laying the review, a summary of the public consultation, the equality impact assessment of these measures and Lord Macdonald's report in the House.
On pre-charge detention, the Government announced to the House last week that we would not renew the current legislation on extended pre-charge detention. This means that the sunset clause inserted by the previous Government has now brought the maximum period of pre-charge detention down to 14 days. The review sets out the detailed considerations leading to this conclusion.
The police, prosecutors and the Government are clear that the normal maximum period of pre-charge detention should be 14 days. However, we recognise that in exceptional circumstances this might need to be temporarily increased to 28 days. We will therefore draw up draft primary legislation to be introduced for parliamentary consideration only in such circumstances. We will therefore publish a draft Bill and propose that this be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. I should make clear to the House that until it is repealed by the Freedom Bill, Section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006 will remain on the statute book allowing the Government to increase the maximum period to 28 days in an emergency, subject to Parliament's agreement. There has therefore been no gap in our ability to seek Parliament's consent to increase the period of pre-charge detention should the need arise.
On the use of Section 44 stop-and-search powers, I have concluded that the current provisions, which were found unlawful by the European Court of Human
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We therefore propose to repeal Section 44 and to replace it with a tightly-defined power which would allow a senior police officer to make an authorisation of much more limited scope and duration for no-suspicion stop-and-search powers to prevent a terrorist attack where there is a specific threat. This targeted measure will also prevent the misuse of these powers against photographers, which I know was a significant concern with the previous regime.
On the regulation of investigatory powers, we will implement our commitment to prevent the use of these powers by local authorities unless for the purpose of preventing serious crime and unless authorised by a magistrate. In this context, surveillance-the most controversial power-will be authorised for offences which carry a custodial sentence of at least six months.
On the wider question of communications data-the who, when and where of a communication, but not the content-the Government intend to ensure that, as far as possible, it is only accessed through the revised Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. We will bring forward specific legislation to this effect in a future communications data Bill.
This Government are committed to tackling the promotion of division, hatred and violence in our society. We must expose and confront the bigoted ideology of the extremists and prosecute and punish those who step outside the law. The review considered whether counterterrorism legislation should be amended to tackle groups which are not currently caught by the law but which still aim to spread their divisive and abhorrent messages. After careful consideration, we have concluded that it would be disproportionate to widen counterterrorism legislation to deal with these groups, however distasteful we find their views. To do so would have serious consequences for the basic principles of freedom of expression. We therefore propose to use existing legislation, as well as tackling them through our wider work to counter extremism and promote integration and participation in society.
On the deportation of foreign nationals suspected or known to have been involved in terrorist activity, the review found no evidence that this policy was inconsistent with the UK's human rights obligations and found that it was legitimate and necessary to seek to extend the arrangements to more countries which would include independent verification. As the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, says, the Government's engagement with other countries on these issues is likely to have a positive effect on their human rights records.
Finally, on control orders the Government have concluded that, for the foreseeable future, there is likely to be a small number of people who pose a real threat to our security, but who cannot currently be successfully prosecuted or deported. I want to be clear that prosecution, conviction and imprisonment will always be our priority-the right place for a terrorist
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We are also clear that the current control order regime is imperfect and has not been as effective as it should be. We therefore propose to repeal control orders. Instead, we will introduce a new package of measures which is better focused and has more targeted restrictions, supported by significantly increased resources for surveillance and other investigative tools. Restrictions that have an impact on an individual's ability to lead a normal life should be the minimum necessary, should be proportionate and should be clearly justified. The legislation we will bring forward will make clearer what restrictions can and cannot be imposed. These will be similar to some of the existing powers used in the civil justice system; for example, to prevent sexual offences and domestic violence.
These terrorism prevention and investigation measures will have a two-year maximum time limit, which will clearly demonstrate that these are targeted, temporary measures and not to be used simply as a means of parking difficult cases indefinitely. The measures will have to meet the evidential test of reasonable belief that a person is, or has been, engaged in terrorism. This is higher than the test of reasonable suspicion under the current regime.
Curfews will be replaced by an overnight residence requirement. Forcible relocation will be ended and replaced with the power to order more tightly defined exclusions from particular areas, such as particular buildings or streets, but not entire boroughs. Individuals will have greater access to communications, including to a mobile phone and to a home computer with internet access, subject to certain conditions, such as providing passwords. They will have greater freedom to associate. They will be free to work and study, subject again to restrictions necessary to protect the public. We will add the crucial power to prevent foreign travel.
These measures will be imposed by the Home Secretary with prior permission from the High Court required except in the most urgent cases. The police will be under a strengthened legal duty to ensure that the person's conduct is kept under continual review with a view to bringing a prosecution and they will be required to inform the Home Secretary about the ongoing prospects for prosecution.
I have asked the incoming independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, David Anderson QC, to pay particular attention to these issues in his first report on the new regime and to make recommendations that he considers appropriate to ensure the new regime is working as intended. I am also today laying a Written Ministerial Statement outlining the next steps in the work to find a practical way to allow the use of intercept as evidence in court. We will repeal the current provisions which permit control orders with restrictions so severe that they would require the United Kingdom to derogate from the European Convention on Human Rights. I cannot imagine circumstances in which the Government would seek to introduce such draconian measures. So the review I am announcing
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All of these measures will be accompanied by a significant increase in resources for the police and security and intelligence agencies to improve their surveillance and investigative capabilities. This will underpin the effectiveness of the regime and support the gathering of evidence admissible in court which could lead to a successful prosecution.
We will bring forward legislation to introduce the new regime in the coming weeks. We want to give Parliament the opportunity properly to scrutinise our proposals. I am sure the whole House would agree that in the past too many laws in this area were rushed through without the opportunity for adequate debate and consideration. So while Parliament considers that legislation, we will renew the current regime to the end of the year. Many of the other measures I have outlined will be brought forward in the forthcoming Protection of Freedom Bill.
I should like to finish by thanking the police and the security services for the tremendous work they do to keep our country safe. The measures I have outlined today will help them to continue to ensure our safety and security at the same time as we restore our civil liberties. They are in keeping with British values and our commitment to freedom, fairness and the rule of law. They will restore public confidence in counterterrorism legislation and it is my hope that they will form the basis of an enduring political consensus. I commend this Statement to the House".
Recent events in Moscow have reminded us, if we needed reminding, of the devastating impact of terrorist attacks, and of the vital importance of the work that our police and security services undertake to protect us and the dangers they face in carrying out that work. We owe them an enormous debt of gratitude.
Although we want to support the Government on matters of national security wherever we can, as Her Majesty's loyal Opposition we also have a responsibility to scrutinise in detail the Government's proposals and the evidence on which they are based. We support many of the measures that the Government have announced
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The Government have decided to continue with the existing regime for proscribing groups that are engaged in terrorism, which seems appropriate. The Minister confirmed to the House the other day that decisions for proscribing groups would continue to be made on the basis of the facts and hard evidence available. Does this mean that the Prime Minister's commitment to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir, made prior to the election, presumably without knowing the facts, will be abandoned or is his decision now supported by the evidence?
While we will scrutinise the detail to ensure that councils can continue to take action on issues such as tackling underage sales of tobacco or alcohol, we agree that the use by local authorities of powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act should be restricted, as some of the uses to which those powers have been put have gone far beyond the intention of the original legislation.
We also support sensible changes to stop-and-search powers in order to prevent their misuse, and it would appear that the legislative changes proposed largely reflect the practical changes already introduced. However, in respect of Northern Ireland, stop-and-search powers have played an important role in preventing terrorist attacks. Are the Government completely confident that the police will still have all the powers they need in Northern Ireland under the new arrangements?
Turning to pre-charge detention, in the past three years no case has invoked pre-charge detention for more than 14 days, and if police and security evidence shows that we can reduce the maximum period for pre-charge detention from 28 days with sufficient safeguards then we should do so. However, the Government's review concludes:
"There could be circumstances in the future in which detention for longer than 14 days will be required. There may be rare cases where a longer period of detention may be required and those cases may have significant repercussions for national security".
It recommends an emergency option to return to 28 days if necessary. Where, then, is the emergency legislation to do this? The old powers lapsed on Monday and the emergency legislation is not, it seems ready. Why did the Government not wait until the emergency legislation was ready before letting the old powers lapse?
Last Monday, the Government said that they could extend detention through an order under Section 25 of the Terrorism Act, yet the Government's review appears to conclude that it would be very difficult to extend detention to 28 days in that way in response to, or during, a specific investigation, since time would be needed to get the necessary measures through Parliament. Again, recent events in Moscow have reminded us that this is an area where we cannot predict what may happen. What are the police and the Crown Prosecution Service meant to do if a difficult and dangerous case suddenly emerges now in the absence of the emergency provisions being in place? It appears as though the
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The proposals that the Government have set out today are not an alternative to control orders, but simply amendments to control orders. This is the view that appears to be held by Liberty, which has expressed its disappointment that control orders will continue in all but name. Many of the elements remain, including restrictions on movement, restrictions on communications, an overnight residence requirement in place of a curfew-it will look remarkably similar in practice-at the instigation of the Home Secretary and reviewed by the court. I shall say a little more about that later. The Deputy Prime Minister told the BBC that he had abolished control orders. The truth is that he has simply abolished the name.
First, the Government are introducing a two-year limit with a requirement for new evidence before a control order can be renewed. The last annual review of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on control orders said that:
"continue to present actual or potential and significant danger to national security and public safety. I agree with the assessment that the control order on each has substantially reduced the present danger that exceptionally they still present despite their having been subject to a control order for a significant period of time".
Those three individuals have been on control orders for more than two years, one of them for over four years. In the light of the proposed two-year limit, will they have their orders revoked? What measures will be put in place to keep the public safe from the threat that the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the police clearly believe those individuals pose?
Secondly, will the Minister tell us whether these changes will mean a reduction in the restrictions that the Government are currently imposing on the rest of the eight people on control orders at the moment, and what measures will be in place to protect public safety?
Thirdly, the Minister has made clear that she intends to rely more heavily on surveillance and less on measures under control orders. We support greater use of surveillance if it increases the chance of prosecution, but why do the Government believe that exchanging court scrutiny for that of the security services improves transparency and enhances civil liberties? I also note in the Minister's Statement in relation to these new measures on control orders that:
I am not clear exactly what that means. Have there been any discussions with the judiciary to see if they will take on what appears to be an extra burden, since they will have to give the Home Secretary prior permission?
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I mentioned the Statement's reference to greater surveillance, but there are issues about the extent of the resourcing of these increased surveillance operations. The Minister announced a significant increase in resources for the police and security services to cover this surveillance. The Daily Telegraph appears to know rather more, since today it said that MI5 would be given £20 million. Surveillance is extremely resource-intensive and expensive. Can the Minister confirm that this money, whether it be a significant increase in resources or the Daily Telegraph's £20 million, follows a £150 million cut in the counterterrorism budget and billions in cuts for the police? Can she assure the House that this will be extra money and will not be taken from the resources already needed elsewhere to fight existing threats to our security? Is she confident that the police and security services will have the resources that they need to keep Britain safe from terror?
This has been a delayed and confused review, riven by leaks, as today's further story in the Daily Telegraph only emphasises, and influenced by the need to resolve differences between the coalition parties. It is the security of our nation that should be paramount and it is against that test that we will judge the detail of the Government's proposals.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I will take the noble Lord's last point-that this is somehow delayed and confused-first. As I said the other day when we were talking about pre-charge detention, the review has undoubtedly taken us longer than we originally thought it would. That is because we have taken great care over it. We do not intend to present Parliament with a series of differing proposals, such as was presented to us by the Opposition when they were looking at the question of pre-charge detention, eventually falling back on something that they had certainly not proposed in the first instance. We have tried to do a thorough job so we are confident of the rightness of the proposals. It is right that a Government should consult inside in doing that. We know the consequences when Governments inside fail to consult each other. I make no apology for the time it has taken, or the care with which this review has been conducted.
The noble Lord raised a number of detailed points and I will try to answer them. I was asked whether we are confident of the powers remaining in relation to Northern Ireland. One of our main concerns was to ensure that this was not a GB policy, but a UK policy. On stop-and-search powers, we felt it particularly appropriate to take due account of the situation in Northern Ireland. The new power has been fashioned to enable us to maintain a high level of security throughout the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland.
The question of legislation for pre-charge detention was raised. Noble Lords will not find us dilatory in
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The question of the House being able to legislate applies also to the question of whether we might have to introduce control orders in extreme circumstances. It is notable that if there is a consensus Parliament can act extremely fast and both Houses can enact the necessary legislation within one day; that is why we want to try to establish one. I do not think that we will be faced with a situation where we are not able to take action if we need to in an extreme situation, which I imagine that all sides of the House would recognise as being so. Parliament will act to protect the people of this country.
On the three individuals who are still under control orders, I remind the House that the legislation does not cease to have effect until new legislation is passed. Clearly, for the rest of this year, broadly speaking, because we will renew for the end of the year until such time as the freedom Bill goes through, we will have the existing regime and review cases under that. As the House knows, each control order has to be reviewed on an annual basis.
On surveillance, the emphasis on the ability and the duty of the police to increase the likelihood of bringing a successful prosecution is an important feature of these new measures. We do not believe that they are merely a new brand of control order. If noble Lords take them in their total substance, they constitute a different regime with a different emphasis. Undoubtedly we need to continue to have legislation on the statute book that enables us to take measures to protect the public, but there is an important emphasis on two things. We need to balance that protection with the rights of those individuals, because it has been demonstrated through the courts that we need to respect those rights; and we must increase the chances of a successful prosecution. That was not the effect of the previous control order regime, which we intend to reform. These are not like regimes. I was asked whether there would be new money for the extra surveillance. I can confirm that there will be new money available during the CSR period.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I have two questions for the noble Baroness: one on control orders and one on 28 days, and that is all. I congratulate the coalition Government on getting rid of control orders at long last, if that is what they have done. We shall see
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Does the noble Baroness agree-I think she does from what she has said-that if credit is due to anyone in this whole unhappy affair, it is due not to us in Parliament, I am sorry to say, but to the judiciary? In particular, it is due to the judges sitting in the administrative court in keeping control orders within reasonable limits so far as they could and forcing the Government on so many occasions to think again.
On the 28 days, I opposed the increase from seven days to 14 days as long ago as 2003 when ACPO was asking for 14 days and got it. I opposed any increase in 2005 when ACPO asked for 28 days and got it. I opposed any increase in 2006 when it asked for, but happily did not get, 90 days. Has ACPO now accepted that it never needed 90 days or anything like it, despite the advice that it gave the Government at the time? Does ACPO accept that it was never, as it put it in 2007, "up against the buffers" with only 28 days? If so, how much faith can we put in the advice of ACPO in these affairs?
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, one reason why the Government were determined to deal with control orders before they even came into office was precisely because of our perception that they were damaging to community relations. In the evidence and the responses to questionnaires and surveys, stop and search comes up quite as often as a source of grievance, if not more so, than control orders, but the Government accept that they were harmful. The Government respect the role of the judiciary, which is one reason why we are bringing this regime into line with what we believe is legally acceptable.
On the question of the number of days needed to bring a successful prosecution, I have not asked ACPO the specific question posed by the noble and learned Lord. However, like the rest of us, ACPO has learnt from experience about the time needed in practice to bring successful charges, and made it absolutely clear to the Home Secretary-as indeed have the intelligence and security services-that it is content with the proposals.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I am happy to give a general welcome to the Statement. In confirming that this is not a mere rebranding of control orders, will the noble Baroness point to requiring the permission of the High Court, which seems to take us into a completely different legal structure? I suspect that many of us will wish to explore the evidential test that she mentioned and whether we can move towards a criminal test beyond reasonable doubt. Will she and her officials continue to work actively on that? Secondly, does she agree that arrangements that enable a person subject to the measure to work or study are very significant indeed? That control was extremely offensive.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I am sure that the last point would be very widely accepted. It does not particularly
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On the question of whether we are rebranding, I hope I made it quite clear to your Lordships that this is not a rebranding exercise. There are significant differences in the measures that we are putting into place. They have a purpose that includes the need to continue at all times to open up the maximum opportunity for actual prosecution. One of the chief complaints about the previous regime, in our view, was how it made that extraordinarily difficult.
As the noble Baroness will be aware, we have raised the test to reasonable belief. We want to work in co-operation with the High Court. One thing that has clearly been learnt through experience is that to get into a situation in which any measures that we put in place are subsequently demonstrated in the High Court or in a court to be unacceptable does not add to their credibility. We want to get into a situation in which there is a clear understanding. We believe that it is necessary for the Home Secretary to be able to act in emergencies without seeking prior agreement with the High Court because, as I am sure noble Lords can imagine, in practical circumstances there may be a great need to do something extremely fast.
Lord West of Spithead: That is me. Thank you very much indeed. I congratulate the noble Baroness and the coalition on actually having a review, because that is needed. Indeed, we need to have one constantly. No one was ever happy with control orders; they needed to be looked at. I am also delighted that it has seen that they were necessary for the very small number of people who were a threat to this nation. To try and pretend that they are not now control orders is pushing things a little. I would be interested to know what these new restrictions will be called. My advice would be not to call them anything, or else they will become another shy that people will throw things at.
I am also very concerned about resource. A very limited resource is available, both in manpower and in money. We know that there are real problems with money across all areas of government and I am concerned about the full amount of resource that will be required. Also, if we go for these slightly lesser periods of people being in their homes and so on, we will go back to the period before I became a Minister when people actually absconded. Will the Minister reassure us that she is absolutely certain that that will not become a
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I say to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, that there is no doubt whatever that many other countries use other mechanisms to stop very dangerous people from being on their streets, some of which would be quite abhorrent in this country, so I do not think that we need to feel ashamed. I also thank the coalition for reassuring me; I began to feel that I might have been authoritarian and trying to have a police state. The people who were formerly Lib Dems certainly made me feel that. Now, I am delighted that the coalition clearly understands how important these security issues are and, as I say, I congratulate it on keeping measures in place for that tiny number of people who wish to do us harm.
Baroness Neville-Jones: I thank the noble Lord for the generosity of those sentiments. As I say, they are not going to be orders. I cannot emphasise too much that the total package really is different from the control order regime. These measures will be called terrorist prevention and investigation measures-note the insertion of "investigation"; it is part of their purpose.
The noble Lord is quite right to stress that resources need to be taken seriously. We do so, and, clearly, while control orders are still in place, it will be important that resources are made available such that one can increase the capacity and capability of those involved. I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not go into more detail, but we are mindful of the need to make a reality of the extra mitigations that we are putting in place.
Lord Howard of Lympne: My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend and, through her, the Home Secretary on striking the right balance in this very difficult area between the need to protect the public and the need to safeguard personal and individual liberty. May I ask about the emergency legislation to extend the period of pre-charge detention? Given what my noble friend has said about the Government's ability to put that in place very quickly, do they intend this emergency power to be available not simply in a general period or emergency but for an individual suspect under detention, in respect of whom the police, and perhaps a magistrate or a judge, are convinced that a longer period of detention is necessary?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I thank my noble friend for his kind remarks, which I will pass on to the Home Secretary. On the question of emergency legislation, the intention is really to cover an emergency. I suppose that I can imagine-this is hypothetical territory-two
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Lord Blair of Boughton: Thank you, my Lords. I need to declare an interest in that I was a former member of ACPO and of the police service in the metropolis. I thank the noble Baroness for the Statement. I merely carry on from the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Howard, which is: how can Parliament legislate on the back of a police and Security Service operation? One reason why ACPO brought up the question of the length of detention in a period when we had no atrocity immediately before us was so that Parliament could debate it in an open atmosphere. I do not suggest that it cannot be done, but an enormous amount of thought has to be given to how both Houses of Parliament could decide that the situation had reached the point at which emergency legislation had to be brought in, particularly if it was not after an atrocity but merely because of a series of desperately significant operations going on. I do not understand how this House or the other place could debate that in the open.
Baroness Neville-Jones: The noble Lord raises a perfectly fair question. The choices that we have made are not easy. In fact, I suggest to the House that there is no ideal solution here. Why have we gone for this method? I remind the noble Lord that we are not just going to place something in the Library or, indeed, suddenly bring the matter to the House without having gone through an important part of the process-pre-legislative scrutiny with the House-so that some of the conditions that would be needed to build consensus so that we could act rapidly and in agreement in an emergency were actually understood between us and in place. That process will be important in building the underlying consensus on which legislation can be passed in an emergency of that kind.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven: My Lords, I declare an interest as the independent overseer of the counterterrorism and security powers review. Would the Minister agree that the review has made good progress in meeting its objectives of recommendations that, if implemented, would roll back state power consistent with public safety, and that on stop and search, surveillance powers, pre-charge detention, the removal of relocation and curfews, and house arrest powers, important reforms are signalled?
Would she also acknowledge that more work needs to be done on the precise circumstances in which restrictions may be placed on those who are not charged, prosecuted or convicted of crime, and that some quite tough decisions will have to be made before legislation is brought before this House?
Finally, will she indicate whether the Government will consider the proposal in my report that any regime of restrictions should be much more closely linked to a continuing criminal investigation so that the primacy of prosecution is protected and that prosecution is the prime aim of public policy in this area?
Baroness Neville-Jones: I take this opportunity to reiterate my thanks to the noble Lord for his contribution, which is very significant to the work of the review. He makes some important points and has outlined more eloquently than I have the effect of reducing the measures in relation to individuals that constitute a new balance between public protection and the rights of the individual. We believe, however, as the noble Lord acknowledges himself, that it remains necessary that measures of this kind are available in the interest of public protection. He is right that there is more work to be done on some of the detail, and as we work through the legislation and subsequently its implementation, I am sure that more detail will come into effect.
On the question of the regime of restrictions and the need for a closer link to criminal investigation, the Government share the view that it is important to increase the possibility within this regime of bringing successful prosecution. We are mindful of that being the proper goal. As the Home Secretary said in her Statement, terrorists should be behind bars in a prison cell. At the same time we draw back from the notion that one would not be able to introduce a measure of this kind in the absence of a close link to and a realistic prospect of being able to introduce a prosecution. We do not wish, therefore, to claim that we can do that, given that it might not be an honest claim. What I can say on the part of the Government is that we will try very hard to ensure that the maximum possibility for bringing prosecution in any given instance is a clear objective.
Secondly, she mentioned intercept evidence. The previous Government were looking at it and her Government have been looking at it. When are some positive proposals likely to come forward, because if we can accept the use of intercept evidence, some of the other measures will not be necessary?
Baroness Neville-Jones: On the noble Lord's first point, that is certainly the case with the legislation relating to the possibility of having to revert to a longer period than 14 days. We are not going to introduce the legislation relating to control orders. We are, however, going to discuss it with the Opposition on Privy Council terms.
On the question of intercept as evidence, I am a proponent of being able to introduce intercept as evidence. Serious work is still going on on it. The issue is not entirely without complexity, but we take it seriously and we share the previous Government's view that it will be highly desirable to be able to introduce intercept as evidence in such cases.
(a) no less than 95% of the Welsh electoral quota; and
(b) no more than 105% of that quota;
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I am pleased to be opening this debate on Wales so that we can air some issues that concern many of us. But at the same time I am saddened because none of these amendments was debated in the other place because of the use of a guillotine, which shows the importance of the scrutiny that your Lordships' House is able to afford at this time.
Wales, more than any other part of the United Kingdom, will be adversely affected as a result of this Bill. Wales has just 5 per cent of the United Kingdom's population but in this Bill Wales will lose 10 parliamentary constituencies. That equates to 20 per cent of the total reduction in the number of constituencies the Government are seeking across the whole United Kingdom. The Bill will see the number of MPs Wales sends to the Parliament of the United Kingdom reduced by one in four. That is 25 per cent compared with around 7 per cent for the rest of the country. That means fewer MPs than after the great reforms of 1832 when the population of Wales could be counted in thousands.
We are a small nation within a large country but our contribution to our democratic parliamentary life has been far greater than many would think possible for a country of around 3 million people. Sons of
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More than 700 years ago, with a population that counted in thousands, 24 Welsh MPs were summoned to Parliament. In those seven centuries, as the population has grown to 3 million, that number has increased to just 40. Parliament in its wisdom passed the Parliamentary Constituencies Act 1986 and in Schedule 2 it states:
That, I would argue, gives a valid and sound basis for the amendment we have before us. It was based on the unanimous conclusions of the 1944 Speaker's Conference and that 1986 Act went through Parliament without a Division. In fact, it was supported by all parties. If anything could be said to have support on all sides of the political spectrum it was that Act. Contrast that with the present Bill which was not the subject of a Green Paper, a White Paper or any pre-legislative scrutiny and certainly cannot be said to have widespread parliamentary support. I further believe that, by guaranteeing that Wales should have a minimum of 35 Members of Parliament, recognition was given to the need to make special provision for the small nations in our United Kingdom. With only 5 per cent of the UK population, Wales needs this sort of provision if we are to play our full role in the multinational British state.
Many people fear that reducing Welsh representation in the other place by 25 per cent when many aspects of Welsh life, including the ability of the Welsh Assembly to do its job, depend on the Government and Parliament in Westminster, would fuel a further interest in separatism. I raised the matter at Second Reading when I warned that this could be a threat to our union. When the people of Wales voted by a very small margin in 1997 for devolution and the creation of a Welsh Assembly, it was on the clear understanding that this would have no effect on Welsh representation in the British Parliament. I can, albeit reluctantly, accept that that now could be interpreted in terms of the minimum 35 seats in the UK Parliament, which this amendment seeks to achieve. Based on the many comments that I have received from noble Lords on all sides, I cannot accept that the protection afforded to Wales of a minimum of 35 seats should be removed.
Even after the establishment of a Welsh Assembly, huge areas of Welsh life continue to be determined by decisions of the Government and Parliament in Westminster: everything from pensions, benefits, criminal
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The situation in the United Kingdom, with devolved Administrations in the various nations, is not uncommon around the world. It is common for countries which have a mixture of central and devolved government to exercise positive discrimination in their constitutions to safeguard the smaller, devolved areas. In that way, the strength of the union is made secure. In the United States, California, with 37 million people, sends two senators to Washington-as does Wyoming, with a population of 544,000. Again, it is important for their union. The smallest state in Germany, Bremen, with a population of 220,000, sends three members to the German Bundesrat, while the largest state, North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of 3 million, sends six. Again, it is important for their union that the smaller regions and nations are protected. Nor should we forget who helped the Germans to devise their constitution after the last war. Representation in the Spanish senate is weighted towards the smaller regions. That also happens in Australia. This is all done because of the need for a strong, central, good union.
Noble Lords on the Conservative Benches should wake up to the threat to our union posed by a 25 per cent reduction in the number of Members of Parliament that Wales sends here. The Conservative Party rightly and for a long time prided itself on being called the Conservative and Unionist Party. Regardless of our political differences-they will always remain, which is good and healthy for our democracy-we should make common cause to defend our union. Noble Lords on the Liberal Democrat Benches, the heirs to Lloyd George, know in their hearts that it is not right to remove 25 per cent of Welsh Members from the House of Commons, with Wales bearing 20 per cent of the total reduction in the number of MPs for the whole United Kingdom. A week ago last Monday was the anniversary of the birth of Lloyd George. He loved Wales, her people and her language, and he would never have done anything to diminish her role in the United Kingdom.
The Government have made a case for special treatment for two parliamentary seats in Scotland, which will not be required to meet their ambition for seats of equal size. Your Lordships' House has done the same for the Isle of Wight. Why, therefore, will the Government not consider that there is a case for special consideration for Wales? The Bill proposes that Wales should lose the largest number of MPs in percentage terms of any part of the United Kingdom: 20 per cent of the reduction for the entire country will come from Wales. In the interests of fairness, that cannot be right.
There is another important aspect of Wales that merits special consideration: the Welsh language. In five parliamentary constituencies-Ynys Môn, Arfon, Dwyfor Meirionnydd, Ceredigion and Carmarthen East and Dinefwr-Welsh is the first language of a majority of voters. Mr Lewis Baston, a senior research
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Wales is the only part of the United Kingdom where some 20 per cent of the population speak two languages, Welsh and English. Surely that merits special consideration. If special consideration can be given to preserving two parliamentary constituencies in Scotland because of geographical, historical and community factors, surely Wales can be given special consideration. The same historical and community factors exist in Wales, on top of which there is the unique factor of the Welsh language, which is the first language for a majority of people in five parliamentary constituencies. Have the Government given any consideration to the fact that Wales is the only part of the United Kingdom where a second language is spoken by 20 per cent of the population? What thought has been given to ensuring that the sparsely populated areas of Wales are properly represented in Parliament?
We had a very good debate the other evening about Brecon and Radnor. As many noble Lords will know, this constituency in eastern Wales runs along the border with England. The northernmost tip of that constituency is closer to the north Wales coast than it is to the southernmost tip of the constituency, and the southernmost tip of the constituency is closer to the south Wales coast than it is to the northernmost tip of the constituency. It is a huge area. It is conceivable, if the Bill is not altered, that there could be just two Members of Parliament representing an area from the Welsh/English border in the east to Cardigan Bay in the west: two Members from the Heads of the Valley Road in the south to the borders of Wrexham and the A55 in the north. At a stroke, the long-established community links between MPs and constituents would be lost. Rural MPs in Wales would have to travel great distances to see their constituents, and they would have to travel great distances to see them.
"This piece of legislation says that you should look at representation from the viewpoint of the Member of Parliament and the number of constituents that he has. No, my Lords: you should look at it from the other end of the telescope-from the end of the ordinary constituent, who asks himself, 'How accessible is my Member of Parliament to me?'. If you ask that question, you are likely to get a more reasonable and just result".-[Official Report, 24/1/11; col. 800.]
I will take a step further the argument for the need to preserve community-based representation in Parliament. Has any consideration been given to sustaining the distinctive community-based representation of the south Wales valleys? The noble Lords, Lord Fowler and Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, made powerful arguments the other evening in favour of sustaining the close link
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"This is not just a numbers game. If we end up making it a numbers game, we may very well find that respect, support and influence that Parliament is able to bring to bear through its Members in their constituencies are greatly diminished at a time when we need to strengthen Parliament".-[Official Report, 19/1/11; col. 413.]
The Electoral Reform Society carried out an exercise redrawing the electoral map of Wales and reducing it to 30 parliamentary constituencies. In the case of my former constituency of Islwyn, it would put the community of Abercarn in the new constituency of Caerphilly. They are separated by two mountain chains and three rivers. It would put to the community of Cefn Fforest in the new constituency of Merthyr Tydfil, when it is not even in the same county. I give the same illustration that I gave the other night. Think of the South Wales Valleys as being like a hand. The valleys are the fingers, the palms are the cities of Newport, Cardiff and Swansea. There is movement from valleys to city for jobs, shopping and entertainment. The transport links, rail and road, are from valleys to city. There is very little cross-valley movement. I hope that the Government will bear that in mind when the Minister comes to reply.
The amendment in my name and that of my noble and learned friend Lord Morris of Aberavon, my noble friend Lord Howarth of Newport, and the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, and supported by many others-the noble Baroness, Lady Kingsmill, and my noble friend Lord Anderson of Swansea cannot be here today-would ensure that Wales had a minimum of 35 seats in Parliament.
On the day of Second Reading, the noble Lord, Lord McNally-like many others, I wish him well and look forward to seeing him back at that Dispatch Box and giving us all a bit of a ticking off and amusement as soon as possible-spoke on radio about fairness in relation to this debate. I fear that, throughout this debate, the Government and their supporters believe that fairness in representation in Parliament can be achieved only by constituencies of equal size. Why is that the only definition of fairness that they are prepared to admit to? I said on Second Reading that the Union of the four nations of these islands, which has united us as one country for centuries, recognises that fairness means allowing the smaller nations to have a greater representation in Parliament than their population might justify. That sense of fairness and understanding is the glue that has held our Union together for these past centuries. The amendment ensuring that Wales has 35 seats in the Commons will go a long way to protecting that Union.
Amendment 89BC would ensure that no English region, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would suffer a reduction in the number of seats of more than 10 per cent at any one review. None of us knows what will be the effect of individual registration. Many would argue that the heavily populated inner cities,
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The final amendment, Amendment 102AA, would ensure that there could be no change to Welsh parliamentary constituencies unless the referendum results in March say yes to additional powers for the Assembly and those powers are actually passed to the Assembly.
I hope that I have been able to convey to your Lordships the very real anxiety that many of us have about the impact of the Bill in Wales. I am sure that other noble Lords will now have their say, and I look forward to hearing them with interest. I especially look forward with interest to the reply of the Minister. I hope that he will at least agree that a fair case has been made to cause the Government to reflect and reconsider these issues concerning Wales. Based on his reply, I must consider whether or not I should seek leave to divide your Lordships' House. Let me say now that I hope that when he replies, the Minister will give me every reason not to do so.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, it is many years since I represented North Wales at cricket, but I assure the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, that I shall follow these discussions with considerable interest. I hope that he will allow me to make one brief intervention, which relates to Clause 11 as a whole. Thereafter, of course, the tour of Wales will continue. I have today tabled an amendment, to which we shall come eventually, but not immediately, which would defer the coming into force of Clause 11 until the end of the work of the Boundary Commission on the constituencies-that is, until the reports are laid before Parliament, the Secretary of State proposes to appoint a date and there are affirmative resolutions of both Houses.
I intervene briefly now to avoid any misunderstanding, thats if the coming into force of Clause 11 is deferred, we do not need to amend the clause now. I have tabled my amendment in the hope that it may contribute to an agreement that the Bill should pass, with a view to the referendum on the alternative vote on 5 May. In my view, it remains very important that we should try to get the Bill right. Obviously, there are the key questions of 5 per cent and the excluded constituencies. Before long, we shall come to the question of public inquiries. Today we have the question of the Welsh constituencies. I emphasise that I believe that all these amendments should be properly considered. If we can reach agreement, that is good. That is not inconsistent with my amendment, which would defer the coming into force of Clause 11 if the Bill is passed.
Lord Howarth of Newport: I thank my noble friend Lord Touhig for laying out the case on behalf of Wales so impressively. These three amendments, to which I have added my name, together form a coherent whole. There is the amendment that states that the number of parliamentary constituencies in Wales should not be reduced below 35; there is the amendment that states that there should be no reduction of more than 10 per cent in the number of Welsh parliamentary seats at one boundary review; and there is the amendment
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This is an important debate. It is a debate that we have to have, not least because in another place, there was no debate specifically on the measures in the Bill which would have such an enormous impact on Wales. In Committee in the other place, when amendments dealing with the situation in Wales would have been reached, I understand that some 30 Members of Parliament stood to catch the eye of the Chair, but the guillotine came down and that debate did not take place. That timetable Motion was not a proper way to treat the House of Commons, least of all when dealing with major constitutional legislation. As a consequence of that, aside from other considerations, it is our responsibility in this House to scrutinise the measure as it would affect Wales and discuss our amendments.
The Government are proposing an extreme and rapid reduction in parliamentary representation for Wales. Wales, which has only 5 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom, would, under the Government's proposals, suffer 20 per cent of the reduction in the number of parliamentary seats for the country as a whole. Wales would lose 25 per cent of its existing seats. By comparison, Northern Ireland would lose 17 per cent of its seats; Scotland 9 per cent; and England only 5.5 per cent. Of course, it is in England that Conservative electoral strength is most concentrated. Whether or not it is the Government's intention to rig the parliamentary system in support of the Conservative Party, I must tell them that there is a real perception in Wales that that is what it is about.
The noble and learned Lord the Minister may contend that, as things are, Wales is overrepresented in the House of Commons. I recognise that, by reference to the principle of numerical equality between constituencies, that is indeed the case. But, as we have frequently contended in the debates on this legislation, there are other factors that it is proper to take into account. Wales is a nation. It was joined with England in 1536, but over the centuries it has had its own history and, as my noble friend emphasised, its own language. Until now, the Parliament of the United Kingdom has recognised that and has accepted that proportionally Wales should have more seats in the House of Commons than the numbers in its population alone would imply.
There are very good reasons for that. Aside from the reality of Welsh nationhood, there is also the geography of Wales which, as the House is aware, is singularly intractable when it comes to trying to achieve numerical equality between constituencies. There are very large rural areas that are very thinly populated. We have spoken about the constituency of Brecon and Radnorshire in our debates. It is 80 miles from north to south and 40 miles from east to west. It is a huge constituency geographically. If the Government's proposals were to be implemented in their undiluted form, we would have a constituency that might stretch from Crickhowell in the south to Wrexham in the north. It would be an impossible constituency for a Member of Parliament to represent satisfactorily.
RS Thomas wrote some lines about a Welsh farmer penning his sheep in a gap of cloud on the bald Welsh hills. It is that kind of constituency. It is very difficult to traverse the length and breadth of it, and I wonder how the Member of Parliament, even so excellent a Member of Parliament as Mr Roger Williams, would be able to do justice to the work that needs to be done in the constituency on behalf of his constituents and also to his responsibilities here at Westminster. In the south, there are the valleys, the deep valleys, each of which contains its own very distinct community. Let me again say to the House that the Reform Act 1832, which the Deputy Prime Minister cites as his inspiration, introduced into our system of parliamentary representation the principle that Members of Parliament should represent communities and interests. That way, the people of this country would know that they were represented in the House of Commons and Members of the House of Commons would know what the responsibilities of their colleagues were in terms of representing their communities. It is not wise to ask Members of Parliament to attempt to represent at one and the same time very different communities separated by geographical realities that you cannot simply or sensibly ignore.
It may also be argued by the Government that this wholesale reduction in Welsh representation in the House of Commons is the more justified because Wales has its own Assembly which exercises devolved powers of government. I must remind the House that the powers the Assembly exercises at present are powers of secondary legislation and, as my noble friend Lord Touhig explained to the House, great swathes of the policy that determines how life in Wales is to be led emanate from central government. In macroeconomic policy, Wales receives a block grant that is transferred from London to Cardiff. It is an essential responsibility of Members of Parliament representing Welsh constituencies to consider that block grant and make representations on behalf of their constituents as to its implications. Benefits policy, pensions policy, police, immigration, criminal justice, broadcasting, defence and foreign policy are not devolved responsibilities. The people of Wales accept the policy made on their behalf by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and, correspondingly, they need to have representation that enables their interests to be articulated and allows them to make their contribution to our debates. The Welsh nation has a right to see its interests protected through adequate representation in the House of Commons.
It is the practice across the world where you have decentralised government or devolved government for small states or small nations to be allowed a somewhat disproportionate representation in the central government. That occurs in the United States of America, Spain and Germany. In the case of Wales, where there is so much dependence on the public sector for employment, it is particularly important that the representation of the people of Wales in the House of Commons should not be abruptly and drastically reduced. We are entering exceedingly difficult times. We saw figures yesterday that showed the gross domestic product of the United
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My noble friend spoke of the contribution that great Welsh parliamentarians have made to our Parliament of the United Kingdom. He spoke of Lloyd George, Aneurin Bevan, James Callaghan and Michael Foot, and I would add the name of my noble friend Lord Kinnock. I also respect very much the contribution that distinguished Conservative Ministers, such as the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Roberts of Conwy, have made, and they take their place in that pantheon. I do not think it is in the interests of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that the contribution of Welsh parliamentarians should be so reduced.
It is not wise, probably in any circumstances and certainly not when you are trying to reform the constitution, to impose a one-size-fits-all solution. I put it to noble Lords opposite and appeal to them not to apply the full rigour of the numerical formula to Wales. Government by formula, almost by definition, must be insensitive and is liable to produce inappropriate and unhappy consequences. Whatever reduction in parliamentary representation for Wales the Government intend, they should proceed more gradually than they have proposed. In their response to the fourth report of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee in another place, the Government said that,
Why this rush to constitutional reform? Surely the appropriate approach to constitutional reform is through sustained debate, gradual advance, the negotiation of compromise and the construction of consensus. That is the spirit of these amendments.
I say to noble Lords opposite, please do not break faith with the people of Wales. When they were offered devolution in 1997 and voted for it, it was on the understanding that there would be a continuation of the same representation in Parliament. I am prepared to accept that it is reasonable to review the representation of Wales in Parliament as and when the devolution settlement is significantly altered. That may occur this year. There will be a vote of the Welsh people in a referendum which will ask them whether they wish to see primary legislative powers transferred to Cardiff in those areas that are already devolved. The scope of devolution would not otherwise be widened. If the people of Wales, knowing that the implication of a yes vote in the referendum would be that their representation in the Westminster Parliament would be reduced none the less decide that that is what they want, then, and at that point only, it would be reasonable for a change to be made in the number of Welsh seats.
The manuscript amendment tabled today by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, is significant, and I am grateful to him for drawing it to our attention early in this debate. I agree with him absolutely that it is more important to get the Bill right than to rush these proceedings and the implementation of any measures. If in 2015 the dates of a general election and elections to the Welsh Assembly coincide, it is possible that there will simultaneously be two sets of elections on two sets of boundaries with two different voting systems and, in many parts of Wales, two languages. This is a recipe for confusion if not chaos.
When the Government replied to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, which raised many of the same objections of principle to this legislation as we have in your Lordships' House, the Government, in reference to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill and the Fixed-term Parliaments Bill, said:
"The Government believes that these two pieces of legislation will be the foundation on which we can rebuild public confidence in our political system ... This demonstrates the practical benefits of the Government's Respect agenda".
Rebuild confidence in the political system? Respect? This Bill as we have it shows disregard for Wales as a nation; it shows contempt for the people of Wales as citizens of our democracy; and it shows a reckless willingness to alienate the people of Wales from the union.
Lord Morris of Aberavon: My Lords, save for a short intervention of about one minute, I have not so far taken part in debates on this Bill. My short intervention was on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord McNally-whom I wish well-when, in a fragile mood in the early hours of the morning, he reminded the Committee that the other place had lost its freedom of unlimited debate at the time of the Fenians in the 19th century. Whether the purpose of his remarks was a gentle hint, a threat-which was denied-or just a Freudian slip, I know not, but I was not surprised when, in a very short time, government supporters trooped into the Lobbies, in a very illiberal step, to force a closure not once but twice on the debate. Was that a sheer coincidence of comment and action, or was it something else?
I shall be very brief and I shall not go into the detail of the admirable speech of my noble friend Lord Touhig, who has broadened the canvas and dealt with most of the points. However, I shall return to his main issue: our proposal that the number of parliamentary seats should be 35, rather than the 25 per cent reduction from 40 to 30 as proposed by the Government.
The figure of 35 has a long, almost entrenched history. In 1918, the number of seats in Wales was 36; in 1954, it was not less than 35. The figure remained at 36 through each review until it reached 39 in 1986, as recommended by the Boundary Commission in order to take account of geographical considerations in the county of Gwynedd. The fifth periodical review, operating under the same rules, determined that the number of seats should not be less than 35 and, in fact, it allocated 40.
I have been in politics more than 50 years, I have to confess-I have been in Parliament for more than that period. I had it always in mind that the figure of 35 is, somehow or other, entrenched so far as political
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We need within that very small number of 35 Members of Parliament of all political persuasions from north Wales, mid-Wales and south Wales to articulate the needs of Wales. Its distinctiveness as a nation is exemplified in one way-it may be a small way, but it is important-by the fact that no one in his senses would dream of chopping off bits of either Wales or England and adding it to the other. Why? Because England is a nation and Wales is a nation, and you would not go over the boundary of either country to make a brand new seat which straddled the two countries. Our basic case is that our need as a nation for strong representation at Westminster has in the past been recognised. If there is concern about the Tamar, the Tyne and the Isle of Wight-I have heard the debates about them-how much more concern there is when a nation is concerned. We are dealing not with counties in England but with the nation of Wales, hence our need for our traditional representation.
I understand the case for arithmetic equality across the whole country, but it is a fact that, in the past, Boundary Commissions have been allowed-indeed encouraged-by Parliament to take into account a whole host of other factors. Arithmetic equality is not the beginning and the end and it has never been thus. If it were, we could draw straight lines and squares across the whole of the United Kingdom. Allowing for the coast, we could parcel England and Wales into neat little squares. That is what relying solely on arithmetic equality would result in. Indeed, we would be behaving like our colonialist forefathers in Africa, drawing straight lines and creating new countries regardless of tribes one way or the other. It was my privilege as a young Minister as long ago as the early 1960s to help draw up plans for sharing the wealth of the North Sea. Well, that was very easy to do by drawing squares, because it was only water that stopped you from extending the square one way or the other, but you cannot do it when countries are involved and without having regard to strong community ties.
In the past, valleys and large areas such as Brecon and Radnor and Gwynedd have had to be taken into account by Boundary Commissions. People in the valleys do not often cross from one valley to another-I can count almost on the fingers of one hand how much I went over from my valley, the Afan valley, into other adjacent valleys. Some people did-there was some community of interest-but, generally, people went up and down, and the community of interest was north and south. The imagination boggles at the thought of trying to create maps in the north of Glamorgan and the north of Gwent to meet the needs of those different communities and of the poor, eventual, long- suffering Member of Parliament having to attend to those needs time and again.
I have seen this happening. I have appeared professionally before Boundary Commissions, and generally they do their work well. It is the assistant commissioner, usually a Queen's Counsel, who sits. Arguments are heard. They are very short-three or four days at the outside, in most cases. Communities can express their interests, and political parties can appear and put their interests. Everyone feels at the end of the day that they have had their day in court. Anything that constrains, limits or diminishes the discretion of a Boundary Commission is bad news.
My worst experience was appearing professionally for the city and county of Cardiff, when there were four seats to be distributed. An inquiry was necessary, although the two main parties-the Conservatives and Labour-had agreed. Unfortunately there was a split in the Conservative Party and therefore there had to be a public inquiry. The local Member of Parliament was a witness; he happened to be Mr Callaghan. It was my big moment to call this star witness and I had the proof of his evidence before me. Unfortunately, I relied on that proof too much. I asked, "Is your full name James Callaghan?", and he said, "No, Mr Morris. It is Leonard James Callaghan". It was the worst moment for me of that inquiry. I should have known better, having seen those magic initials, LJC, on so many documents.
The question for the House is how to achieve fairness with the least turmoil. Do we want candidates to be constantly reselected because of redistribution? A constituency that has had a Member of Parliament of either party knows whom to look to. It is a strain on that relationship if they have to change time after time, not for political reasons but because of the arithmetic which the legislation has determined. Such regularity of changes is not good, and I speak as a former Member of Parliament of more than 40 years' standing. It was that internal relationship which I valued very much. I saw young, rebellious men and women growing up to be mature leaders in their communities and to see their children doing the same. It would be a tragic loss if there were this unnecessary change because we were acting far too quickly.
If there is to be a change and if there has to be more arithmetical fairness, let it be as limited and as infrequent as possible in order to retain that sense of community which constituencies, local authorities, local political associations and political representatives have, whether there is a change in that representation or not. They have acquired this long relationship with their communities over the years.
I will close with one very real illustration. For 23 years, I represented the constituency of Aberavon, but because of the change in the county boundaries, it became necessary to detach three of my eastern wards and give me instead a couple of wards from the neighbouring constituency of Neath. There has always been long and intense rivalry on the rugby field between Aberavon and Neath. There I was, in my new ward, canvassing in what I regarded as a 90 per cent safe area, when someone came up to me and said, "I can't vote for you, Mr Morris". "Why?" I asked. "Well, I've got my little boy here, and when he grows up I don't
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Lord Harries of Pentregarth: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord has made some very helpful points about Wales as a whole and about the valleys, the language and a certain number of counties. In view of his familiarity with west Wales, in particular Ceredigion, perhaps he could help the House by saying something about the special needs for representation in those areas.
Lord Morris of Aberavon: I do not want to detain the House. I have made the point that there is a long association between a Member of Parliament and a constituency. If anyone knows anything about west Wales, and I venture to suggest that I do, other Members of this House also do; I see the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, nodding.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, we have had an excellent debate already, and nearly all the salient points in favour of these amendments have been made with great force and eloquence by earlier speakers. I endorse, adopt and applaud everything that has been said. I am deeply flattered by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, quoting from an intervention of mine. Was it some days or weeks ago? I am not sure; time now seems to have lost its significance. I believe it goes to the very heart of truth. The most important contributions that have been made have centred on the nationhood of Wales. I do not believe that there is anyone in this House who does not accept the fact of Welsh nationality and respect that as an historical and incontrovertible fact. TS Eliot, I think, says that a,
It says everything. We could say, "A nation is a nation is a nation", which means that surrounding that concept of nationhood there is respect for, and indeed an acceptance of, that entity, and that is the basis on which we should approach this question tonight, as I am sure we will.
Wales is one of the oldest nations in Europe. Noble Lords will remember that Milton, who was not only a great poet but the Principal Private Secretary to Oliver Cromwell for many years-in many respects the spin merchant of the Government of that day-spoke of Wales as an ancient "nation, proud in arms". That was three and a half centuries ago. David Lloyd George, as I am sure his distinguished grandson will recollect, said once in the House of Commons that we in Wales were a land of poets and kings when the Anglo-Saxons were on the shores of the Baltic subsisting on piracy and periwinkles. I do not necessarily adopt that historical theory as the basis of my case, but one thing is certain and it has been said so clearly and eloquently; what is proposed here is not just a marginal change but a savage amputation of Welsh representation in the House of Commons. That is no exaggeration. It means that Wales, with 5.3 per cent of the population of the United Kingdom, has to bear 20 per cent of this surgery.
To put this another way, in the whole of the United Kingdom there is a diminution of seats to the tune, I calculate, of about 7.6 per cent. In Wales it is 25 per cent. We can bandy figures around, but the fact is that Wales is disproportionately dealt with to a very cruel degree as far as this part of the legislation is concerned. Do we deserve that? Is that right? Is that just? Is that inevitable? Those are the questions which I think that the House would wish to exercise in relation to this matter.
I believe there to be real sincerity in the attitude of many Members on the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Benches, who believe that they can achieve fairness by a slavish adherence to arithmetical consistency. I respectfully suggest that they are wrong. Of course, some idea of a norm that would apply generally, all other things being equal, to constituencies as a whole would be utterly admirable. I have no doubt, and I accept, that in every consideration arithmetical consistency has some part to play. However, my first submission is that it is entirely chimerical. It does not achieve fairness because of so many other factors, with which we have dealt earlier. For example, the accessibility of a Member of Parliament to each and every constituent is far more important.
Secondly, mathematical correctitude cannot be achieved. Let us think of it in these terms. The register will be inaccurate, so far as the population and the possible electorate of a constituency are concerned, to the tune of about 3.5 million. As for Wales, my calculation on the basis of 5.3 per cent is roughly 185,000. That is a considerable totality of votes, which can of course completely affect this philosophy. It is as if the Government are saying, "We are aiming at a target through telescopic sights, and once we have that target in the crosshairs, we will be satisfied that we have done everything", but they forget that the barrel is bent. That bullet will never reach the spot at which the crosshairs are aiming. It will be a long way away. What possible validity can there be, therefore, for the theory that arithmetical correctitude governs all? There can never be.
I know that the noble and learned Lord who will reply to the debate will inevitably turn to devolution. In many public statements, he has already done so in relation to Wales and Scotland, but in Wales in particular devolution is linked with this considerable diminution in the number of seats. With great respect, I challenge that completely. Just before the Summer Recess, I asked the noble Lord, Lord McNally-I join everyone in wishing him a speedy return to this House-whether the culling of seats in Wales and Scotland would be affected by devolution. His answer was clear and to the point. He said, "No".
I know that the noble and learned Lord, who is a man of high intelligence and total integrity, will consider this argument very carefully. It can be tested in this way. Let us pretend for a moment that there had never been devolution in Wales and that no Wales Office had been created in 1964. Let us assume that no Welsh Assembly had come into being in 1998 and that there had been no Government of Wales Act 2006. Wales would still be losing 10 out of 40 of its constituencies. Therefore, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, must have been right; this problem has nothing to do with devolution.
Further corroborative evidence, were it necessary, comes from the report of the Select Committee on the Constitution. The Deputy Prime Minister gave evidence before it and was asked why the diminution should be so great in Wales? All he said was, "Either you apply the same rules to Wales in order to bring about a commonality of electors or you do not". Not a word was mentioned about devolution. I am sure that the noble and learned Lord would accept that, but from the way in which I have looked at that, whatever can be said about devolution I see that it has nothing to do with the reduction of seats from 40 to 30.
The case is simple. For a long time, Wales has enjoyed generous overrepresentation. There is no doubt about that. I think it was in 1377-I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, will correct me-that the figure of 24 was decided upon. Some centuries later it went up to 28. In 1832, it was 32. We know-indeed, we have had the benefit of the researches by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, into the latter period-that there is considerable overrepresentation.
People might say, "What are you whinging about? The thing to do is to say not that you should continue the overrepresentation but that it is wholly just that you should bring it to an end". That argument would be overwhelming, were it not for the central dominating feature of this issue: the nationhood of Wales. In 1992, when many Members here would have been Members of the other place, a Bill passed through the House of Commons that dealt with boundaries and the Boundary Commission. The right honourable Kenneth Clarke was Home Secretary at the time. He was exhorted by many Members to bring about a massive review of boundaries in Wales and Scotland with a review to diminution. He said, "No. There are national, cultural, historic, geographical and many other weighty factors that would make it impossible for me to do that". The situation is exactly the same now as it was then.
Finally, many speakers have referred to the federality -if that is the correct term-of the United States and many other countries when small communities have been given, at a certain level, the same or virtually the same representation as other larger units. One might say that a federal system is not possible in England, Wales and Scotland because of the massive size and power of England compared with the other two countries. However, it seems to me that some concession to the principle of federality has been made over the years by allowing that very overrepresentation. That has a great deal to do with the ethos of a United Kingdom. Destroy that by savage surgery and the future of the United Kingdom might well be fundamentally affected.
Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, I had rather expected that I might follow the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, whose name is on the amendment, but probably it is right that we should split the Cross-Bench speakers at this time-the noble Lord will have the opportunity to demolish any arguments that I may make.
I hope that it is not out of order for me to start with two personal remarks. The first is that it is a great pleasure to see the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, in the House. He and I often did not agree with each other,
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The noble Lord spoke about going too quickly. Others have also raised that subject. I greatly welcome the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, because it gives the possibility of some further consideration along the road. I contrast that with the third amendment in this group, Amendment 102AA, which seems to me to kick the whole thing out so far into the future that it would effectively kill this legislation. I find it difficult to have any but negative thoughts about the third amendment, but I, too, understand the need for thought.
The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, referred to the 1944 Speaker's Conference. My first thought is that there have been considerable changes since then. At that time, we did not have a Secretary of State for Wales in the British Cabinet. We did not have a Welsh Office or, as it is now, a Wales Office. We had not taken the first steps down the road to devolution and the creation of a Welsh Assembly, whether it has the existing powers or the powers that it may have after the referendum. Even the world of the valleys, about which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, spoke with feeling and great knowledge, has changed a good deal. Communities in those days were probably even more tight-knit than they are today. People walked straight out of their homes and into the pit or the mine and the road links between the valleys had not been improved. The first moves in 1944 were made at a time when the horrors of the recession were in many people's minds and it was felt that Wales needed special consideration. But things have changed.
My second thought is about the effect of having more Welsh Members of Parliament. In part, the answer was given by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, when he started listing the names of distinguished Welshmen. In my experience, what has influenced the decisions of Governments has not been the number of Welsh Members of Parliament but the quality of the arguments that they advanced. I spent a number of years leading on Welsh affairs from the opposition Benches and then for eight years I was Secretary of State for Wales. I cannot think of a single occasion when an important decision was taken-or, indeed, when any decision was taken-with the thought in Ministers' minds, "My goodness, there are 35 Welsh Members of Parliament, not 30". The number was, I think, 35 in those days. I was influenced by the quality of the argument that was put to me.
I will cite one example, which will be all too familiar to Welsh people in this House. In the dramatic early days, when the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, and I had only just become Ministers, we found ourselves in passionate debate about the future of Welsh language broadcasting. The crucial moment in that consideration
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Then it was argued-I think that the implication was made in this debate today, but it was certainly argued in another place at the time-that somehow the case for the Welsh language would be weakened if there were fewer representatives from north Wales, probably one fewer, incidentally. I think that I am probably right in saying that today there are more Welsh-speaking Welshmen living in Glamorgan, Cardiff and the industrial belt in the south than there are in north-west Wales. Furthermore, many of them represent the professional classes. They are in government, local government and the media. A number of them are very distinguished Members of this House. It is their voices-not just the voices, however strong, of the Members of Parliament for the north Wales constituencies-that support and sustain the Welsh language. Perhaps I might dare to add that it is not only the Welsh-speaking Welshmen. Regrettably, my grandfather was the last Welsh-speaking member of my family-I greatly regret that I do not speak the language-but I do not think that any Government of any political party have done more to support the Welsh language than the Government of which I and my English-speaking successors in the Welsh Office were members, supported and sustained all through, of course, by my Welsh-speaking noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy. The Welsh language has its defenders without the need for that special representation.
Then there is the argument that I thought that I must consider most carefully and which I do consider most carefully. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Rowe-Beddoe, will advance this argument, too. It is about the pace of change.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: I have listened carefully to the noble Lord's most eloquent submissions in favour of the argument that numbers do not really count; it is quality that counts and the ability to put a case. Would he with equal equanimity view the prospect of the number of English Members of Parliament being reduced by 25 per cent, confident that the remaining 75 per cent would put all the necessary arguments?
Lord Crickhowell: I do not really wish to add to the strength of the argument that I have already put. I am talking about the quality not just of the Members of Parliament but of all the other advocates who speak for Wales. They are not all in the House of Commons; indeed, some of the most effective ones are outside it.
I was going on to the question of the pace of change. I might be rather tempted on that, but I do not see how you seriously undertake the process gradually if you are to set about change. It is difficult. I cannot think of anything much worse than having a series of reductions taking place in successive elections. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris of Aberavon, said that the relationship that the individual Member of Parliament has with his constituency should as far as possible be stable and long-lasting. I therefore doubt whether a step-by-step change is feasible.
The other argument to which I have given thought was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, in moving his amendment. Indeed, he brought me up short and made me think again. He suggested that somehow this would increase the threat of separatism and would threaten the union. I am doubtful about that proposition. It may be right, and I will listen to the argument, but I suspect that those who are so deeply moved by the question of whether there should be 35 or 30 Members of Parliament that it affects their view of the union are mostly politicians-Members of Parliament and perhaps Assembly Members-rather than members of the great Welsh public. I may be wrong, but I do not think that Owain Glyndwr is rising from his unknown grave and about to lead the people of Wales into a great campaign because our nation is threatened by this terrible change. I am a bit doubtful about that argument.
Then there is the proposition about small nations needing special representation. While pondering these issues over the past few days, I said to myself that it was rather demeaning for the Welsh nation to believe that it has to have a few more Members of Parliament in order to stand up as a nation. Surely that cannot be right. I know that there are examples elsewhere in the world-normally because of the structures of government in other nations, such as federal systems-where more Members are given, but I believe that the Welsh nation can take pride and have confidence in itself because it is the Welsh nation and not because it has 35 rather than 30 Members of Parliament. I do not find that argument wholly convincing.
We come to the final issue of community-based representation, which gives me some concern. I have some sympathy with the argument advanced by my noble friend Lord Strathclyde last night that most people are much more interested in the county or the area in which they live than in the political constituency. Indeed, I confess that I still have some difficulty remembering the new names for the two constituencies that now make up my former constituency. I have a feeling that, if any of my former constituents were asked where they live, almost without exception they would say "Pembrokeshire". Very few, if any of them, would ever refer to a particular constituency. Yet, of course, community-based representation is extremely important and it is because I believe that it is important that I have consistently supported the proposal that there should be a 20 per cent spread from top to bottom rather than a 10 per cent spread. Indeed, I supported Members on the opposition Front Bench when they put forward that proposal, which deals with many of the community problems that have been identified in the debate today.
I do not see how we can go gradually down this road, although I was glad to have the proposition of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson. I will continue to think about it. I hope also that my colleagues on the Front Bench will continue to think about the genuine issues that have been raised today. In that spirit of consideration, although I would find it rather hard to support a vote if the amendment was pressed by the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, I shall certainly continue to consider very carefully the arguments that have been advanced.
Lord Rowe-Beddoe: My Lords, I have listened carefully to the words of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, for whom I have great respect. Yesterday he was courteous enough to mention that he was going to attack certain aspects of the three amendments with which I am proud to be associated. I am sure that your Lordships have had quite enough of special pleading. During the past few days, special pleading has really been the game around in the many hours of debate that I have sat through-although certainly not as many as other noble Lords. Yes, this is special pleading, but with a great difference. Wales is not a region but, as the noble Lord, Lord Touhig, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, have both mentioned, we are a nation of the United Kingdom.
At the weekend I looked again at my set of Encyclopaedia Britannica from the late 19th century which stands on a shelf in my library. I just wanted to remind myself and perhaps get a little worked up for this moment. There it was: under "Wales" it says, "See England". We have come, admittedly, a long way since then. Rather perversely I could turn that on its head and say that if we were part of England, we would have a reduction of only 5 per cent. Coming from one section of the encyclopaedia to the "W" section and getting a full explanation of what our nation does appears to have cost us 25 per cent of our parliamentary seats.
So much has been said most eloquently by previous speakers, but I have three problems that I want to address: process, perception and fairness. I shall take process first. Last night, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, drew our attention in a different context to the report of your Lordships' Select Committee on the Constitution. I shall read just two brief excerpts from it. The first relates to a report produced last October by the Welsh Affairs Select Committee of another place which was highly critical of process in the Bill. Paragraph 50 of the Lords committee states:
"We also note their view that 'the unique position of Wales in terms of its geography, culture and history has long been recognised in its Westminster constituencies' and their recommendation that the Government amend the Bill 'to permit the Boundary Commission to give greater weight to these factors when drawing up new constituencies'".
That, to my mind, puts a question mark against process. When things are done, they have to be seen to be done in an equitable fashion. Equity is quite a distorted word, so let us just call it doing things in a fair way.
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My attention was drawn to an exchange of correspondence between the then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Speaker Clifton Brown on 24 May 1944. I am not going to quote it to you, though it would actually do us all well to hear the words of one of the more eloquent gentlemen of the last hundred years. In the letter that the Prime Minister wrote to the Speaker, he requested that the Speaker set up a Speaker's Conference to report within a certain period on-of course-redistribution of seats, reform of the franchise and methods of election. It does not seem to go away, does it? There are two points to make. One is about the process. The Speaker had assembled 22 or 24 Members of both Houses and some outsiders. They came back to the Prime Minister within four months with some very good recommendations which were sent to the Boundary Commission. That was the process: there it was; one could see how the whole thing started. It was a committee of all political parties which wanted to address what was concerning the Prime Minister at the time-that he wanted to take a look at the redistribution of seats in the United Kingdom.
We have heard that the last time there was an Act in which it was clearly stated that Wales should have "no less than 35 seats" was back in 1986. What we are missing in this is some reason why the Government have decided on numbers and then went on to fit parts of the United Kingdom into those numbers. I cannot be convinced. If I feel that way, I am sure that other equally ignorant people in the world will feel it also. The process is really faulty-it is faulty to my satisfaction, and will be faulty to the people of Wales when it is presented to them.
Let me draw the attention of noble Lords to my second point, about fairness and perception. In respect of fairness, I have talked about the reduction of seats-25 per cent, 40 to 30 and so on. I said in a slightly jocular way that if we were still part of England-"For Wales, see England"-or even Monmouthshire, we would only have got a 5 per cent chop. Where is the fairness in that? It just escapes me. Yes, I put my name to 35 MPs-the 1986 Act of Parliament has never been repealed. There are other parts of the Act that have been repealed. Why should it now just be thrown out because somewhere some group of individuals have put themselves together and said, "Wales is overrepresented; take it down by 25 per cent"? Really, the more I think about it, the more I think it is just extraordinary and savage-that was the word used by my noble friend Lord Elystan-Morgan.
I am a great supporter of these amendments. I believe that we really have to ensure that the Government think carefully about their treatment of Wales. I am a unionist, but I am talking about perception. What will the people of Wales think? I can tell you that the
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Before I conclude, I would like to correct something that the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, said. He said that the third amendment, Amendment 102AA, was to kick the issue into the long grass. It was no more kicking it into the long grass than the amendment recently tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson. He was actually saying, "Look, hold on a second. If you are going to do something, just wait, because, if in March the people of Wales say, 'We want to give more powers to our Assembly-to give them some power to make primary legislation', then there could be a reason to look at representation". But certainly in my opinion, it should be no less than the 35 seats that sits on the statute book today.
Lord Morgan: I lend my support to this amendment, which has been so admirably moved; there have been a number of excellent speeches. I see that I do so in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, who, among other things, represents the powerful traditions of David Lloyd George, whose spirit hovers over this debate. I think that the proposals to reduce Welsh representation in this way are deeply unfair to Wales as a nation and deeply damaging to its interests, to the House of Commons and to the United Kingdom.
Parliamentary representation is central to what has happened in the modern history of Wales. We heard the famous quotation from the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It was a Welsh Bishop-not the Welsh Bishop who is the distinguished ancestor of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, but another, the Bishop of St David's-who said that there was no such place as Wales. He said that it was geographical expression, as Metternich had described Italy.
Since then, Wales has advanced rapidly. It has acquired increasing recognition of its nationhood and its identity. It has, in important ways-if the Minister will allow this thought-achieved equality with Scotland, and with other areas on the rugby field, more than equality, I think. This has been acquired through parliamentary persuasion. It has been in large measure political, but it has had social and cultural aspects as well. The interesting feature to me, and a feature of the history of modern Wales, is that this recognition of nationhood has gone along with ties with the Union of the United Kingdom remaining extremely strong, even after devolution. Therefore, the history of Wales in the United Kingdom, and the history of Ireland in the United Kingdom have been manifestly different.
The motor of change has been democracy; that means the use of the parliamentary persuasive method. I note the very sound point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that the quality of the people involved is important. If Wales were represented by 40 idiots or people of mediocre talent, perhaps it might not matter how many you had. If you had a genius, Wales could be represented by one person. But I also think-to quote a famous advert-size matters, and a significant number to make a collective point at all levels of the legislature of the United Kingdom is extremely important.
If we look back, as I am prone to do, we find that the achievements of Wales have relied very heavily on the parliamentary pressure that Welsh MPs have been able to bring. A great landmark was the beginnings of legislation for Wales alone. That legislation was the ill starred Sunday Closing Act 1881, which is commonly thought of in a moral or religious context, but it was very important because it stated for the first time that you could have a statute that applied to Wales-a distinct legislative principle that did not apply to England. Obviously, that depended heavily on Welsh parliamentary pressure and representation. It was followed by the famous Act that set up the county schools in Wales and eventually, as it was seen then, the great triumph of the disestablishment of the church in 1920. There have been many cultural aspects associated with this, such as the National Library, the National Museum of Wales and the University of Wales, for which I had the honour to be vice-chancellor for some years. All of that depended on effective political pressure through Parliament. That was the way the Welsh chose-the method of persuasion. It is significant that throughout this period not only did Welsh parliamentary representation increase in quality but the numbers of Welsh Members of Parliament went on increasing, from 34 to 36.
In the period after the First World War, parliamentary achievement stalled. I think that that was because the United Kingdom was involved in social and economic problems of a great kind. Trade unions were strongly unionist in sympathy. The Labour Party changed quite remarkably in the interwar years from support for local devolution shown by people, such as Keir Hardie, to a strong commitment to centralisation. There was no advance between the wars but no retreat either. What we have heard about the Speaker's Conference of 1944, including the very sensitive approach adopted by Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister at that period, shows how the point about Welsh nationhood and identity had been absorbed.
From the 1960s, as everybody knows, there was a period of very dramatic change. We had the Welsh Office, devolution and associated major changes in the cultural life of Wales, including aspects of a culture in the visual arts, for example, not traditionally associated with Wales. The movement for Welsh recognition has gone on but, as we have heard, the connection between Wales and Westminster and Whitehall has remained extremely powerful. We have heard of many areas such as social services, justice, and so on, indicating the enormous importance for Wales in having strong representation and pressure to sustain its interests. Throughout that period, representation went up until it reached a total of 40 in the Act of 1986.
One important point that strikes me from this historical background is that all the parties have contributed. It has been profoundly to the advantage of Wales that all the main parties have adopted a non-adversarial and constructive approach. The Liberal Party played a glorious and distinguished role before 1914. It is interesting to see how the Liberal Party changed its approach to Welsh matters. Gladstone, that great man who was concerned with home rule for Ireland, came to realise that Ireland and Wales were different. If you had, for example, disestablishment of
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The Conservative Party has been increasingly sympathetic, if the Bishops' Bench will allow me to say so, since the disestablishment of the church. That was the great incubus for the Conservative Party in Wales. It was thought of as an English party and the party of the Church of England in Wales. Since the disestablishment of the church, the Conservative Party has been able to be hugely more constructive. Winston Churchill set up a Ministry of Welsh Affairs. We heard the recollections of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, on setting up the Welsh television channel, which I was fascinated to hear. We have had a series of remarkably sympathetic Administrations under the Conservatives in the Welsh Office. I recall the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, and when I was in Aberystwyth, Lord Walker. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is remembered with great affection; Mr Redwood, I do not recall with quite the same warmth and affection. However, we had the talisman of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, who was enormously valuable and deeply sympathetic. I used to argue that the Conservative Party would benefit enormously from devolution in Wales and that it would have a much more positive and central role in Welsh life. So it has proved.
The Labour Party has oscillated. It began with a very devolutionist view, then became a very centralist party, perhaps in the 1920s to the 1960s or 1970s, and has suffered from that electorally. The Welsh Office and devolution were the work of a Labour Government and the Government of Wales Act took the process of devolution considerably further. We will have the referendum on further powers for the Welsh Assembly in March and I hope very much that it will be successful. All that will create a more diversified but more durable United Kingdom and sets Wales firmly in its place.
I worry that this Bill is quite different. It gets away from this all-party constructive approach to Welsh politics. It inflicts greater damage on the Welsh political system than any legislation we have had since the mid-19th century. The ties of Parliament with Wales will be weakened at a time when the powers of the Welsh Assembly call for a strong Welsh presence in Parliament and when, as the noble Lord, Lord Howard, said, the economic recession will make the need for a strong protective mechanism for Wales in Parliament more necessary than ever, given the greater importance of the public sector in Wales. This is a very damaging change of stance by the present Government and I find it deeply ironic that the party of the union is proposing a step that will weaken the ties between Wales and Westminster.
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