To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will continue to make representations to the National Transitional Council of Libya to make available any evidence in their possession concerning the attack on Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie in 1988 to the Lord Advocate and the Scottish police to assist their investigation.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the Government will continue to support the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's investigation into the Lockerbie bombing. We will approach Libya's newly formed transitional Government about getting the Dumfries and Galloway police back to Libya at the earliest opportunity to take forward their investigations. The National Transitional Council chairman, Abdul Jalil, has assured my right honourable friend the Prime Minister that the new Libyan authorities will co-operate with the UK on this and other ongoing investigations.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: While I welcome the Minister's statement, does he believe that the recent capture of Colonel Gaddafi's intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi, and of the intelligence archives in Tripoli, may finally provide the vital information that would assist the Lord Advocate with his ongoing inquiries? I ask this question as one of the two former Ministers who were at the crime scene within a few hours and who met some of the relatives shortly afterwards. In order to bring closure to the families of 270 victims, is it not highly desirable that they should learn from any new evidence exactly what happened 23 years ago, and precisely what the background was to this monstrous crime?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, it is desirable and yes, indeed, it was the most monstrous crime. We are seeking confirmation from the Libyan Government regarding the reported detention of Abdullah al-Senussi. We have been clear that no effort should be spared in bringing him to justice. Al-Senussi's arrest, if confirmed, would offer an opportunity to uncover the truth behind some of the former regime's dreadful crimes. As I just said, the Government will continue to support the Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary's investigation into the bombing. We would want any new evidence to be made available to it and indeed to the Lord Advocate. I am confident that the new Libyan Government will act in accordance with Chairman Jalil's commitment
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Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that it would also shed light on this matter if the report of the Scottish Criminal Cases Review Commission were published in full, so far as is possible?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Of course, there has been the report of Sir Gus O'Donnell. It has been placed in the Library and it was fully discussed when it was produced some weeks ago. Further light needs to be shed on this and I am confident that, with the full assistance of the new Libyan Government, we will get the papers and the evidence to show exactly what was said and by whom.
Lord Empey: My Lords, can the Minister tell us that in addition to pursuing the issue of Lockerbie, the Government will rigorously and vigorously pursue the issue of compensation for all UK victims who were damaged by weapons supplied to the IRA by the Gaddafi regime and that the Government themselves will lead those negotiations rather than leaving them to third parties?
Lord Howell of Guildford: At present we are looking at all possible options with the Libyan Government to get a resolution on the legacy issues, including this one, which is certainly a very high priority. It is very early days for the new Libyan Government as they have only just been appointed, but we want to see a broad proposal for embracing questions of compensation, reconciliation and, indeed, investment in Northern Ireland. We are trying to develop a broad approach with, and led by, the Libyan Government.
Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is utterly natural and inevitable that parliaments the world over should seek to have as much light as possible cast upon the perpetrators of the Lockerbie bombing? However, technically speaking, a request should be made formally by the Scottish Parliament themselves-bearing in mind, of course, the transfer of jurisdiction in relation to that. As for this Parliament, could the same principle not also apply to casting light upon those who were responsible for the murder of WPC Yvonne Fletcher?
Lord Howell of Guildford: On the second point about WPC Yvonne Fletcher, that is most certainly so. We are in touch with the Metropolitan Police about reopening their investigations into the perpetrators of that hideous crime. On the former question, the decision was made by the devolved Scottish Government and it is a matter for them to pursue. We have indicated that the Government in London will give full assistance to the devolved Government in pursuing their inquiries.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can the noble Lord inform us about the state of health of Mr Al Megrahi, who was released by the Scottish authorities on the grounds that he had only six months to live?
Lord Howell of Guildford: We have passed a request from the devolved Administration to the Libyan chargé d'affaires in London asking that the supervision arrangements of Al Megrahi's licence are observed. Part of the investigation by the Dumfries and Galloway police will also embrace the question of his condition, but we are awaiting the precise details of his health from the Libyan Government now.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: Does the Minister accept that the Lord Advocate has put in a formal request to the National Transitional Council and that a statement has been issued by the Crown Office to the effect that the trial court of Mr Al Megrahi accepted that he did not act alone?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am not sure that I can comment on my noble friend's second point, but it is certainly correct that the Lord Advocate has put in a formal request, and indeed has made that absolutely clear to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary. We are collaborating closely on this.
Earl Howe: My Lords, research on the development of new flu vaccines is being actively carried out by academic departments in universities, biotechnology companies and vaccine manufacturers. There are number of improved vaccines in the final stages of development and licensed products may become available over the next few years. The department does not fund the development of new vaccines, but does support some work on basic research and research to inform policy in this area.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, did the Lancet report not warn that the currently used vaccine is effective for only six out of 10 of the persons receiving it, and that the virus can actually change to outwit that vaccine? Has my noble friend studied a more recent report from the chief virologist at Barts and the Royal Hospital about a new vaccine which not only gives lifelong protection in only one jab but also overrides the virus changes? Would it not be a real boon for patients if this were looked at more carefully, and perhaps brought in? It would save a lot of money for the NHS.
Earl Howe: My noble friend is extremely well informed. I have not seen the report that she mentioned. The only licensed vaccines currently supplied to the UK are inactivated trivalent influenza vaccines, but it is expected that within the next few years others will become available, including a live attenuated trivalent intranasal vaccine next year. In the future, an adjuvanted vaccine and a quadrivalent vaccine may also become available. The JCVI-the Joint Committee on Vaccination and
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Lord Patel: Does the Minister agree that it is currently the task of the Health Protection Agency to track these infections globally and to do research to make sure that we are prepared if there is a pandemic of a different flu virus? Does he therefore agree that any proposals that lead to the Health Protection Agency-which is recognised worldwide for research and expertise -not being allowed to carry out research as it currently does are flawed?
Earl Howe: My Lords, we are very clear that the Health Protection Agency performs a major public service and we have no intention of disrupting the work that it does, least of all by interfering with its research. As the noble Lord knows, the proposals are to shift the Health Protection Agency into the new, larger government agency, Public Health England. The World Health Organisation is actually the body that monitors the strains of flu worldwide and issues twice-yearly warnings to countries about the strains that are emerging so that countries can prepare for their forthcoming winter flu season.
Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree with me that-despite the view of the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, about the Lancet report, which I have read-there is still an important need for people who work in the health service to have the current vaccine? It is not taken up by everybody, despite many trusts trying to ensure that everybody does take it up. Is there a stronger message that could go out from the Government that it is really important to do this? Forcing people is perhaps too much, but certainly it is a real issue.
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is quite right. The Chief Medical Officer wrote to the NHS on 25 May, citing four studies that provide strong evidence of the benefit of influenza vaccination for front-line healthcare workers. These studies show clearly that healthcare workers can transmit influenza to patients, that vaccination of healthcare workers can prevent that transmission and that vaccination of healthcare workers can lead to better health outcomes in the vulnerable patients with whom they very often deal.
Baroness Jolly: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that there is a problem with supplying the H1N1 vaccine? If that is the case, how is it proposed to target it more effectively and what steps will be taken to make sure that vulnerable people are targeted first?
Earl Howe: My Lords, there were supply problems last winter, but my advice is that there are none this winter. Indeed, the quantity of vaccine that has been ordered for this winter's anticipated flu outbreak is considerably larger than was the case last year. The Government also have a reserve stock of vaccine to be deployed in the event of local shortages.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the recently published Department of Health report on winter preparedness says that by the end of the 2010 flu vaccine season, only about 50 per cent of those under 65 years old in the clinical risk groups had been vaccinated. The Chief Medical Officer states that we need to,
of this group and for pregnant women. Unlike Scotland and Northern Ireland, I understand that this year there will be no advertising campaign in England to raise awareness of the importance of flu jabs. Will the Minister rethink this policy to ensure that this target is achieved?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the difficulty with advertising is that there is no evidence either way as to whether an advertising campaign has an impact on vaccine uptake, although there is no doubt that it has an impact on vaccine awareness. Without a marketing campaign last year, it was notable that the flu vaccine uptake was very similar to that achieved in previous years. We believe that the best way to access those who are at risk is through GPs. We know that from surveys that ask patients what has prompted them to get vaccination.
Lord MacKenzie of Culkein: My Lords, has the Minister seen reports in the nursing press that student nurses are being denied the influenza vaccine, despite advice to the contrary from the Chief Medical Officer? Can he comment on that and see whether something can be done about it?
Earl Howe: My Lords, although student nurses are not technically employees, as the noble Lord will know, they will be working for a particular NHS trust, with that trust's patients, and it is therefore the trust's responsibility to consider the safety of the student nurse and indeed the patients that they care for. If student nurses are going to be carrying out front-line work, particularly with vulnerable patients, then the trust should follow the advice we have issued on healthcare workers generally.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they plan to commence the duty on school governing bodies to invite and consider pupils' views, introduced through section 157 of the Education and Skills Act 2008.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, the commencement of Section 157 of the Education and Skills Act 2008 is under review. Section 176 of the Education Act 2002 already requires schools to have regard to statutory guidance on consulting pupils, and remains on the statute book. We are revising the guidance published under Section 176 and have been working closely with a wide range of interested parties, including children's charities, in its development.
Baroness Walmsley: I thank my noble friend the Minister for that reply. As we move towards the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the UK ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on 16 December, it is very important that that guidance is consulted on and is very clear to schools. Can my noble friend say when that guidance will actually be published, so that people can be quite clear about how schools should go about implementing the UN convention, in particular, article 12, which is about the child having a right to have his or her voice heard and opinions taken seriously on any matters affecting him or her?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend about the importance of the guidance and it being clear and intelligible. I am not able to give a specific date today as to precisely when we will be publishing that. I fall back on the normal formulation of "soon". I know how much the issue matters to my noble friend and I will make her point and point out the arrival of the anniversary to my honourable friend in the department.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, will the Minister agree that, by becoming a school governor and making an important contribution to their school's well-being, pupils can gain early experience of citizenship that will be so important later in life, so this will be a really important step in the right direction? Can he please encourage his fellow Ministers to encourage all those who are going to make that decision in future?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I agree about the advantages and benefits that could come from schools involving their pupils in decisions affecting them and the school. No one will know better than the noble Baroness the extent to which that happens, given the large number of schools-I think 95 per cent of schools-that have school councils. Many governing bodies have pupils as associate members. I know the noble Baroness would like to go further and faster on that, and we had a good debate about it during the Education Bill. I agree with her in that, where schools want to find ways of involving and encouraging children, I would very much support that. Where the Government and the noble Baroness parted company during the Education Bill was over making that a requirement and compulsory in both primary and secondary schools. However, the principle of involving children is an important one.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, would my noble friend like to consider that, as we have had more and more of this sort of guff promoted through the education system, the standards of education, knowledge and discipline of children at school have steadily fallen. Would it not be a good idea to get back to the idea that teachers teach, pupils learn and that one has to learn to take orders before one can give orders?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, if my noble friend had been able to sit in on some of our extremely lengthy deliberations on the Education Bill, particularly as we ground through Committee in the Moses Room, where all those present were extremely resilient in the hours they put into debating it, he would know that a
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Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, at Third Reading the Minister told us that he estimates about 95 per cent of schools have a school council or some form of consultation process for pupils. That means that, despite the guidance he referred to, for pupils at more than 1,000 schools there is no such forum that we know about. Contrary to the view expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, does the Minister agree that engaging with pupils is not only good practice for the schools, but also encourages responsibility and active citizenship among the pupils? Therefore, in addition to the guidance, what do the Government intend to do to ensure that all schools have some appropriate consultation and active participation mechanisms for students?
Lord Hill of Oareford: In all these things, one needs to strike a balance between seeking to move in the direction of involving children and being overly prescriptive in the ways one goes about doing it. We think the balance is about right in terms of the degree of guidance that we give and the way that schools are responding. One of the other developments, which will probably not be welcomed by my noble friend Lord Tebbit, is that the Government have said that they are looking at ways of strengthening the role of the office of the Children's Commissioner, and are thereby looking at making sure that children's rights as set out under the UN convention would be enforced.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on saying that the Children's Commissioner is going to be given greater powers. That is an extremely important advance, of which many Members of this House would very much approve. Taking up what the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, said, would the Minister agree that for children to have their views heard does not mean that children are giving orders?
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am afraid that I got lost as to whether I am supposed to give a negative or positive reply to the question. It is absolutely the case that for children's views to be heard we need to have orderly and disciplined environments in schools. It is extremely important to emphasise that point; it is the case, over quite a long period of time, that there has been a balance towards treating adults more like children and children more like adults. I would quite like the balance to shift back towards treating adults more like adults and looking after children and treating children like children, to give them the care and support they need. Then they can grow up and flourish.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether their discussions with the President of Colombia during his visit will include the subject of monitoring the human rights and environmental impacts of British and multinational corporations engaged in mining activities in Colombia.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, discussions covered a range of issues, including human rights. We agreed a joint declaration on human rights. We held a "green growth" event, in which we discussed the importance of environmental impact assessments for the mining industry. Our embassy in Colombia was a founding member of the Colombian Mining and Energy Committee, which includes government, industry and civil society observers. It looks at compliance with the voluntary principles on security and human rights.
Baroness Coussins: My Lords, what advice do the Government provide for British companies operating in Colombia to help them to comply with the ILO Convention No. 169, which gives indigenous populations the right to free and informed consent to projects that will affect them? There have been disturbing reports of companies that wish to exploit indigenous lands by colluding with misinformation campaigns and forced mass displacement. Can the Minister assure the House that no British companies are involved in such activities and, instead, that they are encouraged to help the new Colombian Government to deliver on their commitments to human rights?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I can assure the noble Baroness that the embassy meets regularly with representatives of indigenous communities and discusses these things. More specifically, as with other embassies, we encourage and expect British companies to respect human rights in the places where they do business. Both the UKTI and the Bogota embassy provide advice, including on prior consultation, for British companies to ensure that this happens. The embassy also has monitored very closely two particular companies where there were concerns, and I could certainly inform the noble Baroness, if she so wishes, at any time on the details of how they got on. But the answer broadly is that, yes, this is the way we wish to move and, although there are British interests in some of these companies, they have been under very close monitoring and pressure and there has been some improvement.
Lord Avebury: Is my noble friend aware that the UN special rapporteur on indigenous peoples said on 31 October at the Peace Brigades International conference in London that it was important to assist indigenous peoples to build their capacity for negotiation? Would DfID consider funding the training of indigenous peoples in Colombia to develop their skills and knowledge
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Lord Howell of Guildford: As I just told the noble Baroness, officials in our embassy meet regularly with indigenous and Afro-Colombian communities. Additionally, the embassy is funding a project in Colombia aimed at developing the role of organisations in protecting the rights to the territories. We are also providing technical assistance to the Colombian Government to work towards effective implementation of the new land and victims law, which aims to return land to huge numbers of displaced people and compensate victims. We are also funding projects to support access to justice and protection of human rights defenders, and we will continue to provide support for the Colombian Government wherever possible.
Lord Judd: Is it not the case that in situations like Colombia the absence of human rights leads to further instability and alienation and that it is absolutely essential, not only in Colombia but across the world and, indeed, within the United Kingdom itself, to recognise that stability and security require people to be able to fulfil their potential in a situation founded on the belief in and conviction of human rights?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord, who has campaigned endlessly and bravely in these many areas, is absolutely right; human rights and human responsibilities-closely associated with the necessary degree of trust and investment-produce higher living standards. The whole package goes together nowadays in this increasingly transparent world; it cannot be avoided. Governments around the world will have to face it. We shall do our best here, both to face our own conditions and indeed to encourage others.
Baroness Hooper: My Lords, would my noble friend the Minister not agree that the President and his Foreign Secretary, by coming to Parliament to meet and talk with parliamentarians, as he did on Monday, and by meeting NGOs and lobby groups specifically about human rights, as he did yesterday, demonstrated a willingness to listen and to take action to remedy the inheritance and consequences of violence, terrorism and drug trafficking that have overshadowed his country in recent years? Should we not now concentrate on improving our trade and cultural links with Colombia in order to improve the lot of the people and help them to return to normal relations with the rest of the world?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, President Santos has just had a very successful visit here, and my noble friend is quite right that he has an active reform agenda, which he has carried forward with vigour, and which is moving his country to what some people call a "new Colombia". It is certainly a very dynamic country, one with increasing trade and linkages with this country, and one that we are determined to befriend and support in its reform phase. So yes, President
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Lord Stern of Brentford: My Lords, would the Minister agree that conflict and insecurity are deeply damaging for both human rights and environmental protection, and that the level of conflict and insecurity in Colombia over the past 10 years has been dramatically lower than in the preceding 40 or 50? Would he also allow me to observe that President Santos is an alumnus of the LSE? I chaired his presentation to the LSE yesterday and these questions of human rights and environmental protection were discussed very frankly and directly.
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, I certainly allow the noble Lord to observe that valid and very constructive point; it is certainly so. It is also, of course, a fact that the revolutionary guerrilla movement, the so-called FARC, has grown weaker over the years. Indeed, noble Lords will have read the reports only a few weeks ago about the killing, finally, of the terrorist leader Alfonso Cano. The FARC operation goes on, but in a much reduced way, hidden away in the mountains, and President Santos has been the first to point out that its aims are pointless, and that it should come to peace and negotiation and have its grievances properly and democratically aired. He is taking a lead in, as I say, a new Colombia.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, in moving Amendment 1, I shall speak to Amendments 2, 3, and 4, which are also in my name. I can give an assurance to the House that those are the only amendments on the Marshalled List. These are a small number of necessary technical amendments to the Bill, which fulfil commitments I gave at Report stage in relation to the transitional period. I shall briefly explain why we need to make these amendments.
Amendment 1 is consequential to the amendment that was passed at Report to the reporting measure in paragraph 10 of Schedule 1. Paragraph 10, as amended, provides that in addition to requiring the individual to report to a police station at specified times and in a specified manner, the Secretary of State may require the individual to comply with directions given by a police constable in relation to such reporting. This technical amendment is necessary to ensure that the definition of "TPIM decision" in Clause 17(3) includes a direction given by a constable in relation to a reporting measure.
Government Amendment 2 is, again, consequential to an amendment that was made to Schedule 1 at Report. Paragraph 1, as amended, provides that an individual subject to an overnight residence measure may be required to remain at, or within, their residence. This technical amendment makes an equivalent change in relation to a residence measure imposed on a person subject to an enhanced TPIM notice, imposed by virtue of a temporary enhanced TPIM order made under Clause 26 of the Bill.
Government Amendment 3, again, is necessary in consequence of an amendment made at Report. That amendment made it clear that an individual subject to a reporting measure under paragraph 10 may be required to comply with directions given by the police in relation to reporting. However, it introduced a small drafting inconsistency as it referred to directions given by a police officer rather than a constable, which is the term used elsewhere in the Bill. The two terms are intended to have the same meaning and the purpose of this amendment is to remove the inconsistency by substituting "constable" for "police officer".
The final amendment, Amendment 4, returns to an issue on which I made an undertaking at Report. It will extend the transitional period provided by the Bill from 28 to 42 days. This is the period, following the coming into force of the Bill, during which the control orders in force immediately before commencement of the Bill will remain in force unless revoked or quashed
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord for bringing forward his first three amendments. However, I want to raise a couple of points in relation to Amendment 4. Essentially, it is to put a straightforward question to the noble Lord as to whether the 42 days that his amendment would now give for the transition period is sufficient. I do so in view of reports today that senior police officers believe that they are not fully prepared for the introduction of the new law to replace control orders.
During the passage of this Bill, we have had quite a number of debates about the principle of control orders and I do not seek to open up that question, as the House's view is very clear on that matter. I have always recognised that the use of control orders should be a last option because they impose intrusive restrictions on individuals who in most cases will not have been convicted of a terrorism offence. But the fact is that their use was endorsed by the senior police officer who gave evidence to the Public Bill Committee in the other place. Twice in the past few months the Home Secretary has argued, first in the case of CD and then in the case of BM, that the use of control orders, particularly the relocation measures, was necessary.
The Government are saying that we can move on from the use of these control orders because alternative measures that are either in the Bill or will be put in place alongside the Bill, including much greater surveillance, will provide the reassurance that is required. That is a big ask of the police and security services. It is surely significant that the senior representative of the Metropolitan Police, in evidence to the Public Bill Committee, said earlier this year:
"To get the resources that we anticipate we need will take more than a year, in terms of being able to get people trained and to get the right equipment".-[Official Report, Commons, Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill Committee, 21/6/11; col. 9.]
It is fair to ask the Minister whether the police and security services are now completely satisfied that they are now able to provide the additional surveillance and other measures that would allow control orders, particularly the exclusion measures contained within the current legislation, to move into abeyance as a result of the Bill. The fact that the Minister is appearing before us today to increase the transition period from 28 days to 42 days is not without significance, and of course was done on the advice of the police and security forces.
The question before us and the Government is whether a two-week extension is sufficient. Given all the challenges that we face in the area of security and potential terrorism, and given the Olympic Games, I ask the Minister-I am sure that this will be raised in the other place when the Bill goes back there-whether, even at this late stage, we ought not to consider giving the police and security services some more time in order to ensure that sufficient resources, people and training are indeed in place.
The reports this morning appear to suggest that there are senior officers who do not believe that they are sufficiently ready. I ask the Minister to comment on that. Can he give me some assurance that the security of our country is not being put at risk? Again I ask: would the Government not be better advised, before the Bill goes back to the other place, to legislate for the option of keeping control orders until we are certain and confident that the surveillance measures are fully in place and that sufficient officers are appointed and trained to do the job that they will be required to do?
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I find myself unable to support the argument that has been put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. Indeed, it seems to be very much a repetition, on a rather smaller scale, of an argument that we heard over and over again on Report, all based on the views of one particular senior police officer. I for my part am completely satisfied with the view that has been taken by the Government. My general view is that the sooner we get rid of the old legislation, the better.
I have one other problem, which I do not know whether the Minister will be able to answer. It turns on paragraph 2 of Schedule 8 combined with paragraph 7 of Schedule 8. As I understand it, paragraph 2 provides that the old law will continue to apply to those who are currently under control orders. Paragraph 8 says that that will be so even though the 2005 Act would have expired, quite apart from this Bill repealing it. Is that the position? If so, when do the new provisions begin to apply to those who are currently under control orders? Every controlee will ask himself, "Have I been affected by this Bill or not?". In particular, he will ask himself when the two-year period under Clause 5 starts in his case. It seems that the control order will continue to apply, but it cannot be kept in place indefinitely under the provisions of an Act that we have repealed.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, like the noble and learned Lord, I have made it clear that the sooner control orders end the better. Will the Minister confirm that the extension to 42 days is not a matter of giving the police another two weeks to get their arrangements in order but because it became clear that the period of commencement would be within the Christmas and new year holiday period, which was not wholly convenient? Forty-two days would take the period into the new year as a matter of convenience. That is what I understood to be the explanation when we heard about this last week.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I shall start with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. As always, my first advice to him would be not to believe everything that he reads in the papers. Having said that, I am grateful to him for raising the point.
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My noble friend Lady Hamwee asked whether we were extending the detention period to 42 days just because the police asked for it or because the police asked for it because it was over Christmas and new year. I can assure her that that was the point that the police made to us: things will be slightly harder if this happens then than they would be if it happened on some other occasion.
The police service has worked very closely with both the Security Service and the Home Office throughout the legislative process to ensure that all the plans and preparations that are being made are tailored to the Bill in the appropriate manner and to ensure that everything is as it should be. The Metropolitan Police has also confirmed to the Home Secretary that it has put in place arrangements to manage that transition from control orders to TPIMs. Indeed, the Home Secretary received detailed briefing as recently as Monday from the Metropolitan Police on the transitional plans that had been drawn up. The Home Secretary is fully aware of what is going on. As I made clear on Report, we recently received advice from the Metropolitan Police that, in reviewing its plans as they were being developed, the extension of that period over Christmas and new year from 28 days to 42 days would be required to ensure that the necessary arrangements could be put in place. It is simply a safeguard to ensure that smooth transition.
In relation to paragraph 2 of Schedule 8, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, asked whether the controlees themselves would ask questions about how they were being affected. I would prefer to write to the noble and learned Lord, if I may, to make sure that I get that absolutely right.
I end by giving an absolute assurance to the noble and learned Lord, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the entire House that all we are doing is absolutely necessary. Whatever happens, we will not put the security of the country at risk. We have taken advice from the police and the security services on this matter. It was suggested that we should make this extension from 28 days to 42 days. That is what we are doing.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, this Bill has already been on a long journey, and has changed a great deal during that journey. Since its Second Reading in this House in November last year, it has been subjected to rigorous challenge and scrutiny through Committee and Report before being sent to the Commons.
The Government listened carefully and adjusted the proposals in the Bill. We continued to consult, listen and adjust as it moved through the Commons. Most of the amendments to which I am speaking were introduced by the Government in the Commons as part of the continuing process of scrutiny and modification. It is a pleasure to follow in the footsteps of my noble friend Lord Taylor, who did such an excellent and widely praised job of negotiating this Bill through its earlier stages in this House.
The Public Bodies Bill was notable during its time in this House not least for such contentious issues as Schedule 7 and the provisions on forests. However, it can and should be remembered as an outstanding example of the way in which the breadth and depth of experience in your Lordships' House was used to improve a piece of legislation. I appreciate that this is a large group of amendments and that many noble Lords will be keen to move on to debate other issues in the Bill, and I will therefore set out as succinctly as I can the issues in these 46 amendments.
Amendments 1, 30, 31, 35 add co-operative and community benefit societies, as well as charitable incorporated organisations, to the definition of "eligible person" to which the functions or property of a body or officeholder can be transferred under the general order-making powers of the Bill. These amendments were welcomed by all sides in the Commons. I hope that they will also be welcomed here.
Amendments 2 and 3 require Ministers to secure Treasury consent before making an order that modifies an existing funding arrangement. This is in accordance with normal practice across the whole range of government.
Amendments 5 and 14 provide for there to be no requirement for a Minister or Welsh Minister to consult a body or office that is defunct. This does not exempt the Government from the need to consult-that is, to consult persons whom the Minister considers to be substantially affected and persons deemed to be appropriate-because the rest of the provisions in Clause 10 and 19 continue to apply. These amendments simply allow the Minister to lay a draft order without having to attempt to consult a body that has no members.
Amendment 21 adds stamp duty land tax to the list of relevant taxes in Clause 26. That clause limits the taxes that can be varied under the Bill to a list of relevant taxes. Stamp duty land tax was previously excluded from the list because there is an existing stamp duty tax relief for statutory reorganisations involving public bodies included in Section 66 of the Finance Act 2003. However, this relief does not cater for transfers to a non-statutory body for consideration. Stamp duty land tax should therefore now be included within the list of relevant taxes because there is a possibility that some transfer schemes will include land transactions falling outside the current stamp duty relief.
Amendments 22, 23, 29 and 59 correct a technical issue relating to cross-border powers affecting the Environment Agency, which is currently an England and Wales body, and supersede and replace current provisions in the Bill relating to the delegation of Welsh environmental functions, with some minor revisions.
The Bill allows Welsh environmental bodies to delegate devolved functions to the Environment Agency but, without these amendments, it would not allow the Environment Agency in its turn to delegate non-devolved functions to Welsh environmental bodies, including the new Welsh environmental body. This would mean that the current flexible arrangements under which the Environment Agency can delegate to its Welsh counterparts could not continue. This could pose significant problems in an emergency such as flooding in the border area or in areas such as management of the Dee estuary. These amendments ensure that the agency could delegate non-devolved functions to the new Welsh environmental body.
Amendments 24, 25 and 32 to 34 allow the Government to reduce the cost of back-office functions, such as HR, IT and payment processing, through rationalisation and delivering economies of scale in environmental bodies. Amendment 24 provides a clear, specific power so that the Environment Agency, the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, Natural England, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, the Marine Management Organisation and internal drainage boards could, with certainty, provide any back-office function to other bodies carrying out public functions. This would allow a shared-services model to be developed across the Defra network and with other government departments.
Amendments 26, 39, 42, 45, 48, 58 and 60 relate to the abolition of the regional development agencies. I acknowledge that many noble Lords, particularly those on the opposition Benches, have been staunch supporters of the RDAs. I commend them for the thoughtful and insightful contributions they have made on this issue in previous debates.
In March, this House supported the principle of abolition by approving the inclusion of RDAs in Schedule 1 before the Bill was passed to the Commons. Amendment 26 removes the RDAs from Schedule 1 and provides for their abolition in a new clause in the Bill dealing with RDAs. The effect of this amendment is that the abolition of the RDAs will no longer be progressed using the order-making power in Clause 1. Instead, the new clause contains its own limited order-making powers and procedure.
Amendments 39, 42, 45, 48 and 60 make provision for the commencement of the new provisions relating to RDA abolition. They also amend the Long Title of the Bill. Amendment 58 inserts a new schedule, which deals with consequential repeals to references to RDAs in other Acts.
Amendments 27, 52 and 61 relate to the Welsh language television channel S4C. The Government are committed to a strong and independent Welsh language TV service, supported by sustainable funding. These amendments put that commitment into legislation and, for the first time, set in statute a requirement that S4C receives sufficient funding for it to fulfil its statutory and vital role as an independent Welsh language broadcaster. Funding changes to S4C have already been implemented from this year, with the agreement of S4C.
The Government's amendments do not change the policy announced last year on the funding of S4C; they simply represent a change to the legislative mechanism by which changes will be made. The proposed funding arrangements are reinforced by the proposed S4C-BBC partnership arrangements which were announced in October. The announcement followed extensive discussions between S4C, the BBC and DCMS, and represents, we feel, a great outcome for Welsh language broadcasting.
Amendments 28, 37, 38 and 62 address an inconsistency in relation to the trading powers of a number of cultural institutions. All institutions covered by the Museums and Galleries Act 1992 and the National Heritage Act 1983 can create companies to carry out some restricted functions such as producing publications or provide catering services at their own premises. However, only those institutions set up by the 1992 Act-these include the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, and the National Gallery-can enter into shared services contracts and thereby supply services to other organisations, where this is incidental to the institution's functions. These amendments will enable the institutions covered by the 1983 Act-the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Science Museum, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England-to discharge their functions equally and competitively.
Amendments 40 and 41 make simple changes to the commencement provision set out in Clause 31 to prevent an unnecessary delay in Parliament undertaking the important process of scrutinising draft orders. Amendment 41 provides that Clauses 10 and 11 would come into force on the day on which this Bill is passed, which would allow Ministers to lay draft orders for parliamentary scrutiny immediately after Royal Assent. While Ministers will be able to lay draft orders and
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Amendment 46 inserts the public lending right in Schedule 1, enabling the abolition of this body and the transfer of its function to an eligible person. I would like to assure noble Lords that the right of authors to receive payment when their books are borrowed from public libraries-and I declare a minor interest in this respect myself-will continue to be protected in law, as will the statutory function of distributing the PLR fund to authors when this function is eventually transferred to another existing body. Which body takes over this function is subject to consultation at present, but it is our intention that PLR payments will still be administered by a body operating at arm's length from government, and most probably also some distance from London.
Amendments 55 and 57 relate to Dover Harbour Board. These amendments provide an alternative route for transferring the functions and assets of Dover Harbour Board to a community body. These amendments are not Government amendments, and the Government did not seek them. Nevertheless, in recognition of the Committee debate in the other place and because the spirit of the amendments is in line with the principles of the big society, we have decided to accept their inclusion in the Bill. However, it is important to make clear that once included in the Public Bodies Bill, these provisions will not supersede, or otherwise affect, existing powers in relation to Dover Harbour Board, such as those available under the Ports Act 1991 and the Harbours Act 1964. These provisions were proposed as an additional power available to Ministers, and the Government propose to accept them on that basis.
Finally, Amendments 4, 6 to 13, 15 to 20, 36 and 43 make minor and technical changes that simply clarify and improve certain aspects of the Bill. I hope that that provides sufficient explanation and I beg to move.
Baroness Quin: My Lords, given that the Minister referred to the amendment on regional development agencies, perhaps I could raise a point in relation to them. I am very disappointed that the Government did not change their mind on their approach to regional development agencies, particularly in my home region of the north-east where there has been strong support for an agency over a long period of time. Indeed, a former member of this House, Lord Burlison, to whom I pay tribute, was very active in setting up a home-grown regional development agency there before it was sanctioned by government. That shows the longevity of this issue in our region.
One area where the regional development agency was active was in supporting applications for European funding for regional projects in regions such as mine. It is not clear who will take over that role. A great deal of money is going begging at the moment. Given that we are in a time of financial stringency, it seems quite
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Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, this is an extraordinarily different Bill-as the Minister said-from the one that was published. Frankly, it was then an appalling Bill, with its unprecedented number of Henry VIII powers and with profound and chilling implications for many organisations that carry out public functions. I contrast the Bill as it was-the so-called cull of the quangos-with the proliferation of quangos, including the biggest quango in the world, that we will see as a result of the Health and Social Security Bill that is before us at present. Noble Lords applied themselves to the Bill in the best way that this House does, in a very impressive example of the House enacting its role in our legislative process properly and fully. As a result of the changes that this House made, including the removal of Schedule 7 and of those clauses that would have enabled the sale of the public forestry estate, the Bill left this Chamber a much improved piece of work-not with all the changes that we on these Benches would have liked, but much improved.
In part that was because the Government, and especially the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, responded properly and appropriately to the concerns expressed by the House and by many people and organisations outside it. Further changes were made in the Commons-hence the number of amendments under consideration today-and I am pleased to say that we on these Benches warmly welcome Amendment 1, moved by the Minister. We also welcome the amendments relating to S4C, and some others. However, like my noble friend Lady Quin, I am deeply unhappy about the amendments relating to the RDAs. Their inclusion in the Bill encapsulates the topsy-turvy legislative process that the Government seemed bent on pursuing earlier in the Session. The saga of the abolition of the RDAs was a disgrace-a prime example of pre-legislative implementation that has had a profound and a negative impact on some regions, for example the north-east and the West Midlands. It is clear that not all RDAs were working as well as they should have been-but why abolish all of them just because one or two needed improvement?
Having said that, we will not vote against the amendments because we recognise that it is the end of the road, notwithstanding the paucity-or perhaps complete lack-of consultation on the issue, and the fact that there was extraordinary pre-legislative implementation of the abolition of RDAs, which we deeply regret. I hope that the Government will not pursue such policies in future but will seek to ensure that they legislate before they implement.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, I join my noble friend in expressing appreciation of the way in which our colleague and noble friend Lord Taylor of
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A change that is particularly welcome is the nature of the scrutiny of the orders that will be brought forward in secondary legislation in consequence of the Bill. I am happy to see that that has remained, enabling further consideration to be given to some of the particular proposals. I am also glad that the Government have given further thought to the future of S4C and have included in the Bill a duty requiring the Secretary of State to ensure that sufficient funding is available. There was widespread concern in Wales that the original proposal would result in a serious contraction of Welsh language broadcasting. It is to be hoped that this change, which I gather has been welcomed all round, will remove that anxiety.
The RDAs were a particularly remarkable happening which, like the changes, were introduced even before the legislation was before the House. It is too late to cry over that spilt milk, but it may be said that the work done by the RDAs, including scrutiny of the European Union regional development funding and where it should be directed, must be done with effectiveness. I hope that the new arrangements for that will be reported with openness and frequency to enable Parliament to consider how successful those changes have been. On the face of it, they were rather remarkable changes to have been made without much prior consultation. What happens to European funding in particular is not a matter that is considered only by us, but will be considered by European Union institutions to see whether the money has been properly spent.
This House has proved its effectiveness and capability, its broadness of vision and its particular knowledge in preparing to tackle some of the outstanding problems that the Bill generated. I cannot think of legislation that has been given more careful or extensive attention that the one before us today. That it was worth while is manifested by the amendments that my noble friend has announced, and which were broadly approved in another place, and which by and large-indeed, almost universally-are to be welcomed. I hope, however, that such legislation will never be introduced again so soon after a general election, bouncing Parliament into decisions of such fundamental importance over such a broad spectrum of our national life.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I would like to underline what my noble friend has said about Sianel Pedwar Cymru. It has caused considerable delight in Wales that the Welsh authority will now have the funding from the Government without compromising the status and editorial independence of the channel, which gives so much entertainment in Wales.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, could I ask the Minister to explain further the purpose of Amendment 55, which adds Dover Harbour Board to Schedule 5? It is a bit extraordinary to include one port from among
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Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Royall of Blaisdon, for her kind words about the way in which the Government have dealt with this Bill. Unavoidably, a commitment to prune the proliferation of public bodies over the last two generations meant that the Bill was very complex. Therefore, I believe that a period of digestion in both Houses was justified. It was a complex Bill and we have done our best to digest the criticism of it.
Anticipating that there would be criticism concerning RDAs, I spent some time last weekend reading up on regional growth theory and a whole range of other things. I am still not entirely sure whether I hold to the spatial equilibrium theory or to the agglomeration growth theory, or whether I think that economics claims to be unduly scientific and sometimes does not entirely understand what is happening on the ground.
I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Quin, that this Government are strongly committed to reducing regional disparities. None of us can be happy that the gap between London and the south-east and, above all, the north and north-west of England, in terms of incomes, house prices and even life expectancy, has widened so much under the successive Governments of different parties over the last 20 to 25 years. The regional policies of the last Government did not reverse that trend. As noble Lords will know, we are now in the process of setting up a regional growth fund and local economic partnerships based on city regions rather than the wider regions. I have to say, looking at the Yorkshire region, that the wider Leeds region is rather different from the wider Hull region, but that is an area that we shall continue to debate as these new measures are put in place. More will be announced in the autumn Financial Statement.
On the question of the European regional development fund, the Government have of course paid attention to it as it is an important part of this. The programmes will now be guided by local management committees which oversee ERDF investment and assess progress. These committees draw their membership from government departments and a wide range of local partners, including local authorities, LEPs, educational institutions, the voluntary sector and members of the business community. So the LEPs will play an active role in the delivery of European regional development funds, both through their membership of the local management committees and as potential applicants for funding. I can assure the noble Baroness that we do not intend to let that pot of money stay unused.
The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about Dover Harbour Board. One has to say that Dover is a rather larger and more important harbour than some of those in Cornwall with which he is concerned, so the argument for making an exception of Dover partly rests upon the importance of that port compared to many others. I accept that to some extent this is an anomaly, the result of an extremely powerful and well organised local campaign. We shall see how far this provides an innovation that may spread elsewhere. The noble Lord may think that a Conservative MP supporting a people's port proposal is slightly counterintuitive. That is the degree of innovation that we are concerned with but, again, we shall see how this develops. There was very powerful feeling within the town, and in a democratic country one should occasionally-perhaps frequently-take the strength of local opinion into account.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, to assist the House, I will move the Motion on Amendment 47 formally because that will enable the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to move his Amendment 47A, to which I intend to speak in support.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, as the Minister has already announced the Government's intentions, which he informed me about earlier this afternoon, I do not intend to detain the House with the contents of the speech that I would otherwise have given.
I would like to thank and congratulate the Government on the decision that they have come to. By deciding to retain the Youth Justice Board, they have provided a service to two separate organisations and bodies: first, the youth justice system as a whole, which has benefited from the leadership and direction of the Youth Justice Board since 1999; and, secondly, the Ministry of Justice itself, because it has retained an independent body capable of directing and overseeing the youth justice system on its behalf that is accountable and responsible to Ministers. This is particularly important in the light of the riots in the summer, because during that period the Youth Justice Board played an enormously important part both in liaising with, overseeing and helping the youth offending teams out in the community and in overseeing the introduction and reception into custody of people who required a great deal of help.
An interesting by-product of that is that people have realised that there is one group of young people in the criminal justice system who are not receiving the degree of oversight they could, and they are referred to as young adults, particularly those in the age group 18 to 21. I remember complaining about nothing being done for them in my thematic review, Young Prisoners, in 1998. There has been nothing done for them since. They are the poor relation and they are showing it. In the Youth Justice Board, the Ministry of Justice has a trained and experienced group of people who could take on this responsibility and help it out of a problem that is in urgent need of resolution.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I too would like to associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. I do not know whether this is career enhancing or not, but I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord McNally, on his influence in his department. I do not know what he slipped into the water at the Ministry of Justice, but he might like to give a supply of it to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, so that he can do the same at Richmond House in relation to the Health and Social Care Bill.
I pay tribute to the Youth Justice Board under the leadership of Frances Done and John Drew, the chief executive. They have shown enormous resilience during this rather lengthy process in which a sword of Damocles has been hanging over them as to their future. It is a tribute to their professionalism that they have kept going and have continued to provide a sterling service. As the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said, during the London riots they did a good job and dealt with some very difficult situations. I think the whole House would want to pay tribute to their work.
Just to say a brief word, it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the work of the Youth Justice Board as it is currently operating. It works in the interests of the most vulnerable, difficult and challenging children. In doing so, the board is meeting the interests of us all as its work has implications for both our society today and the nature of our society tomorrow, of which these children will be part. It is also difficult to exaggerate the value and quality of the organisation that the YJB has become over the past few years under Frances Done and John Drew. Further, it advises the Secretary of State for Justice on the operation of the youth justice system. It is the overarching and co-ordinating body for the secure estate for children,
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It is worth reminding ourselves that, while the Minister, Crispin Blunt, already has wide-ranging powers of oversight in statute, he needs the wisdom and advice of a highly experienced and knowledgeable arm's-length body that is expert in the field of children to inform and advise him. It is excellent to learn that he will continue to have that help from the YJB. I was going to say a bit more, as did the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, about the board's remarkable success in keeping the show on the road and doing such extraordinary work during the riots. It is a story that is not well understood or loudly told, but it has been absolutely extraordinary.
I end by saying that we are delighted and grateful that the work of the YJB can continue. It is the best possible news for the children whose challenges and needs can still be met, for their families and for society as a whole. We are the richer for this decision.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I may add my voice to all those who have already applauded the Government on their sterling efforts and on seeing good sense. As one of those who perhaps was responsible for gently urging the Government to turn, I think it is only right and proper to add my many congratulations to the Government on taking this important step-not least because, having had the advantage of the help, advice and support of the YJB, I know that Ministers in the Ministry of Justice will quickly come to realise that they could never have made a better decision.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I also want briefly to thank the Minister for this announcement and to say how grateful I am to the Government for the careful way that they have listened to the concerns of noble Lords, for the meetings with the Secretary of State and for their attempts to adjust their plans in order to meet those concerns. I am extremely glad to hear this good news today. There is much more work to be done. As the population of children in custody reduces, as it has been, those remaining in custody are more difficult and challenging, so we need the best possible systems and approaches in place to deal with these higher levels of need. Again, I would like to express my thanks to the Minister and the Secretary of State for this decision.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I too was going to speak about heaven and sinners, as did the noble Lord, Lord Elton. But I would like to put on record that the sinner in this case is not the Minister, who I know will have done a fantastic job in persuading the department of the folly of its ways. The Minister himself is certainly not a sinner; he is more heavenly.
We on these Benches are absolutely delighted that the Government are doing the right thing. It might seem churlish, but I have to say that I wonder why it
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We should pay tribute to the work of the Youth Justice Board itself, but also to the work and the voice of noble Lords all around this Chamber, led by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland, my noble friend Lord Warner, the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and others, all of whom have played a huge role in persuading the Government that it would have been wrong to abolish this excellent board. Long may it continue in its excellent work, which is to the benefit of the youth of this country, but also to the benefit of each and every citizen of this country.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I will certainly wish to see in Hansard the description of me by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, as heavenly. I will see what can be done about getting the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Warner, expunged, because they definitely would be career threatening.
I intervene briefly to make it clear that, as I said at the beginning, we will not be asking the House to oppose the noble Lord's amendment, and therefore ask to insist upon the amendment to remove the Youth Justice Board from Schedule 1 to the Public Bodies Bill. Noble Lords will recall that this House removed the YJB from the Bill on Report in March. Subsequently, a government amendment reintroduced it to the Bill in the other place. The Government realise that the future of the Youth Justice Board is an emotive issue. It is an issue in which this House has always taken the closest interest. It has therefore not been a surprise that noble Lords have scrutinised and challenged our plans for the future governance of youth justice.
I want to be absolutely clear that this Government remain committed to maintaining a distinct focus on the needs of children and young people in the youth justice system. We have never proposed to remove youth offending teams, nor have we ever proposed to dismantle the dedicated secure estate for young people or to effect a takeover of youth justice by the National Offender Management Service. We always intended it to be kept separate. The Government have consistently made clear that we want to build on the strengths of the Youth Justice Board. We recognise that since it was established by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 the Youth Justice Board has helped to transform the youth justice system. It oversaw the establishment of local youth offending teams, and has fulfilled an important role in reducing offending and reoffending among young people. It has also driven up standards in the discrete secure estate for young people.
During the debate on the future of youth justice, the Government set out to persuade Parliament that now that an effective youth justice system was in place, the oversight provided by the YJB was no longer required and direct ministerial accountability for youth justice should be restored. However, we have listened to the debates in both Houses during the passage of the Bill. We have listened to the points raised by respondents to the MoJ consultation and in the responses to our Green Paper. We acknowledged that there was considerable opposition to our proposal to abolish the Youth Justice Board. I must be clear, though, that the abolition has never been about saving money-the MoJ does not have major savings contingent on its abolition. That is why we are no longer pursuing the abolition of the Youth Justice Board as part of this Bill.
The Government still believe that there should be more direct ministerial accountability and involvement in youth justice. We believe, as many in this House believe, that there is a strong case for reform of the Youth Justice Board, and we will consider our options for achieving reform outside the Public Bodies Bill. For example, we have wide-ranging powers already open to us under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and other powers, which the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, and I think at an earlier date my noble friend Lord Elton, referred to. We will consider whether we can use these powers in the context of more direct ministerial accountability but will do so in consultation with the Youth Justice Board and with the intention of working harmoniously with it.
I also have to put on record that the Youth Justice Board will remain within the context of the Cabinet Office's policy on public bodies and its stipulation that all non-departmental public bodies should be reviewed at least once every three years. I will also remind the Cabinet Office that your Lordships' House will continue to keep a close interest in the Youth Justice Board, so if it wants to back into that bacon-slicer again in three years' time, it is up to the Cabinet Office.
I know that at these times this House can get very self-congratulatory, but tribute has been paid and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, read out the roll of honour. I have been in this House long enough to know that when the Ramsbothams, the Eltons and the Linklaters coalesce with the Warners, you are in trouble as a Minister. That was true in the previous Administration as well. The other point that has come through in contribution after contribution is that the real influence and power in all this has been the reputation of the YJB itself. It has been able to call on friends in its time of need because of that reputation. I associate myself with the tributes that have been paid on all sides of the House to its response to the riots during the summer and the very effective way in which it dealt with the problems of young people at that time.
I assure the House that we will continue to work closely with the YJB on all our youth justice priorities. Indeed, I want to put on record, as others have done and as I did in Questions earlier in the year about this, a sincere tribute to the work of Frances Done, the chair, and John Drew, the chief executive, and all the staff of the Youth Justice Board, who have carried on meeting the needs of the most vulnerable groups of
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Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the comprehensive nature and the spirit of his reply. I am very glad that he recognised that this House maintains an interest in the Youth Justice Board, because the House has a great deal of interest in expertise in the development of young people. I am very glad that the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, mentioned by name Frances Done, the chairman, and John Drew, the chief executive, because during this period they have done two things: first, they have shown leadership of the system itself; and, secondly, they have show leadership of the board and the staff working for them during very uncertain times. They deserve the thanks not just of this House but of the nation. I do not propose to keep the House any longer because, thanks all those who have contributed, we have covered all the issues, including the thanks and congratulations to the Minister. I therefore beg to move that the House agree with the amendment.
As an amendment to the Motion that this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment 49, leave out from "agree" to end and insert "disagree with the Commons in their Amendment 49 but do propose Amendment 49B in lieu".
(a) the Minister has laid before both Houses of Parliament a report setting out in detail how the Government proposes that the functions of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council and the Civil Justice Council will be carried out in future;
(c) the Minister has laid before Parliament a response to any report of any Committee of either House of Parliament on the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council or the Civil Justice Council published within two years of this Act coming into force; and
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I am as delighted as anybody by what has happened on the previous amendment. I am also pleased that a concession has been offered to the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, though I do not yet know what her reaction to it will be. I bound to say that that leaves me feeling slightly plaintive as the only one to whose modest concerns the Government appear to be unwilling to make any move at all. I have down an amendment in lieu but that is not the one that I am moving. I made it clear to the Minister earlier this morning that I would only move the amendment if it had any attraction to the Government as allowing them to make a move in my direction.
Lord Newton of Braintree: I am sorry. Because of the complexities of this process, on which I had taken advice earlier, that is certainly right. I am not moving Amendment 49A, a point on which I had given the Minister notice earlier. I intend to move Amendment 49C.
These amendments are designed to preserve some amendments inserted into the Bill by this House on an amendment of mine at Report-an amendment on
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The purpose of my amendments was not to frustrate the Government's original intention to abolish the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, if that is what they continue to wish to do, but simply to give them scope for greater flexibility if they wanted to do something more creative, on reflection. Let me be quite explicit in respect of the Civil Justice Council, which is named in some of these amendments. I say this particularly to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. I had neither wish nor intention to damage the Civil Justice Council in any way, but I have long thought that there could be scope for some rationalisation between these bodies, and I am encouraged by the fact that the Master of the Rolls appeared to indicate that view in his remarks to the annual conference of the AJTC last week.
I shall not rehearse the arguments, as I set them out pretty fully on Report and noble Lords are slightly past wanting to hear them. But I shall make 10 points. First, good administrative justice-a fair system accepted by citizens for resolving disputes between the citizen and the state-is part of the bedrock of a society like ours. The second is that the Ministry of Justice has a sort of responsibility in this area, but its main specific responsibility is simply for that part of it that is covered by the Tribunals Service, not by much other essential machinery. It is not responsible for local authority tribunals, including those very important ones, to many citizens, that deal with education, exclusion and appeal matters and other local authority issues. It has no policy responsibility for ombudsmen, who are a key part of this whole set-up, and it has no policy responsibility for decision making and complaints handling of individual government departments, which is another crucial factor in administrative justice.
My next point is that the Council on Tribunals, now the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council, is agreed to have played a major part over 50 years in improving a system of administrative justice that was bordering on a disgrace in the middle 1950s. There have been major improvements to which the council, under both titles, has contributed, not least the creation of the new Tribunals Service.
I am not sure which point this is-I have 10 in all. My next point is that the creation of the wider remit of the reformed Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council was fully supported less than four years ago by every group in this House, including the then Conservative opposition Front Bench and the then Liberal Democrat Front Bench. So to an extent this is going back to something that was committed to very shortly before the election. There was no manifesto commitment to its abolition and no mandate that can be claimed for its abolition.
My next point is that a key ingredient was the need for an independent voice for the interests and needs of the user of administrative justice systems. That cannot and would not be done by the Ministry of Justice-by people whose primary day-to-day accountability is to the Minister, not to the user or the stakeholder.
My next point is regarding the Parliamentary Ombudsman, whom people may like or not, but the Ombudsman's comments on the proposed abolition in relation to the consultation document is worth a guinea per minute and quite short. I am not going to read it all out, but one paragraph of it says that her extensive contact with the Ministry of Justice in its various guises over many years gives her no confidence whatever in the ability of the Ministry to assume the functions of the AJTC. She goes on to say that however well-meaning and diligent individual officials may be, the Ministry simply lacks the institutional history, capability and technical knowledge to do that. I say hear, hear to that.
Then there is a devolution angle, which the Minister may not even have thought about. The Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council has a Scottish Committee and has always had one, based in Edinburgh. Since its reincarnation as the AJTC, it also has a Welsh Committee. Both these bodies are valued by the devolved Administrations. Nobody has made any decisions, but the Scottish Administration is looking at the possibility of creating a civil justice council, embracing the work of the Scottish Committee of the AJTC. Northern Ireland, which at present has nothing much at all in this field, is also looking at a model of that kind. From what I was told on Thursday, Wales, too, is looking at a council that would take on the work of the Welsh Committee. Would it not be ridiculous if, as a result of this, England-which started all this-became the only part of the United Kingdom without a body to provide what has been provided in England by the council and tribunals of the AJTC for more than 50 years in respect of oversight and a voice for administrative justice? I think it would be almost unbelievable.
Finally, not everybody will know-I hope the Minister does, certainly his departmental colleague, Mr Djanogly, does-that the Public Administration Select Committee in another place is conducting an inquiry into this abolition proposal. Having attended the hearing yesterday, I make the following points. First, the Ministry, according to the Minister in the other place, Mr Djanogly, as I heard him, intends to take in all the AJTC staff alongside building some modest increase in its own previously non-existent capability even to offer policy advice in this area. I must say that casts huge doubt on the savings figures we have been given, and it was clear yesterday that nobody knows what those figures are.
Secondly, it appears to be accepted by everyone that the MoJ cannot replace much of the work that the AJTC does, especially on the user front and in creating effective stakeholder relationships on a wide scale, as represented by the conference that the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, attended and spoke at with great distinction last week. I do not believe the MoJ can do that. I do not know what the report will say, of course, because it has not yet been written, but from
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Lord McNally: My Lords, I had better intervene now so that I do not keep my noble friend Lord Newton in suspense for too long. Alas, as he knows, because we have discussed this on a number of occasions, I am not able to deliver the kind of assurances that I was able to deliver for the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham.
Lord McNally: No, I am not seeking to wind up the debate. I thought that it would be useful for me to say something now so that there would be something for the noble Lord to attack me on afterwards-and then I can attack him after that. No, I thought it would be useful at this stage to state where we are coming from because, as I say, I had a number of conversations with my noble friend Lord Newton. I had a meeting with him and my noble and learned friend Lord Howe and I took their concerns back to my colleagues.
However, I have to make it clear that the purpose of the Government today is to restate their intention to abolish the AJTC outright, using the powers in Clause 1. I also make it clear that the Government have no intention of merging the AJTC with the Civil Justice Council. There is no appetite within Government or the senior judiciary to add to the CJC to the Bill. I am pleased that following a Division in Committee, noble Lords agreed to the proposal to abolish the AJTC. I am conscious that what my noble friend Lord Newton has been trying to do-I still use the term noble friend, as I hope he will-is to give the Government some wriggle room on this matter. Sadly, as I have just explained, the Government do not want wriggle room on this matter but to abolish the AJTC.
The Government's rationale for abolition has been made in both Houses and on a number of occasions. The Government are committed to this reform because the AJTC is an advisory body whose functions are either no longer required or, in the case of its policy functions, are more properly performed by the Government themselves. The abolition of the AJTC will have no direct impact on judicial independence or-
Lord Borrie: My Lords, an intervention by the Minister may well have been useful but he is using every sentence he now utters in opposition to any move of any kind. Does that mean that there is no point in any of us intervening further in this debate after he sits down?
Lord McNally: Absolutely not. I have heard Ministers make such speeches in this House but I will take advice from the Clerks. I am very willing to sit down and to listen to all the debate but the idea was to make it clear where we were coming from. As is shown by the Marshalled List, the Government do not intend to accept any of the amendments tabled by my noble friend Lord Newton. That is abundantly clear. Whether the noble Lord wants to hear that at the end of the debate or now is a matter of choice but I will look to the Clerk for guidance.
I understand that if I want to speak early for the assistance of the House, it is fine. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, will accept that and that we can go on. I do not see where it disrupts the debate and I look forward to his contribution, as I always do.
As I say, the abolition of the AJTC will have no direct impact on judicial independence or judicial decision-making. I want to make it clear that the AJTC is not a tribunal or any other form of judicial body. While it has observing rights, it is not an inspectorate and does not have the range of monitoring and reporting powers that an inspectorate would expect to have. The AJTC was set up to advise the Lord Chancellor, Ministers of the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales and the Senior President of Tribunals on administrative justice. One of the council's functions is to keep under review the constitution and working of tribunals. However, we have moved on from a structure in which tribunals were funded by the department whose decisions they reviewed. We now have the unified Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service supporting the majority of central government tribunals and ensuring that tribunal users have access to timely and effective justice. Previously disparate management, procedures, appeals and funding mechanisms are now administered centrally by the Ministry of Justice. There are also a number of ways by which ministerial accountability is assured for the performance of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service, further reducing the need for the kind of oversight that the AJTC provides.
The Ministry of Justice is committed to maintaining and developing its overview of the end-to-end administrative justice system. It is working with other departments and the devolved Administrations in Scotland and Wales to ensure that there continues to be a UK-wide overview of administrative justice. It also has close links with the Cabinet Office, which leads on ombudsman policy.
Much is made of the AJTC's ability to offer independent advice and I understand the principle; it is an important one. However, independence must be weighed against the effectiveness of such bodies if being so far removed from the centre means that they lack the ability to influence and drive change. I urge this House to view the Government's proposals for administrative justice policy in this light.
It is my belief that officials are well placed to provide Ministers with objective, expert and impartial policy advice on administrative justice matters. That is what officials do in every other justice policy area. Officials have forged links with stakeholders in the administrative justice field that will enhance their role and capability. Indeed, the department intends to establish
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Lord Maclennan of Rogart: In the light of the concerns that have been forcefully expressed on a number of occasions in this House, will my noble friend consider whether the new arrangements could be made rather more transparent than has been the case in respect of some ministries in revealing what the consequences of these inquiries are? Perhaps an annual report could be produced for a number of years so that we can judge how effective the proposed changes are in the event.
Lord McNally: I am happy to take that suggestion back. It sounds a reasonable idea although I do not know what the cost would be. All I can promise my noble friend is that I will take it back and let him know, via a letter that I can put in the Library of the House, what the reaction is to that. The AJTC's budget for the 2010-11 financial year was £1.3 million, compared with the Civil Justice Council's budget of a relatively modest £312,000. That reflects the fact that AJTC members are paid while CJC members are not.
So it is for reasons of efficiency, economy and effectiveness that the Government are not seeking to modify any of these proposals. There is no other public body that could easily take on the functions of the CJC, which is why we retain it. However, I insist that the reasons for abolishing the AJTC are as sound now as they were when this House took that decision some months ago. Although I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Newton for offering us the wriggle room, it is not wriggle room that the Lord Chancellor wishes to take advantage of. He wishes for this House to confirm the decision that it initially took and proceed as soon as possible with the abolition of the AJTC. I hope that is of help to noble Lords in the contributions that they want to make to this debate.
Lord Woolf: My Lords, I wonder if I might add my support to each of the points made by my friend, the noble Lord, Lord Newton. With the greatest respect, the Government have misunderstood why his latest proposal would be very positive indeed. The approach that has been developed over the period for which I have been concerned with administrative law in different capacities is to see that access to and the administration of justice are both significantly influenced by what happens in tribunals. Therefore, there has been a policy of ensuring that there is no geological gap between what the tribunals and other bodies of that sort, including the ombudsmen, do and what the courts do.
At various levels and in various parts of the administrative justice system to which the noble Lord, Lord Newton, and the Minister referred, there are now judges in place who play a leading role either directly or indirectly. They play it indirectly through the increasing incidence of direct appeals to the Court
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What we have found is that both the criminal and civil courts need a council of the sort that the Civil Justice Council provides-one that brings together those who have personal and direct experience of the sharp end of running these bodies as chairmen, deputy chairmen or in some other such capacity, and very experienced practitioners. They should provide a brains trust, which could feed back from these bodies into the justice system as a whole. They can then perform their immediate responsibilities of improving the criminal or civil law, taking into account the position of these other bodies, and of improving the quality of what happens in the bodies to which I have referred,
The Minister made a case that all this could be done by the Ministry of Justice. No one has greater affection or admiration for the Ministry of Justice than I have, but I have to admit that there are certain fields in which practitioners have a greater insight than the ministry has. In the field of criminal justice, which is very important, and in the field of civil justice generally, which is equally important, it is now accepted that there should be a council, in addition to what the ministry can provide, to provide this extra insight into the subject. It is no answer to say that this insight can be achieved by the Ministry of Justice because such a body would supplement the ministry's task and shine a light on this important area of providing justice that would otherwise not be available.
There has been a great improvement in the Bill-thanks to the debates on it-regarding the ability of the Ministry of Justice to listen. Having listened in turn to what the Minister had to say, I would to say to him, with the greatest deference and respect, that although there has been listening there has been no understanding of the nature of the body being put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Newton. For the reasons that he gave, I urge caution before deciding that this body should receive the chop. It should not be a sacrificial lamb.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, we have just heard a most helpful intervention from the noble and learned Lord because he has put the issue of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council into context. It is concerned with that part of the judicial scene that consists largely of tribunals-under one name or another-that seek to do justice as between the individual and the state. It is a field of judicial work that has become increasingly significant and understood by the public and the courts-because sometimes, through judicial review or appeal, the courts have had to hear cases that have been attended to first by tribunals.
During our earlier debates in this House, I proposed an amendment that was, I should say to the Minister, only narrowly lost. It would have deleted this body from the list of bodies in the Bill that were for the chop, as the noble and learned Lord put it. I was grateful then for the support of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, other noble and learned Lords in
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The noble Lord, Lord Newton, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, have just emphasised the significance and importance of the AJTC and the fact that it should not be abolished because it provides an independent voice on matters which are of tremendous importance to this relatively new set of bodies-we are talking about 50 or 100 years but that is new in the law-which deal with disputes between the individual and the state.
There is a case to be made for independent advice from a body such as the AJTC, formerly known as the Council on Tribunals, which had a slightly narrower remit. Its significance was that there were practitioners of all kinds who were independent and represented the customer-the ordinary person appearing in these cases. Those practitioners included academic lawyers. I state an interest in that I once was such, but they provided useful input into the Council on Tribunals, in part because they knew something about the ways in which these cases were decided in other countries. Therefore, a knowledge of these matters and how other countries deal with them was brought to bear in the Council on Tribunals.
The noble Lord, Lord Newton, has stated very clearly that, while of course the assistance and guidance of civil servants in the department is invaluable and essential, useful advice can come from elsewhere, especially when it is given not by a narrow group but with each person representing him or herself on a whole range of interests concerning tribunals. Those people come together and discuss the vital maters affecting tribunals, and that will be lost if the AJTC is abolished.
The attempt by some of us to preserve this body in some form at an earlier stage was defeated, and I have perhaps been biased in my remarks as to how that came about. However, it would be of great service to the community and to the rule of law in this country if we took a step today through the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, to ask the Commons to look at the matter again.
Lord Pannick: My Lords, the policy of the law over the past few years has been to focus more attention on tribunals and to do so because they are quicker and cheaper than the courts and they often have expertise that judges, for all their qualities, do not have. Surely we should be very slow indeed to abolish the body which will help to ensure that this policy of the law is promoted efficiently, economically and in an independent manner.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, perhaps I may add a few words to those already so ably spoken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. He mentioned that the civil justice and criminal justice systems are already covered by a council, one for each. Noble Lords will know that approximately 63,000 cases come before the civil justice courts and that approximately 223,000 come before the criminal courts, but 650,000 cases come before tribunals. Although this afternoon we have talked loosely about administrative law, one has to understand that this is the meat and drink of the lives of ordinary men and women in our country. We are talking about the benefits system, immigration and all the issues that touch the lives of many poor people who do not have the wherewithal to go anywhere else. Therefore, this council's role is at least, if not more, important than the councils that are being preserved for the civil and criminal justice systems. It is acknowledged by all who know the council's work that it is a very precious resource. It safeguards the situation for the citizen, and in these days of fiscal austerity the need for it has never been greater.
Legal aid is being threatened. The proposed restrictions are severe. If implemented, the citizen's need for an avenue through which administrative acts by the Government of the day can be challenged will be enhanced. The question is: if this amendment is not passed and if the Government are not asked to think again, how do they propose to retain the independence that has always been deserved and needed by the individual? How then do we ensure the transparency and fairness which we have all come to recognise as an integral part of administrative justice? I ask the noble Lord to think very seriously indeed about whether the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Newton, is not a lifeline which the Government should now seize.
When dealing with mistakes-and I honestly believe that this is a very grave mistake indeed-Confucius gave the following advice, and I will read it just to help the Minister, who may be minded to accept it:
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the noble Lord has already given his views. He has had a little time perhaps to reflect on the debate, and one can only hope that having heard the debate he might come back a second time with a somewhat more responsive point of view than we originally heard. I certainly, from the opposition Benches, once again support the noble Lord, Lord Newton, on this. I thought he made the case eloquently once again for the value of the Administrative Justice and Tribunals Council and the impact for good that it has on the performance of many government departments in Whitehall. In particular, I pay tribute to the council for its focus on what it describes as improving initial decision-making as it affects members of the public. That is surely the importance of the council; it is concerned with administrative processes in relation to members of the public.
My noble and learned friend Lady Scotland referred to legal aid. It is interesting to reflect-indeed, my noble friend referred to this earlier in our debates-on
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The council has been making these points for over 50 years and it has undoubtedly led to improvements in these administrative processes. There is clearly still some way to go. From what the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has said, we are to believe that everything will be all right because his department will be able to analyse the performance of different government departments, comment on them and encourage them to improve their administrative processes.
Is it realistic to think that the Ministry of Justice will be able to make that kind of statement and identify faults in administrative processes in other departments of government, let alone in itself? Of course, the Ministry of Justice will have to be subject to some kind of scrutiny by the team of officials that will be based in the Minister's department. The history of trying to influence government departments in this area surely shows that an external advisory body would be much more likely to have an impact, particularly if it were able to make public statements about the faults it finds in decision-making processes, than would a unit in the department of the noble Lord, Lord McNally.
I am very much persuaded that the council has done work of inestimable value over the past 50 years. I pleaded with the noble Lord, Lord McNally, to reflect on comments that were made today and in the past few months. The noble Lord, Lord Newton, does not seek to revisit the debate and the decision of the House. He seeks to give a little flexibility to the Government to reflect and to await the results of the inquiry by the Public Administration Committee that is taking place. Even at this late hour, I urge the noble Lord to take up the offer from his noble friend. It is a very handsome offer, it would get the Government off the hook and it would enhance administrative justice in this country.
Lord McNally: My Lords, when one gets advice from people ranging from Confucius to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, it is necessary to take a pause. However, I would like to House to return to the first principles of the Public Bodies Bill. The intention was to look at a range of bodies that had grown up to perform various functions. The philosophy behind it is one that I support. Over the past 20 to 30 years, Governments have got into the habit of passing the buck. When in doubt, one should set up an advisory body, an inquiry or a tsar-anything to prevent a Minister having to stand at the Dispatch Box and take responsibility for something that has been done. It is partly against that trend that the Public Bodies Bill set off on its journey some months ago.
Although it is always very tempting to take up the kind of options offered by my noble friend Lord Newton, as I said in my helpful opening guidance
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: I wish no disrespect to the noble Lord. I have just two comments. First, I wish he had taken part in our debates on the Health and Social Care Bill. His noble friend Lord Howe is busily seeking to hand over all responsibility for the NHS to the biggest quango there will ever be. Secondly, on the question of cost, will he reflect on the evidence that the council gives about poor decision-making, poor communication and delay because of overly complex or incomprehensible rules? Surely, the impact of the council is to help the Government to reduce expenditure. Does he think that his department will be publishing advice like that on the performance of itself and other government departments?
Lord McNally: Indeed. One of the thrusts of our argument is that the sooner the Government get back into the habit of taking responsibility for their own inefficiencies, the better. My department and HMCTS are already working closely with DWP on a range of initiatives to improve initial decision-making. It is about time that government departments took responsibility and I concede a whole range of areas where initial decision-making is poor and causes expense. But that is not a reason to pass the buck to some other body. The job is for government to get on with improving the efficiencies.
The Ministry of Justice is well placed to ensure that administrative justice is a key part of the wider justice reform agenda. We are committed to developing a strategic UK-wide approach. We are also committed to ensuring that the right decisions are made the first time. When disputes arise we will provide proportionate, timely and cost-effective solutions and drive ongoing improvements in the system. The MoJ already has strong links with the devolved Governments and other government departments and is already demonstrating the benefits of this. The department is currently considering priority areas and the resources needed to take them forward. At present there is a core team consisting of staff of a range of grades which has access to the wider justice policy group. The team can freely call on legal and analytical experts.
Other issues were raised. Any idea of a merger with the CJC has been ruled out by the judiciary. I mentioned in my initial intervention that we would establish a group of administrative justice experts and key stakeholders to draw on their views. As for the Public Accounts Committee inquiry, my honourable friend Jonathan Djanogly gave evidence yesterday. We will certainly take note of any recommendations that the committee makes. However, I do not think that it will remove the central piece of our analysis, which is that the AJTC is an advisory body that is no longer required in the field of administrative justice. Robust governance
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The Government will ensure that they exercise effective oversight of the administrative justice system in a way that best serves its users. They will develop, maintain and enhance a UK perspective of the system as well as enhancing their links with stakeholders. The Government will expand the channels by which best practice can be shared and collaborative working developed across the administrative justice system.
I have been asked to think again but I say to the House that we have had ample time to think about this. This House has already made one decision on this body. The amendments of my noble friend Lord Newton may be either helpful or ingenious, whichever way one likes to approach them. However, at this stage of a Bill, when the other place has had ample time and ample consideration of these matters, the Government are entitled to say to this advisory House that we have listened to this advice but that we want to abolish this body.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I started off slightly plaintive and have ended up more than slightly depressed. I can assure the Minister that I do not wish to become personal non-chums with him. Actually, I rather sympathise with him having to trot out all this stuff for the third or fourth time. He said he thought that the arguments were as sound now as they were at the beginning. From my point of view, they are as weak now as they were at the beginning.
I will make very few points as there is no point in going over all the ground again. I am hugely grateful to those who have spoken in my support. Rather unusually for this kind of debate, they have not only supported me and repeated some of the things that I have said, but all of them have added something significant to the arguments in the debate. I will not pick noble Lords out except for the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, because the Minister said that the judiciary rules out any idea of this being combined in some way-the noble Lord used the word "merging"-with the work of the Civil Justice Council. At least in historical terms, you cannot get much more senior than the noble and learned Lord Woolf. I also have from three separate sources a report that the Master of the Rolls, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Neuberger, who is also pretty senior, said at the AJTC conference last week that he could easily envisage an administrative justice committee of the Civil Justice Council and he seemed to think that it would be a good thing if the set-up were right. I see the noble and learned Lord the former Lord Chief Justice nodding. I do not think that it is right to say that members of the senior judiciary have set their faces against this. It seems to me that that is not the case. I believe that efficiency, economy and effectiveness have been covered with the figures that I gave and that have been given by others.
I must make the point that remarks about Ministers taking responsibility for decisions are completely irrelevant. This is not a decision-making body. This is an advisory body. The Minister said that the department would need to assemble some kind of stakeholder group. I do not recall his exact words. He put the emphasis on practitioners. That means reinventing the AJTC, in one way or another, when it already broadly carries out this function and more, because it links with users, not just stakeholders, judges and advocates. This ties in with the fact, as I learnt on Thursday last, that the tribunal service, which in my time asked the AJTC to run two of its user groups because it was thought that we did it better, has now scrapped all its user groups on the grounds that it cannot afford them. Where does that leave this argument?
There is very little else that I want to say. I do not think that the case stands up. I do not think that the Minister's arguments stand up. I think that we need a body like this. I wish to seek the opinion of the House.
Lord Newton of Braintree: My Lords, I do not intend to move Amendment 51A. I thought that it was worth a try, given the narrowness of the defeat on the first vote. However, I know when I am beat, and I am not going to grumble any further. I will go quietly-at least for this evening.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, I was, of course, absolutely delighted, as were so many others-in fact everybody, as far as I know-to see that the office of the chief coroner will continue. I know that this means an enormous amount to those people who have been bereaved, who have had bad experiences, and who have campaigned tirelessly in spite of their overwhelming grief to try to ensure that others do not suffer through
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In agreeing to the office of the chief coroner, I would like formally to thank the Government and the Ministers, and while it might seem invidious to single out any two, I would particularly like to record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and also to Jonathan Djanogly, who is the Minister. They have both made themselves available to meet me and others at all times, and at times of inconvenience to them but when I was in London or when others could meet them. They have always been courteous, they have always listened, and they have always taken on board points that were made to them.
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