We have one of the best workplace safety records in the world but there is still more to be done, especially in tackling the largely hidden scourge of work-related health damage. Making progress on these issues is part of the solution to our economic difficulties, not part of the problem. The most efficient and profitable companies embrace the health and safety agenda with enthusiasm, as evidenced by nearly 2,000 major organisations that will receive awards this week from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, of which I am proud to be president. If the Government want to be business-friendly, they must help by targeting training and advice to companies to enable them to acquire a cost-saving safety culture.

5.31 pm

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, not everything that matters needs to be done by legislation. At this stage, the Government should be working just as hard on implementation as on new legislation. It is perverse to say in one breath that there is too much legislation and in the next to complain that there are not enough Bills in the Queen’s Speech. In taking that view, I agree totally with the closing words of my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford.

I give noble Lords an example. One of the most important Liberal Democrat policies that was inserted into the coalition agreement was a properly funded pupil premium. The case was made and accepted. Research and practice in other countries had proved the worth of such a policy, so we put it in the previous Queen’s Speech. We legislated for it and did it. The funding was made available—small at first, but growing every year to £2.5 billion per year by 2015. The purpose of the premium is to narrow the gap between rich and poor, and help to achieve the Government’s other primary objective of improving social mobility. How

15 May 2012 : Column 295

can it be that in a modern, open society such as ours, and after 13 years of a Labour Government, a child’s destiny is still determined by their background?

Now we have to monitor what schools are doing with the premium because we are not telling them exactly how to spend the money. Teachers are professionals, after all. We need to research what works, look at how the best teachers are spending the money and getting results, and make sure that best practice becomes general practice. That is what we are doing and you do not need legislation for it. In his speech yesterday to the National Education Trust, Nick Clegg outlined a package of measures to make sure that this money achieves what children and the country need it to do. Bear in mind that this is linked directly to the Government’s first objective of getting this country back on its financial feet. Every child who does not fulfil his educational potential incurs cost and is a potential loss to our future productivity and GDP. None of this needs legislation but it follows up previous legislation and makes sure that it works properly.

Another initiative, most of which does not require legislation, is the new adoption plan that was published recently by the Minister of State, Mr Tim Loughton. We are told that an important measure in the children and families Bill will be to ensure that adoptions are not held up by officers looking for a perfect racial match. It horrifies me that children can wait an average of 22 months from going into care to moving in with an adoptive family. The measures that are being taken to speed things up are very welcome. However, I feel that more people would come forward as potential adoptive parents if there was more post-adoption support. There would also be fewer failed placements. It is bad enough when a foster placement fails, but when an adoption fails it is a catastrophe for the child and the adoptive family. Therefore, I ask the Minister: what measures are being taken to improve post-adoption support?

I should also like to ask about kinship adoption. I am familiar with this because it has happened in my own family when the child’s mother died, and I believe it has a very high rate of success. The reason for that is probably because it provides a baseline of family love and history on which to base the new relationship. Of course, love is a key ingredient in all these caring situations. Could the Minister say whether kinship adopters will be given the same level of support as other adopters, since the child will still have undergone considerable trauma in many cases and may need a lot of help to settle?

I also very much welcome the announcements in the gracious Speech about the new system of providing joined-up support for children with disabilities or special educational needs. My honourable friend Sarah Teather, the Minister for Children, can be congratulated on her very hard work in pulling together legislation and a pilot scheme—which is, I believe, the reason why the Bill will not be introduced just yet—that gives a child and his family an education, health and care plan that goes right up to the age of 25, and does not fall off the cliff at 16 as before. It should be a Lycra plan—seamless both horizontally and vertically. However, while I applaud the idea of giving parents a budget and a choice of how to spend it, I should like to know

15 May 2012 : Column 296

whether there is a mechanism in place to help them make good decisions. Bad decisions and bad placements will be bad for the child and a waste of that precious budget.

Finally, I welcome the strengthening of the remit of the Children’s Commissioner for England. It is very important that the commissioner has a new overall function to promote and protect children’s rights, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a fulfilment of something for which I campaigned—against strong resistance from the Labour Government—when the legislation to appoint the commissioner went though Parliament eight or so years ago and ever since. I also welcome the new powers to carry out assessments of the impact of new policies and legislation on children’s rights. However, I should like to know whether this is supposed to be the mechanism that will give effect to the promise made by the Children’s Minister in December 2011 that legislation would be scrutinised to ensure that it complied with the UNCRC. If so, the commissioner will need much more funding than she has now.

May I point out that the Committee on the Rights of the Child expects the commissioner to comply with the Paris principles? Therefore, she should be independent, properly funded and have the role of protecting children’s rights. She should also be accountable to children, the public and Parliament. In this regard, are the Government inclined to accept the idea that the Select Committee to which she should be accountable should, in future, be the Joint Committee on Human Rights? I believe that this was raised at a recent hearing and makes a lot of sense, since the commissioner’s powers cover so many different departments, not just the Department for Education, where the responsible Minister sits. Having said that, this is one of the most welcome and important measures announced in the gracious Speech.

5.38 pm

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I was heartened to see in the gracious Speech that the Government’s plans include striving to improve the lives of children and families, and particularly to support those with special needs. Noble Lords involved in the Welfare Reform Act and the LASPO Act will remember how worried we were about the counterintuitive effects that those Acts—especially the legal aid cuts—were certain to have on this vulnerable group. Therefore, I await details of what government action is proposed here with particular interest, not least in light of today’s announcement about cutting the number of those to be classified as having SEN.

Today I especially want to encourage the Government to take decisive and adequately funded action in another area of the gracious Speech—that of reducing and preventing crime, and to do so via the route of early intervention with dysfunctional families. Their children are among the most likely to end up spending their lives in prison at huge financial cost to the nation. We have known about the need for early intervention for many years but, alas, far too little has been done to tackle its root causes. Many of your Lordships will perhaps remember that it was more than 30 years ago when Keith Joseph made his famous “cycle of deprivation” speech. Now, at last, with the two recent seminal

15 May 2012 : Column 297

reports from Frank Field and Graham Allen, it seems that all political parties, and none, have begun to be convinced of the need for a different approach.

The coalition’s plans could be tied in with another new approach beginning to gain ground in your Lordships’ thinking; namely, a requirement for all Governments, before legislating, to establish and publish the cost and expected financial benefit of what is proposed. If that happened, and at an appropriate later stage a compulsory independent evaluation is made as to whether the benefit had met those expectations, we might see considerable financial as well as social and economic gain from working in such a way with dysfunctional and disadvantaged families. An even wider benefit of such a move might mean that parliamentarians could begin to have less hasty and ill prepared legislation to deal with.

The financial situation is, of course, dire but it is never a good time for initiatives such as these. However, I am convinced that with a determined and properly funded early intervention strategy, the long-term financial savings would be considerable. The kind of early intervention action needed also is ideal for testing the Government’s big society approach.

The Government have plans to build on what Sure Start centres are doing. More than that, the Minister for Children and Families, Sarah Teather, announced in March that the Government will be setting up an early intervention foundation and have put aside £3.5 million for this purpose. All that is excellent news but there is one big concern. The funding of the foundation by the Government will be available for only two years. After that the government funding will cease. It is here, alas, that one’s heart begins to sink. With children and young people’s charities facing public funding cuts of £405 million over the next five years, one must have grave doubts about how practical this is, particularly when combined with considerable cuts to local authority resources. At the very least, the Government must bear responsibility for ensuring that the necessary backers for the commission’s continuation will be found, together with time and money needed to deliver the anticipated early intervention financial savings. I hope that the Minister can give the House reassurance on these points.

Other aims in the gracious Speech to strive to improve the lives of children and families are welcome. The sharing of parental responsibilities, which was also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, would be much easier if greater flexibility in working hours were equally available for both sexes—I stress the need for men at least as much as for women—and not just for when children are very young. There is plenty of scope for that flexibility much later in the lives of children.

Many citizens will have been heartened by the Prime Minister’s promise—I believe that it was two days ago—to look at reducing the crippling costs of childcare. I hope too that the Government will pay particular attention to the unnecessary costs highlighted in the excellent briefing from Carers UK, which I expect noble Lords have received. It points out that 1 million carers have given up work, one in three because there is an insufficient level of appropriately qualified state care available. A study by the LSE states that around

15 May 2012 : Column 298

£1.3 billion is lost annually to carers who are unable to work for those reasons and who have to rely on state benefits. I hope that the Government will give their attention to what should be the proper balance in this area.

5.44 pm

Lord Warner: My Lords, let me start by saying that I welcome the Government’s decision to include in their legislative programme a Bill to reform and speed up adoption processes. That is the end of the good news. Most of my contribution will relate to adult social care—on which, given the urgency of the situation, the Government have seriously let people down. It is of course true that they have promised a draft Bill on care and support at some time during this Session. However, they have still not delivered their long-promised White Paper on reform of adult social care, and the draft Bill will not deal with the most crucial issue: funding social care. Perhaps the Minister will tell us a bit more in his reply about when we may expect the White Paper, what he anticipates will be in the draft Bill and when it is likely to appear to an anxious audience.

I turn now to why the Government have really let everyone down by not coming forward with a comprehensive Bill on social care that reforms both the system and its funding. Like my noble friend Lady Morgan, I find it extraordinary that the Government can find the time and space for a Bill to reform the House of Lords—a subject of marginal interest to most of the public—but cannot comprehensively reform social care. It is a system that is acknowledged across the parties and throughout the public to be broken, and it affects large numbers of elderly people and their families throughout the country. It is an extraordinary choice of priority.

Perhaps I may say gently to the Minister that it is also striking that he did not even mention in his remarks that there is a draft Bill on social care and support in the gracious Speech. Therein lies the nub of the problem—namely, that the crumbling social care system is something about which the Government do not wish to talk, particularly in terms of its underfunding. They did not create the problem and they deserve a great deal of credit for including the issue in the coalition agreement and setting up an independent commission. Here I declare my interest as a member of the three-person independent Dilnot Commission on Funding of Care and Support. When the commission was set up, we were asked to report by July 2011 so that the Government could produce, with all the silkiness of the Department of Health’s slick official machine, a White Paper in time for legislation in this Session. We did our bit and we delivered on time. Not only did we deliver our report on time, we delivered it in a form in which the proposals attracted the support of a wide range of stakeholders—from carers’ interests and voluntary organisations working in this field to the financial services sector.

Where are we now? No White Paper has yet appeared. A draft Bill is promised, but it will not deal with funding. The cross-party talks, with a lot of pressure from Labour, have been proceeding in a desultory fashion and with little progress made. The two key

15 May 2012 : Column 299

people who have opted out of this process are the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. Perhaps the Minister can disabuse us all in his reply, but my understanding is that the Chancellor has swept this issue into the next comprehensive spending review. We have a situation where the cross-party talks are going on at Health Secretary and shadow Health Secretary level while the guys who hold the key to progress in this area are doing something else.

In the mean time, things can only get worse for the state-funded sector, which is where things are really bad. No new financial products are coming along from the financial services sector to help people save for long-term care. People in that sector will not produce new products without some clear cross-party support and views on the future funding system. Investment in the private sector, particularly in new homes and services, is being deferred until there is certainty about what the funding system will look like.

Day by day, local authorities are tightening their criteria so that only the most critical people in need get services. Service quality deteriorates. We have seen a lot of recent scandals about long-term care of the elderly, but I do not think that we have seen anything yet. We are dealing with a sector that is very labour intensive and largely staffed by people at or even below the minimum wage. There is a deficit in the state-funded sector and we are at least £1 billion a year short of what is needed to provide a decent service—and that figure is rising. Anxiety and fear among the elderly population and their families is now widespread. Funding social care has become a ticking time bomb, not least because a financially challenged NHS picks up the tab for the social care casualties who end up occupying inappropriate and expensive hospital beds.

I do not propose to do a commercial for the Dilnot report, but the start-up costs of its proposals was 0.14% of GDP and less than 1% of the NHS annual budget. We are living through a time in which the current figure of 1.5 million people over 85 will double by 2030. That is why we need to tackle this issue, and it is a grave disappointment that the Government are failing to act. It is now for the Prime Minister and Chancellor to start getting engaged.

5.51 pm

Lord Laird: My Lords, I have noted the gracious Speech and hope that in this parliamentary year things can be changed that should be. For example, I have become increasingly worried about a build-up of resentment over actual or perceived corruption among police forces the length of this country. I am aware that my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, is also particularly concerned about this topic. I want to underline that corruption where it exists is only among a very small part of the overall police service.

In this parliamentary year, the Home Office must take a firm grip of the methods it has to supervise existing forces and, if necessary, seek new regulations. The geographical area that I am concerned about today is south Wales, its police force and the independence and governance of its police authority until taken over by police commissioners. Because I am known for having an inquiring mind, I have for years received

15 May 2012 : Column 300

amounts of information from many in the southern parts of the beautiful country of Wales. It seems that systemic corruption by a section of the police has been going on in that area for many decades, at all levels and involving officers in all types of crime and the operation of professional standards. It has done much to damage the image of the police. The force has failed to comply with Police and Criminal Evidence Act and there is an apparent non-adherence to the terms of the 2003 Clingham case standards of proof in evidence, judgment for which was heard in this House.

I go as far back as 1987, with the murder of a Cardiff newsagent, a dreadful and tragic event, made all the worse when the men convicted served over 11 years in jail only to have their names cleared in court and be released. The 11 years in jail followed the first trial, in which the accused had their human rights violated by inappropriate methods of questioning and by not allowing them at appropriate times legal representation. Following the release of the unfortunate accused, no action was taken against the police known to have been involved in the frame-up, and no apology given. There was just the bitterness of having the accused back in the community, with their lives, and those of their families, ruined.

This case from the 1980s may be dreadful, but is only one of many. There are the cases of Hewins, Clarke and Sullivan, the Darvell brothers, Jonathan Jones and many more, in which people were jailed who subsequently had their convictions quashed and were released back into the community. In all cases, the names of most of the police officers who set up the evidence that caused the convictions are well known. Some 20 officers are involved, but the believed ringleader, an inspector, has never been arrested yet. Much has been written about their actions, which gave them the opportunity for the named officers to sue the writers for libel—but, interestingly, they did not. Many journalists, including TV and radio programmes, have explored these cases, but no substantial official action appears to have been taken against them. Why?

As if all the pain and suffering were not enough, the cost to the taxpayers of investigations and trials was massive—funds that could have been spent in other areas of policing. I have examined myself the tops and bottoms of types of cases handled by South Wales Police. Now let us consider the police authority. As from 10 May, the current chairman, a magistrate and independent member, Mr John Littlechild, will have served continually since 1989. When complaints are made against the police, the authority, rather than acting independently to ensure that the force is monitored to keep it working efficiently and effectively and meeting all appropriate standards, seems to align with its friends against all comers. This includes Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary when it makes critical comments. For an example, see police authority minutes of 13 February. The authority in its standards and recording its business apparently fails to adhere to its own standing orders. For an example, see again the minutes of 13 February.

As recently as last night, at an Old St Mellons Partners and Communities Together group meeting, the sector inspector Nicky Flower withdrew her officers from taking part in the group meeting. She ignored

15 May 2012 : Column 301

written requests made to her and copied to senior officials last May to meet with all the village PACT panel members. This group has to date had nine freedom of information requests to provide documentation regarding information requested by residents on crime and anti-social behaviour incidents in the area, and the action taken. The residents are concerned at the number of burglaries, arsons and other crimes in the area. At two public meetings, there have been unanimous shows of hands for the information, which is still not provided, but which is freely given out at other PACT meetings in the same area. The number of crimes in the area reported to the Home Office is only a small fraction of the actual number, as claimed by the residents. They attend because in many cases they have been directly affected and suffered loss and cost. The chairman wrote last July for a meeting of the full panel, with the chief constable or the assistant chief constable responsible for PACT in person, due to dissatisfaction. The deputy chief constable stated to the panel members at force headquarters on 13 February that she had no knowledge of the requests but would have a meeting. This meeting has still not taken place.

Following the collapse of the £10 million Lynette White murder trial before Christmas, the chief constable, Peter Vaughan, claimed the loss of the IPCC evidence documents, saying that they had been shredded. He then went on to admit, on 17 January, to the Director of Public Prosecutions, that they had been found. Drastic action must be taken; the only way forward is for the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place to be requested to carry out an investigation into south Wales constabulary and its police authority.

5.59 pm

Baroness Benjamin: My Lords, I was pleased to hear in the Queen’s Speech the Government’s announcement that the children and families Bill will include a number of proposals designed to improve the adoption and family court systems. The largest voluntary sector providers of adoption and fostering in the country, Barnardo’s—I declare an interest as a vice-president of the charity—welcomes these proposals, which it has highlighted for many years.

The Government’s aim to speed up the time it takes to approve people looking to adopt and the proposal that potential adopters, who may have been put off in the past by the selection processes, are now to be trained, assessed and approved within six months, is a huge step forward. So, too, is the proposal for a national matching system, helping to avoid the situation where there is unmet need in one local authority but suitable adoptive parents in another. However, there are a number of other measures not included in the proposals, so I urge the Government to focus not just on adoption but to use this great opportunity to take an overview of the whole care system from start to finish, beginning with speeding up the process of endangered children being taken into care by taking steps to encourage better integration between local authority departments, in particular those concerned with child protection and looked-after children, because in Barnardo’s experience they often do not communicate well.

15 May 2012 : Column 302

The majority of children in care are in foster placements and fostering is often the most appropriate and effective option, but there are often delays in matching children with foster carers, especially siblings, disabled children, older children and those from black and culture diverse backgrounds. So again I urge the Government to give the same level of priority to improving foster placement as they do to adoption to make sure that foster carers are trained, assessed and approved for this important role.

Being brought up by adoptive parents with a shared race, culture or language is clearly the best option. However, I believe that the most important consideration should be for the child to be matched with loving parents, and that matching children for ethnicity should not be the key factor when determining placements. However, we do need to make sure that a better understanding of the complex issues surrounding race and culture is encouraged throughout the whole of society, and that includes the media. Potential adoptive parents should also be given support and education on the psychology and philosophy of bringing up a child of Afro-Caribbean or other culture within a family of a different ethnicity. I hope that the Government will break down all the existing barriers and carry out work to ensure that this will be the case.

The proposed reforms offer an opportunity for the Government to launch a publicity drive to recruit both new adoptive parents and new foster carers, and not just leave it to chance or to charities. Then, it is hoped, a more diverse range of people will be encouraged to come forward to adopt and to foster. Adoption can occasionally go wrong, so it is great to know that the Government have committed to providing support for parents for up to three years. However, I believe that there should be long-term support to minimise adoption breakdown, especially for children in their teenage years, as this can be a particularly challenging time for any family.

There have been several instances of children in the care system being sexually exploited and recent cases have highlighted the extent of this evil and wicked abusive practice. However, if children could be placed in stable, loving homes as early as possible, that would be the best preventive action against them being exploited. However, I would also like to draw attention to another serious issue which affects sexually exploited children when their cases are taken to court. I urge the Government to act now to focus on cases where barristers acting for multiple defendants repeatedly and inappropriately cross-examine young victims in sexual exploitation cases. Sometimes up to nine different barristers question the same witness. I strongly believe that these vulnerable witnesses should be better protected from unfair, improper and inappropriate questioning, so there need to be stronger rules and guidelines to safeguard these already damaged young children against suffering even more trauma, pain and distress.

I, too, welcome the strengthened role of the Children’s Commissioner announced in the Queen’s Speech, which is a great indication of the importance placed on children in our society. There is a strong signal in the Queen’s Speech that children’s well-being matters. I welcome this opportunity to bring in better policies to champion the rights of every child. With the right

15 May 2012 : Column 303

commitment and determination we can make sure that even the most disadvantaged and vulnerable children can turn their lives around and go on to form happy, sustainable relationships with their own children. The feeling of belonging, being loved and wanted is so important to a child. It gives them confidence, resilience, self-worth and self-esteem. As I always say, childhood lasts a lifetime, so let us make sure we do everything possible to give each and every child happy beginnings. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.

6.05 pm

Baroness Pitkeathley: Like so many of your Lordships who, during the many long hours that we spent in your Lordships’ House on the Health and Social Care Bill, argued that we needed to make that Bill—now an Act —worthy of its title and to properly integrate social care with healthcare, I was immensely disappointed to be presented with the offer of only a draft Bill on social care in the gracious Speech. It is indeed sad that we are missing what many observers believe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to integrate care delivery systems in a way that matches the experience of the user, whose care is not needed in neat packages labelled “health” or “social care”. Users need care which crosses lives and boundaries, both geographical and organisational, and which is funded in a variety of ways: by the state, charities, the individual and families.

My own Government missed an opportunity in this regard in the late 1990s when they established their royal commission on social care. Given the consensus around the Dilnot proposals, it is a bitter disappointment that the coalition is set to do the same. Indeed, the disappointment is even greater in the case of the coalition because of the huge consensus around the Dilnot proposals and the promises that have been made. My noble friend Lord Warner was a distinguished member of the Dilnot commission. As I and others have said endlessly in this Chamber, you will never be able to deliver an efficient National Health Service if you do not integrate it properly with social care and national assessment criteria and provide absolute clarity about what individuals and their families can expect. As the Care and Support Alliance put it in a letter to the Prime Minister, reminding him about his legacy for the future:

“Social care is in crisis. The system is chronically underfunded and in urgent need of reform. Without this too many older and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances, struggling on alone, living in misery and fear, in danger of losing our savings, our dignity, our independence”.

The letter has already been cited by the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale.

However, we are where we are and, if we cannot have proper integration, we must at least ensure that the draft Bill that we are to see—no doubt following the long-expected White Paper—corrects some of the anomalies of the current situation. We must be thankful at least that the Government seem set to amend the confused law around this topic, following the excellent proposals in the Law Commission report.

I wish to focus particularly on what the main providers of care—those 6 million carers—urgently need from this draft Bill. I remind your Lordships that there is a very strong economic as well as moral case for supporting

15 May 2012 : Column 304

carers. Not only do they save the nation nearly £120 billion every year, but annually 1 million people give up work to care for others. A recent report by Carers UK,

Growing the Care Market

, cited by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, suggests that a lack of stimulation of the care market means that we are missing out on about 100,000 potential jobs every year. Heaven knows, we need potential jobs, given the current situation. According to new figures from the LSE, around £1.3 billion annually is lost in revenue from carers who are unable to work and have to rely on state benefits.

Most people will become carers at some point in their lives. They provide substantial care. Those who do so for long hours are twice as likely to suffer ill health as those who do not. The majority of carers of working age say that they wish to work but the services are not there to support them. Speaking to such a carer yesterday, I was very hard-pressed to explain why we in this House had spent almost four days contemplating our navels and discussing House of Lords reform when we had not given the same attention to this urgent issue.

Social care legislation is a complex web spanning 60 years of legislation, with more than 43 different statutes and countless pieces of guidance with the force of law. Many statutes overlap, some have slightly different interpretations and some slightly contradict each other. A new law could streamline and simplify matters, making it easier for public organisations to deliver services more efficiently and helping service delivery organisations to explain and deliver against new legislation. We might then finally get to the stage where people understand what their entitlements are. So far as concerns carers, such a law needs to incorporate at least all the rights in the three major cornerstones of carers legislation, which were all Private Members’ Bills, promoted and supported by MPs and Peers from all parties in Parliament. They are the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act, the Carers and Disabled Children Act and the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act.

Two other vital elements must be addressed: portability and national assessment criteria. In order to create truly personalised services, we must have a system that allows people to move from one area to another without interruption of their care. In order to make proper care a reality, it is vital that we have national eligibility criteria, as suggested by the Dilnot commission.

I welcome the opportunity offered by the Minister to scrutinise draft legislation before it is introduced in Parliament. We need to do that, and we also need to ensure that the user and carer organisations have an opportunity to contribute to that draft scrutiny. I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that that is the Government’s intention. I also urge the Government to bring forward new legislation at the earliest opportunity, setting out a clear timescale for doing so. Legislation must start its journey in Parliament in this Session. Further delay will raise alarm and concern.

Talking of alarm and concern, I return to the issue of funding. Reform of the legal basis and structure of social care cannot solve the current crisis in care unless it comes hand in hand with reform of social care funding. We urgently need to bring forward measures to correct the funding crisis and to meet existing

15 May 2012 : Column 305

unmet need so that a sustainable, long-term settlement is created between the state, the community and the family to meet rising demand.

6.13 pm

Baroness Stedman-Scott: My Lords, I, too, was pleased that the gracious Speech included a commitment that the Government will strive to improve the lives of children and families. My motivation for wanting to contribute to this debate is the work that I see first-hand at Tomorrow’s People. I therefore declare an interest in that I am the chief executive of that organisation.

I, too, was interested to hear the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, and I sense that she was in concert with the issues that our young people face in society. With regard to the young people whom we are talking about and trying to help, we can spend many hours deciding whose fault it is and how their situation has been arrived at, but those young people are interested in what we are going to do about it. It is on that that I wish to speak today.

A great deal of effort has been invested in understanding and proving the need for earlier intervention in children’s lives. Much evidence exists to confirm the value of this. My heart was in concert with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, when she referred to the need for early years intervention. For too long, effort and finance have been invested in services that try to put right the consequences of not dealing with issues at an earlier stage.

Perhaps I may give noble Lords some examples. Some 16% of 16 to 24 year-olds in England are NEETs —not in education, employment or training. They are three times more likely to suffer from depression, four times more likely to be out of work and five times more likely to have a criminal record. The fiscal cost of those things alone does not bear thinking about. In 2008, the total NEET cohort cost an estimated £13 billion in public finance and £22 billion in lost opportunity costs over their lifetimes. A more compelling case for working with children and families at an earlier stage I cannot imagine. Preparing our children for life at the earliest opportunity is a must if we are to avoid the human cost of doing nothing, let alone avoid the accompanying fiscal burden.

I read with interest a newspaper article this weekend by Anthony Seldon, the well known headmaster of Wellington College. His article talks about the wide-ranging role of educating our young people, both academically and socially. While the education system quite rightly must focus on academic attainment, we must not lose sight of the need for a more rounded system which focuses on the social development of our young people. It is the development and support of the whole person that we must strive for. Perhaps I may share with noble Lords some more information that demonstrates the case.

If you are not in education, training or employment, you face significant challenges. Half of the parents of such people have no educational qualifications. Many deal with alcoholism, crime and domestic abuse at home. Four out of 10 come from homes where no one works. At least one in 12 has a medium to high level of caring responsibility at home.

15 May 2012 : Column 306

I commend to the House the work of the Private Equity Foundation in trying to turn the tide on this issue. Working in partnership with the Government, a new service called ThinkForward has been launched. In essence, it is an opportunity for young people to receive the individual help that they need to become rounded citizens and to make an effective transition to the workplace. It is delivered at the age of 14, it involves prevention rather than cure and it invests in getting things right rather than trying to clear up a problem at a later stage. I hope that this will be rolled out in other areas of the country.

I would not blame noble Lords if they had started having palpitations at this point. I can hear the call, “How much is it going to cost?”. The working capital to deliver this does not come from government; it comes from individuals, companies and businesses that are prepared to finance the delivery. Only when success is achieved do the Government need to pay, and then it comes out of the savings achieved. The cost cannot stand in the way of doing something.

Recently, I met a young man of 17 who was desperate to work. He was bright, keen and responsible. What was stopping him? Was it the labour market? No. His mother was a drug addict. He had three brothers ranging in age from eight to two. He got them dressed in the morning, gave them breakfast, got them ready for school and delivered them there. He wanted to be near his brothers during the day. Because their mother was an addict, they were ridiculed at school, and the fact that they were not dressed in quite the same way as other young people was a real problem for them. He collected them from school, made sure that they got home safely, fed them and got them to bed in order that they could function at school as well as they could because he did not want them to end up as their mother had.

If any of us have palpitations because of this injustice then I shall be pleased, but let our hearts beat quicker and with more determination so that we work with children and their families to ensure that they are prepared for a productive life and to ensure that that life works for them. At the beginning of the debate, my noble friend Lord McNally asked what type of society we wanted to be in. The answer is one that responds to those young people and prevents them having problems, rather than having to cure them at a later stage.

6.19 pm

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, isn’t it nice not to be talking about ourselves? I remind the House that my interests include involvement with a number of performing arts organisations, including the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Roundhouse Trust. I mention that because despite the portmanteau title of today's section of the debate, the gracious Speech in fact has nothing explicitly to say about culture, and certainly not about the arts. When the noble Lord, Lord McNally, introduced the debate, he omitted to mention that culture was even part of today’s debate. Go figure. This is no surprise because I cannot recall when a gracious Speech ever did say anything explicitly about culture.

15 May 2012 : Column 307

It is not surprising but it is revealing. In this country we have tended to have an ambivalent attitude to our cultural life and heritage, sometimes congratulating ourselves heartily on the success of our artists, our tourist attractions, our theatre, our historic buildings and our vibrant museums and galleries and, at other times, we appear to view art, artists and cultural endeavour as variously marginal, frequently ridiculous, an unjustified drain on the public purse and not a proper job. Having worked my whole life in the performing arts, I know well how dispiriting indifference can feel to those for whom making a career in what we now call the cultural industries means years of demanding training followed by mostly under-remunerated employment in a fiercely competitive market, in order, not only to provide pleasure and entertainment for other people but often also to contribute valuable work in education, health, prisons, as mentioned earlier, and elsewhere. Glamorous it mostly ain't.

I want to salute our artists, everyone from Oscar and Turner prize winners through to those about to graduate from our colleges and conservatoires. We need them and they do us proud. Just because the gracious Speech says nothing about culture, it certainly does not mean that there is nothing to say; in fact, just now there is rather a lot to say, but the speakers’ list is long, and we are all aiming to be brief, so, hedgehog-like, I have just one big point.

From the moment when the coalition Government took office in 2010, it was clear that the public sector was in for a rough ride. To be fair, things would probably have been pretty tough if my party had been re-elected, but not because the UK economy had been uniquely mismanaged, as we are repeatedly told from the Benches opposite, but because the world economy had suffered a traumatic shock from which, as we can see all too clearly today, it is still struggling to recover. In these circumstances, no sector in receipt of public funds could expect to escape unscathed. The cultural sector certainly had no such expectations, and in the wake of a challenging spending round in 2010, Arts Council England undertook, very scrupulously, the painful task of reorganising its portfolio of support, along the way reducing or withdrawing funds to many successful organisations. Local authorities followed suit, faced with their own budget restrictions, and the net result, now that the impact of these decisions is kicking in, is serious damage to the provision of arts and culture right across the country. I could list all the losses suffered but I will not. I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, may do some of that for me. However, I will say this: it is easy to take things apart but much more difficult to build them up again. To quote the song:

“Don't it always seem to go, That you don't know what you've got ‘Til it's gone”.

At the time of the election, this Government, in the person of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Jeremy Hunt, told the arts sector that, despite the inevitability of reduced government funding, help was at hand. He had a plan and it was called philanthropy. The then bright-eyed and bushy tailed Mr Hunt—tail a bit straggly now and eye a bit dull—was

15 May 2012 : Column 308

convinced that, given a little encouragement, huge new resources could be released from the private sector to fill the gap. Does that sound familiar? Some of us, veterans of many years spent developing the delicately balanced mixed economy which keeps our cultural sector lively, were a little sceptical, but nobody wanted to rain on his parade, except, as it turns out, his right honourable colleague the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In this year's rather accident-prone Budget, Mr Osborne chose to introduce a cap on charitable donations so that there is now an active disincentive on major donors to give. Many cultural institutions already rely heavily on such donors, including perhaps some of those who do the good work mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott. Worse, the Chancellor, supported, to my great surprise and dismay, by Polly Toynbee but by few others, carelessly implied, in his attempts to justify this curious bit of double-think, that giving generously to charity is just a form of tax avoidance. That was at best inept. I could put it more pungently as, in fact, the director of the National Theatre, Nicholas Hytner, put it when he referred to major donors in a recent article in the


. He wrote:

“It is frankly slanderous to suggest that any of them are involved in tax avoidance. It is also ridiculous. To qualify for tax relief of £2,500, a higher-rate (40%) taxpayer … would be down £7,500. Call me a financial illiterate, but I can't see what's been avoided here—and many wealthy philanthropists give millions away each year”.

He went on to say:

“Unsurprisingly, a number of donors are having to reconsider what they hoped to be able to give”.

I am reliably informed that this damaging effect of the Chancellor's extraordinary decision is spreading.

Those who give generously to charities, including the arts, doubtless do so for a variety of reasons, but of all the many motives that may be in play I am quite sure that securing a tax benefit is rarely, if ever, the main one because, as Nick Hytner points out, there is little such benefit to these individuals who have, over the years, helped to make possible the creation of some of our finest buildings and our most innovative creative programmes. It is preposterous, and demeaning, to brand as tax avoiders people such as Dame Vivien Duffield or the Sainsbury family, or the one I know best, Sir Torquil Norman, who not only persuaded many generous people to contribute to his brilliant reinvention of the Roundhouse in North London as a creative centre for young people but also put millions of his own money into the project. He and others like him have done nothing at all to deserve the slur that has been cast upon them. Who could blame them if they chose to take their bats and balls home, although I suspect that they will try to find another way forward being, in the main, resilient and thoughtful people.

The Government are entitled to look at every option for maximising tax revenue, and should do so, but on this occasion they appear to have scored a notable own goal, discouraging the very people whose support they can least afford to lose. Like Hamlet, they have shot an arrow over the house and hurt their brothers. When the Minister replies perhaps he can say what the Government intend to do to right this wrong.

15 May 2012 : Column 309

6.27 pm

Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, the gracious Speech contained a welcome commitment to improve the lives of children and families, and who could disagree with that? There is much that I would like to say about adoption, and indeed other forms of permanency, including life chances for children in care, speeding up processes in the family courts and improving the assessment and support available for disabled children and those with special educational needs. However, I shall save those comments for another day because today I want to highlight the complexity of families by talking about a group who are all too often put in too difficult and unglamorous a box: older people who are unable to look after themselves any longer.

In my experience, family policy often overlooks older people, both as regards the invaluable contribution that they can make to their own families and the wider community and as regards their own care needs if they are to lead a dignified life in old age with the quality of life that we would all wish for ourselves. It is a stark fact that over the next two decades, the number of people aged over 80 is set to double in Britain. That presents major challenges for the way in which public services are delivered, the way our houses, towns and cities are designed and the way in which families organise their lives.

The major shortcomings with the adult social care system are well documented and cause people to be fearful. In brief, the current system is fragmented: there is a postcode lottery; it is extremely variable in quality, confusing and hard to understand; it focuses on crisis cases and high-end needs rather than on preventive action; and, of course, as we have already heard, the funding is unsustainable. Many carers and those needing care find themselves let down by a faltering service and others find themselves having to sell their homes in order to pay for the care that they need. Of the 2 million older people in England with care-related needs, nearly 800,000 receive no support of any kind from public or private sector agencies. As the Health Select Committee stated in its recent report on social care, it comes as a great shock to many people to find that while the care provided by the NHS is free, care services such as help with washing and preparing food at home are means tested, and many will have to pay for them.

Every family in the land is affected by the issue. It is no respecter of class, income, geography or ethnic group. That is why I consider it to be the biggest social policy challenge facing the country. Caring for older people affects everyone in the family—particularly women. Increasingly, families find themselves caring for the needs of three, four and even five generations. This can place a huge strain on those caught in the middle. They may find themselves simultaneously supporting teenage children, looking after young grandchildren and caring for elderly and frail parents or even grandparents—all of this at the same time as being at their most stretched in their working lives. No wonder they are increasingly called the squeezed or sandwiched generation. Of course, it makes the new legislative measures proposed on flexible parental leave and flexible working particularly important.

15 May 2012 : Column 310

I welcome the draft Bill announced in the gracious Speech that is intended to modernise the legal framework for social care; it is much needed. I also welcome the commitment to pre-legislative scrutiny. There is huge expertise and passion in your Lordships’ House on the subject and I very much hope that both Houses will be involved in the process. However, the Bill is only one element of the radical overhaul that is needed for the system as a whole. Our goal should be to create a coherent, consistent and comprehensive system of care, with effective strategic planning and commissioning, improved quality of care, substantial workforce development, more choice and personalisation of care, proper information advice—and above all, fair and transparent funding as well as a greater focus on early preventive services.

The forthcoming White Paper, the funding progress report and the draft Bill should be seen and judged as an overall package that needs to add up to considerably more than the sum of its parts. We heard a lot today about the Dilnot report. It is well known to many in this House and widely regarded as an excellent report. It is not the whole answer to the problems I described because its remit was to recommend a new funding system. However, the potential funding framework that it offers is by far the best yet produced. In short, Dilnot provides a framework for a long-term settlement for funding social care—a partnership between the individual and the state. The funding model aims to eliminate the catastrophic care costs faced by some people by capping the maximum amount that individuals contribute over their lifetime, beyond which the state will meet all future costs. By limiting people’s liability in this way it is expected that a market will develop with new financial products so that people can insure themselves against the costs of their contributions.

There are many other very good recommendations in the report, such as national eligibility criteria for services and portable assessments between local authorities. However, I will focus on why it is so difficult to make progress. Some have argued that the Dilnot proposals are too much about protecting the wealth and property of the majority and not enough about targeting help on the most needy. I do not see it that way. I see the Dilnot proposals as being about sharing costs and risks rather than about protecting the wealthy. At the moment, individuals assume all the risks of becoming unwell or disabled or having care needs, especially in old age. People who work hard all their lives to provide for themselves and their families risk losing everything and being reduced to a threadbare existence through simple misfortune.

Of course there is a key concern about affordability. In the current economic climate that is understandable, but it does not preclude the Government committing to key principles governing the future funding framework, including a cost cap, and considering the phased introduction of the cap with its level perhaps recalibrated as economic conditions improve. While those details are being sorted, immediate steps could be taken at modest cost to help people start planning for the future. These include creating a deferred payment scheme and developing comprehensive information and advice services.

15 May 2012 : Column 311

In conclusion, I agree with Andrew Dilnot that this is primarily a moral crusade. Future generations will not forgive us if we duck the issue simply because it is difficult—as indeed it is, particularly with the economic climate being so tough. I urge the Government to be courageous and to start embarking on the path now, particularly if a cross-party consensus can be found, and to start a national conversation about the political priority that should be given to this area, and the trade-offs that may be needed in other areas. We owe it to future generations and we must not let them down.

6.35 pm

Lord Smith of Leigh: My Lords, this is the first occasion for more than a year that I have spoken in your Lordships’ House, because in March last year I was taken seriously ill. Thanks to excellent medical care from Wigan Infirmary and particularly the Christie Hospital in Manchester I am back and in reasonably good health. I have always taken an interest in health in your Lordships’ House because of my role as a local authority leader. I declare that interest as well as my vice-presidency of the LGA. Of course, my own experiences have reinforced my belief in the need for good healthcare. This was my first time in hospital since I had my tonsils out at the age of four, and the passion I feel now for the NHS was reinforced by the experience.

I was pleased that the Queen’s Speech had something in it about social care; I thought that at last we were tackling the issue. Of course, when the details came out we saw what was involved in the proposal—a draft Bill on eligibility. We know that it is necessary, but given the scale of the problems and the financial crisis in social care, it is woefully inadequate. I hope that the coalition will not hide behind this approach and try to dodge the issue of long-term funding in healthcare.

The current system of social care is not fit for purpose. As the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, said, its operation is incoherent and a mystery to many people. Clients and families do not understand the system, what they are entitled to and why there are so many unacceptable variations between different areas. For one in 10 people who need social care, it has a catastrophic financial impact. We need to make sure that we do something about that. The fears that people have about growing old are something that we ought to tackle in a proper manner.

Clearly, the financial squeeze on local authorities is the main problem. The increase in the budget for social care that we have seen over the past decade has lagged well behind the increase in the whole NHS budget. This increase meant that more went to people with physical and learning disabilities—and quite right, too. However, there has been a 6% increase in the number of old people over the period. Therefore, the amount of money available for the care of the elderly has reduced in real terms. As other speakers said, the number of those aged 85 and over has increased by 25%, with associated costs because people have much more complex needs at that age.

Given demand pressures, it has been extrapolated that by 2024, all of local authority budgets will go on care. Clearly, 12 years ahead is a long time for Ministers to think; their timescale is much shorter. However,

15 May 2012 : Column 312

I hope that your Lordships’ House will still be in operation at that time. We cannot avoid facing up to this financial pressure. Local authorities faced grant reductions of some 25% to 30%. The LGA reckoned that in the past year about £1 billion was taken out of social care budgets. The symptoms of this financial pressure are all around us. We remember the collapse not long ago of the Southern Cross care homes. The fact that local authorities have again not increased the fees they pay to care homes has created huge financial pressures there. The noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, mentioned the home care system. When I got into local government, it was there as a backstop to give support for people to stay in their homes. Now the criteria and the allocated time levels have been reduced and it is inadequate to support many local clients in their own homes.

The greatest danger of the squeeze on social care is its impact on the NHS. If you look at the NHS, you can see an increase in the number of emergency admissions for older people. It is 12% and rising since 2005, but for people over 85, the increase has been 48%. Because people are unable to get proper care support, the length of stay in hospital is increasing. On the acute ward where I was, I observed a patient who was kept there simply because he was unable to feed himself properly. Therefore he was kept on an acute ward—with all its costs—because he could not manage at home.

Over the past decade we made considerable progress with the problem of bed blocking. We are now tipping the other way. My observation was that people are beginning to block beds because the NHS is facing its own financial crisis. Although the settlement in the comprehensive spending review has flat-lined, because of this inexorable rise in the elderly population, the NHS must find productivity savings of some £5 billion a year. Unless we get social care right, the NHS will not be able to achieve those savings. The inadequacy of the treatment of old people already in hospital was revealed by the recent Care Quality Commission report about the poor quality of care that many old people get in the NHS. It will get worse as an increased burden is put on it by the inability of local authorities and others in the social care field to do it.

We cannot continue to patch up this failing system. We have to make radical change. Many noble Lords have mentioned Dilnot and so I will not go into that. More resources are necessary but that is not sufficient to deal with the problem. We have to look at the problem in a different light and in different ways. I have been a councillor for a fair number of years and we have all talked about the need to integrate health and social care. We talk about it, but it has never happened properly. Only 5% of budgets are properly pooled across the NHS and local authorities. We need to do much more about that. We also need much more innovative approaches if we are to deal with the crisis before us.

Integration with health budgets needs to be done. We could have a single pot of health and social care budgets sent to a locality based upon assessment of need, which would not simply be age-related—although that would clearly be an important factor—but also related to the needs of the population. We need a much more joined-up approach in the way we deliver

15 May 2012 : Column 313

services. I suggest that the NHS needs to engage with local authorities much more in the community budget pilots, which look at innovative ways of delivering. If we want to avoid that meltdown in social care, we all as politicians, whether at national or local level, need to work together to find a solution. It is urgent and cannot go into the long grass.

6.43 pm

Baroness Young of Hornsey: My Lords, I am glad to follow the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, this afternoon, as she laid out some key concerns of the arts and cultural sector which I share. In particular, I share her disappointment at an apparent lack of interest or understanding of arts and culture. I am particularly disappointed by the sense of a lack of a strategic approach; of any sense of what is expected of the sector, where it is meant to be going and what lies in store for us. However, in my contribution to the debate on the gracious Speech, I want to draw attention to the role of culture in relation to the concept of well-being, with specific reference to older people.

I would like to thank Mark O’Neill, the director of policy and research at Culture and Sport Glasgow, and Janis Grant, project manager for the Mental Health Foundation’s Age Well project, for their help in providing information for my comments. The Mental Health Foundation established a panel of inquiry in 2010, which I have had the pleasure and privilege of chairing, to investigate the challenges to mental well-being that people born between 1945 and 1955 are likely to face as they age; and to explore what can be done to protect and enhance mental well-being for that cohort.

State funding of culture began on the basis of a Victorian intuition that new institutions were needed to replace earlier forms of community life which had been undermined by industrialisation, migration to cities and rapid population growth. There is now significant medical evidence that the institutions they created have had the intended effect. Cultural participation makes a positive and measurable contribution to human well-being. These studies conclude that public investment in cultural services is an essential element in a preventive public health strategy.

Culture has been particularly important in defining the so-called baby boomers: the first generation to be raised on television, influenced by advertisements and have their own record players, transistor radios and so on. They were key to creating popular culture in all its manifestations: fashion, music, dance, youth culture, talent shows, theatre, film and so on. As the cohort grows older it will continue to look to existing, emerging and as yet unthought-of cultural forms for stimulating leisure activities through a range of different media, including the internet and social media. The recent government public health White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People defines well-being as,

“a positive physical, social and mental state … Good well-being does not just mean the absence of mental illness—it brings a wide range of benefits, including reduced health risk behaviour … reduced mortality, improved educational outcomes and increased productivity at work”.

Mental well-being means that people can enjoy their later years and cope with some of the challenges that growing older brings. Cultural activities are an

15 May 2012 : Column 314

essential element in a society that promotes well-being, because well-being is concerned with fostering positive activity that enables people to flourish. An objective of the Age Well project is to examine the ways that the various media impact on the mental well-being of baby boomers, through reflecting their interests and needs and looking at how they might provide a better balance between the positive and the more challenging aspects of growing older.

Culture and the arts can affect mental well-being in many ways. Participation in cultural events can contribute to social cohesion, reduce isolation and loneliness, and support initiatives that develop understanding between generations—an increasingly important issue in the context of an ageing society and diminishing resources. Cultural activity can contribute to skills development and lifelong learning, help to sustain vibrant communities and grow the economy. Culturally enriching experiences increase appreciation of aesthetics, cultural artefacts, historic and global performance traditions, and historic buildings. I should declare an interest as an English Heritage commissioner.

Fostering this appreciation can develop a sense of meaning, continuity and connection for individuals, families and communities, and a confident curiosity about the world. These qualities are especially important during times of rapid and difficult change. That is why it is essential that local and national government promote them and contribute to the funding of arts and culture. Since 1996 more than 15 large-scale epidemiological studies, published in, for example, the British Medical Journal, have found evidence that cultural attendance improves health so much that people actually live longer. This is not about art therapy or even taking part in creative activities, but simply about going to concerts, museums, art galleries or the cinema. The findings of the original study have been confirmed, and key issues such as causality and effect have been tested and addressed.

As the population age balance changes and more people live for longer, if they do so with high levels of mental well-being, they are more likely to experience less mental illness, better physical health and reduced use of health and care services. They will live not just longer but better-quality lives. In an ageing society and with greater focus on increasing the quality of life post-retirement, there is a need to provide enriching, meaningful and stimulating activity which can be enjoyed in later life. Cultural and leisure services provided by local authorities have in the past done this on a large scale. We will see what impact the cuts have on that activity in future. However, there is no doubt that these services will become increasingly important. Sustained public funding for arts and culture at all levels is essential to ensure that all citizens have access to cultural opportunities.

6.50 pm

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, the debate today is taking place against the background of what has been described as the “greatest political media scandal” of our times. I have borrowed that judgment from the recent report by the House of Lords Communications Committee, on which I served during the previous Session, entitled The Future of Investigative

  15 May 2012 : Column 315 


. Our report was published in February, and since then the continuing revelations from the Leveson inquiry have maintained the pressure for media reform. Lord Justice Leveson is not expected to publish his recommendations until the end of the year, and it will then be for the Government and Parliament to decide what legislation or reform of media regulation might be necessary. Given the timetable, Leveson’s findings should help to inform the parliamentary debate on legislation promised in the gracious Speech to reform the law on defamation.

However, as your Lordships will be aware, a great deal of work has already been done to shape the new Defamation Bill. Back in January 2010, concern about the workings of our libel laws prompted the then Justice Secretary, Jack Straw, to set up an expert working party. In initiating that review, the Labour Government looked to tackling injustices such as powerful claimants using our courts to pursue legal actions at great expense where publication had caused no substantial harm, and to curb so-called libel tourism by foreign parties pursuing matters of little relevance in this country through our courts. Labour also wanted to simplify and strengthen the legal defences available against actions for libel. Another primary concern was the expense of lengthy court proceedings and the fact that at times these seemed to be used to stifle debate on matters of public interest.

The working party set up by Labour helped to lay the foundations for the coalition Government’s draft Defamation Bill, which was published for public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny last year. I am sure that noble Lords will join the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in congratulating the Joint Committee of both Houses on the thoroughness with which it scrutinised the draft Bill. The recent government response to the Joint Committee report accepted its advice on some issues and promised further consideration of other recommendations. I trust that when the Defamation Bill is published, it will continue to command broad support and that freedom of speech will be better protected.

Lord Justice Leveson’s terms of reference ask him to,

“make recommendations … for a new … regulatory regime which supports the integrity and freedom of the press … while encouraging the highest ethical and professional standards”.

That is not easy and I will not attempt to anticipate the inquiry’s findings. However, having spent most of my working life in television subject to regulation which required reporting to be accurate and impartial, I say that it might reassure printjournalists to know that our regulatory regimes didhelp to maintain standards and often protected serious programme-making, albeit with occasional private and public spats.

It is also encouraging that, despite cutbacks in most budgets, the public service broadcasters—the BBC, ITV and Channel 4—say that they will strive to maintain their commitment to investigative current affairs. Regrettably, editorial budgets are under increasing pressure in newspapers where falling revenues are undermining the ability of journalists to deliver in-depth specialist coverage in important areas of public life. That is particularly true in local newspapers where

15 May 2012 : Column 316

business models based on classified advertising are being destroyed by competition from the internet and many titles are closing. An early debate in this House on these issues based on the recent Lords Communications Committee report on journalism would be very timely. Unfortunately, the formal response of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to our committee’s concerns has been delayed because the department wants to wait for the Leveson recommendations at the end of the year. That may be understandable, and the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, is no doubt preoccupied with the Leveson inquiry and his present difficulties, but there are important matters on the media agenda which must be advanced in the coming year.

Last week, the media regulator Ofcom invited applications to run 21 new local television stations across the UK. That is a bold personal initiative by Mr Hunt, but his confidence in their commercial viability is not yet widely shared. Another controversial task for Ofcom is its consideration of whether, in the light of allegations of hacking and corruption, the broadcasting licence of BSkyB is in “fit and proper” hands. Related questions about media plurality will also no doubt surface in the coming Session. The Government have promised that the UK will have the best superfast broadband network in Europe by 2015, which is another very challenging target. There are also public service television licences for channels 3 and 5 to be renewed, or not, by 2014. A Green Paper on media policy was scheduled for publication last year, to be followed by a White Paper this year and then by a draft communications Bill in the spring of 2013. Unfortunately, eventhe Green Paper is not now expected until the end of this year. Again it seems that we may be waiting for Leveson. In the mean time, evidenceof more purposive activity on media policy options by the DCMS would be reassuring.

To be fair, another departmental distraction must of course be the preparations for the London Olympics this summer. So, to conclude on a more positive note: all credit to the DCMS for its Olympian performance under both the Labour and coalition Governments over the past seven years. Major projects have actually been delivered on time, which is not a common occurrence in the history of Olympic Games. The department has also invested in performance, so we now look forward to the achievements of our British sports men and women and wish them every success.

6.56 pm

Lord Sawyer: My Lords, I would like to speak briefly about social exclusion. I do not think it is necessary to persuade the House of the need to tackle this issue. My right honourable friend Alan Milburn in the previous Labour Government, the Deputy Prime Minister and the Education Secretary in this Government, as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Stedman-Scott, in an interesting and helpful speech today, have all made the case, which does not need to be repeated. Instead, I welcome and commend to Members of the House the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility which has been published in the past week. What I like about it is that it adopts what I would call an holistic approach to the problem. It recognises seven key truths about social mobility.

15 May 2012 : Column 317

The report states that the point of greatest leverage is what happens between birth and three years old primarily in the home, through to education, emphasising the importance of good-quality teaching. It then looks at the after-school culture, the role of higher education and what are described as post-education pathways. Finally—this is the point I want to say something about today—the report looks at personal resilience and emotional well-being among those who are socially excluded in our community. The report reckons that this is an area which has not been fully explored and it asks questions about what might be done. I would like to offer some feedback in this respect.

The report suggests that the way forward is to try to replicate confidence in young people along the lines of fostering what it describes as “public school confidence”. I think that that is the wrong approach. What you have to do with young people who are struggling to climb the education or employment ladder is to work with individuals and with the community in which they find themselves. In other words, an individual’s confidence must be built up within the community they come from. To pull in something from outside, like “public school confidence”, in my opinion would be to send the wrong message.

I will never lose sight of the fact, particularly considering the area of the north-east where I come from, that these communities were once proud and confident. Now they have problems because of economic change and unemployment, but they are still communities and they do not want to be told what to do by anybody from outside. In their own way they are still proud, with their own culture, humour and way of life. What is important in helping to overcome social exclusion is to work with the grain of these communities on the things that the people value and understand.

In order to help gain confidence, self-esteem and ambition—all the things that we have all probably tried to help our own children to achieve—we need to emphasise the importance of people working together. There are organisations that could help a lot more than they do at present. I was thinking about the TUC—what a terrific track record it has of helping people to overcome social exclusion. Can your Lordships think of any other voluntary organisation where a man who began life as a postman could end up as a Cabinet Minister, or that a woman from my union, Jane Kennedy, who started out as a care assistant, could become a government Minister? That is a real pathway to achievement and success. If harnessed properly, the trade unions could be a great asset in helping to overcome some of the difficulties of social exclusion. I hope that colleagues and friends who are involved in this work will give that some thought.

I was also thinking about football clubs. The greatest cultural icon in a very deprived area of Middlesbrough—where, incidentally, I am the chancellor of the university—is the football club. If we can get footballers to go out to talk to young people and try to give them confidence and self-belief, even if it is only in being a good footballer, that will be massively important. Parliamentarians could engage in a dialogue with the

15 May 2012 : Column 318

owners and managers of football clubs throughout the country, certainly in the Premier League, to try to do something about social exclusion.

I thought about my time with Britannia Building Society after I ceased to be a trade union official, and what a great business it was and how hard it tried to give its employees confidence and personal growth and development. It was always trying to help people from Leek, a small town in Staffordshire, to become the best in the world. What a great thing to say to somebody who comes to work in Leek: “We want you to be the best in the world”. That is the sort of thing that we need to do. We do not need to look to the public schools; we need to look to our own organisations and communities, the things that are already around us, and we need to look at ourselves. There is a lot that people in this House already do, and a lot more we could do.

When I speak to the students at the university, I always tell them that they can be the best in the world. The fact that they did not go to Oxbridge or to a Russell group university, the fact that they come from poorer homes, the fact that they have really had to struggle to get to university is something that they should be proud of. They should be as confident and as proud of themselves as anybody from any other walk of life. That is really the message from that part of the social exclusion report.

Of course, social exclusion is about the whole seven-point agenda, but if you are going to focus on confidence, self-esteem and ambition, and building those things into young people who may not have the right mix at any time in their lives, it is important to do it with authentic organisations and people in the communities who they can relate to, so they can get some feeling that it is possible for them to achieve what they need to in order to do better in life.

7.03 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, many Members will have heard of the Watoto children’s village in Kampala. It is a village of about 1,600 orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. They have come from the most dismal circumstances. They have choirs that go around the world promoting and advocating the work done by the Watoto community. They were singing here in Parliament about two years ago and I hope that they will be singing here again in July.

After they sang last time, I asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. “I want to be a nurse.” “I want to be a vet.” “I want to be an airline pilot.” I came to the last little lad, a sturdy 10 year-old, and asked him what he wanted to be. “I want to be President of Uganda.” I thought that was a wonderful ambition. He had a dream—children have dreams, they have aspirations, they have talents. One of the great needs of this time is for people to share their dreams and to be helped to find the necessary ladders to achieve their ambitions.

Of course, this is true overseas, and I am so grateful that in the Queen’s Speech we had a commitment of 0.7% of GDP for overseas development. I am also glad that we have made another significant contribution for Christian Aid Week. We are helping those overseas

15 May 2012 : Column 319

to achieve their dreams. It is not just overseas; there is a need in our own country to share the dreams of children everywhere and give them the resources necessary so the world might benefit from their contribution, to remove the barriers that so often prevent children from aiming high and achieving their potential.

We all know that the background children come from is often very difficult and can stifle their ambitions right from the early years. Somehow we have to overcome this and find some way of transforming the problem areas to make them areas of opportunity. This can be done. There are exciting projects already and in other places we must encourage co-operation and discussion between churches, voluntary organisations, youth organisations, local councils and even the police to find a better way forward for these children.

The best thing of all is if these projects are led by people of the children’s own communities. We are often looked upon by people outside with great suspicion as comfortable people living in comfortable circumstances earning a comfortable income—and that is true. Somehow it is so difficult, especially once you come here, to be able really to empathise, to share the concerns and the struggles of people outside here. We need to encourage people from the children’s own communities. If I go into a community and I am a stranger, they will say, “Look at him. He knows nothing about our struggles”. People should be encouraged in different ways to go into their own communities to work with the young people—and the older people. In my part of the world, new arrivals are often looked upon with some suspicion: “This family have only been here for 34 years. They have not settled down. They have not become part of us”. People should be encouraged to take the lead in their own communities, helping people over the cultural hurdles that they face.

The Queen’s Speech also contained promises to improve parenting and support family life. It is often said that education is the key to so much of this—the key to tackling youth unemployment and boosting the hopes of young people. I speak to teachers frequently, and they are wonderful people, but the morale is so low. The mountain of bureaucracy that they have to tackle is preventing them being the inspirational teachers that they could be. I dream that every child will be treated as an individual, with different strengths and different needs. “Same size fits all” does not work here. We should look at every child and see how the teachers, as champions of the rights of each individual pupil, are able to exert their inspiration, talent and skills in the best way possible.

I am very sad at the standard of some career guidance. Perhaps Miss Jones—or Roberts—has a free lesson on Thursday at 2 pm and is told, “You do careers”. Especially in a time of high youth unemployment when there are not as many opportunities as there used to be, we need the most skilled teachers in personal relationships with the children to direct them to the most suitable opportunities. We must put career guidance at the very top of our agenda.

Finally, as a Chamber, as a Parliament, we must be prepared to be far more united in the way we tackle these problems, willing to work as one, to overcome the blight of unemployment and hopelessness. That

15 May 2012 : Column 320

would show real maturity, that we are not just politicians with eyes on the next election, and that this is a Chamber of statespeople, aware of our responsibilities not just to the next election but to the next generation.

7.09 pm

Baroness Hollins: My Lords, it was encouraging to hear Her Majesty address important aspects of care relevant to those with learning disabilities. I should mention my own interest in learning disability, particularly as a past president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. I also worked clinically with people with learning disabilities for 30 years until I retired from the NHS in 2008. I have also had policy secondments to the Department of Health to advise on learning disability. Perhaps most importantly, my son is an adult with a learning disability, and many of the issues that I shall refer to today are, or have been, relevant in his life and therefore in mine.

The care and support Bill and the children and families Bill both have the potential to improve the lives of those with learning disabilities, and those who care for and about them. We hear that the care and support Bill will try to simplify the current care system, a system described by the Dilnot commission in 2010 as “complex and opaque”, and more recently by last year’s Law Commission report as an “incoherent patchwork of legislation”. I understand that the care and support Bill intends to replace provisions in at least a dozen Acts with a single statute.

Such simplification could be in the interests of those with learning disabilities and their support networks. This Bill supports another recommendation of the Law Commission report, which was addressed also in A Vision for Adult Social Care White Paper: that of making the system genuinely more person-centred. This also has synergy with ideas in Think Local, Act Personal, the 2010 partnership agreement between local government and the provider sector.

Charities such as Mencap and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation believe that the provision of person-centred, comprehensive local services is central to preventing appalling abuse such as that exposed last year by “Panorama” at Winterbourne View in Bristol. Several different investigations are following up what happened at Winterbourne View and, until the criminal prosecutions have been completed, final conclusions will not be reached. I am sure that noble Lords will join me in hoping that strong recommendations will emerge from this intense scrutiny and that they will be taken note of in the new legislation envisaged during this Session.

In July last year, I asked a Private Notice Question about Winterbourne View. One part of my Question related to the Mansell report, which gives guidance on how to manage and support people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour in the community, rather than export them a long way from home to private hospitals such as Winterbourne View. Challenging behaviour is complex and requires management by those with specialist knowledge and skills. One of the issues raised by investigations into Winterbourne View was that Castlebeck was using unqualified staff to work with some of the most complex patients in the system.

15 May 2012 : Column 321

While being unethical, this is also a false economy. We know that early intervention with expert care at a stage when behaviour first appears is vital if the reason for the behaviour is to be understood, extinguished and prevented from becoming a life-long battle for patients, their families and services trying to help them. Experienced and well qualified professionals are sometimes seen as too expensive, and employers may seek to replace them with cheaper alternatives. However, cheaper often means less qualified, and as Winterbourne View has shown us, this can be severely detrimental to the care of some of the most vulnerable people in society.

When the aim of a care system is to be person-centred, how can this truly be so without that care being portable? I am pleased that other noble Lords have referred to the importance of portability. This issue has been raised by numerous reports and in the Private Member’s Bill of my noble friend Lady Campbell, the Social Care Portability Bill, which had its First Reading in the previous Session. As it stands, a disabled person must negotiate a new care and support package every time they move from one local authority to another. Thus, those with disabilities are denied the freedoms that others can enjoy, partly because of the fear of not receiving equivalent levels of care and support in a new locality.

I recognise the limited value of personal experience, but I shall tell a story about my son. Ten years ago when he moved to his current home, the new local authority appealed to the Secretary of State to try to get a ruling that it had no responsibility for the cost of his care and support. It was unsuccessful, as were many other local authorities facing similar requests to support people who had moved into their area. Ordinary residence rules are now much better established, but there is still no requirement or expectation that, for somebody moving today, the new local authority will honour an assessment conducted by another local authority.

Ten years on, my son again wishes to move house. I have recently spent several hours in meetings and completing assessment questionnaires, knowing that I will probably have to repeat the exercise in a few weeks with his new local authority, with no certainty that his support plan will be honoured. This is happening all over the country. It is a waste of officials’ time, a waste of disabled people’s and family carers' time, stressful and, frankly, discriminatory.

My hope is that the care and support Bill will address the question of portability and adopt the suggestions of my noble friend in her Private Member’s Bill. I would be grateful if the Minister could comment on this point.

The children and families Bill proposes to assist young disabled adults by offering them the opportunity of further education until the age of 25 and to give them the right to a personal budget. The transition to adulthood for young people with special educational needs is notoriously difficult. Those with learning disabilities often benefit from extended time in an adult college, which has the resources to prepare them to the best of their abilities for life in wider society.

15 May 2012 : Column 322

The White Paper, A Vision for Adult Social Care, recognisedthat self-directed support can help to prevent or reduce the risk of harm and abuse. There is also the critical recommendation in the Dilnot report that:

“Those who enter adulthood already having a care and support need should immediately be eligible for free state support to meet their care needs, rather than being subjected to a means test”.

It seems that the children and families Bill intends to secure this entitlement and I welcome it.

7.17 pm

Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, I want to focus on what was not in the gracious Speech and should have been. That is probably what is known technically as a target-rich environment, but I have had to narrow down my remarks for the purpose of the seven-minute time guideline. I want to focus today on children and families.

I spent seven months recently sitting on the Riots Communities and Victims Panel, something which anyone who has spoken to me for more than five seconds in the past six months will know all too much about. We produced our final report at the end of March and I commend it to the House. There will, I hope, be a Question for Short Debate on it soon, so I shall not dwell on the generalities. However, I shall focus on something which may be particularly relevant today.

I was struck by one set of statistics produced by the panel, showing that about a quarter of the convicted rioters were under 18 and that about three-quarters were under 25. Forty-six per cent of the under-18s were living in poverty; 66% had special educational needs; and 30% were persistently absent from school. These were young people who had already had challenges, so what happened in the riots was not simply happening to a random selection of our young people.

Many people and agencies were responsible for that, which the report goes into in detail. We found that too many families were not getting the support that they needed to raise children. In the wake of the riots, people were very quick to blame parents. Everywhere we went, we asked communities who was responsible. They identified a range of people, with parents always coming high up in the list. However, when we talked to parents, they would often say that they could not get the help that they needed. One worker described very movingly working with a woman who had had terrible problems with her children. She had said, “You know, people keep telling me I need to sort things out, but nobody tells me how. Please will somebody help me to do that?”. A lot of money is already going into working with vulnerable families with children, but there is a real question as to whether it is going to the right place and doing the right things.

The Government have their 120,000 problem families, and I commend that work, but that is essentially crisis intervention. It is going to help a very small number of people who have a significant need which has already manifested itself. That still leaves a significant problem. We estimated that at least half a million forgotten families are bumping along the bottom. They never quite hit the now very high threshold required to get them the help they need to get off it. That is a

15 May 2012 : Column 323

problem. We asked the Government to look afresh at how they direct support to vulnerable families. I ask the Minister to think about that today.

We set out a few principles. I will highlight a couple of them. First and most obvious, that kind of intervention needs to be evidence based. Where there is evidence that it works, such as the Family Nurse Partnership Programme in which the Government have invested, it should be rolled out quickly and not simply focus on small numbers of people. Secondly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, pointed out so well, interventions need to be timely. Ideally, the issues should be pre-empted or identified and dealt with as soon as possible to stop them becoming acute. The costs of not doing that are enormous and yet we consistently fail to do it. I know that money is tight, but that is true in the health service and we do not simply say, “Sorry, we will not do vaccination programmes this year because they are quite expensive”. We recognise that the costs of not doing that are significant, even if some of the people vaccinated may not have got mumps anyway. None the less, we invest the money in it. Yet, we systematically fail to learn that in other forms of intervention.

Thirdly, there needs to be a whole-family view. Too often, we came across cases where no individual member of the family quite hit the threshold for getting help yet taken as a whole the family was, frankly, dysfunctional. That is a real problem in the way that the different bits of the state which engage with families are either not joining up or are not meeting at the point where the family has a problem. They experience the problems as a family, not in separate units. Trying to get the state’s support to address that would be helpful.

I offer the Government a couple of thoughts for their children and families Bill. First, could they use the Bill to give a clear pledge to identify children with problems early? The noble Lord, Lord Hill, is in his place. Would he consider giving schools a clear responsibility for identifying children who are vulnerable for a range of reasons? The child may be a young carer, have special needs or face parental neglect or abuse. There should be a specific responsibility to identify that and resources to help bring together the people needed to address those problems before they get any worse. Secondly, could the Government show the way forward in early intervention by leading by example and extending the Family Nurse Partnership Programme to all teenage mothers at once? That would not be a huge sum of money and would show that, where a programme is effective and evaluated as such, the Government are willing to put the money behind it.

Intervention for vulnerable families is one of those happy issues on which the heart and the head come together. We all know the evidence of the head. The evidence of Graham Allen MP is the most recent example of the money saved by early intervention. The human case is also overpowering. Over the last few months, I have met too many young people whose futures look very bleak at a frankly depressingly early age. I have gone into prisons, young offender institutions and communities where I have met young people. If they were your own children, you would cry that things had come to this point for them so early. Yet so often, things could have been spotted sooner. As a country, if we come across those people it is incredibly

15 May 2012 : Column 324

sad to think of the lives wasted and the contribution that they could have made. What is really heart-breaking is to think that we had a chance to stop it and did not. I hope that the Government will look at this.

7.23 pm

Lord Stoneham of Droxford: My Lords, in this debate I want to take up the theme raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis of Heigham, in her speech on the future of pensions policy. I congratulate the Government on their decision to move ahead with a new pensions Bill, to complete the reforms of the Turner commission and the work of the last Labour Government. This will create a single-rate pension set above the pension credit standard minimum guarantee and formalise the strategy and process to determine the future raising of the pension age. The one overriding objective in the pension field must be to simplify in order to improve understanding. A single-tier higher pension will reduce the complexity of means-testing and the disincentive to save, but only for new pensioners. It is essential to do this to complement the introduction of auto-enrolment in pensions starting later this year.

We obviously need a new, simpler structure, but is that enough? As yet, we have no idea how many will opt out of auto-enrolment or what they will make of it when they change jobs. We are hoping that an extra 5 million to 8 million people will start making extra pension provision. We cannot expect people to save more unless they understand what they are investing in. The recent IoD report, Roadmap for Retirement Reform, says this well:

“Little wonder that the average employer or employee simply finds pensions utterly baffling … people are unlikely to engage with, stay engaged with and contribute hard earned money to something they simply can’t understand the workings of”.

Warren Buffett, the great investment manager from the Midwest, often says that he only invests in businesses that are simple to understand. How can we expect personal savers to do otherwise?

Defined benefit pensions, from which many of us here probably benefit now, were quite easy to understand. Until recently, people had confidence in them. You invested for life and they provided a pension of between half and two-thirds of your salary. Contributory pensions are a completely different story. You have no idea what you will eventually get. You will find out too late in life if it is not enough. Every financial scandal will raise your fears that you will not get anything. Just trying to understand may only depress you. It is not surprising that many people put their heads in the sand and adopt a Micawber strategy that something will turn up. The consequence is that many will simply underprovide for their much longer retirement.

Many are also adopting alternative strategies. Unfortunately, they tend to be those who are already better off. There has been a huge growth in ISAs and investment in property and parental property. Many are investing in businesses that they hope will provide their pensions. The next stage in the Government’s policy on pensions needs to be not only to declare war on government regulations but to say how to simplify savings for pensions and to improve understanding. We also need to broaden understanding that a more flexible approach to encourage saving may

15 May 2012 : Column 325

achieve a better response. People need to be encouraged to make greater provision for themselves. We need a simple pensions structure but we also need to encourage greater diversity.

Finally, the Government need to reduce the odds on the biggest lottery of all: how much individuals need to provide for the greater likelihood of greater social care expenditure. There are three tasks for the coalition Government over the next three years: simplify pensions savings and improve understanding; encourage more flexible savings mechanisms and schemes; and achieve a settlement for social care provision.

7.27 pm

Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate: My Lords, it will not surprise your Lordships that in my short contribution to the debate this evening I intend to concentrate on matters concerning law and justice. Having spent 35 years as an operational police officer, I feel reasonably qualified to comment on this important area of policy.

I start on a positive note: I welcome the important intention to clamp down on driving under the influence of drugs. I campaigned for many years for the development of a roadside device that detects drugs in the body, similar to the breathalyser for alcohol. It seems that we are now in a position to move forward on that and I am delighted. I was amazed that those who advocated the relaxation and even legalisation of drug use always ignored the fact that more people would be driving under the hypnotic influence of drugs without our having the quick means of detecting them, with all the misery and tragedy that would follow due to deaths and injury on our roads. The prevalence of that has always been unmeasured but now we are developing the means to deal with this grossest of anti-social behaviour. All decent people in the country will welcome this proposal.

By popular acclaim, we have one of the best police forces in the world. It is not perfect—nothing is. Yet, simply based on the evidence of the training and advice that we give to other countries all over the world, people globally value the British policing model. Young men and women do not join the police to become millionaires—politics, business and the legal profession produce far more of those—but they expect to be treated fairly and decently for the public service that they provide.

In my view, one of the gravest disservices that we did to the police in this country was when we labelled the Metropolitan Police “institutionally racist”. I know that it has a technical meaning, but the message that it sent out to the man and woman on the beat was that they were seen as racists. It was seen as unfair and unjust. Even worse, it created a climate of risk aversion in the police. That was identified by HMIC. On the other side, even worse, the advantage was seized by people who were emboldened to play the race card.

I gave an example to your Lordships a couple of weeks ago when I described how I was accused of racism by the National Black Police Association and the Society of Black Lawyers for reporting the criminal activities of Commander Ali Dizaei, who subsequently went to prison. It was even worse than that, because

15 May 2012 : Column 326

false evidence was submitted to the clerk. It is wrong in principle that people who report wrongdoing are accused by means of being fitted up. I certainly took exception to that, even though the allegations were proved to be grossly false.

It is for that reason that I am so concerned that the coalition Government are on a collision course with the police, a body of people who cannot take industrial action and who, to be honest, have the lowest morale that I have ever known in my lifetime. They are even balloting later this year on the right to strike. What a pretty pass we have arrived at. What do the Government intend to do if the ballot proves positive and they vote for industrial rights? It is ironic that most police officers are inclined to be very conservative. Of course, they adored Margaret Thatcher, who supported and strengthened them—for political reasons; she is no fool. They were less sanguine about the right honourable and learned Kenneth Clarke, the current Lord Chancellor, who as Home Secretary in the early 1990s wheeled out Sir Patrick Sheehy, from British American Tobacco, to make the British police operate more like a business, with performance-related pay, short-term contracts and the like. That led to one of the largest police rallies ever, at Wembley. Ken Clarke’s successor, Michael Howard, now a distinguished Member of your Lordships’ House, listened carefully to the arguments and quickly abandoned the collision course previously set—incidentally, presiding at the same time over dramatic reductions in crime.

This Government have decided to politicise the police by bringing in elected police and crime commissars—sorry, commissioners. I have grave worries about that change. I have only known a non-political police force, but I have seen other models abroad. When I was a serving officer of senior rank working with Governments of both parties, nobody ever knew what my political leanings were—nor should they have. I swore allegiance to the Crown and served impartially under the law, to which I was accountable. The chief constable was accountable to the police authority, to the Home Secretary and, of course, to the law. The chief officer was very difficult to remove without agreement locally and nationally. There have been several cases where disputes took place on those issues. We are now placing the chief officer under the direct control of one political master, who could hire or fire him or her. I know that there is a commitment that commissioners will not get involved in operational matters, but experience of other jurisdictions, such as the United States, shows that appointments will be made of like-minded individuals and that those who do not play ball will not last very long in post.

However you wish to explain it, that is playing politics with our impartial policing system. In the main, elected commissioners will represent political parties, so party politics will have sway. It is sometimes difficult to separate policy from operational issues. I recall the centipede with severe arthritis going for advice to the wise old owl about his disability. “What you should do”, said the owl, “is transform yourself into a dormouse and hibernate throughout the winter. When you emerge in the spring, your arthritis will be gone and you will be fit and athletic for the summer”. “Thank you, wise old owl”, said the grateful centipede.

15 May 2012 : Column 327

As he walked—or limped—away, he said, “But tell me, how do I turn myself into a dormouse?”. “Don’t ask me”, said the owl, “I only make policy”. There we have the dilemma. There is a difficult dividing line between policy and operational matters.

Seriously, I hope that the concerns that I have outlined turn out to be groundless. No doubt we shall see. At the same time, of course, we have proposals by some chief officers to privatise certain parts of the policing role itself—not just backroom activities but, remarkably, the patrolling function and the investigation of crime. I believe that the public expect certain activities involving civil liberties and powers of detention and arrest to be performed by fully accountable sworn officers of the Crown. To bring in private bodies to investigate crime and to patrol the streets on the cheap would be a perversion of Sir Robert Peel’s vision in 1829. I can only hope for the election of a large number of police and crime commissioners who will not allow chief constables to implement such plans. Is that strategic or is it operations? I do not know. No doubt we will find out in due course.

In conclusion, I believe that the police service of this country is a national treasure, rather like your Lordships’ House. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

7.36 pm

Baroness Meacher: My Lords, I rise to address two issues: first, the Government’s plans to introduce drug-driving offences in the Crime and Courts Bill. I should perhaps say that I speak as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform.

I welcome the Government’s plans in principle. However, I stress that the policies to deal with drug-driving should be evidence-based and in line with the treatment of driving while under the influence of alcohol. It is of course wrong to drive while unfit to do so, putting other people’s lives at risk. However, it is also wrong for a Government to penalise people unfairly and disproportionately.

Ministers and the rest of us are well aware that the possession and use of many drugs, some of which are far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco, carry heavy criminal penalties including prison sentences. Those of us who—very occasionally, of course—enjoy a glass of wine do not suffer any of those risks. Penalties for drug use are unfair and disproportionate. Indeed, they are so disproportionate that they bring the law into disrepute. Even the Association of Chief Police Officers recently made clear that it will not prioritise the arrest of persons using or possessing drugs. If we have a law that even the police are not interested in upholding, we really have a problem.

I am aware of Sir Peter North’s report, commissioned by the Department for Transport, which reviews the drink and drug-driving laws. I welcome the decision of the then Government to consider both drink and drug-driving in the same report, looking at them as a single set of issues. I do not know whether they were the first Government to bring those two issues together, but that has to be the right approach.

We know that drivers under the influence of alcohol remain a blight on our roads. There are still 430 deaths and 1,600 serious injuries every year attributable to

15 May 2012 : Column 328

drink-driving. We also know that the risks of having an accident increase exponentially as more alcohol is consumed. Despite those high risks, the penalties for drink-driving are relatively modest. When we think of the prison sentences for someone just possessing the drug, we must consider that the drink-driving penalties are in the order of a 12-month mandatory disqualification from driving and a mandatory six penalty points.

Having said that, I do not want to discourage those relatively moderate penalties, but argue that similar penalties should apply to drunk-driving if the risk to the public is in fact the same. That is my principal point. It seems such an obvious one that I hope that the Minister will agree with the principle.

We know far less, of course, about drug-driving than about drink-driving. In part, this is because of the illegality of these drugs and the ethical and practical problems of getting accurate information on their use among drivers. That is not the only issue but it is certainly a major one—surely just one of many reasons why we should be reviewing the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. We will come back to that in later debates. It seems right in principle, as Sir Peter North recommends, that every police force should invest in training for officers to conduct field impairment tests—here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie—and that there should be really good devices to test for drug inhalation in police stations. That is on condition that these tests are undertaken if there is a prima facie case for the person being under the influence of some substance; in other words, if their behaviour is being affected. We should not be talking about something in someone’s body but about the risk to drivers on the roads. As long as we stick with that, we are on some firm ground.

Another concern is that such tests will pick up cannabinoids in people’s bodies, when these might have been taken seven days before and, even within 24 hours of ingesting that drug, would not have any effect on the person’s behaviour. There are very real risks unless the Government are committed to a policy that focuses on behaviour. Sir Peter North refers to an offence relating only to controlled drugs and talks about zero tolerance if testing is too difficult. Again, it is very important that we look at drugs and alcohol—at all these substances—across the piece in the same way.

I turn briefly to the Government’s plans for social care reform. Their plan is for a draft Bill rather than legislation itself; I am sure that other noble Lords have already referred to this. However, we have already had the Law Commission recommending a single social care statute and the Dilnot commission recommending funding arrangements which should, and could, be introduced without any further delay. When the legislation comes it needs to ensure: that high-quality care is available for all who need it; that people are enabled to live not only safely but in a dignified way and with self-respect; and, above all, that care is funded fairly and transparently. These key principles are as important for carers as for elderly people themselves. At the moment, carers sacrifice their jobs, their social life and their future economic security. This makes absolutely no sense to their family; neither does it to taxpayers. At the end of the day, if these carers have no savings or

15 May 2012 : Column 329

pensions, who will pay for them in their old age? It is the state—that is, the taxpayer—so at the moment we do not have a sensible programme even for taxpayers.

I share the BMA’s support for the aim to create a more personalised social care system but I also share its concern about the expense, complexity and adverse effects of basing a system of social care commissioning upon the choices and decisions of individuals, rather than those of the population or the community. I strongly urge the Government to pilot this work rather than just roll it out. If the Government pilot these personal accounts, they will probably want to think again when they see that people are literally buried in paper—invoices, reminders and all the rest of it. It is a nightmare of bureaucracy, and my understanding is that this Government want to reduce bureaucracy and paperwork. I look forward to hearing the Government’s response later on and in future debates.

7.44 pm

Lord Colwyn: My Lords, there is no reference to the National Health Service in the gracious Speech but I should like to use the opportunity provided by this debate to update the House on the state of NHS dentistry. In May 2010, I stressed the importance of continuing the process of reform that started with the 2009 Steele review. In the coalition agreement, the Government committed themselves to introducing a new dentistry contact, which would focus on achieving good dental health, and to fully piloting any changes before introducing them.

Good progress has already been made. Since last September, 70 dental practices around the country have been piloting a new contract based on a capitation model, with an additional focus on the quality of clinical outcomes. The early feedback from these pilots has been positive: practitioners and the public are happy that more time is being spent with each patient and that there is greater emphasis on preventing oral health problems. These pilots were originally commissioned to run for a year but the Department of Health recently extended the programme until March 2013. This is a commendable approach. Extending the pilot period will allow more time to produce meaningful results, which will be of great use when developing the final proposals for the new contract.

I also spoke of the mounting challenges that dental practitioners face in the management of their practices, drawing particular attention to the additional regulatory burden that registration with the Care Quality Commission was about to impose on them. As we now know, the CQC was not ready to take on the registration of dentistry by the statutory deadline of April 2011 and experienced severe administrative and policy difficulties as it attempted to do so. Last September, the House of Commons Health Committee’s review of the CQC concluded that the pressures imposed by the registration of dentists led directly to a 70% drop in the number of inspections that the CQC carried out, compared to the same period in the previous year.

That report also recognised how frustrating the experience of registration had been for dentists. The CQC seemed to have little knowledge or experience of

15 May 2012 : Column 330

how dental practices actually operated, applying a one-size-fits-all model of registration that was more appropriate for social care than any other health service provider. When dentists contacted the CQC with queries about the process there seemed to be no one with the necessary expertise in dentistry to assist them, which frequently led to contradictory advice being given out. It was as a result of these difficulties that the CQC and the Government took the decision to delay the registration of GP practices. Dental service providers were already heavily regulated. Many dentists felt that CQC regulation of dentistry was not appropriate or proportionate and their registration experience has not persuaded them otherwise. Recognising that this is an issue, the Law Commission recently launched a consultation into how the regulation of health and social care professionals could be made simpler and more consistent.

By coincidence, I talked this morning at the launch of the British Dental Health Foundation’s National Smile Month to the Chief Dental Officer, Barry Cockcroft. He assured me that all was well with the general dental practitioner CQC registrations and that any remaining problems were with general medical practitioners. Perhaps the Minister could write to me—or ask his noble friend Lord Howe to write to me—to clarify the current situation concerning the CQC and medical and dental registrations.

Dentistry also faces great changes as a result of the Government’s health reforms, with the commissioning of dental services transferring to the national NHS Commissioning Board. Local expertise will still have a vital role to play in the commissioning of services, and the Government need to ensure that this expertise is appropriately utilised. The role of consultants in dental public health is particularly important as they will need to be accessible not only to the national Commissioning Board but to local health and well-being boards. The Department of Health is also developing proposals for local professional networks in dentistry to work alongside the local primary care commissioning teams in developing and delivering local service plans. These networks will enable the dental profession to influence local and national strategy and policy, ensuring that best practice and clinical expertise are embedded throughout the system.

The coalition has made a strong start in tackling the issues facing dentistry. There is still more work to do on contract reform, regulation and commissioning. I urge the Government to maintain their focus and continue working with the profession to deliver the best possible outcomes for patients.

7.50 pm

Lord McFall of Alcluith: My Lords, I am very pleased to participate in this debate. At the beginning of the day, the Minister said that the debate would be about the kind of society that we want. With that in mind, we should focus on things like character, competence, cuts and confidence, the first two relating to the personalities and actions of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor and the latter two relating to the well-being of society as a result of the Government’s policies. We have seen, even today, that austerity alone has been discredited in Europe and the UK. As a

15 May 2012 : Column 331

result, we need a new vision and a narrative that have been missing to date. I suggest that it is on that acid test that the Government’s character and competence will be measured.

The truth that is catching up with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor is that the problems in the UK were not exclusively home-made. The proposition that we were like Greece is absurd. The reality is that while the Chancellor has tried to peddle the UK as having been more like Greece, he has made us more like Spain in the process. In 2009-10, growth as a result of Alastair Darling’s stimulus was 3.2% while Spain’s was zero. Now, after six quarters of UK negative growth, we have 0.2% negative growth compared with Spain’s growth of plus 2.4%. What is missing from the lexicon is the “g word”—growth. There were hints before the Queen’s Speech that this would be addressed, but on the day after it the front page of the Telegraph said, in bold:

“Why was there no plan for growth?”,

while the Sun editorial said:

“Plans to boost the economy amounted to tinkering rather than a full-blooded assault on unemployment”.

Those are two comments with which I fully agree.

The Chancellor has to show his character here. Let us forget about him admitting that his strategy is wrong; but he has to address the concept of growth. Without that, confidence in the country is seeping away day by day. Justin King, the chief executive of Sainsbury’s and a member of the Prime Minister’s business advisory group, has said that he has not seen a consistent pursuit of a clear policy. The consequences will be greater inequality, a greater north/south divide, increasing welfare dependence, increasing unemployment and ambition and social mobility checked at source.

On the issue of cuts, the IFS has said that the real-terms spending cuts of £100 billion targeted between April 2011 and March 2017 will see £33 billion of them falling in the final two years of that period. So in 2015, an election year, sizeable cuts will still have to be delivered. If you want to see how austerity measures are killing confidence, look at the company sector, which took £72 billion out of the economy in 2010 and £80 billion last year. Non-financial companies increased their holdings of currency in bank deposits by £48 billion in 2010 and £62 billion in 2011. That takes the total to £754 billion sitting in companies’ balance sheets doing nothing—a staggering 50% of UK GDP—while we have youth unemployment of 1 million. My experience as a teacher in Glasgow in the 1980s was that these young people with no chance end up in a lifetime of penury, social inability and the likelihood of mental health, alcohol and drug problems, and the result is that they have an increasing reliance on the state rather than less reliance on the state.

That is why I welcomed the coalition’s commitment that it would adopt the Labour Government’s 2020 target to eliminate child poverty. However, the IFS is saying at the moment that the Government’s spending plans are putting into reverse the progress that had been made on that in the previous few years. I suggest to this House that an increase in child poverty is not an example of the broader shoulders taking the greatest burden. The Government promised that the poorest

15 May 2012 : Column 332

10% would lose the least, but the reality is that the poorest 10% are losing more than anyone except the richest 10%.

I have two suggestions for the Government. The first is to postpone the change to the hours rule for couples claiming working tax credit. That was predicated on OBR predictions in 2010 that the economy would swing back to strong growth. That is not happening, and as a result 200,000 low-income families will be affected by this. It will dramatically worsen child poverty in its extent and severity and will create a situation where people will be better off leaving their jobs, to the detriment of the economy. I suggest that the Government’s slogan of “Making work pay” has a hollow ring.

The second issue is rebalancing the ratio of spending cuts to tax rises. The Government have said that that ratio is 4:1. That will dramatically change the situation against people on low incomes. The Conservatives’ approach during the recession of the 1990s was to adopt a ratio of 1:1. It is for this Government to realise that 4:1 guarantees that the distribution of the burden will be skewed towards those at the lower end of the income distribution scale.

The electorate are looking for authenticity and empathy, and those have been missing from the debate just now. If we are looking at what type of society we want, there are a number of fundamental questions that should guide us. Are the increasingly high levels of economic inequality in society a problem? Should the Government be concerned at the high social and economic cost? The Joseph Rowntree Foundation says that child poverty is costing the UK £25 billion per annum. What action should we take to reverse the scandalous situation where the poorest children are likely to live for 10 years less than the more wealthy? Do we have an obligation to tackle this? We do, but it can be done only if the Government demonstrate their character and competence in these bleak times.

The death slogan “Austerity alone” needs discarding. Confidence needs to be restored in order to give individuals and communities hope for the future. Only by doing that will the Government demonstrate the authenticity and empathy suggested by the slogan, “We’re all in this together”. Otherwise it will be seen merely as an empty gesture.

7.57 pm

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, in so far as I intend to pursue in more detail the issue that I raised earlier at Oral Questions, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-police. Concurrently with my first employment as a schoolmaster, I became a special constable and served for seven years. Later, as an Army officer, I had responsibility for joint planning and liaison with the police, and that during our troubled times in Northern Ireland. While I was an MP, I was parliamentary adviser to the RUC. I feel no need, however, to make similar ameliorating comments about my attitude to our virtually invisible and ineffective Home Office.

At the beginning of a new parliamentary year—I have seen 29 come and go here—one still waits with bated breath for some sort of signal that next year is going to be better. Such an expectation is difficult to sustain when one reads through the coalition’s programme

15 May 2012 : Column 333

for business in 2012, particularly in relation to creating a fairer society. Everything I read there confirms my impression of those exceedingly well educated folk who occupy the Front Benches in another place but who seldom appear to have rubbed shoulders with reality. Ideas hatched in some intellectually gifted corner of the Palace of Westminster float through a maze of implementation levels that are ill defined, largely disconnected and often wholly inefficient.

It is some years since the noble Lord, Lord Reid, described the Home Office as not fit for purpose, yet we continue without respite to find it delegating responsibilities in a way that it seems to consider absolves it from any real decision-making role. Just try, as I have, to discover why a police constabulary appears to be inefficient or corrupt and you will get the answer that I got last November when I was told by the Home Office that it had not held “aggregate data” on police since 2004. Why not?

One may be advised to speak to the Independent Police Complaints Commission. I have, only to be told that the fairly obvious injustice that concerns me was not within its bailiwick because my complaint overlapped with social services. I belatedly referred the issue to the Justice Department, but it could not intervene. I am referring to a case where a lady in her 80s was cheated out of her home. The Minister knows it well and over the past three years the Home Office has received hundreds—yes, hundreds—of communications through me about the matter. Successive Secretaries of State have been so concerned that none would meet me, despite the fact that Interpol was activated to pursue this elderly lady all the way to her son’s home in Austria. Does anyone in authority care that social services and police in North Yorkshire have conspired in the persecution of Mrs Hofschroer and her son? Are details of dismissals, forced retirements and other shady and costly measures pertaining to North Yorkshire Police available to legislators in Parliament? No. Basic justice is distorted by the system, but I can see nothing to address this major issue in the Government’s plans.

Not dissimilar, in terms of Home Office incompetence, is the well known case of Gary McKinnon, a once young man with autism who hacked the Pentagon’s computers and whom the United States wants to extradite, potentially to imprison for the rest of his life in its prison system, where there are, conservatively, 60,000 rapes per year. His defence has cost his family their home. For over 10 years Gary, now 45 years old, has been left in limbo, and yet the Home Office happily, if somewhat inefficiently, spends millions accommodating the legal rights of Abu Qatada. Is that how we expect the Home Office and Justice to deal with disability—with cruel indecision, without compassion and with detached unaccountability? I think not, so surely it is about time we sought to replace our failing nanny state with a fair and just one.

Truly, the right hand at the Dispatch Box appears not to know and not to care what the left hand is doing. Is it not time that the Government recognised that principled strategic command is a prerequisite for effective delegation? One of the follies pertaining to and emanating from latter-day political correctness is that government and justice should not impinge on

15 May 2012 : Column 334

each other. That is why we foolishly established the introverted and expensive Supreme Court, effectively a third unaccountable legislature with which society barely identifies. Law can be effective only when it relates to what society as a whole is prepared to accept and support. Society’s temper is reflected through those elected to another place and through this related scrutinising Chamber. The day we sought to wash government’s hands of responsibility, and in so far as we continue to divorce the law from government, we deny society the access and safeguards that democracy is intended to guarantee.

8.04 pm

Lord Clinton-Davis: The criticisms that I make of the Home Office are but mild by comparison with what we have just heard.

I believe that this Queen’s Speech is dreary and largely irrelevant to the needs of this nation. It fails to focus on real public concerns. Public works, increased economic growth and youth unemployment are but three of the issues that are highly relevant at this time. I have attended many Queen’s Speeches, but I cannot recall one that had so many deficiencies.

Tonight, I propose to concentrate on home affairs and law and justice. As far as home affairs are concerned, I will make several criticisms of the Home Office, but I say at once that we are delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who is a friend of many of us, in his place. The Home Office is often regarded as the ministry of the non-living. Whether that description is well merited is by the way. Mistakes can all too readily prove irrecoverable. That is not necessarily the fault of the Secretary of State, but it is the Secretary of State who carries the can. Of course the Home Office is too large and delegation often occurs, often with fatal, or near fatal, results, and it is the Secretary of State who is held responsible.

Prison policy is a good example of this deficiency. For the most part, prisoners can be obdurately unyielding. My experience as a defence solicitor is that frequently prison guards and prisoners do not begin to comprehend the other’s problems. Admittedly, I go back a long way, but I doubt whether there has been much change. I realise that work is often undertaken in uncongenial circumstances, leading inevitably to an inbuilt resistance to change, but there have been some shining examples to the contrary. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is one of them. He made every effort to detect and tackle mistakes during his tenure of office.

Terrorism, frequently having an international dimension, clearly falls within the Secretary of State’s responsibility. Terrorism can often be accompanied by a messianic ideology. The Secretary of State has to reconcile effective defensive measures with democratic standards, and that is by no means easy, as the Secretary of State has clearly demonstrated, but surely some humility is called for rather than something we hear too often: an irritatingly abrasive mood of “I know best”. I am only too well aware that the Secretary of State has numerous other responsibilities. Is it not time therefore for this vast ministry to be split up, for a ministerial inquiry to be established and for this to be effected immediately?

15 May 2012 : Column 335

As far as law and justice are concerned, this House—

Lord Henley: It might be helpful if I get to my feet and interrupt the noble Lord to remind him that his party split up the Home Office. Prisons and criminal justice have gone to the Ministry of Justice. We are a much smaller department than we ever were.

Lord Clinton-Davis: That may be but it is still too large. I do not know whether the noble Lord had any responsibility for that—

Lord Henley: My Lords, I could not have had any responsibility for it because it was done by the previous Government. I think the noble Lord will remember that I was not a Minister in the previous Government; they were a Labour Government.

Lord Clinton-Davis: That may be but I still regard the Home Office as much too large.

Although the House devoted a great deal of its time in the previous Session of this Parliament to examining a Bill that got scant attention in the House of Commons, I fear that the system will prove to be far more expensive than our present one in the long term; and that the changes envisaged by the Government will prove to be divisive and largely ineffective. They will also have a deleterious effect on people seeking to undertake civil cases.

In my day—I speak of a very long time ago—criminal cases seldom lasted beyond around three months. Nowadays it is common practice for serious criminal cases to last for a year or more. How, then, can we revert to a more acceptable time limit without adversely affecting justice and the civil components of legal aid? Even though this is a desirable goal, I wonder how much time the Government have devoted to resolving this vast problem. I will readily give way to the noble Lord, who is intent on intervening in my speech at all times.

We have spent much time in the Lords trying to resolve some of the more serious dilemmas on the civil side. Defeats were inflicted on the Government but they remained resolute to be irresolute. Justice will undoubtedly have suffered as a result. I fear that I will be disappointed in my quest for the Government to conduct a further inquiry into this matter. However, an inquiry is called for and ought to begin immediately.

8.13 pm

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, in the debate on the gracious Speech at the beginning of a Session of Parliament, one might take a number of approaches to the legislation that is proposed and the other matters that the Government have drawn to our attention through the gracious Speech. I will refer to something specific towards the end of my remarks. However, the start of a Session is also an opportunity to think about some of the broader issues that face us and are important. Remarks have been made about the economic crisis and austerity but there is another, wider issue that I wish to address—that of culture. It is not easy to think about, or perhaps even to speak about, but it is important. In the midst of all the other political and economic

15 May 2012 : Column 336

crises, we might ignore it at our peril because it becomes more dangerous in times of austerity and political crisis.

A little earlier today I was at the annual general meeting of the All-Party Group on the British Council. Our colleagues from the British Council reported on a number of the things that they were doing. There is the tremendous festival of Shakespearean plays, as one would expect at such a time, and art and culture generally—music, dance, theatre and so on. They went on to speak about how the British Council was doing excellent work on human rights in policing and issues of justice. One of our colleagues from the other place intervened to ask what on earth the British Council was doing involving itself in those things; surely it was about promoting British culture.

I beg to differ wholly from my friend in the other place. It seems to me that when we bring forward, for example, the British policing model, which the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie, mentioned earlier, we talk about something that is essentially part of our culture in this country. We bring not only to our own country but to many other places something of real depth and value, which has come not from someone’s head but from the growth of our society—sometimes painfully and with difficulty, but certainly over a long period. There are positive characteristics to the way that we run things in this country. There are others where we make mistakes. However, in general, in policing, health and social care and education—something to which I will return a little later—we have developed a culture, or a way of doing things. When questions are asked about it for whatever reason, good or ill, it shakes us. Why? Because culture is to a community, group or nation very much what the personality is to us as individuals. Our personalities grow from our genetics and physical selves, but also from all the experiences that we have had—from what we have learnt from others, our families, our backgrounds and our communities. That is what makes us up.

Culture is the equivalent for us as a group and a community. This is an important and difficult question because it leads us to the dilemmas that are being experienced over multiculturalism. Maybe part of the difficulty arises because we have not thought clearly about what we mean. It is one thing to say that we want a society that is multiracial and recognises people of all backgrounds, countries, colours and so on, but that is not about culture. Do we mean a multifaith society, in which we value people of faith and those of none? Sometimes I think we value those of none rather more than we value those of faith, which is a mistake and a foolishness. I hope we begin to learn our way out of that. However, that is not culture of itself, although it contributes to it. Do we mean an inclusive society, in which men and women, young and old, sick, disabled and healthy are all valued members of the community? That is very important; it is an inclusive society but it is not multiculturalism.

One of the dilemmas that I have observed as this society has tried to deal with all these things and called it multiculturalism is that it has pulled away from valuing important elements of culture. I saw this at home in our peace process when it came to how we would engage in parliament-building. In Stormont,

15 May 2012 : Column 337

we certainly had examples of a unionist culture. The approach of the Northern Ireland Office was to strip all aspects of culture out and to make it like a clinic. That was a mistake. It was unnecessary and was not wholesome. It was much more important to ensure that we brought in elements of different backgrounds, language, experience and history, and that everyone could feel a degree of diversity and warmth about it.

We need to think a lot more about this question, because I detect that an absence of clarity has meant an absence of a feeling from all sorts of groups in our community that they share a sufficiently common culture to feel part of a nation and a people who can work together—whatever our faith or racial backgrounds, gender or health or physical appearance. We need to work at this.

I am worried about some of the political developments I see with some of those who are winning elections, and with some of those who are not even bothering to vote in elections because there is not a sense of shared culture. Our culture is not like the culture of other countries. I do not despise the culture of other countries, but let us be clear that there are those cultures where it is completely appropriate for women to be set to the side; where female genital mutilation is a part of the culture; where the educational culture is not one of thoughtfully reflecting and disputing to find the truth but rather of the rote learning of something that has been handed down regardless of whether it is relevant or appropriate; or where physical violence is regarded as an appropriate way to deal with political difference.

I do not accept that all cultures are equal, valid and good. I do not believe that ours is perfect, but I do not believe that we should devalue it. I therefore finish with a final plea. One of the reasons why people want to come to this country for education in our great universities is not just that they value what it will do for their jobs and their future but that they value the culture. Many of us spend our time trying to attract people to this country. We would benefit from their coming—culturally, economically and otherwise—but we find that it is increasingly impossible for them to get visas into the country as bona fide students so that they can study and enrich both our country and their own, in order to benefit us all. I plead with my noble friend the Minister to do everything he can to ensure that proper students have separate visas and a separate system to ensure that we can benefit our culture, their societies and all our people.

8.20 pm

Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, in the brief time I have this evening I shall address some issues related to the proposed children and families Bill. Before I do so, however, I want to pay tribute to the late Lady Ritchie, who undoubtedly would have spoken about children today had she not sadly passed away in April. Shireen Ritchie was a campaigner for women in public life, including in Parliament, but I knew her as a campaigner for children in Kensington and Chelsea. She was involved in issues of adoption, children’s services, child poverty and family courts, and will be greatly missed by all those concerned for children.

15 May 2012 : Column 338

I should declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children. One of the pleasures of being involved in children’s issues in your Lordships’ House is that while there may be minor differences, this House across all parties has always been concerned for their welfare, and tonight’s debate is no exception. We are of course advised by a dedicated and vigorous children’s sector.

Can the Minister give us any sense of when the children and families Bill might be considered by this House? What is the timetable and the structure for discussions on, for example, the Children’s Commissioner? The Bill raises many important issues, including adoption measures, special educational needs, budgets, parental leave, family law, court cases and the role of the Children’s Commissioner, all of which have been discussed by others this evening. I shall return to the Children’s Commissioner later.

These issues are important and I look forward to discussion on them. Some are more complex than they might appear to be—for example, special educational needs and adoption issues. I agree with the comments made earlier by my noble friend Lady Hughes on cuts to local authorities and the need to consider the whole care system, including kinship care, which has been mentioned at least three times this evening and is an issue to which we might need to return very seriously.

My noble friend Lady Hughes was an outstanding Minister for Children and was dedicated to improving their lives and welfare. Although I know that coalition Ministers with responsibility for children and families in both Houses also have genuine dedication to child well-being, I fear that children may be hit by problems associated with cuts to services. It is all very well to talk about vulnerable children and all very well to vow support, but these good intentions may well be counteracted by underlying basic problems relating to issues such as families in poverty, health, education, welfare provision and cuts to children’s centres.

This should not be a party-political issue. It is about children’s lives and achievements as set out many years ago in Every Child Matters. Before and since that document, we have had time and again reports on the fundamental importance of early intervention in tackling family problems and social mobility. Indeed, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Mobility has just produced a report following the incisive reports by Frank Field and Graham Allen. The importance of life chances being established early is again a theme. Although the pupil premium is welcome, I suggest that it is a bit late. The National Children's Bureau and many other children’s charities are concerned about how disadvantaged children continue to experience poor outcomes in health and education. The UK does poorly in child well-being measures and we should attend to early intervention for children, particularly those who are vulnerable, as discussed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Howe and Lady Stedman-Scott. That is why I believe that we should have an important and effective role for the Children's Commissioner for England, who can be advocate, whistleblower, support for children, adviser and critical friend to government.

15 May 2012 : Column 339

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, earlier set out the case very effectively for a rights-based legislation, including the Children's Commissioner, and I shall not repeat all that but I thank her for it. I was delighted by the recommendation in the Dunsford report that the Children's Commissioner for England should have a focus on children’s rights. I declare an interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK, which has long campaigned for a rights-based commissioner and for the rights of the child, as has the Children's Rights Alliance for England—and with good reason. It seems that we may now have the opportunity to embed children’s rights in legislation, but will the Government have the courage to do it? Will they support it with resources? A focus on children’s rights would mean that England could develop a shared vision for children based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have already incorporated the UN convention into law and recognise it as a force for change. The Office of the Children's Commissioner has been significant in examining the plight of marginalised and vulnerable children such as those in the youth justice system and those excluded from school, and the effect of poor child mental health.

We have become much better at consulting children on aspects of their lives, but what is needed is a person and an office that can make the most of such consultation. For example, examining every Bill in Parliament for a child impact assessment is crucial. It has been attempted before and proved informative, but it demands a consistent approach with resources. I recognise that groups other than children could claim the right to be central to legislation, but children are special. They are the foundations of society, and if we get things right for children later difficulties may be avoided.

Most Bills that we see in your Lordships' House have some relationship to children. They do not have to have the word children in their title—for example, transport, health, justice, the environment, and so on, all have elements that affect children and families. I hope that the Children's Commissioner will be a genuinely independent voice in support of children. We all know that independence can be interpreted in many ways and bound by all kinds of bureaucratic measures, and I would hope that the Children's Commissioner has a truly independent remit. I hope that we now see the efforts of those concerned for the welfare of children culminating in support for a children’s champion who will enable us all to improve outcomes for the child’s well-being and develop that vision for children that is so vital to the well-being of society.

8.28 pm

Lord Dear: My Lords, given the recent barrage of criticism of the Home Office, I may make a welcome change. I want to throw a bouquet in the direction of the Home Office on one point and words of encouragement tinged with some disappointment on the other.

I start with the words of encouragement, which flow from a certain disappointment—that there has not been a move within the Crime and Courts Bill to remove the word “insulting” from Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986. I shall not go into detail on

15 May 2012 : Column 340

this, because I spoke at some length about it on Second Reading of the Protection of Freedoms Bill on 8 November last year. Those who are so minded could check what I said in


at col. 192. Put very simply, the use of the word “insulting” within the current legislation is proving to be a grave impediment to the exercise of free speech. Some noble Lords will know that I have spoken on several occasions in the past to try to preserve the existing situation where we champion freedom of speech above almost everything else.

The first Public Order Act in 1936 used the term, “criminalising, threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour”. The words, “threatening, abusive or insulting” have been carried through successive legislation. They now find themselves, 50 years later, in the 1986 Act—the current Act. I will not weary your Lordships with the detail but certain sections of that Act—Sections 4, 4A and 5—give a descending ladder of seriousness. Right at the very bottom of that—the least serious, if you like—is “insulting”, in Section 5.

To put it simply, what is happening today is that those who stand up in public and express views that are unpopular to some members of society find that they are in grave danger that those who disagree with those views will invoke the police and insist on action being taken—“I have been insulted; therefore, officer, become involved”. The police may or may not become involved. If they do, they may or may not charge. If they charge, the Crown Prosecution Service may or may not prefer charges. But whatever happens and however the situation winds up, it has a very serious chilling effect on the exercise of free speech.

The Home Office instituted a consultation on 13 October last year, which concluded three months later on 13 January this year, but in the ensuing four months we have heard nothing about the consultation. I am somewhat disappointed at that. I urge the Home Office to look very closely at what has been said, to report the results of that consultation as quickly as it can and, I hope, to look for early inclusion of the removal of those words from the relevant legislation.

Those are my words of encouragement. The bouquet that I throw to the Home Office is the inclusion within the Crime and Courts Bill of the creation of the National Crime Agency, the NCA. We have travelled a long road on this, starting with the creation—I vaguely remember this—of the regional crime squads in the 1960s, through the national crime squads, the National Criminal Intelligence Service and SOCA, the Serious Organised Crime Agency. We now stand on the brink of the NCA. The media have labelled it the British FBI. To some extent that is understandable. However, although there are some similarities, organisationally and constitutionally the FBI is very different. Nevertheless we should make no mistake about it: the creation of the NCA is absolutely essential, given the current range of problems that we as a society face.

I want to focus on Clauses 5(5) and (7) of the Bill, which concerns the creation of the NCA and gives the director-general of the NCA—if such an organisation is created—the power to direct local compliance from local police organisations. I believe that some may well fly in the face of that and say that it runs completely against the grain of what we did in the previous

15 May 2012 : Column 341

Session in creating police and crime commissioners, localising policing and placing a local focus on local problems. However, we do not need to remind ourselves of the internationalism of problems—the fact that drugs on the streets of Evesham may well have been imported through Rotterdam; that illegal workers in fields in Cambridgeshire may well have been trafficked from eastern Europe through Southampton; and that teenage prostitutes in London may well have been trafficked from the Ukraine through Heathrow. In other words, local problems are created nationally and internationally. However, if the power to direct local compliance does not lie in the hands of the director-general of the NCA, I fear that the move towards localism, which I support in so many ways, will cause the NCA to founder. It would become something akin to a crime tsar and would certainly espouse a pious hope that something will happen, but without it having the wherewithal to pursue it and to get total national co-operation.

I conclude by referring to one word. The word “direct” is undoubtedly tough and it undoubtedly smacks of, and is, central intervention, but I do not believe that it is contradictory to the move in other ways towards the localisation of policing. It is absolutely essential to deal with international and cross-border national crime. It is the very bedrock of what is envisaged within the National Crime Agency. It is, in fact, the keystone to the whole creation of the agency and without it the agency would founder. I commend the Bill to your Lordships in those terms and I very much hope that we shall see the word “direct” in Clause 5 when the Bill is passed and becomes law.

8.35 pm

Lord Grade of Yarmouth: My Lords, I open with some words of support for the impassioned plea from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, for some clarity from the Government on their attitude to the benefactors who support the arts in this country. I have worked for many, many years trying to raise money—mostly for the National Theatre—with some success, and I think that we need to know whether there is some abuse or loophole in the tax legislation which drove the Treasury to condemn a bunch of wonderfully generous people, without whom the arts would be seriously in jeopardy in this country. I hope that we can get some clarity on that.

As a keen student and sometime practitioner of the media, I have come to be able to predict the journalistic reaction to any disaster or crisis, and that usually turns out to be, “What are the Government doing about this?”. “This” is anything that the news editor of the day thinks is worthy of giving the Government of the day a good kicking about. Therefore, it was hardly a surprise to me that criticism of the gracious Speech amounted to a consensus around the idea that there was nothing in it for growth. The opposition parties readily joined in this somewhat glib narrative. No legislation for growth? Speaking from this side of your Lordships’ House, I am bound to say, “Thank goodness for that. Pass the bunting!”. The idea that Governments can somehow legislate for growth seems to me an utterly discredited doctrine that should have died with

15 May 2012 : Column 342

the bankruptcy and collapse of the command economy of the Soviet empire. Some of us are old enough to remember the Stalinist five-year plan that would emerge from the Politburo every five years. In fact, it was not every five years; they would have a new five-year plan every two years because it was clear that the first five-year plan was failing.

Those who still believe, despite all the recent evidence to the contrary, that any Government can simply wave their magic legislative wand and thus decree that “there shall be growth” and, lo, there was growth are ignoring the lessons of history. No, my Lords. If legislation is needed to encourage growth, it is needed to unpick the knotweed of employment and health and safety box-ticking and other regulation which stifles growth, particularly in the SME sector, which, as I understand it, accounts for more than 90% of our economy.

A quick survey of any dozen SMEs—which I did the other morning at a breakfast meeting of businesspeople —would produce at least a dozen pieces of daft legislation that they want removed in order for them to create more wealth, more jobs and, ultimately, more taxes. If you asked them what legislation they would need to be passed in order to grow, I think they would send for the men in white coats—there’s a job opportunity. The cry from business everywhere is for Governments to step back and let the wealth creators through to do what they do best.

The role of government is to ensure that, when businesses are created or expanding, there is a talented, educated skill base qualified to fill those jobs. I believe that this Government are committed to a red-tape bonfire—most Governments always are—but it would be helpful to hear from the Government and from the Minister how the progress that they are making in this area is being achieved. Reports from time to time on the achievement of deregulation would be very welcome and would give credence to the policy.

One important legislative proposal in which many of us will have a keen personal interest is the reform of the Defamation Act. My noble friend Lord Lester has paved the way for this much needed reform, as has the parliamentary scrutiny committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Mawhinney. It is a committee on which I served as a member. I hope that the excellent report and recommendations will be carried through into the Bill. At the end of this much needed reform, we should expect that, among other things, there will be affordable and accessible defamation justice for all, regardless of economic means. The Bill should deliver clarity for journalists and freedom for responsible publishers to publish without fear of the chilling effect of existing libel laws. This latter applies as much to academic papers and publications as to newspapers. There is also the huge challenge posed by the internet, which in this context will require some considerable attention. I look forward to our debates in this House. In the end, I am confident that the public’s right to know and freedom of expression will be balanced in the usual way.

I have two points for the Minister. Can we please have regular reporting of successful deregulation for business? Can we please have fiscal clarity for the generous benefactors who, in partnership with the Government, keep our arts afloat and an appreciation

15 May 2012 : Column 343

and recognition of their generosity? As a coda, I ask the Minister to offer some specific reassurance on the Bill to reform this House. As we are teetering in and out of drought from week to week, can he also assure the House that adequate safeguards have been put in place for watering the long grass?