9 May 2013 : Column 21

9 May 2013 : Column 21

House of Lords

Thursday, 9 May 2013.

11 am

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Lichfield.

Care Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.06 am

A Bill to reform the law relating to care and support for adults and the law relating to support for carers, to make provision about safeguarding adults from abuse or neglect, to make provision about care standards, to establish and make provision about Health Education England, to establish and make provision about the Health Research Authority, and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Earl Howe, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Offender Rehabilitation Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.07 am

A Bill to make provision about the release, and supervision after release, of offenders, to make provision about the extension period for extended sentence prisoners, to make provision about community orders and suspended sentence orders, and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord McNally, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Mesothelioma Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.08 am

A Bill to establish a diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme and make related provision, and to make provision about the resolution of certain insurance disputes.

The Bill was introduced by Earl Attlee, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Local Audit and Accountability Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.08 am

A Bill to make provision for, and in connection with, the abolition of the Audit Commission for local authorities and the National Health Service in England; to make provision about the accounts of local and certain other public authorities and the auditing of those accounts; to make provision about the appointment, functions and regulation of local auditors; to make provision about data matching; to make provision about examinations by the Comptroller and Auditor-General relating to English local and other public authorities; to make provision about the publication of information by smaller

  9 May 2013 : Column 22 

authorities; to make provision for directions to comply with codes of practice on local authority publicity; to make provision about council tax referendums; and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Hanham, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Intellectual Property Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.09 am

A Bill to make provision about intellectual property.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Anelay of St Johns, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Extension of Franchise (House of Lords) Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.09 am

A Bill to make provision for a Member of the House of Lords to vote at elections to the House of Commons.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Dubs, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Cultural and Community Distribution Deregulation Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.10 am

A Bill to amend the Environmental Protection Act 1990 with respect to the distribution of printed matter for events which involve small-scale performance of live music and other entertainment, and for connected purposes.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Clement-Jones, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Littering from Vehicles Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.10 am

A Bill to introduce a civil penalty for littering from vehicles and to require local authorities to publish details of contracts relating to litter clearance.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Marlesford, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.11 am

A Bill to give a statutory pardon to Alan Mathison Turing for offences under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885 of which he was convicted on 31 March 1952.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Sharkey, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

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Voting Age (Comprehensive Reduction) Bill [HL]

First Reading

11.11 am

A Bill to extend the franchise for parliamentary and other elections, and for referendums, to all citizens over the age of 16 years.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Tyler, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Standing Orders (Public Business)

Motion on Standing Orders

11.12 am

Moved By Lord Hill of Oareford

That the standing orders relating to public business be amended as follows:

Standing Order 16(Printing or publication of proceedings)

Leave out Standing Order 16

Standing Order 64 (Sessional Committees)

After “Administration and Works Committee” insert “Communications Committee”

Standing Order 84(Concerning examining witnesses in perpetuam rei memoriam)

Leave out Standing Order 84

Standing Order 85 (No oath to take away the privilege of Peerage)

Leave out Standing Order 85.

Motion agreed.

Committee of Selection

Membership Motion

11.12 am

Moved By The Chairman of Committees

That, in accordance with Standing Order 63, a Committee of Selection be appointed to select and propose to the House the names of the members to form each select committee of the House (except the Committee of Selection itself and any committee otherwise provided for by statute or by order of the House) or any other body not being a select committee referred to it by the Chairman of Committees, and the panel of Deputy Chairmen of Committees; and that the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the Committee:

B Anelay of St Johns, L Bassam of Brighton, L Faulkner of Worcester, L Hill of Oareford, L Laming, L McNally, L Moser, L Newby, B Royall of Blaisdon, L Wakeham.

Motion agreed.

9 May 2013 : Column 24

Childcare Ratios


11.13 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Nash): My Lords, the Government announced in January, in the More Great Childcare document, the intention to give nurseries more flexibility over staff/child ratios where they employ suitably qualified staff. We have consulted on what those qualifications should be. The consultation closed at the end of March. We are now considering the responses and will make further announcements in due course.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. The people of this country rightly want politicians to listen to their concerns. I realise that the Government are consulting, but given the scale of public opposition, especially from parents and all those involved in childcare, will the Government take this chance to rule out this dangerous policy, which simply will not work?

Lord Nash: As the noble Baroness says, we are considering the consultation. We are motivated entirely by better quality childcare and we believe that our proposals will deliver that.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, there is a fear in the country now that the Government know the price of everything and the value of nothing, despite the response from professionals to government proposals. They ignored the view of the police about police officers being more important than the money spent on police and crime commissioners, as well as the views of other professionals, for example on the curriculum and history teaching, and even the health service, which the coalition government manifesto promised would not be reorganised top-down. When will this Government please start to listen to those who know more than they do as a result of their professional training?

Lord Nash: My Lords, we have the tightest ratios in Europe for under-threes. Other countries manage better childcare more efficiently. Our childcare is very expensive and we are motivated to deliver better-quality childcare and more choice for parents. These ratios will not be mandatory; they will be in childcare facilities only where suitably qualified staff are located and parents may choose whether to send their children to those facilities.

Baroness Deech: My Lords, are the Government aware that the working mothers of this country do not have time to organise and lobby and that groups such as Mumsnet are not necessarily representative? There are women who go to work and who are ambitious and high up the scale; there are women low down the working scale who cannot afford childcare. The Government have to listen to working women who need affordable childcare. I have been involved in setting up nurseries and, over 40 years, the ratios have changed this way and that way—more square footage this way, more square footage that way—but it does

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not make a scrap of difference if you have well intentioned staff, and you will of course have several staff in a nursery. The children are no worse off than would be five children at home with a mother on her own. The Government must listen to working mothers who need affordable childcare.

Lord Nash: My Lords, we are in consultation and we are listening. We are focused, as the noble Baroness said, on better-quality childcare with more qualified staff.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, is it not right that, if we are consulting, we should go through the consultation process and not pronounce until that is finished? Surely it is right in those circumstances that members of this coalition Government keep their views to themselves until that consultation has been completed.

Lord Nash: I am grateful for my noble friend’s question and confirm that we are considering the consultation.

Lord Hughes of Woodside: In the traffic this morning coming into the House, I happened to have the radio on and heard the very eminent professor who conducted the study on childcare. She said that she was totally opposed to the changes and the ratios recommended by Government. Will the Minister listen to her?

Lord Nash: We have had more than 1,000 replies to the consultation and will examine them all closely.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, what evidence is there that the cost of childcare will drop? What assumptions are the Government making about the cost of childcare?

Lord Nash: As I said earlier, we are driven by a desire for better quality. A third of our children enter primary school without adequate communication and language skills despite a 96% take-up of early-years provision. We are driven by a desire to improve quality, not to save money.

Lord Campbell-Savours: Will prices drop?

Lord Nash: They will drop if nurseries are able to employ staff on ratios which enable them to operate more efficiently. There are providers in France who provide higher-quality childcare at more affordable rates because they are able to offer these flexible staffing ratios. More efficient providers may well be able to produce cheaper prices.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, I was a social worker of some years, having begun my career in children’s departments. At that time, more children were cared for by minders than are now—the ratios were different. Certainly, the ratios have swung back and forth. Will the Minister look carefully at the evidence which shows that children need a certain ratio of carers of good-quality training in order to gain the stimulation they need to go on into the education establishment where they will benefit from

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their learning? If the Minister is looking at other jurisdictions, I ask him to look particularly at the different training and pay of carers. Although our care is expensive, there are other reasons for that expense. I agree entirely with the view that if we have a different ratio all that will happen is that child carers will charge the same and have more children, and we will have poorer childcare with less finance.

Lord Nash: We will look more carefully at the issues that the noble Baroness raises. I undertake to do that.

Baroness Brinton: My Lords, given that the cost of childcare has exceeded inflation substantially over the past 10 years since the current ratios were introduced, and given that the Government are considering tax refunds and support for parents, are they looking at any other mechanisms to make childcare more affordable?

Lord Nash: Those are the main mechanisms that we are looking at. I will write to the noble Baroness if I become aware of any other mechanisms.

Lord Cormack: Further to the observations of my noble friend Lord Hamilton, can the Minister assure the House that consultation means precisely that and that, if the weight of evidence indicates that the Government’s course should be changed, the Government’s course will be changed?

Lord Nash: I can only repeat that the Government are looking carefully at all the responses and we will of course weigh all the evidence carefully before coming to a final conclusion.

Queen’s Speech

Debate (2nd Day)

11.22 am

Moved on Wednesday 8 May byLord Lang of Monkton

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, it is a delight, an honour and a privilege to be opening today’s debate.

Yesterday we heard Her Majesty deliver the gracious Speech, followed by two outstanding speeches proposing and seconding the humble Address by my noble friends Lord Lang and Lord German. Both speeches were full of wit and wisdom and it was a pleasure to hear those voices from Scotland and Wales setting off the parliamentary year for this United Kingdom.

The debate proper was then opened by the Leader of the Opposition, and then by my noble friend Lord Hill in a tone of constructive engagement, which is already inspiring confidence in his leadership in all

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parts of the House. Now, and over the next few weeks, we will have the opportunity to examine the gracious Speech in detail.

We can already see the benefit of the fixed-term Parliament introduced by the coalition as we debate a gracious Speech firmly fixed on the issues of the day with a clear working year ahead and none of the “Will he, won’t he?” uncertainty of previous Parliaments entering their fourth year. As a result, we have a businesslike and practical agenda before us.

Today we will be discussing constitutional affairs, equalities, home affairs and the proposed reforms to our legal and penal system under the broad heading of justice and the law. As always, the linkage in policy between the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office will be as a seamless robe and I am delighted that the debate today will be closed by my noble friend Lord Taylor of Holbeach, the Minister in this House for the Home Office. I will be assisted throughout the year by my noble friend Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a man who has performed so well at the Dispatch Box in recent weeks that I have been thinking of asking for him to be moved.

I have never hidden from this House the reality that, in the present economic climate, Ministers have had to make hard decisions and tough choices to achieve an economic recovery underpinned by fairness, but I believe that in our first three years, we have made the tough decisions necessary while sustaining that rule of law which underpins a civilised society.

I am proud that we have carried through the first reform of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in almost 40 years, ended indeterminate sentences, clamped down on aggressive bailiffs, extended freedom of information and proactively provided more information than ever before via our transparency agenda. We have scrapped ID cards, increased parliamentary oversight of our security services, put restorative justice on a statutory footing, started reform of the European Court of Human Rights, via the Brighton declaration, and carried through a thorough update of our libel laws, all against the backdrop of a falling crime rate.

Here, I should like to pay tribute to the work of the outgoing Lord Chancellor, my right honourable friend Kenneth Clarke. I count myself lucky in my political career that I have had the pleasure of working closely with two of the big beasts of the Whitehall jungle, Ken Clarke and Jim Callaghan. Since last September, I have had the opportunity to work with the new Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, my right honourable friend Chris Grayling. I cannot pretend that there has been no change in approach since last September, but from day one the new Lord Chancellor and I have worked together as a close and harmonious team, and the gracious Speech reflects a radical programme of reform to strengthen our justice system.

We have clearly set out our priorities: first, reform of the criminal justice system and the courts, putting victims first and getting the various agencies around the table talking to each other. I am pleased that the new Victims’ Commissioner, our colleague the noble Baroness, Lady Newlove, has now taken up her post. We can also look forward very shortly to the criminal

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justice strategy and action plan, which will show just how we are joining up the different players and using technology to drive forward efficiencies. We are also consulting on a radical approach to how we treat our young people in custody. Despite fewer and fewer being incarcerated, more than seven out of 10 young people sentenced to custody still go on to offend again, so we have just consulted on a fresh approach to dealing with these young people by putting education at the heart of our youth justice system.

Breaking the cycle of reoffending is the key challenge not only in youth justice but throughout the criminal justice system. I have never doubted that prison works, both in terms of punishment and protection, but if we could break the cycle of reoffending the benefits for society would be enormous. The high rate of reoffending does not ruin just the lives of the victims of further crimes, very important though that is. It is also a dreadful deal for the taxpayer. We spend £3 billion a year on prisons. You do not have to be some woolly-minded liberal—if that is not a contradiction in terms—to see this as a bad return on investment if we continue to tolerate a high rate of reoffending. The worst part is that, at the moment, despite those sentenced to less than 12 months being most at risk of reoffending—I remind your Lordships that women are represented disproportionately among that group—they do not get help with rehabilitation. They are seen off at the prison gate with £46 in their pocket and very little else.

I have, earlier this morning, introduced the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, which will extend our rehabilitation measures for the first time to those serving sentences of less than 12 months. To carry through this rehabilitation revolution, we intend to open up the market to new ideas and new suppliers. We want to see a diverse range of new rehabilitation providers bringing new ideas and methods incentivised by their being paid, in part, for the results that they achieve. I have consistently said in this House that I have the highest regard for the probation service and those who work in it. The public sector part of the probation service will shrink, it is true, but it will have great responsibilities and increased status within the new structure. Before the Labour Party weeps too many crocodile tears over the demise of the old system, let me state again that we are using the powers contained in the previous Government’s 2007 Act to carry through the bulk of these reforms.

Finally, I have been genuinely encouraged by the response of the voluntary and not-for-profit sector in its enthusiasm for the opportunities to deliver real changes and new ideas to the challenge of offender rehabilitation. A number of noble Lords on all Benches have been campaigning for years for greater support to be given to those sentenced to less than a year; they have argued for better through-the-gate services and for more effective and better respected community sentences. I have to say to those noble Lords, very frankly, that without these reforms, much of what they have campaigned for would remain a pipe dream. With the legislation proposed in the gracious Speech, they have a real chance of becoming reality. The blunt truth is that we simply cannot afford the status quo, with offenders passing through the system again and again—more victims hurt, more communities damaged.

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I look forward to examining in detail our rehabilitation reforms in the very near future, as the Bill is starting its passage through Parliament in this House.

I turn to another measure which we will soon be considering in detail. The Children and Families Bill is a carryover from the last Session. It has already been the subject of constructive debate on all sides in the other place, led, for the Government, by my honourable friends Edward Timpson and Jo Swinson. The judiciary and local government have also been engaged in the development of the family justice provisions in the Bill. It includes a number of important reforms, such as introducing a 26-week time limit for completing care cases, and making attendance at mediation meetings a prerequisite for starting certain types of family proceedings.

Our guiding fundamental principle for the family justice system is that it must be about what is in the best interests of the child. Therefore, the Bill makes it absolutely clear that the court must regard the involvement of both parents in their child’s life after separation as furthering that child’s welfare, unless evidence shows that it would not. This legislation seeks to deliver a system that is more responsive, more efficient and in which more timely decisions are made to give vulnerable children the stability and security to enable them to make a success of their lives. I look forward to working with my noble friend Lord Nash on what I believe is a landmark piece of legislation.

I pay tribute to the work of David Norgrove, who chaired the family justice review. I am very pleased that he now chairs the national Family Justice Board, which has been set up to provide leadership and drive reform of the family justice system. We are already seeing the positive results of this approach, aided by local family justice boards.

This is also a timely opportunity to welcome Sir James Munby to his new post as president of the Family Division. As the new single family court becomes a reality next year, his drive and his judicial leadership will be essential to see the far-reaching reforms of the past few years carried through. I very much look forward to working with him.

I turn now to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, which was introduced in the other place earlier today and on which the Home Office will lead. Persistent anti-social behaviour has a devastating impact on the victims and communities that need to be our priority. We are looking at this matter again because experience has shown that securing an ASBO has been a slow, bureaucratic and expensive process, often failing to change a perpetrator’s behaviour. That is why we are proposing new powers that are quick and easy to use and act as a real deterrent.

Breach of the proposed criminal behaviour order will be a criminal offence, with a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Obtaining a crime prevention injunction will be faster than securing an ASBO but breaching one would still carry serious penalties. The ASBO system we inherited is weighed down by red tape to the extent that orders can take weeks and months to process. By contrast, the new injunctions proposed in the Bill would see applications dealt with in days, or even hours in some cases.

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The Bill will also carry on the vital work of police reform, where the input and experience in this House will be of particular value. I want to pay tribute today to Britain’s police forces. They face a series of challenges today that would have been unforeseeable to many who joined the force a generation ago, so under this Bill the College of Policing will get new statutory powers to enable it to carry on developing policing as the top-flight profession it is and must remain. The Police Negotiating Board will be replaced with an independent police remuneration review body, which will make evidence-based recommendations on police remuneration, and the Independent Police Complaints Commission will have its purview extended to oversee private-sector contractors and their employees.

The Bill will also tackle the iniquity of forced marriages, which are little more than slavery and are simply wrong. At the moment there is no specific offence on the statute book of forcing someone into marriage, so we are following up on the Prime Minister’s pledge of June 2012 and bringing forward provisions in this Bill to make forced marriage illegal and to make it an offence to breach a forced marriage protection order.

This Bill will also look at the fees charged to court users in civil cases to ensure that we can provide a modern and efficient court system. In particular, we will look at whether more funds can be recovered from commercial litigants to ensure that where people can pay more to access our world-class courts, they do so.

Finally, we also intend to bring forward further measures, subject to parliamentary time, to reform our immigration system, look at the public services available to those entering the country and reduce the complexity of immigration law.

No one can deny that, in the areas being discussed today, this is a Government full of ideas with a clear vision for the future. Even in the hardest of times, what government does must be tested against our commitment to the rule of law and access to justice and our willingness to protect civil liberties and human rights. We need to ensure that law-abiding members of the community are put first, that hard-working public servants on the front line are given our full support and that hard-working families can be confident in the knowledge that criminals are being brought to justice and communities kept safe.

I consider this House to be a House of candid friends. Such important measures deserve nothing less than your Lordships’ well informed scrutiny. The proposals from the MoJ and the Home Office are strong on ideas and radical in their solutions. I commend them to this House and look forward to debating their merits today and in the year ahead.

11.37 am

Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his introduction to the gracious Speech. He is quite right that today’s debate covers a wide range of issues: crime, policing, Northern Ireland, constitutional issues, the rehabilitation of offenders—which the noble Lord spoke about in some detail—and forced marriage. Those are all important issues but it is clear that the headline that the Government

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really want from the gracious Speech is that they are tough on immigration. After their rout in the county council elections last week the Government are now on a mission to persuade the public that they understand their concerns. The role of your Lordships’ House is scrutiny—to see whether these measures really do what the Government say they will. Will these measures make a difference? My noble friend Lord Beecham will say more about the criminal justice plans in his winding-up speech for the Opposition at the end of the debate, so I shall start with the Government’s proposals on immigration.

Obviously we want to ensure that immigration, which is important for and to the UK, is properly controlled and managed and is fair. However, the Government’s programme promises to take action on issues where action has already been taken, where other government policies make it virtually impossible to deliver and where they have not yet worked out how such action can be achieved. Nothing in the speech would tackle the undercutting of local workers’ wages and terms and conditions or the exploitation of foreign workers. Nothing in the speech would have a real impact in improving the enforcement of the national minimum wage. Where in the gracious Speech are the measures to tackle the abuse of student visitor visas by bogus colleges or the backlog at the UK Border Agency in finding failed asylum seekers?

The programme includes legislation to ensure that Article 8—the right to stay in this country because of family connections—is not abused. We agree with that, and it is already in the Immigration Rules which were passed unanimously last year when we said that it should be in primary legislation. Those who do not have the right to live in this country should be deported. However, while the Government are talking tough, their actions do not mirror their words. Last year, the Government deported 900 fewer criminals than were deported in Labour’s last year in office—a fall of 16%. The backlog in finding failed asylum seekers has gone up, and the number of illegal immigrants deported has gone down. The UK Border Agency stated that in 40% of cases it has not been able to deport individuals because of administrative problems with the Home Office and diplomatic complications. Despite ministerial denials, therefore, it would be foolish to believe that budget cuts of 34% and staffing cuts of 5,000 have not had an impact. Of course they have. Can the Minister give an indication of how the Government propose generally to tackle the issue and assure us that the proposed legislation is not just a rehash of previously implemented Immigration Rules without any new action?

On the issue of limited access to certain benefits for European Economic Area national jobseekers and retained workers for six months, this is already in current regulations and in DWP guidance. It is something of a surprise that the Government have flagged this up as something new. Can the Minister tell your Lordships’ House what the difference is between the current law and the Government’s new announcement? Where are the changes that the Government have heralded? It seems to me that they are already in the guidance and that no real difference has been proposed. This is a missed opportunity because changing the habitual

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residence test would make a real difference. Although the test is effective in the majority of cases, one practical change which could be made quickly and very easily would be to add a presence test to clarify absolutely that jobseeker’s allowance cannot be claimed in a few days or weeks but that people will be expected to be in the country for some time or to contribute before they get anything back. Surely that would be more effective than the rehash which the Government have reannounced.

We agree with strong and effective action against those who employ and often exploit illegal immigrants. Such behaviour is already illegal, with fines of £10,000 for unknowingly employing each illegal immigrant and the possibility of a prison sentence for knowingly doing so. In so many cases the real problem is not the law but the enforcement of the law, with 800 fewer businesses being fined last year than were fined in 2010 under the previous Labour Government. Legislation can only ever be effective if it is monitored and enforced and in this case it is not. It is interesting that the Government now want to legislate for private landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants and to face fines if they do not and rent to somebody who is in this country illegally. It would be extremely helpful if the Minister could say something about this and shed some light on how it will be enforced. Only a few months ago the Housing Minister, Mr Mark Prisk MP, dismissed our proposals for a national housing register of private landlords. Do the Government now intend to set up such a register? If not, how do they expect to manage the checking and monitoring of private landlords? Would it not be far more effective to monitor and enforce standards in private rented housing and thus prevent the exploitation of the vulnerable—proposals which the Government have consistently rejected?

Similarly, the proposals to restrict migrant access to the NHS seem very unclear. As hospitals already have a legal duty to recover charges from overseas patients, this, too, is a matter of better enforcement. However, the notion that doctors will become an extended arm of the border force has rightly been met with alarm by the Royal College of General Practitioners. Even Vince Cable—a Cabinet Minister in the coalition—raised doubts about this policy yesterday. He said:

“There is a question about whether people who administer GPs’ surgeries and hospitals should be in the business of checking”,

people’s status. Will we all need to take our passport with us to visit a GP, or will the Government reintroduce, or try to reintroduce, ID cards? Yet again, the Government are talking tough, but the detail of what will actually change, what will be different, and how it will be enforced, is totally obscure, particularly when the Government make such savage cuts to resources.

The same applies to the Government’s proposals on crime and anti-social behaviour. The Government are cutting 15,000 police officers. That makes it harder for the police and local communities to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. While the Government boast of falling crime, what becomes increasingly clear from evidence and reports, some published last week, is that budget cuts imposed on policing are leading to more criminals getting away with it. Last year more than 10,000 crimes of serious violence were dealt with through community resolution. That meant there was

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no formal sanction, no caution and no criminal record: just an apology to the victim. That is despite the Government’s official guidance saying that this should not happen. I am talking about serious, violent crime. When serious criminals are not even being cautioned, it is clear that there is a crisis—and not one that can be wished away by toothless legislation.

I worry that the Government’s action on anti-social behaviour is equally toothless. They were very critical of Labour’s anti-social behaviour orders, which I accept were not perfect. However, instead of reforming and strengthening them, the Government have decided bizarrely to water them down. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, said in his opening speech that the Government want to ensure a faster and more effective response. However, despite his claims that action could be taken in a matter of hours, the proposals for a community trigger to replace the ASBO would mean people having to wait until three separate complaints, or complaints from five different households, had been made before the agencies were compelled to take action. If we tell a complainant whose life is being blighted by anti-social behaviour that nothing will be done until there have been several more complaints, they will rightly conclude that no one cares. We understand how anti-social behaviour can blight people’s lives. That is why we propose a 24-hour guarantee to ensure a rapid response to complaints. We will discuss this further during scrutiny of the Bill and I hope the Minister will take seriously our suggestions, because we want to work with him to improve it.

In the announcement that forced marriage will be made a criminal offence, the Government are seeking to take further action on a very serious problem. Forced marriage can destroy people’s lives and should never be tolerated. That is why, when we were in government, we introduced protection orders through family courts to combat forced marriage, and why we support strengthening the law. We will be careful to scrutinise the legislation and work with the Government to ensure that the measures proposed do not end up being counterproductive in the fight to eradicate forced marriage in this country. We look forward to working with the Government to get the legislation that we all want to see on the statute book.

It would be helpful to have some clarity on constitutional issues that were widely promoted by the Government yet failed to appear in their programme. They consulted on a statutory register of lobbyists but have yet to issue their response. In February 2010 David Cameron said that he wanted to shine “the light of transparency” on lobbying so that politics,

“comes clean about who is buying power and influence”.

At the 2010 general election, he declared that lobbying was,

“the next big scandal waiting to happen”.

Recent media reports that Ministers dropped plans for plain packaging for cigarettes because of lobbying by the tobacco industry served to highlight the need to regulate the lobbying industry and the fact that it remains as important as ever—so why are there no proposals in this programme?

The current draft proposals from the Government cover only a very narrow section of the lobbying industry. They have not proposed any code of conduct

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for lobbyists, without which there can be no mechanism to regulate the register. Details of the meetings that lobbyists have with government will not be included on any register. In many respects these are retrograde steps. The Government have to get serious about lobbying transparency. If we are to give an assurance to a sceptical public that politics is serious about cleaning up its act, we need action now. I am not anti-lobbying; I make that very clear. However, it needs to be open, transparent and regulated.

I will raise one further issue on constitutional matters and hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me. It is the transition to individual electoral voter registration. All of us in this House should—and, I think, do—want the widest possible participation in all elections. Turnout figures of 30% and even lower in local elections are truly shocking. Turnouts at general elections are falling consistently and we should be concerned. There is a general concern among all of us who wish to see the maximum turnout in elections that the move to individual rather than household registration will, if undertaken too quickly and without sufficient safeguards and resources, lead to a fall in the number of people registering to vote, and a loss of people who are engaged in the political system. A transition date for a new type of register to come into effect and go live has been set for 2016 but, during the passage of the Electoral Registration and Administration Act, the Government gave themselves a reserve power to bring the date for individual registration forward to 2015 if they felt that the transition was progressing well. Who is to make that judgment? In the interests of transparency, and given the importance of the issue, it should not be rushed but should be put before an independent assessment of the impact. I hope that the Minister can provide reassurance on this. Will he commit to ensuring that the Electoral Commission is asked to assess and judge the status of the transition?

I am suffering from McNally’s throat, I think.

Finally, although it was not mentioned in the gracious Speech, I welcome the commitment yesterday from the Leader of the House that the equal marriage Bill will be brought before your Lordships’ House as early business. I look forward, as do noble Lords across the House, to passing that Bill. There is a real pride on these Benches that we introduced the Civil Partnership Act. As with this Bill, it drew support from across your Lordships’ House. We now have the opportunity to build on that legacy by extending marriage to those couples who wish to make that loving, lifelong commitment and have their relations celebrated and recognised in the same way as heterosexual couples.

This is a pretty thin programme for the coming Session, although we note, as always, the final sentence of all gracious Speeches:

“Other measures will be laid before you”.

As the Government’s Bills are debated in your Lordships’ House, we will look at the detail and support good legislation through scrutiny. We want to work with the Government whenever possible to ensure that we make real, not cosmetic, changes, which make a real and positive difference to people’s lives.

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11.51 am

Lord Kakkar: My Lords, I should like to use the opportunity afforded by this debate on the humble Address, with its particular emphasis today on the matter of equalities, to consider an issue that was not directly mentioned in the gracious Speech but may well be considered among those other measures that will have to be considered by Her Majesty’s Government during this Session. That is the question of gender equality on the boards of publicly listed companies, which is currently being considered by the European Parliament. A directive was considered by your Lordships’ European Union Sub-Committee B during the previous Session, and a report on that matter and the sub-committee’s consideration of it was debated in your Lordships’ House. At this point, I remind noble Lords of my interest as a member of that sub-committee.

The directive proposes that a quota will be set at 40% to ensure that there is gender equality on the boards of publicly listed companies within the European Union, and that, if companies fail to achieve that, sanctions will be applied against them. There is no doubt that achieving gender equality on the boards of publicly listed companies is vital. Much work has been done on that matter. Indeed, the report of EU Sub-Committee B clearly highlighted the vital loss of talent if women are not appropriately appointed to the boards of publicly listed companies.

A reasoned opinion was sent from your Lordships’ House and, indeed, from the other place, to European institutions in November last year, because serious concerns were raised about the nature of the directive and, indeed, a potential infringement of subsidiarity. The use of the reasoned opinion—the so-called yellow card—is a mechanism defined in the Lisbon treaty that provides for a test by Parliaments, rather than by Governments, of subsidiarity issues. The yellow card, which was the first stage in that subsidiarity test, required nine Parliaments in the European Union to send a reasoned opinion raising subsidiarity concerns. Regrettably, only six did so, so the mechanism to test subsidiarity failed.

Other concerns were also raised in consideration of the proposed directive with regard to whether the European Union had demonstrated that there was European added value by having a directive at European level mandating a 40% quota, rather than national Governments taking action themselves. There were also serious concerns about whether it was legal in European terms for this type of sanction to be applied against publicly listed companies if they failed. Nevertheless, the ability of that part of the subsidiarity test procedure to achieve a resolution of this matter had failed.

Moving forward, two committees of the European Parliament are now considering the directive and eventually it will come back to the Council of Ministers to be finally considered, approved and then sent to national Governments for transposition into domestic legislation. However, a serious concern arises with regard to the broader approach that our country has taken towards equality legislation. The Equality Act 2010 permits positive action but defines positive discrimination as unlawful and considers a number of potential situations

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of positive discrimination, of which one is the setting of quotas; that is made very clear in the Act. Under those circumstances, if the directive was agreed by majority voting at the Council of Ministers and returned to this Parliament for transposition, how would Her Majesty’s Government deal with setting a quota in domestic legislation, which would appear to be contrary to the terms laid out in the Equality Act 2010 as it represents positive discrimination?

Serious concerns arise beyond the important issue of ensuring gender balance on the boards of publicly listed companies. If a quota were to be established for that, would it undermine the standing of equality approaches and positive action in other important areas of equality legislation in our country, given that there is no quota for those issues but there is for gender balance on boards? That could have a serious undermining effect. Would the transposition and adoption of this directive into domestic legislation require a change to the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that setting quotas is no longer defined as unlawful in that Act? Indeed, might other measures be required? One possibility is to have a period during which a quota is allowed to apply. This is certainly the case with regard to the Sex Discrimination (Election Candidates) Act 2002, which permitted all-female lists for parliamentary elections, European elections, certain local government elections and elections to the Welsh Assembly and the Scottish Parliament, but had a sunset clause which ensured that that provision ended in 2015. However, it was extended to 2030 under an amendment to the Equality Act 2010.

My reason for raising this issue now is that during this Session of Parliament it will have to be considered once again either by committees of your Lordships’ House or, indeed, by both Chambers of Parliament. Will the Minister provide further guidance on the approach Her Majesty’s Government propose to take to this important issue?

11.58 am

The Lord Bishop of Lichfield: My Lords, the gracious Speech bears out the Government’s intention to work towards an orderly society in which a fair and transparent system of justice supports the aspirations of all law-abiding citizens as they cope with challenging times. I am grateful to the Minister for his clarifications and extra enlightenment. There is much in this programme to welcome, but one must emphasise the priority that needs to be given to the most disadvantaged within our borders. In President Kennedy’s famous inaugural speech, he memorably said:

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich”.

The Government have focused in particular on their proposals on immigration. There are real complexities involved in removing a small number of people who are considered very dangerous to us, but these hard cases should not detract attention from the human impacts of the immigration system. I will not forget the experience of joining the wrong queue for immigration at Heathrow, having to wait ages to be seen, and watching the distress of the families and elderly being poorly treated by overworked staff. The administrative

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splitting of the UK Border Agency will be welcome if it aids efficiency and speeds the processing of cases, especially as the so-called backlogs in the immigration system often represent real people who have been waiting many years for decisions, unable to work or contribute to our society. The emphasis on law enforcement raises some concerns about a presumption of guilt creeping into the system.

It may well be appropriate to take particular measures to reduce the pull factor for those contemplating coming to the UK, but the problem remains of inadequate practical support for those, including families with children, who are caught in the asylum system but cannot be returned to another country. Further, in considering whether a foreign national offender should be removed from the country, it is important that judges retain their discretion to make judgments between people’s Article 8 rights in terms of family life, and the risk of harm that the person presents. Not everyone appreciates that many organisations, including our own church, are global in reach, and it is becoming more and more difficult to invite visiting bishops and professors to make their contribution to the unity that we all seek.

In the Government’s proposals on curbing anti-social behaviour, the rationalisation of the system is broadly welcome, especially with the changes recently made in response to parliamentary scrutiny, but the nature of the new injunctions and orders carries a risk of net-widening. As many have pointed out, the measures proposed in the Bill are reactive. The Government’s strategy needs also to include preventive measures to address the root causes of anti-social behaviour and focus especially on early intervention and active support of family life. This is especially important because of the sanctions attached to breach of the injunctions and orders proposed. There is strong evidence that drawing children and young people into the youth justice system can often do them more harm than good.

On reform of the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales, I warmly welcome the plans to extend post-sentence supervision to those serving sentences of less than 12 months. It is certainly true that the reoffending rate of more than 70% among young men in particular is shocking. However, there are organisations such as the church’s scheme in the Potteries that have succeeded, even in the most difficult cases, in bringing that figure down to 10%. I am sure that the Government will want to listen more carefully to such organisations. However, the plans to contract out most of the work currently done by probation trusts have perhaps been developed in haste; and this major change, which will affect more than 200,000 offenders each year, on the basis of a relatively untried system of contracting and with many questions unresolved about the effective management of risk in a fragmented offender management system, is itself a high-risk proposition.

The change in the regulation of gambling from a “place of supply” basis to a “point of consumption” basis, thereby drawing overseas operators into the scope of UK government regulation, is welcome and removes a manifest unfairness. The impact of the

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growing gambling industry on people’s lives, especially in areas of multiple deprivation, needs much more rigorous research in the face of relatively unsupported claims and counterclaims.

It is disappointing that there is no reference in the gracious Speech to minimum unit pricing of alcohol. Much as I welcome a drink after a long day in the Chamber, I cannot deny the evidence. There is a widespread consensus among health professionals about the usefulness of such a measure, and the Government have previously made a commitment to introduce minimum pricing.

In summary, I recall the words of St Paul, passing on in his letter to the Galatian churches the instructions given him by James, Peter and John about building successful multinational communities. He said:

“All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor”.

The citizens of this country rightly have an interest in maintaining an orderly and just society. Immigration, anti-social behaviour, gambling, alcohol control and all the aspects of ordering our society covered by the Government’s proposals present legitimate points of concern for us all. In addressing them, at a time of financial stringency, we must ensure that the solutions that we adopt do not tear us apart by bearing down disproportionately on those least able to make choices for themselves. We should continue to remember the poor.

12.05 pm

Lord Fowler: My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the right reverend Prelate. Lichfield is next to my old constituency of Sutton Coldfield, so I listened to him with an even greater care than I might otherwise have done, and I strongly share many of the views that he has just expressed. I also agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said at the end of her speech about equal marriage, which is something that I shall come to.

At the heart of any debate on constitutional affairs and equalities is parliamentary democracy and the importance of respecting that democracy. We in this House have an important role. We can advise, but it is the elected House that decides. It has the authority that comes from being the elected House—the authority that comes from the people or the citizen. It is in that respect that I want to test just two measures that will be debated in Parliament over the coming weeks, although neither was specifically mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

The first is the proposed royal charter on the press. To be frank, I thought that that debate was over. No one thought that a few weeks later we would be asked to consider a rival royal charter put together by a number of big newspapers—a rival royal charter that, in the words of the respected media analyst Claire Enders, is,

“further away from what Leveson recommended than anything that has gone before”.

On 18 March, we should remember, there was a debate in the other place on the Government’s royal charter proposals. Everyone agreed that it was a compromise, but it was a compromise agreed by all

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three major parties in Parliament. A final line had been drawn, or so we thought. The Prime Minister said:

“My message to the press is now very clear: we have had the debate, now it is time to get on and make this system work”.

For the Labour Party, Mr Miliband said:

“Today represents a huge moment for the House. We are doing the right thing. Politics has failed to grasp this issue for decades, but today politicians have come together to put the victims first”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/13; cols. 636-37.]

And for the Liberal Democrats, the Deputy Prime Minister said:

“Today we turn a page on the mistakes of the past and, finally, establish a proper independent watchdog to serve the British people while protecting our free press”.—[Official Report, Commons, 18/3/13; col. 640.]

Therefore, there is no conceivable doubt about what the leaders of the three parties intended. They had agreed a way forward that protected the freedom of the press but which also sought to protect the public from the abuse of press power. No objective observer looking at what had been revealed by the Leveson inquiry could fairly argue that they were overreacting. The agreement followed the worst set of scandals to affect some of the national press for the past half century. The private details of phone conversations, not just of celebrities but of ordinary people, had been revealed. Great harm was done to individuals—to citizens—in this country. The scandal forced the closure of one high-circulation and profitable newspaper because of the action that had been taken. Journalists and quasi journalists have been arrested—about 100 to date—and 24 have been charged.

As Leveson made clear, the knowledge of what was going on was not confined to one or two rogue journalists or one or two junior executives; it went much higher than that. That is the answer to those who say that as phone hacking is a criminal offence no further action is required because the criminal law will look after all that. The point is that the culture of newspapers, where phone hacking was allowed and the results published, had to be changed. It was for such reasons that the Government proposed their royal charter. Even more important, that was why the House of Commons supported them. When it came to the crucial vote on damages, 530 Members of Parliament voted in favour of the Government’s proposals and 13 voted against. The next day the Times had the headline on its front page, “Press deal divides parties”. Divides parties? A vote of 530 to 13? Just imagine the Whips going into immediate crisis talks on that, or those nice people at the National Theatre who put on that excellent play, “This House”, based on Labour’s voting problems in the 1970s, immediately asking for a sequel.

There is a much more serious point. The Government’s royal charter of March has been subject to a barrage of black propaganda from the newspapers that eventually produced their own royal charter. No issue has been too small to build up an attack. An affair between two people at the inquiry is portrayed as invalidating the whole painstaking Leveson inquiry in spite of Lord Justice Leveson’s assurance that there was no effect whatever. The poor old Hacked Off campaign is portrayed as a deeply sinister organisation with unlimited funds

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to do damage to the British press. If anyone had any doubts about why the Government’s course was best, we had only to look at the tactics employed by newspapers whose self-interest is utterly clear. The truth is that this has been a David and Goliath struggle, and the Goliath has been the big national newspapers, which have had the resources to place deeply misleading and untruthful advertisements in their own papers and to instruct their reporters to get any story that might cast doubt on the Government’s proposals.

I very much hope that no one in the special adviser group, which seems to surround this Government just as it did the previous one, believes that if further concessions are given to the newspapers that are proposing their own royal charter, that will be to the benefit of the Government. Bluntly, it will be seen as a defeat, and it is not healthy in any democracy for Parliament and the Government to be defeated by an outside group, however powerful that group may be. We did not allow it with the trades union barons and we should not allow it with the press barons either.

The basic question I want to ask the Government is very simple: why have we paused? Why, to use the Prime Minister’s words, are we not getting on with it? The public are on the side of the Government and will remain so as long as the issue is fought with strength and consistency. The public are not fools; they know that newspapers are not innocents dressed in white. They do not want to challenge press freedom, but they to want to challenge the blatant misuse of press power.

My second point concerns the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which the noble Baroness referred to. Again, there have been calls that it should be put off or withdrawn. Frankly, some of the coverage is a misreading of what has taken place, because in truth the decision to carry it over to this Session was taken in February in the Commons with a majority of 464 votes to 38. That, I imagine, is exactly what the Government intend to do.

Let me suggest in principle why it would be quite wrong for this Bill to be put off or withdrawn. I entirely respect the deeply held religious views of those who are opposed. I underline that. I do not want to set out cases as if this is a Second Reading debate. That is to come. Suffice it to say at this stage that my personal view is that Parliament should value people equally in the law, and that enabling same-sex couples to marry removes the current inequity. A legal partnership is not seen in the same way and does not have the same promises of responsibility and commitment as marriage. There are many same-sex couples, including those working in the churches, who view marriage as fundamentally important and want to enter into that life-long commitment. It is therefore Parliament’s duty to enable that to happen, and in so doing strengthen the society in which we live today.

However, the fundamental point that I want to make is not that. I want to see this country setting an example of equality of treatment in a world where discrimination, prejudice and stigma are rife and are quite probably increasing. Let me explain in a few words why I feel strongly about this. Over the past months I have visited a range of cities and countries around the world looking at the HIV/AIDS position.

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Whether I have been in Ukraine or Uganda, what has shocked me most—perhaps even more than the deaths, which at least I was expecting—has been the widespread intolerance and prejudice towards gay and lesbian people.

An opinion poll in this country suggested that many Christians in Britain believed that they were a persecuted minority. I can only say that if anyone wants to see a persecuted minority they should look at the plight of gay, lesbian and transgender people around the world. As you travel you go to countries where homosexuality is a criminal offence and where people who are suspected of being homosexual are persecuted and even forced to leave their family homes. In one country a newspaper was dedicated to exposing homosexuals—to identifying them, photographing them and publishing their addresses—so that the local population could take action against them. In one case, this led to a murder.

You can go to countries where the most popular political cause is to toughen up the laws against homosexuality rather than to modify them. Action of that kind has been taken in Russia, while in Kampala a Private Member’s Bill promised capital punishment—now generously reduced to long imprisonment—for aggravated homosexuality and a penalty of imprisonment for those who suspected that someone was homosexual but failed to report it. You may feel that that kind of Bill would be thrown out. Not at all; the common view is that it will be passed.

I do not think that one Act passed by this Parliament or one action will suddenly bring the walls of discrimination crashing down. There are certainly actions that will help—not least, if I may say so to the Bishops’ Bench, ensuring that the churches in sub-Saharan Africa, including the Anglican Church, take a stand against what is happening there.

In some parts of the world what Parliament does may have some persuasive influence—probably not in Russia and Ukraine but quite possibly in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. It can have influence for this reason: the criminal laws against homosexuality were introduced into those African countries by British Governments in the days of the Empire. We were the authors; we set out what the standards should be. It remains the case that 42 out of 54 Commonwealth countries criminalise same-sex relations. We should remember that it was as late as 1967 when the law here was changed. Until then people could be imprisoned.

Even here, not all the antipathy to gays has been removed—not by a long chalk—but unquestionably the law has played its part in improving the position. The Bill, which will be debated later, is not only right but could have an important persuasive effect both in this country and abroad, and will set out our belief in equal and fair treatment.

As for the later debate, we should also remember, just as we remembered on the position of the press, that the Bill for equal marriage was passed overwhelmingly in the other place on a free vote, by 400 votes to 175: a majority of over two to one.

Lord Cormack: Should we not also remember that it featured in no manifesto?

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Lord Fowler: If my noble friend does not mind my saying so, I think that is a trivial argument. We all know—and he knows, because he has been in Parliament for exactly the same length of time as I have—that a whole range of things have been produced and passed that were not in party manifestos. I abolished the dock labour scheme, which I imagine my noble friend enthusiastically voted for and which was not in the party manifesto, and I can think of a whole of range of other things. That argument does not stand up. Let us debate on the issue, not on side points.

Of course, this House and my noble friend are entitled to suggest and propose amendments, but perhaps I may also suggest that that is going to the limit of our power. We are not entitled to defeat the will of the Commons on an issue of this kind: one that was decided, I repeat, on a free vote. It may be an unfashionable thing to say today, but the most important people in this country are not the bankers, self-interested columnists or special advisers who now appear to haunt the whole of Whitehall; they are the Members of Parliament. They are the only ones elected to Westminster. They take their authority from their elected position and they lose it when they leave. They have been elected by the people and they are answerable to the people. In my view, on both these issues—the protection of the public from a press abusing its power and the introduction of equal marriage—Members of Parliament have got it absolutely right.

12.21 pm

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I am delighted that the gracious Speech contains measures to reduce crime and protect national security. As one who promoted the legislation on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act in my Private Member’s Bill, I welcome the coalition Government’s intention further to legislate for reforms in the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales. I congratulate the coalition Government on some of their major successes so far, and I do not mind if my noble friend Lord McNally takes credit for them.

The first three years of the coalition Government have seen some important steps towards achieving a fairer and more effective criminal justice system. The Government have abolished the discredited and unjust IPP sentence, legislated to reduce unnecessary remands in custody, reformed the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and given legislative underpinning to restorative justice. Over the past four years, we have seen a dramatic and welcome reduction in the number of juvenile offenders in custody. Moreover, the rate of increase in the adult prison population has slowed down. In the past three years, between 2009 and 2012, the prison population has risen by an average of 1% a year compared with 2.5% to 4% a year during the period of the Labour Administration. I am particularly pleased to note that the Government are developing a determined strategy to divert mentally disordered offenders from the criminal justice system into medical and social care.

So far, so good, but we still face many serious challenges. Even after these welcome improvements, the size of our prison population remains a national

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disgrace. At the end of October 2012, 78 out of 131 prisons were holding more prisoners than they were built for, and over 20,000 prisoners were being held two to a cell in cells designed for one person. This country now has 153 prisoners for every 100,000 people in the general population compared with 102 in France and 83 in Germany. Far too many offenders are still sent into custody for short sentences and then released after no more than a few months. These sentences serve little purpose. They are far too short for sustained rehabilitation programmes, but long enough for offenders to lose their jobs and homes, which makes them more likely to reoffend.

On release, most of these prisoners do not receive supervision by the probation service, and the reconviction rates are much higher than those for other prisoners. I am pleased to see that the Government are now consulting on proposals to provide post-release supervision for short-term prisoners and I welcome the announcement made earlier by my noble friend Lord McNally. However, most of these offenders will be better dealt with by community orders. These orders can provide a longer period of supervision and of work to change offending behaviour than a short period of post-release supervision would provide. Our prison system still does far too little to prevent crime and rehabilitate offenders. We need to rethink an approach which spends such a high proportion of its resources on custodial measures which produce high reoffending rates.

The Government should legislate to make sentencing guidelines take into account the capacity of our prison system. This proposal was first made by the Carter report on the prison system in 2007, and it still makes sense. At a time when all other areas of public services have to work within the reality of limited resources, there is no reason why sentencing should be exempt. Requiring sentencing guidelines to take account of all available resources would concentrate sentencers’ minds on the evidence concerning the most cost-effective disposals available to the courts. Sentencing guidelines should scale down the number and length of prison sentences except for the most serious crimes. They should remove prison as an option for low-level non-violent crimes. Courts should be prohibited from using prisons, except for dangerous offenders, unless they have first tried an intensive community supervision programme.

We also need a strategy to reduce the use of imprisonment for women. Most of the women we send to prison are neither violent nor dangerous and most of them have few previous convictions. Imprisoned women have high rates of mental disorder, histories of abuse, addiction problems and personal distress arising from separation from their children. I was pleased to see the Government’s recent announcement that they are establishing an expert advisory board, to be chaired by my honourable friend Helen Grant, to develop policies for female offenders. I hope that with the assistance of the advisory board, the Government will set improved standards for women’s community sentences, resettlement and rehabilitation, mental health services, family contact and culturally appropriate support for foreign national women in our prisons.

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We should also do more to keep restorative justice at the forefront of sentences, to help ensure that it becomes a central part of our criminal justice system. I greatly welcome the new provision in the Crime and Courts Act which provides for restorative justice in conjunction with deferment of sentence. The Government should build on this in future legislation by making restorative justice one of the statutory purposes of sentencing and by enabling courts to include specific restorative justice requirements in community orders and youth rehabilitation orders.

We should reduce the rate of imprisonment of people who have breached community supervision—for example, by missing appointments or being late back to their probation hostels. The number of people jailed for breach has escalated alarmingly in recent years as probation officers’ discretion over breaches has been restricted. The Government should consider introducing a graduated scale of punishment for breach of supervision, with prisons being used only for breach when less severe penalties have first been tried.

We should introduce tighter statutory restrictions on sentencing and sending young offenders into custody. This would involve reversing some of the measures taken by the last Labour Government, who legislated to enable courts to detain children at an increasingly younger age and for less serious offences. We should also raise the country’s unusually low age of criminal responsibility from 10 to at least 12. I hope to reintroduce my Private Member’s Bill on this subject next week. It would be more humane and more effective to deal with offenders under that age in family proceedings courts, as other European countries do.

A great deal remains to be done to eliminate racial discrimination from the criminal justice process. The disproportionate use of stop and search is even more extreme than it was when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry reported, and the proportion of the prison population from racial minorities is now higher than it was in the late 1990s. We should place a clear statutory duty on all criminal justice agencies to adopt numerical targets for reducing racial disproportionality in all their operations.

There is overwhelming evidence of the importance of providing practical help for offenders in order to reduce reoffending. I make no apologies for repeating the key statistics on this point to the House yet again. Getting offenders into jobs reduces their likelihood of further offending by between one-third and one-half. Providing accommodation for offenders reduces reconviction by at least one-fifth. Drug rehabilitation programmes cut the volume of reoffending by up to 70%.

Alongside the Government’s welcome proposals for post-release supervision for short-term prisoners, we should commission voluntary organisations to provide a national resettlement service for these prisoners to ensure that they receive support with their practical needs for accommodation, employment and drug rehabilitation on release. Such a strategy would help to move this country away from the unenviable position of having the highest prison population in western Europe. In doing so, it would help to concentrate resources on the measures that are most likely to protect the public by rehabilitating offenders and reducing reoffending.

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12.31 pm

Baroness Hollins: My Lords, in Her Majesty’s gracious Speech yesterday, we heard that the Government will,

“promote a fairer society that rewards people who work hard … where aspiration and responsibility are rewarded”,

and where people,

“who have spent years caring for children”—

and, I hope, other dependent relatives—are given more help with their pensions.

As a psychiatrist, I have been reflecting on how these commitments will affect people with mental illness or intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families—groups that I have particular knowledge of. In my experience, these people are not short of aspirations but their work opportunities are severely restricted. I am sure that it is not the Government’s intention to make people who cannot contribute economically feel like an unwelcome burden, but there is a risk that younger disabled people and older people nearing the end of their lives will feel unwanted. As Giles Fraser wrote in the Guardian last week, speaking about the end of life:

“I do want to be a burden on my loved ones just as I want them to be a burden on me—it’s called looking after each other … This is what it means to love you”.

We need a societal response that is also accepting of burden at all stages of life.

During the previous parliamentary Session, the Government took some laudable steps towards addressing the inequality and discrimination that people who have experienced mental illnesses have historically faced. The explicit inclusion, under Section 1 of the Health and Social Care Act, of mental health and mental illness alongside physical health and illness in new Section 1(1)(a) and (b) of the National Health Service Act 2006 is just one example, but the existing lack of parity between physical and mental health care is highly significant.

A recent, comprehensive report by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Whole-person Care: From Rhetoric to Reality, estimated that mental illness represents nearly 23% of the disease burden in the United Kingdom, yet mental health care receives only 11% of the NHS budget. Despite mental illness representing the largest disease burden in the UK, it remains relatively underfunded, underresearched and underprioritised by politicians and policymakers. This situation needs urgent attention if parity of esteem and equality for those who experience mental illness is ever to be achieved.

Mental health is not just a matter for health and social care services. A recent study of people with depression found that more than three-quarters described discrimination in at least one area of their lives, and a quarter had not applied for employment because of their illness. The current financial crisis is at risk of disproportionately affecting those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This group often relies on state assistance to maintain equal access to basic human rights and to achieve the most fundamental of life goals, such as having a safe and comfortable place to live, and accessing education, healthcare and appropriate advocacy when needed. It is vital that in

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understanding the vulnerability of these people, their needs are prioritised and protected in all legislative changes.

This is perhaps never more important than in times of economic austerity, when competing demands on limited funds may result in disadvantage being compounded and those least able to advocate for themselves losing out to more vocal or visible interests. In striving for equality for people with learning disabilities, we need proactive legislation that addresses entrenched discriminatory practices and processes, and to scrutinise all legislative changes from their perspective.

Further legislation announced in the gracious Speech proposes to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated. This should provide the Government with an opportunity to access particularly vulnerable groups of people, who are often difficult to engage, with high rates of reoffending. The Prison Reform Trust, as part of its “No One Knows” project, estimated that,

“20-30% of offenders have learning difficulties or learning disabilities that interfere with their ability to cope within the criminal justice system”,

and I understand that 60% of prisoners have a reading age of less than five.

It is well documented that mental illness and addictions are significantly overrepresented in the offending population; for example, it is estimated that at any one time there are about 5,000 people with a serious mental illness in prison. Planned reforms to probation and rehabilitation services must hold these statistics to heart. Back-to-work programmes must include provisions for those with learning disabilities and literacy problems. Probation, substance misuse and mental health care services need to collaborate to improve the co-ordination of care and rehabilitation. Careful legislation and reforms backed by appropriate funding could bring great benefit not only to the individuals concerned but for society in its broadest sense.

On the question of victims being hurt and communities damaged, which was raised by the Minister, I must voice my disappointment about the lack of any legislation to introduce minimum pricing for alcohol. The BMA and the Royal College of Psychiatrists both believe that a minimum unit price would lead to a decrease in the thousands of alcohol-related deaths. This is not just a health issue but one that contributes to public disorder, domestic violence and homicide, as well as to suicide.

I will comment briefly on the Government’s plans to reduce crime. Fortunately, in this country we do not have the problem of firearms being widely available in people’s homes, as in the United States. Gun crime is relatively infrequent and, in wanting to reduce crime, the Government will be cognisant of this. However, noble Lords may not be aware that two-thirds of gun deaths in America are suicides and only one-third homicides—perhaps not what the Second Amendment, which permits American citizens to own guns, had in mind.

Our Government have the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, and the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness reviews all such deaths for people in contact with

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mental health services. After a decade of falling rates of suicide, there has been an upward trend since 2010. The highest rates of suicide in men since 2002 were recorded in 2011. Recent studies have shown what impact specific mental health service improvements have on suicide rates, but there is also evidence that restricting access to the methods used by suicidal people, including medication and guns, reduces the number of completed suicides. Maintaining a strong government position on suicide prevention at all ages and for all reasons is critical and, I suggest, needs a cross-government focus.

My reason for speaking about mental health and disability in today’s Motion for an humble Address is to raise awareness outside the health and social welfare agenda and to make the point that aspirations for a good life are also about relationships and respect, not just economic productivity.

Finally, while on the subject of respect, I must speak briefly about the Leveson inquiry. In supporting the royal charter and its attendant clauses of legislation, this Parliament took a historic step to protect citizens from abuse while safeguarding our free press from political interference. We should be proud of that and should now be able to look forward to the introduction of effective, independent press self-regulation. I trust that there really will be no looking back, despite attempts by editors and their organisations to derail the decisions made by Parliament by arguing for nothing more than the pre-Leveson status quo. Our press carries much responsibility for the tone of public discourse. I hope that our debates in this House will try to set a tone that others will follow.

12.41 pm

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, it is a great honour to take part in the debate on the most gracious Speech. Reading through the speech several times, I was struck by how central to everything is the economic situation in this country and how we have to measure everything against that.

The first statement in the gracious Speech is:

“My Government’s legislative programme will continue to focus on building a stronger economy so that the United Kingdom can compete and succeed in the world”.

I am fully aware that the debate today is considering constitutional affairs, equalities, home affairs, justice and law, but the state of the economy affects each and every one of those areas. We must arrange our finances to achieve the measures proposed; I suggest that we cannot debate any of them without considering the economy.

Despite all the valiant attempts of the Government to turn around the economic situation, and acknowledging that much has been done, the country remains in a fragile state. It is proving very hard to set the country back on the road to recovery. We can take some weak comfort from the fact that we are by no means in as serious trouble as many others. The message from the EU at the moment is decidedly grimmer, with members of the eurozone openly talking about huge and almost fatal difficulties.

It is imperative that we concentrate on the promotion of growth, on clearing up the financial mess left by the

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previous Administration, and on the necessity of creating new jobs, particularly for the young, who when they planned their futures, let us remember, never expected that youth unemployment would be one of the most worrying features of their post-school or post-higher education lives. The UK is to be given credit for having done much better than other EU member states, but so many young people today feel betrayed that the promises of good jobs in their bright future are not materialising.

Many of the measures proposed in the gracious Speech are excellent but will need a gargantuan effort to achieve. The energies and considerable resources of the Government must be focused on the economy.

Why am I speaking about the economy so much? The first reason is that I cannot take part in the debate on Monday, which will deal with the economy, because each Monday while the House is sitting—and occasionally when it is not—Sub-Committee B of the EU Select Committee meets to scrutinise documents, proposed directives and information from the European Commission and Parliament. The production of this mini-avalanche is relentless and the timetable is quite restricted. It is essential that we keep abreast and ahead. Secondly, I am convinced that the state of the economy is such that, as I said, every section of the gracious Speech can be measured against it.

Sadly, at a time when we face so many different and troubling challenges, the Government have decided to launch an astonishing attack on our tried and tested values by redefining marriage. Those of us who have been following the process in the other place knew perfectly well that the legislation was going to come here. It was perhaps wishful thinking that led so many people and sections of the population to believe that, because the Bill was not mentioned yesterday morning, it was not going to happen—mind you, that was put right within four hours.

Marriage is at the heart of our way of life, our communities and our country. The union of the two sexes, uniting men and women to each other and to their children, provides the foundation for human flourishing. We have heard today in this House a discussion about childcare and children not flourishing when they get to school because they have not had proper childcare. It is within the bounds of marriage that this happens.

Equality is put forward as the basic reason for this action by the Government, but very little more equality is needed. I think that we are talking more about equality in the name: some people want to say that they are married rather than suggesting that there is anything wrong with marriage at the moment or that marriage has equivalence with same-sex couples being together.

As everyone will remember, we had many discussions on the Civil Partnership Act. I remember clearly the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland, agreeing that the Civil Partnership Act had caused more discrimination in another area. It is like pushing down one bit only for it to come up somewhere else. We were discussing the case of sisters—anyone who was there at the time will remember the injustice being done to them; your Lordships can look it up in Hansard. The

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noble and learned Baroness emphasised at the government Dispatch Box, “It is not for this Bill. I agree that it is discrimination, but it is not for this Bill at this time”. We accepted that, but when is it going to be tackled because, again, sisters are left out of it?

The evidence from social science is now emphatic that children do best when raised by their married mother and father. I mention just one example: a paper from the Institute for Fiscal Studies observes that, even by the age of three, there are “significant differences” in outcomes between children born to married parents and those born outside marriage. Children born to married parents showed superior social, emotional and cognitive development. There are many other studies which provide powerful evidence of the positive benefits of marriage. Should we throw this up in the air?

Marriage will continue to be the bedrock of society only if it remains the legal union of one man and one woman. The current plans seek to change the meaning of marriage. Such a complete rewriting of a fundamental social institution can have only serious and some unpredictable consequences. Many people question whether the Government have the moral authority to attempt this redefinition. Most people in this country object to its imposition over their heads; they want marriage to remain as it is.

It greatly saddens me that my party is pursuing such a radical and aggressive social agenda and in such an undemocratic fashion—and I repeat, “undemocratic”. I listened carefully to my noble friend Lord Fowler, with whom we have jostled many times on these issues. I say that there is no mandate to make this change since the idea is not in our manifesto—nor indeed is it in those of the other parties; my noble friend says that that does not really matter and that, after all, the dock labour scheme changes were not in the manifesto. Well, I consider that the dock labour scheme, which was wonderful and achieved a lot, is nothing like as important as the fundamental rocking of the state of social cohesion in this country.

The proposal to redefine marriage is unpopular and wholly unnecessary. I was very struck by my noble friend’s argument that the only power in this country lies with the elected representatives. It is a cogent case which I accept, but if there are elected representatives, what are they elected for? They are elected to listen to their constituents and to represent those thoughts—if they do not show them the error of their ways—in the national Parliament. It seems to me that in this case the representatives have all the power because, as my noble friend says, the only people with power in the country are the MPs. However, they do not have any responsibility, because they do not seem to be taking any responsibility to listen to their constituents—certainly not on this matter.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: Does not my noble friend agree that the argument of my noble friend Lord Fowler about the sovereignty of the House of Commons would be much more powerful if the Government were not imposing a timetable Motion on the consideration of these matters by the elected House?

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Baroness O’Cathain: I could never have said it as well as that, but I thank my noble friend.

What is likely to be the reaction of those who have been made summarily redundant and have to rely on food banks to tide them over until they can access benefits, of those thousands of young people whom I have already described, who are living in a state of deep concern, and of pensioners holding steadfastly to values who are suffering from receiving no interest on their savings and the rising costs of energy, when they witness the Government pushing ahead on a Bill that does not address any of those areas? I will tell you what they are probably thinking: have the Government lost their reason? They must have done so to justify the emphasis on redefining marriage while all else is in an unstable and worrying state.

I believe that it is a deeply flawed Bill and a deeply concerning attack on the values of great swathes of the population. Where is the pressure coming from? Are the Government taking any notice of the widespread antipathy to the redefinition of marriage? It is a wrong Bill, and it beggars belief that the Government have wantonly decided to push it through at any time, let alone when we are in such a parlous state.

Marriage must be supported and valued, not dismantled. For the sake of the future of marriage in this country, I urge the Government to admit graciously that this has been a great mistake and drop the Bill.

12.51 pm

Lord Tyler: My Lords, I first spoke in a debate on the then gracious Speech in March 1974. I recall being mystified by that vital penultimate sentence heard again today: “other measures will be laid before you”. I could not then imagine that such innocent, innocuous words could be so important, but on many occasions since, they have proved to be the most significant warning of political earthquakes to be anticipated—in Harold Macmillan’s words, “Events, dear boy, events”. Those words today give me—and, it would seem, many other Members who have spoken in the debate—hope that there will be other vital measures excluded at present from the text of the gracious Speech.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Lang, and the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, referred yesterday to the absence from the gracious Speech of any reference to reform of your Lordships’ House. For once, I and my party shed no tears for that omission. We could hardly have expected the resurrection of the Government’s 2012 Bill.

However, it is salutary to remind Members that, far from being defeated in the House of Commons, as some members of this House have recently started to claim, the Bill received a record majority last July of 338 votes at Second Reading in the other place. Indeed, a majority of MPs in all three major parties supported it: 193 votes to 89 in the Conservative Party, 202 votes to 26 in the Labour Party and 53 votes to nil in the Liberal Democrats.

I agree with everything that my noble friend Lord Fowler said earlier. He made an extraordinarily powerful case for the primacy of the House of Commons in this debate, as also in the others to which he referred. Had the Labour Party agreed to a programme Motion—any

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programme Motion—to ensure that the time on the Bill was well managed, we would now, in May 2013, be faced with legislation which had received Royal Assent, or which had been carried over, or a Bill which was to be subjected to the provisions of the Parliament Act. I suggest that the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, was being rather disingenuous yesterday in failing to acknowledge the role that her party played in postponing serious reform. The truth is that her party sacrificed political reform at the altar of political opportunism. When its time came to make a difference, it funked it.

I am certain that the matter of reforming this House will come back to us in due course. Unless the result of the 2015 general election is a very long way from the current state of the parties, there will certainly be a majority in favour of reform. I hope that then, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel, the incoming Cabinet—whatever its political composition—will simply reintroduce the 2012 Bill, which was backed by such a huge majority in this Parliament, and get on with the job in a workmanlike manner.

Meanwhile, to avoid any possible perception or accusation of personal interest, I suggest that party leaders would be wise to make it clear that any MP who voted to retain the fully appointed House should not expect to be nominated to join us here. It would do nothing for the reputation of either House of Parliament, or of politics generally, for them to be seen to be rewarded for putting self-interest ahead of their manifesto promises to the electorate.

I know that one “other measure” that many in this House would like laid before us is progress on modest changes to the membership of the House, along the lines of the Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Steel of Aikwood. Through all the muttering about this, I am never quite sure which Bill colleagues are referring to: Steel mark 1, which would have converted hereditary Peers into life Peers by abolishing the barmy by-elections, or Steel mark 2, which was filleted for easy digestion by hereditary Peers even before it completed its Committee stage in your Lordships’ House? The latter would hardly change the current situation. After all, there is already a retirement scheme—two Members have taken advantage of it—and the only other provisions related to disqualification. Anyone inside or outside this House who pinned their hopes on that latter Bill relieving overcrowding or easing the entry of new Peers was doomed to disappointment. Had the original Bill survived, I for one might have been bemoaning its absence from the gracious Speech, but the absence of Steel Mark 2 is no loss.

There are two other commitments in the party manifestos and the coalition agreement that seem to have been lost along the way, and which I still hope will be seen in this Session as “other measures”. First, the coalition agreement boldly stated:

“We will regulate lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists and ensuring greater transparency”.

I and my Liberal Democrat colleagues in both Houses had high hopes of progress on that issue. It was indeed the Prime Minister who, as Leader of the Opposition, in the run-up to the 2010 election, rightly said that unregulated lobbying was,

“the next big scandal waiting to happen”.

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However, we also know that solid and sensible proposals have been considered in government, and cannot understand why they have been delayed.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, said, lobbying by and for powerful interests—she may have been thinking of the Murdoch empire—under both the previous and the present Government has brought to the fore the urgent need to deal with lobbying. I understand that Mr Lynton Crosby, who previously helped the Conservative Party when it was “the nasty party”, is reputed to consider such issues as mere barnacles on the ship of state to be completely ignored in deciding electoral principles. As an Antipodean, he should know that too many barnacles can dangerously impede the smooth travel of any vessel on a long-distance voyage. I prefer the view of Cameron to Crosby, of the captain to the cabin boy, of the organ-grinder to the monkey.

Then we come to the vexed issue of money and politics. Following firm commitments in party manifestos in 2010, the coalition agreement promised:

“We will also pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics”.

Those interparty discussions have indeed been taking place, but apparently without any outcome. We can hope only that they, too, will still result in “other measures” in this Session. The current situation is far from satisfactory. As a member of the informal all-party group which advises the Electoral Commission, I have been only too well aware of the yawning gaps in the present monitoring, reporting and control regime when it comes to the funding of political campaigning activity which falls outside the normal definitions of party and candidate support. An enterprising Russian oligarch, bored with football clubs, or some other maverick multi-millionaire could completely distort the campaigns in 2014 and 2015. Buying political influence through third-party campaigning organisations with vast sums of money, from outside the well established rules for the parties, could take us along the discredited road that they have experienced in the USA.

To draw attention to this unsatisfactory situation, and to emphasise that this is certainly unfinished business after the excellent November 2011 report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life on this issue, I and a number of parliamentarians from across parties have been contributing to the preparation of a draft Bill. This will be published for consultation next week at a seminar to be chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly, newly retired as chairman of that committee. In the absence of proposals from the Government or from those official discussions, we can but hope that this draft Bill could still stimulate yet another “other” measure for this Session. Certainly, without appropriate legislation, there is a real danger that the campaigns for the 2014 European parliamentary elections and for the general election a year later—and their outcomes—could be mired in controversy. Where then would be the promise of this Government to take the big money out of politics?

I welcome what the gracious Speech does to maintain the Government’s course towards a stronger, more sustainable economy while building a fairer society.

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There are many measures in the gracious Speech that will assist in these endeavours, and it is these that are central to the Liberal Democrat contribution to the coalition. But on these Benches we still strongly believe that a fairer society is also contingent on open, plural politics in which all views are represented and all voices heard. We will continue to press for those “other measures” that would help to make that happen.

1.02 pm

Lord Bew: My Lords, yesterday the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton, in his witty and elegant speech, moved the Motion for an humble Address to Her Majesty. His tone was, for the most part, light and genial. He did, however, refer to one passage in the gracious Speech. He noted the words:

“My Ministers will … work in co-operation with the devolved Administrations”,

and added, rather dryly, that,

“co-operation is a two-way street”.—[

Official Report

, 8/5/13; col. 7.]

I take this observation as my starting point.

In March this year, the McKay commission report, or more properly the report of the Commission on the Consequences of Devolution for the House of Commons, was published. The Government had asked the McKay commission in effect to deal with or attempt to solve the vexed West Lothian question posed famously by Tam Dalyell, the MP for West Lothian, in the devolution debates of the 1970s. Tam Dalyell pointed out that, post-devolution, MPs from outside England could help to determine laws that apply in England, while MPs from England would have no reciprocal influence on laws outside England in the policy fields for which the devolved Administrations would now be responsible. Sir William McKay was a distinguished Clerk of the House of Commons from 1998 to 2002, and his commissioners are a most distinguished group. Their answer is an interesting one.

The thrust of the McKay commission report is a suggestion that whenever measures separately affect England, or England and Wales, the voice of England is heard before the final word is spoken by the House as a whole. As Professor Yvonne Galligan, one of the commission’s members, expressed it on “The Thoughtful Scholar” blog, the essence is that,

“we want all MPs to retain the right of final say, while allowing for the voice of England to be heard”.

I am not sure that the West Lothian question is not fundamentally insoluble. As the McKay commission report quite rightly points out, the question predates Scottish issues. It was in fact initially an Irish issue: these questions were discussed between Parnell and Gladstone in the 1880s. They could not resolve the difficulty, the reason lying fundamentally in the fact that they could not define what a purely English question was. I am not sure whether this problem does not still lurk behind what is, in so many respects, a very impressive and interesting report.

However, the report at least signals quite clearly the existence of something: the growing element of an English question in our polity. It is quite disturbing, as your Lordships will see if they look at the commission’s tables of English public opinion, that there is a growing

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impatience with, for example, the level of public expenditure in the devolved Administrations. This is a matter which those of us who live in areas governed by those devolved Administrations, as I do, have to take into consideration. Those Administrations also have to consider a sentiment of growing edginess in English public opinion—perhaps not an explosive edginess, but an edginess that is certainly growing—about what appears to be a double weighting of the political class of Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales: the sense that, in principle, that political class has its own bailiwick, which cannot be interfered with, but that it can also play a decisive role in the affairs of England. In such a context, it is important not to add any new cause for exacerbation between the devolved Assemblies and the Westminster Parliament. As the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said yesterday, co-operation is a two-way street.

It is precisely for that reason that I have been disturbed by the Northern Ireland Assembly’s decision, as it seems, not to apply but to reject the recent Defamation Bill, which was passed by Parliament. There are very important reasons to be disturbed by this development. Perhaps selfishly, as an academic, I would stress that one of the core elements of that Bill is the attempt to expand the academic freedom of discussion and to protect those who write for peer-reviewed journals. It is very important for university culture throughout the United Kingdom generally that such a protection should be there, for both scientists and those who work in the humanities. It is important for those who work in universities in Northern Ireland, as I in fact do, that such a protection is there for them as well. In the struggle to have good universities, which is fundamental to the economic success of a region such as Northern Ireland, it sends out a bad signal if the local Assembly displays itself as fundamentally indifferent to the tone or substance of academic freedom as an issue.

More profound than that, of course, is the issue on which there has been much recent comment in the press: that Belfast would now become the new libel capital of the United Kingdom, London having lost its previously perceived role as libel capital of the world as a result of the changes in the law. If this were to happen and Belfast became, as the dark joke now has it, a town called Sue, it will place enormous, and I suspect in some way unfair, burdens on the local judiciary. It would send out a signal that again would be disturbing. One of our media lawyers in Belfast, Mr Paul McDonnell, unselfishly made the point that while it would increase his income enormously if this gap and the status quo remained, as envisaged by the Assembly, he would simply regard it none the less as morally unacceptable. He went on to say that,

“investigations in the public interest which concern well-funded entities will effectively be subject to censorship by the back door”.

Censorship by the back door is something which I do not think a devolved Assembly wants to get into or to sanction in any way.

I understand from newspaper reports that the Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland are uneasy about the McKay commission report. I can understand why they might feel that way. MPs from the devolved regions will be very nervous about anything that hints at all at creating a second-class status of MP. It is a

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very sensitive question within the United Kingdom, even though the report itself has tried to deal with it as subtly as it conceives to be possible. However, I quite understand why the Northern Irish MPs are, according to newspaper reports, uneasy and unsympathetic. As the Troubles have receded as a kind of natural focus of obsession for our MPs, the range of interventions made by Members of Parliament from Northern Ireland across the board on different policy aspects in Westminster life has been one of the most refreshing aspects of the work of this Parliament. I understand their unease but, as the noble Lord, Lord Lang, said, co-operation is a two-way street.

It might well be in the interests, at certain points, of the Scottish National Party or Alex Salmond to do things that exacerbate or irritate opinion in the rest of the United Kingdom, but it cannot be in the interests of those who represent Northern Ireland, or the great majority of them at the Westminster Parliament or the majority parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly, similarly to exacerbate opinion in Westminster.

1.10 pm

The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, last night I had to return to my diocese for an event involving community leaders. Inevitably, the conversation turned to the Queen’s Speech and the implications for Devon. As I listened to what was being said, the issue was one not only of implication but of translation. Increasingly there is a sense of a loss of not only a common agenda across the country but also a common language.

In contrast with a decade ago, the nature of the issues which we as a nation are grappling with now are more disturbing and existential. At the turn of the millennium, a number of benign developments were working themselves through—the recent enactment of the Human Rights Act, devolution to Wales and Scotland and a political deal in Northern Ireland. The agenda now is of an altogether different character. Is Scotland to remain part of the UK? Is the UK to remain part of the EU? Is there to be a common understanding of marriage not just between church and state but across the different jurisdictions of this relatively small group of islands? These issues, in turn, raise deep questions about national identity, questions which have enormous consequences and ought not to be settled solely by reference to the moods and passions of the moment, nor especially the moods and passions of a metropolitical mindset that feels increasingly disconnected from the realities of life elsewhere, including the south-west.

In parenthesis, perhaps I might mention an interesting article by Neil O’Brien on the growing problem of “Londonitis”, in which he says:

“London has always been different from the rest of the country. But in recent decades the differences have widened to the point that, economically and socially, the capital now has little in common with the rest of Britain … The politicians, civil servants and journalists who make up Britain’s governing class have had their world view shaped by living in the capital and its wealthy satellites. They run one country, but effectively live in another … The priorities of the people they know are often different”.

In terms of the policies that we are at times offered and the rhetoric used to support them, many miles from London it often feels just like this.

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In this context it is interesting to reflect on the book that the former US ambassador to the UK, Ray Seitz, produced in the 1990s. As the first professional diplomat to be US ambassador at the Court of St James, he contrasted the British and American approach to handling difference. He said that in his country when people disagreed, they tended to go their separate ways and do their own thing. The frontier spirit meant that there was always new territory where you could set up on your own. By contrast, the experience of living on a relatively small island had bred the habits of accommodation, compromise and trying to rub along together.

The Church of England could be seen, historically, as an embodiment of that approach, trying, so far as possible, to hold people in, working for the good of the whole community, not drawing tight lines around its membership. However, increasingly it is not something that the church finds as easy as it used to. Witness, for example, the temporary failure last November to reach a way forward on women bishops. But what we are experiencing in the church we see writ large in wider society. The holding together of diversity in unity, with a common language and shared frame of reference for public policy and community values, seems to be something that wider society is finding even more difficult. Various attempts to engage with this issue through the language of the big society or one nation—fill in the blank yourself—do not seem to have had much real effect. A growing tendency to grapple with the challenge through defining ever more issues in terms of enforceable, justiciable rights has not been entirely helpful because it has tended to foster the notion that solutions are best found through forensic arguments, when what is most often needed are negotiation, mediation, accommodation, and reasonable give and take.

I was not going to say anything about the so-called equal marriage Bill, but I have been moved by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, to say that that is one of the things that I find so disturbing. The steamrollering through of a Bill that will fundamentally challenge long-standing and shared values—and, indeed, a fundamental building block of society—without ever being tested at the ballot box is troubling. Cohesion and community are built on consultation and consent. In short, I am suggesting that what is required in church and state is a fresh engagement with that tradition of Christian social teaching embodied in the concept of the common good.

Times of social hardship and economic stringency, such as those we are facing at present, can lead to the increasing fragmentation of society, the polarisation of communities and an increase in the pressures which can appear to be forcing us apart. Sometimes this is so quite literally, when legislation and public policy have the effect, intended or unintended, of forcing people from their home and disconnecting them from existing networks of support and care at precisely the point of vulnerability where there is the greatest need. This is because communities that care for the young and the old and that have sufficient energy to shape local public life, including public services, exist where people are able to settle in one place long enough to create

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trusting relationships. Relationships with neighbours, teachers, doctors, shopkeepers, those who deliver the post or see children safely across the road to school—they are the community. They enable us to invest in making the place we live in together better. This means, of course, that communities are also central to how we care for our environment. It is communities with an investment in place that will battle to get cars off their streets so that children can play safely, band together to clean up their local park and get to know, protect and love their local woodland and the wildlife it supports. This trinity of community, place and identity has a vital contribution to make to the common good, but it is easily undermined through carelessness in legislation and regulation as much as anything else.

I have referred to the economically stringent times in which we live. Pain may so easily be responded to with short-term populism but with long-term divisive effects. By contrast, history shows us that such times may frequently bring out the best in us, as we seek to ensure that the most vulnerable are not neglected and that an atomised society does not allow its members to disappear beyond the reach of loving relationships. The present period of austerity is no exception, and it is not difficult to think of examples of this being precisely the case with regard to the church. I cite the church’s response to the urban riots of 2011, with the remarkable ability to mobilise its members being a splendid example of spontaneous yet effective action for the good of the community.

Compared to the 1980s, the church’s response to such circumstances now seems to be less focused on structures and more on rapid responsiveness, quicker to learn from each other, less inclined to reinvent a wheel in every local setting and—fascinatingly, in terms of my earlier comments about signs of a loss of generous cohesion—taken up across the spectrum of different strands that make up the complexity of the church. The fruits of such responses I see right across my diocese in, for example, the work of street pastors, the growing number of food banks and initiatives such as the Seaton FREEdom Café, which provides free food and free friendship for all. Each is an example of community supported by churches serving community. There are perhaps lessons here for our wider society and for the Government as they seek to implement some of the aspirations laid out in the Queen’s Speech.

In drawing attention to the church in this way, I am merely drawing on that element of the nation’s life which is my prime focus. Others could speak similarly of the responsiveness and contribution of other faith communities and of a whole range of organisations and movements within the voluntary sector.

However, with the mention of these, I want to offer a warning. All the various components of civil society undoubtedly have a contribution to make to the fostering of the common good. Nevertheless, none should be expected to bear, or be asked to accept, a weight for which it is not equipped. Part of the problem that we face in trying to achieve a sense of cohesion and mutual belonging in our society today is that the strong, informal, local community and voluntary structures that existed even in past decades have become more and more attenuated so that the balance between

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local neighbourliness and state provision has been skewed unsustainably. Her Majesty’s Government are right to recognise that this balance has to be redressed, but the churches and the voluntary sector are not in the business of replacing comprehensive provision with patchy charity. What is necessary is that they are fully engaged in shaping a language and a policy framework that respects and balances solidarity and subsidiarity in the interests of the whole of the United Kingdom’s common good.

1.21 pm

Baroness Howe of Idlicote:My Lords,I begin with the hope, but not much expectation, that the House of Lords will not be inundated this coming Session, as it was during the previous Session, with too many Bills of a similar nature, often containing interacting content, and with large sections of Bills coming from the other place not examined at all.

That said, the coalition Government are to be congratulated on much of the content of the gracious Speech, in that it certainly contains and confronts some issues that have been ignored by previous Governments. Not least among them is the existing situation in the UK, which has an increasingly ageing and costly population and totally inadequate resources to provide them with a dignified end to life. The state certainly has not budgeted the necessary resources for them for far too long, and nor, in the majority of cases, has the individual. If, to meet the existing situation, the Government can genuinely provide a neighbourly way in which we all share the responsibility of caring for this ageing generation, preferably in their home environment, and if, in addition, the Government can devise, for the long term, a scheme by which people pay for such care during their working life and are therefore not obliged to sell their homes to meet the cost, considerable progress can be claimed. However—forgive the cynicism—I shall await more detailed examination during the Committee stage of any such Bill before I am sure of exactly how much progress can be genuinely claimed.

There clearly will be interest in and concern about the Government’s plans to provide an alternative method of dealing with offenders who would currently be given a year’s imprisonment. The concern, which I share, is over the effect this will have on the probation service. As I have mentioned in other debates, immediately the noble Lord, Lord Carter of Coles, began his reform plans for that service a few years ago, I would have looked for another job if I had been a probation officer. So how many probation officers will lose their jobs as a result of Chris Grayling’s plans? Almost certainly the answer will not be good news for those officers or for our quite invaluable probation service.

Having said that, the interest of the scheme is in the realisation that a short, costly period in prison serves no useful purpose at all. The proposed scheme recognises that nearly 60% of these 50,000 offenders reoffend. The Government propose to give their payment-by-results plan to organisations that will mentor and supervise each offender. Presumably the aim is to get them into a job or training and a place to live as a basic beginning. Will this idea lead to a much earlier look at the family history of offenders? If that were a result, I suspect

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that some useful evidence would be uncovered in many cases of the offending background from which today’s offenders come, which might help—I certainly hope it would—to press the case for the early intervention policy of Frank Field and Graham Allen.

Turning to our more immediate tasks in the Lords, I join other noble Lords in welcoming many aspects of the Children and Families Bill, which your Lordships’ House will be receiving shortly from the other place. The earlier placement of a child with the right potential adopters—the fostering for adoption policy—is clearly sensible, as is loosening the requirement to find perfect ethnic matches. The urgent need is for each child in that situation to have a family. The expansion of the right of parents of both sexes to request flexible working during the statutory maternity leave period is another welcome step, but one must still hope for a more sensible long-term policy which allows flexible working for parents throughout their children’s childhood to become the norm. Equally important, in light of the Government’s desire and incentives to encourage more business start-ups, would be to make flexible working available for everyone.

Part 5 deals with the role of the Children’s Commissioner. It is also crucial, particularly the commissioner’s greater independence from government and the requirement to produce an annual report to Parliament. Anyone who has read Always Someone Else’s Problem, the report from Dr Maggie Atkinson, the Children’s Commissioner for England, on illegal school exclusions, will realise how important that independence is. The picture painted in her report of the use of exclusion in some schools for SEN pupils—no doubt in an effort to meet the necessary school attainment levels—is very worrying.

The concerns of Dr Atkinson in that report reminded me all too vividly of a very similar situation which existed many years ago when I was, for some 20 years, chairman of a London juvenile court. Whenever a youngster appeared for committing a criminal offence, we would immediately adjourn proceedings for a school report. In almost every such case the child’s school attendance record was either appalling or non-existent. For, alas, in those days too, the incentive for teachers to turn a blind eye to disruptive or difficult children not turning up for school was equally self-evident. I am glad to say that we always started with at least one adjournment of the case to see if school attendance could be resumed before passing sentence for the actual offence committed.

Equally worrying are other concerns of families with SEN children. Scope’s recent report Keep Us Close points out that 62% of the families it surveyed say that the services they require are not available in their local area. Unsurprisingly, this causes 80% of these families anxiety and stress. Scope is also concerned that the Bill’s local offer does little more than require local authorities to set out the support available—that is, a directory of services—with no requirement on them to improve either the quality or availability of such services. This will clearly require more detailed examination of the Bill during its later stages. Again, unsurprisingly, Scope is concerned that the accountability measures around the local offer are

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not strong enough for parents to be able to hold local authorities to account to access the support they are entitled to.

I fear that, as in the previous Session, we shall, again, spend more time in trying to ensure that maximum support is made available for SEN families, who have an even harder time in ensuring that their basic needs are met, not least when so little legal aid is now available.

1.30 pm

Lord Trimble: My Lords, I will not follow the example of the noble Baroness who has just spoken by referring to the contents of the Queen’s Speech. My attention has been drawn to something that was published a few weeks before the ending of the last Session. I refer to a report that has already been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Bew: the McKay report, entitled the “Report of the Commission on the Consequences of Devolution for the House of Commons”. As the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said, that report was sparked largely as a response to the clear sense of grievance among many people in England about how devolution has worked out.

That sense of grievance is very real, and there is substance behind it in that they have seen over the last few years a number of cases of different policies and decisions being taken in some of the devolved areas that have left people in England feeling that things are in some respect unfair. That is a real feeling, and it should be addressed, but I would hope that the McKay commission, in addressing this issue, looked a bit more broadly at the issue in question.

One point to make is that while there have been cases of significant variations in social policy in a devolved area from social policy here, if you look at the broad scope of policy you will find that those differences occur in quite a minority of cases. In all the devolved regions, the same broad scope of social policy that is brought in with regard to England and Wales also occurs in the devolved regions. There are a number of reasons why what is decided on in Whitehall still rolls out into the regions as a whole. One of them is that, as noble Lords will remember, people in some areas complain about policies made on a postcode basis. That concern to avoid the postcode lottery applies just as much to people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Their expectations of social policy are set largely by the media. Of course, in the United Kingdom we have a highly concentrated media, so people’s expectations are largely set by the largely Anglocentric, London-based media, and they expect to see the same things happening in their area.

Another factor that one should bear in mind is that the policies brought up by Her Majesty’s Government are policies that evolve within the Whitehall departments, which actually have a greater policy-making capacity than their equivalents in the regions. This is particularly true for the region that I am most familiar with, which is the smallest of them all. Our policy-making capacity was limited. We knew that the folk in London would have a broader range of persons to draw on to draw up the policy. Therefore, the regions, and the public services in the regional areas, tend to look to what is happening

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in the centre. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, for example, is separate from the Government, but when in the 1990s the Arts Council of England started to focus very much on outreach, community arts and all the rest of it—bingo, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland followed exactly the same patterns and borrowed a lot of its paperwork, such as application forms, from the Arts Council of England. There is, therefore, a tendency in the regions to look to Whitehall for guidance on policy.

That tendency is then reinforced by quite a significant mechanism that is not terribly widely known about, and is not mentioned at all in the McKay report: the joint ministerial councils. JMCs are brought into existence by the Government here in London in order to involve the devolved regions in the formulation of policy—in other words, to get them to buy into the policy that will come from the Whitehall departments. There is no statutory basis for the JMCs; it is simply a practice. However, as so often happens in our case, the way in which things are done matters as much as what is said in the print of legislation.

The third thing, which cuts both ways because as one will see it helps to explain why there are such differences as well as uniformity, is the way in which the Barnett formula operates. Because Barnett relates to increases in public expenditure in England, in effect it finances the regions to carry out the policy determined in England. Increases in funding in England will happen because of the policies that the Government here adopt. Therefore, the money that goes to the regions is the money that is needed to carry out those policies regionally. What went wrong with Barnett, which the Select Committee of this House went into a couple of Sessions ago—I was a member of that Committee, which perhaps helps me in dealing with this—is that it became clear that in a number of cases there was what we called a Barnett bypass: the Barnett formula was not strictly followed, and some regional Administrations were quite adept in persuading London to give them extra money. The most successful at that was Scotland, because the Secretaries of State for Scotland regarded their primary job as making sure that Scotland did better than anywhere else, and they were most effective at it.

The McKay report, interestingly, comments on how it notices that the Members of Parliament for the devolved regions still do not seem to be terribly interested in arguing for more funds for their region. Of course they do not: it was their Secretaries of State who did that. The ordinary Member of Parliament did not need to do it for Wales and Scotland because they were dependent on their Secretary of State. I suppose that to a certain extent we did the same in Northern Ireland. However, leaving aside for a moment the circumstances in which successive Ministers managed to do particularly well for their department, in the broad run of Barnett it is to reinforce the policies that are adopted elsewhere. There is a slight reference to the Barnett formula in the McKay report—I will come back to that in a moment—but had McKay looked more closely at the factors that led to the evolution of policy, it may have given a better result.

At the core of the McKay report is a policy or principle which they put forward as something that

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should underlie the constitutional relationship between London and the devolved regions. Paragraph 109 of the report says:

“Decisions at the United Kingdom level having a separate and distinct”—

I note that that is italicised—

“effect for a component part of the United Kingdom should


be taken only with the consent of a majority of the elected representatives for that part of the United Kingdom”.

The key issue is the question of having a separate or distinct effect. The question then depends on how you define that.

Noble Lords will also notice that the principle also refers to decisions at UK level. In fact, McKay’s terms of reference do not focus on decisions. McKay was asked to produce a report on legislation. The bulk of the McKay report deals with procedures in the House of Commons with regard to legislation. There is a problem with the way McKay understandably focuses on decisions, because decisions and policy give rise to the sense of grievance. This morphs into the question of legislation. The problem with the notion of separate and distinct is how you define it. In paragraph 136, McKay says that separate and distinct is easier to define in practice than in the abstract. No effort is then made to define it in the abstract. Perhaps one can understand why.

However, the issue has been looked at for decades within our government system. It is a key part of the Barnett formula. Every time a policy evolves from Whitehall departments, or a decision is taken, the Treasury has to take a decision. Paragraph 44 of our report on the Barnett formula states:

“When making spending decisions for a project or event in England the Treasury has to decide whether that expenditure is ‘UK-wide’ or ‘England only’. The decision to categorise spending in England as ‘England only’ requires an exercise of judgment by the Treasury triggering a ‘consequential’ payment through the Barnett Formula to the devolved administrations. By contrast categorising expenditure as ‘UK-wide’ does not trigger a ‘consequential’ payment”.

The report goes on to give examples. The example that it gives of UK-wide expenditure is the Olympic Games. They did not trigger consequentials. The example given by the report of expenditure in England on a national policy was Crossrail. The money is spent in London. It is part of a national policy of providing an effective rail network, so the England-only decision triggers a Barnett consequential.

I am afraid that this gets a little complicated, because while McKay talks about the separate and distinct effect in England that requires special procedures in the other place, under Barnett terminology “England only” triggers a consequential and so is not separate and distinct from England. That is hugely important. Unfortunately there is no discussion of this in McKay. The report makes a couple of references to consequential payments as side-effects of decisions. If it reflected more fully on Barnett and the fact that Barnett consequentials are attracted by decisions that are “England only”, in Treasury speak, it would see that the number of occasions on which procedures to do with things that were separate and distinct in England would be comparatively few and limited.

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As the noble Lord, Lord Bew, said, there is an interesting history to this. It is mentioned in only one sentence in McKay, which refers to the home rule Bills. The noble Lord told us that the problem was just that Parnell and Gladstone could not agree. With respect to him, I should say that the problem was a little wider than that. There were three home rule Bills, and the persons who framed the Bills had to put a provision into them relating to this. They may have had difficulty working out the basis on which they would take a decision, but they had to take a decision. Therefore, in each of the three home rule Bills, a different decision was adopted as to what to do with this sort of problem. I will not go through all of them in detail.

In summary, in the first home rule Bill they decided to solve the problem by not having any Irish MPs in the House of Commons. In the second they decided that that was not a good idea and that they would ignore the problem so that all the Irish MPs would be in the House of Commons. The third home rule Bill was not titled a home rule Bill because the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was intended to apply to all Ireland but was operational only with regard to Northern Ireland. Their basis was, “We’ll have a sort of compromise, but we can’t think of a principle on which to make a compromise so we’ll roughly divide representation of the Irish area in the House of Commons by half. We’ll just give them half the MPs that strictly speaking they’re entitled to”.

None of those decisions involved a clear principle. I am not surprised, because I do not think that there are any issues of principle in dealing with this. The West Lothian issue, created by the flamboyant Member for that area, was a marvellous bit of rhetoric in terms of its argument, but the reality of the situation was that the House of Commons decided that devolution was going to apply not universally but to only three comparatively small areas, for particular reasons that I will come to in a moment.

It is entirely up to our sovereign Parliament to decide that it is going to change the way in which business is done. If it is done in an unbalanced way but Parliament wishes to do it like that, that is entirely within its capacity. When people worry about the relationships between the devolved Assemblies and Parliament, they should bear in mind that they are not talking about the same things. There is only one sovereign Parliament. The devolved Administrations are not sovereign. They have a limited capacity that in no way changes the capacity of the sovereign Parliament, which could, if it wished, legislate for the devolved areas or decide to abolish devolution at any time, in which case we would not need to look at things further. That is the underlying situation.

Before I leave the question of home rule, I will mention one little side-effect. It is another issue that people might like to look at. Between the various home rule Bills, another area that was deeply discussed was the fiscal powers of the devolved Administration. The view of what fiscal powers could be devolved to the Administration changed with each of the three Bills. It got narrower as it went on. I hope that the people who in some Scotland-related areas talk about

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devo-max will look at what was thought about this when those Bills were considered. They will find that the view taken then was that the scope in fiscal matters for what is now called devo-max was very limited. I hope that people will look at that.

My final point is that one of the ironies of the situation is that, at the end of the day, devolution was considered necessary in those areas because of the way in which England, by having 85% of the population of the United Kingdom, had become so dominant that the London-based Administration repeatedly failed to take local circumstances fully into account. Devolution was intended to balance that. It would be hugely ironic and very damaging if, as a result and consequence of devolution, special measures were taken in the House of Commons to see that the representatives of the 15% were further marginalised.

1.48 pm

Baroness Henig: My Lords, I will speak on an issue that I very much hope we will see included in the coming Session’s legislative programme. In doing so, I declare my interests as recorded in the Register of Lords’ Interests, my chairmanship of the Security Industry Authority until January of this year, and my membership of the Independent Police Commission.

The measure I wish to raise relates to the way in which the private security sector, which is increasingly important in policing and safeguarding considerable amounts of public and private space, is regulated in the future. Regulation of the private security industry over the past eight years has been very successful. Do not take my word for it; ask those who work in the industry. That is why there was such an uproar in 2010 when, as part of the now infamous bonfire of the quangos, the coalition Government proposed to deregulate the sector and abolish the regulator. This was fiercely opposed, not just by most of the industry through its major professional bodies but by the Scottish Government and by the Northern Ireland Office. In the end, the Government agreed that although they would abolish the Security Industry Authority in its current form, this would be as part of a transition to a new regulatory regime in which businesses would play a more active role. This was something I had been advocating for some time.

We were told that this would be a speedy transition. Indeed, I was told in no uncertain terms by the Home Secretary herself in early 2011 that this change was regarded by the Government as urgent and had to be completed by the end of 2013 at the latest. When I protested that this was a very demanding and possibly unrealistic time scale, I was firmly told that completion by the end of 2013 had to be the target. Now here we are in May 2013, and how far have we got in the transition process? We have seen no legislation thus far, and nothing definite has been promised in the Queen’s Speech. Not surprisingly, private security companies are clamouring for progress, particularly in regard to what they and the Security Industry Authority wanted in 2010—namely, a move to licensing businesses rather than individuals. It has repeatedly been promised by the Home Office, and may indeed be brought about through secondary legislation in the autumn, but the problem is that secondary legislation would not enable

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a new regulatory body to be established or allow for a full and effective range of sanctions and penalties to enforce the move to business licensing.

I fear that the Government have impaled themselves on a hook of their own making. There is an obsession with deregulation, and we are promised a Bill to reduce what is perceived to be the excessive regulation on businesses. This is no doubt making it extremely difficult for the Home Office to sell the move from individual to business licensing to the Cabinet Office and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, since this could be seen as increasing the regulatory burden on industry rather than reducing it. But to move to business licensing in the private security industry through secondary legislation without the capacity for enforcement of the new regime through appropriate penalties and sanctions will not be effective, which is why private security businesses are so anxious to see primary legislation deliver the transition to the regime that was promised in 2010. Recent research reveals why they see this as so important. A group of businesses that were surveyed about regulation, including small private security companies, said that they wanted not less but better regulation, to ensure that higher quality, compliant firms were not undercut by cheaper, unscrupulous operators. Business licensing without proper sanctions to enforce the regime will not avoid this danger, so instead of obsessing about deregulation, the Government should commit themselves to introduce the necessary primary legislation to underpin the licensing of private security businesses. In addition to an appropriate and effective range of penalties and sanctions, the new regulatory body that is established will also need to be equipped with effective gateways to national bodies, such as Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, the National Crime Agency and the Home Office with regard to the right to work, to enable it to work effectively with major partners in the fight against fraud and crime. I hope that the Minister will be able to give an indication at the end of the debate as to how soon such primary legislation can be introduced.

Another casualty of the new coalition Government in 2010 was the regulation of private investigators. This was ready to be brought in in the spring of 2010, but the incoming coalition Government immediately halted the work. Before too long, of course, the Leveson inquiry showed the folly of the delay. Private security industry regulation was introduced in 2001 to protect the public, and it must be extended to include private investigators as a matter of urgency. The relevant professional bodies want it, the regulator is ready to work on it, and I would be most grateful if the Minister could tell me when this urgent measure will be introduced.

The private security industry clearly recognises the need to raise standards across the industry and has worked hard in recent years to introduce more professionalisation and chartered status for industry bodies and individuals. There are now over 750 approved contractor companies, covering around two-thirds of the workforce in the private security industry. What have the Government done to encourage this trend? In Scotland, to win a contract funded by the public sector, a company has to have approved contractor status. The Scottish Government have insisted on it,

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but no such provision exists in England. Yet it is absolutely essential that the Government work with the industry to raise standards, because the public increasingly rely for their safety in public places on private security. Whether in shopping precincts, on industrial estates or university campuses, at sports grounds or large outdoor festivals and concerts, or around night clubs and bars, private security companies police and secure the space. What is often an ill informed debate about outsourcing police activities misses the point that significant partnerships between the police and the private security sector already exist, and they already operate effectively in protecting the public. One outstanding example of such collaboration is Project Griffin, pioneered in the City of London but now rolled out nationwide, in which security guards working in urban centres and around sensitive sites are specially trained and briefed by the police on a regular basis to alert them to ongoing security and other threats. This partnership worked extremely effectively during the Olympic Games, and it continues to underpin public safety across the country.

It is because the private security industry already plays such a major role in protecting the public that the Government must play their part by ensuring that the industry is effectively regulated and that public contracts are awarded to high-quality providers and not to those companies that put in the cheapest tenders by making their employees work excessively long hours at minimum rates. We also need an effective complaints mechanism where private security companies are operating in the public arena alongside the police. I was very pleased to hear the Minister, in opening the debate, outline that one provision in the forthcoming crime and anti-social behaviour legislation will extend the remit of the IPCC to deal with complaints relating to private security personnel operating in the public arena alongside the police. It is very important that the public know how they can register a complaint if they feel the need, and I shall certainly be supportive of that change.

In conclusion, I would be most grateful to hear from the Minister at the end of the debate when and how the transition to a new regulatory regime for the private security industry, considered so urgent in 2010, will be completed; when regulation of private investigators will be introduced; and in what ways the Government will work with the private security industry to continue to raise standards and further enhance public safety.

1.58 pm

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, I welcome proposals in gracious Speech for legislation to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated and the introduction this morning by my noble friend the Minister of a Bill to that effect. Liberal Democrats have always believed that increased concentration on the rehabilitation of offenders can be a major contributor to cutting crime. A wider use of well run and well resourced community sentences can be far more effective than putting ever more offenders in prison and keeping them there for terms that are longer than necessary. Considerable publicity has been given to the appalling reoffending rates for people leaving prison, but the figures bear repeating. More than 57% of prisoners released in 2010 from sentences of less than 12 months

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reoffended within a year; the figure for prisoners released from longer sentences over the same period was just under 36%. In particular, as my noble friend Lord Dholakia pointed out, we imprison far more women than we need, and there is evidence that many of those we imprison would be less likely to reoffend if given community sentences.

The coalition Government propose to provide greater diversity of probation services in the belief that a wider range of well targeted services, involving the voluntary and not-for-profit sectors, as well as those currently in the probation service, will produce more imaginative and more effective delivery of community sentences and a better service for offenders leaving prison. However, for these new arrangements to work well, they must be properly resourced. Payment by results can be successful, but wider savings to the public purse from cutting reoffending rates, not so easily recognised by traditional Treasury accounting principles, may justify a more flexible approach to expenditure in this field. The points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, lead me to stress the importance of retaining the service of experienced probation officers within the field, even if they are to work within new structures.

We welcome the Government’s proposals to give support for the first time to prisoners leaving prison after serving sentences of 12 months or less. However, to achieve the best chance of rehabilitation on leaving prison, prisoners need somewhere to live, something to do and preferably family to go to. Many also need medium and long-term help with mental health problems and drug and alcohol dependency. It follows that if we are to help prisoners settle back into the world outside prison, we must ensure that at least the last few months of their sentences are served at locations close to the communities into which they are to be released. Only then can through-the-gate services be effective. The gate in question must be in the right place to enable the care given to prisoners to be continuous through their preparation for release and following their release.

However, for the Government’s plans for rehabilitation to work, we must continue to provide a fair and humane criminal justice system in which offenders are properly represented by high-quality specialist advocates. I declare an interest as a practising barrister, although not now undertaking criminal work, but with many colleagues who do. Just as the quality of justice in criminal trials depends on the quality of the advocates involved, so the success of sentences imposed on offenders depends heavily on the contribution of defence barristers and solicitors in securing sentencing decisions for their clients that can be made to work. It is therefore important on both counts that we do not undermine the system by reducing the availability of high-quality lawyers prepared to undertake criminal work, particularly defence work, at modest but viable cost. I fear that some of the Government’s proposals for criminal legal aid, on which they are consulting, threaten that availability. The proposals for price competitive tendering and generalised fee cutting present such a threat. I expect that my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford will go into greater detail later.

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Lawyers, particularly barristers, have in the past been attracted to criminal practice by the opportunities for advocacy, the challenges and the excitement of working in the criminal courts and a strong sense that they are performing an important societal function. Traditionally, they have been prepared to accept far lower rewards than they might have earned in other fields of practice. However, there is a limit, and the brightest and best new entrants to the profession will not opt for criminal work if it is so underrecognised and underrewarded that it does not offer them a reasonable living. They will simply opt for other fields, perhaps less glamorous but financially more rewarding. After all, they have a choice. Already most criminal judges complain that there has been a significant decline in standards of advocacy in the criminal courts over the past few decades because of the continual rounds of real terms cuts in criminal legal aid rates. Creating a demoralised corps of underfunded criminal lawyers will not only undermine our criminal justice system, it will also prevent us making the most of the other changes the Government propose.

I suggest that there needs to be a new settlement between the legal profession and the Government on legal aid. The Government must recognise the importance of retaining the services of legal aid lawyers and paying them appropriately while the legal profession must accept the need to provide services efficiently and cost-effectively and to look for savings where they can be made. I give one example of where innovative thinking might save money. The Government have rightly pointed out the disproportionate amount of public money spent on high-cost criminal cases. These are a small number of long-running and complex cases, mostly fraud cases, which consume a very high proportion of the legal aid budget. They require detailed and careful work by senior and specialist lawyers. They are the interesting and challenging cases which many ambitious younger criminal lawyers aspire to undertake. Yet the consultation paper’s response has been to suggest cutting the rates paid by 30%. The effect of such cuts would be that these cases would be less well handled, aspirant lawyers would be further deterred from criminal practice and the quality of the criminal justice system would suffer accordingly.

Many of these cases involve company directors and officers, many of large and medium-size companies. We could consider funding the defence costs in an entirely different way. Were we to introduce compulsory legal expenses insurance to cover the defence costs of company directors and officers prosecuted for fraud, a great deal of cost could be removed from the system altogether. We do not object to compulsory insurance for motorists; why not here? There are other areas where innovative thinking can save money and government and the profession should be willing to explore them. However, the endless drive to reduce spending by indiscriminate salami slicing of legal aid rates will ultimately destroy the system we are trying to improve.

2.07 pm

Lord Carey of Clifton: My Lords, for the second Queen’s Speech running, same-sex marriage legislation is the Bill that dares not speak its name. I want to comment briefly on its absence from the Queen’s Speech

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because this is another example of a process which to date has been wholly unedifying. Debate and discussion have been curtailed and foreshortened at every turn, as I will illustrate.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for his powerful and impassioned speech, a great deal of which I agree with. I, too, want a fair, equal society. I, too, want to oppose discrimination in any form. I, too, believe that the other place is the senior Chamber and we must listen to it with respect. However, I am sure that the noble Lord did not wish to suggest that we have no role in scrutinising, challenging and opposing Bills that come before us if we feel it is right to do so. It is not my wish to put forward arguments against the Bill at this stage; I simply want to reflect on the process.