When the Prime Minister took office, he interested many of us when he outlined his plans for a big society. There is, of course, a great need for social cohesion built upon a strong economy and nourished by agreed common values and, in the case of our society, the Judaeo-Christian ethic, but, somehow, along the way the big society vision has been forgotten and in its place we find division and great distress, as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter mentioned earlier—indeed, a “broken society”, to quote the Prime Minister once more. Of particular concern to many is the bewilderment caused by a law concerning same-sex marriages which will change the face of society and family with no mandate or even a proper debate.

Of particular concern at this point in the Bill’s passage is, for the first time, the way in which the proposals effectively institutionalise competing views of marriage in our society. Rather than promoting social cohesion, this will lead to greater social fragmentation. Far from ending the so-called battle over marriage, these proposals will formalise and exacerbate that battle. The Bill will lead to a scenario that is destructive for community, thereby necessitating further change in the future.

How did we get to this point? A commitment to legalising same-sex marriage was not in the manifesto of any major political party at the 2010 general election. The Government have not demonstrated at any point evidence that there was a great demand for such a change. The Government produced a so-called public consultation on the introduction of same-sex marriage but declared a timetable for the draft Bill and its implementation before publishing the results of the consultation. Their mind was made up. The consultation was never about whether same-sex marriage should be introduced but how. The Government had promised in the consultation that same-sex marriage would not take place in religious premises. In the draft Bill they did the opposite. The consultation cannot be described as a serious exercise in eliciting the views of the public.

Had the Government listened more and not engaged in a desperate bid to paint all the opponents of this Bill as elderly Christians, a strange breed of non-relevant dinosaurs, perhaps they would have started to address these issues and picked up the chorus of disapproval from those, for example, from our black and minority ethnic communities who have, for no apparent reason, been excluded from the legislative process. The Secretary of State was sent a letter by the leaders of Britain's so-called black churches, but I understand that she

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refused to see them. The committee in the other place failed to invite a single black person, Muslim, Sikh or Hindu to give evidence in person.

This Bill represents major constitutional change but was rushed through Second Reading in the House of Commons. The debate was time-limited and contributors to the debate were strictly time-limited in their speeches. I regret to say that the Government have pursued this agenda without paying attention to many voices calling for caution, not just from their back-benchers but from thousands of their grass-roots supporters. The local election results tell the story of a substantial section of the public who are extremely worried about the effect of a redefinition of marriage on family life and the well-being of children. It is not therefore surprising that many feel that they have been frogmarched to this point in time. What is happening will not lead to a strengthening of the notion of a big society but the opposite.

I recognise that there are good and sincere people on both sides of this debate and it is not my intention to question other people’s integrity, but I trust that when the Bill reaches this House, we will pause to consider the pace of change and the effect that it will have on the nation. Indeed, it is my hope that this Chamber, which has shown its independence on important issues in the past, will also demonstrate and talk about the dangers that this Bill represents, if it becomes law.

2.14 pm

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I begin by congratulating my noble friend Lord McNally on an impressive attempt to deal with the issue of offenders and the reoffending rates that are far too high in this country. Let me ask him in particular whether he can say something in conclusion about the fact that a large number of the young offenders in this country are illiterate. More than half the young men and women under the age of 20 who are in prison do not have the capacity to be fully literate, and that makes it almost impossible for them to get jobs, however hard they try. I am delighted that my noble friend has said that education is now increasingly seen as a key part of dealing with the whole issue of offenders, but it is also important to recognise that it has been a long time since we required young men and women in prison to undertake adequate education which would give them at least the basic ability to get some sort of job. It is therefore good news to hear these brave and radical proposals, and I was delighted that my noble friend Lord Dholakia, who has a distinguished record in the field, gave them such a warm welcome.

I want primarily to address two other matters, however, rather than the issues of prison and penal reform, which will be well covered in this House and on which there are many experts in the area. Those other matters are, first, the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and, secondly, the even more toxic issue—if I may put it that way—of immigration.

With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, had to say, many of us richly appreciate the courage he has shown for many years on the issue of press behaviour and the level of press complaints. Although it has served him no particular use in his career, he has had the courage to continue to insist on the crucial importance

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of addressing the issue of complaints against the media. In the past couple of years he has had immense additional support as a result of the emerging horrors of what some members of the press have seen fit to undertake—and, frankly, what some proprietors have seen fit to accept in the pursuit of larger and larger circulation. In addition to mentioning my great respect for the noble Lord, I also want to say that he was one of the few who made it clear that the original Press Complaints Commission was not doing its job and was at best papering over some of the issues that needed to be looked at. He has now, in a sense, come into his own with the Leveson report.

The debate today is about not only Home Office matters but also constitutional affairs. Perhaps I may therefore say one word on that issue. It is of the greatest possible significance that all parties in the other place were able to agree on a solution to the problem of the independence of the press versus the protection of victims from cruel and sometimes brutal treatment. As we well remember, those victims included some of the most vulnerable and innocent in our society.

It is constitutionally important to give true weight and accord to the relatively small number of issues on which the parties can together agree on a constructive solution. In the past few years the House of Commons has moved from possibly being seen as an ineffective rubber-stamping House to one where—largely because of the remarkable work of the Select Committees, and I have in mind the Select Committees on Public Administration, the Treasury and others—it has shown its real ability and talent in a way that cannot be limited or constrained by the Whips. We have seen what the House of Commons might be if it were given real respect for its decisions. Such respect should be shown now over the Leveson report and the outcome in terms of a committee to look at the press and the media. We owe a great deal to the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, for that.

We owe even more to reminding the Prime Minister that, in the light of what he has said, the constitutional value of using Parliament—a united Parliament of all parties—to uphold some of the best standards in public life, is absolutely critical. The consequences of rejecting that proposal now not only would be serious but would, in effect, say that powerful forces which are not prepared to worry about the criticisms made of them could have their own way in future Parliaments. I can think of few worse legacies to pass on.

The other matter to which I want briefly to refer is the toxic issue of immigration. I was in one or two areas during the recent local council elections, and friends of mine were in other areas such as Somerset, where the whole place was plastered with strong suggestions that the entire population of Romania and Bulgaria, adding up to 29 million people, would universally and collectively take some sort of Noah’s ark and immediately arrive in Britain to settle down in one constituency after another. Luckily for us, despite it having some considerable flaws, we have the BBC. Through “Newsnight”, the BBC undertook a serious and detailed study, as some of your Lordships may have seen, of the likelihood of many Romanians and Bulgarians deciding to hurry over to the United Kingdom

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to join the unemployment queues. One point that the “Newsnight” study made was that less than 1% of Romanians and 3% of Bulgarians showed any great desire to emigrate to this country. Of those who did, 0.4% in the case of Romanians had made any inquiries at all with recruitment agencies or other bodies about where they might live or what jobs they might get.

Of course, some Romanians and Bulgarians will find their way to Britain and many more will find their way to Germany and Scandinavia but, frankly, the representation that our electors receive from UKIP bears no relationship to any serious study that has been made in any part of this country. What was UKIP’s reason for doing that? As we all know, it was a very good way of stampeding the forces so that there was no need to bother about the more serious issues of policy.

Having said that about the Romanians and Bulgarians, I shall turn for a moment to what I believe to be one or two of the serious problems that have arisen in this country due to the nature of our immigration policy, driven as it is to such an extraordinary extent by what one can only describe as political opportunism.

The first issue that I want to mention is the huge dependence of our universities on overseas students for obtaining excellence. Whether we like it or not, the 300,000 or so students—about one-third of the total—who come from overseas to study in British universities and colleges, which, quite properly, are inspected to ensure that they offer not a bogus but a genuine and honourable education, are of huge economic value to this country. Higher education earns something like £8 billion a year from the rest of the world through overseas students. However, equally importantly, as I think many of us understand, those overseas students give us access to an understanding of other cultures and other countries, and that, in turn, encourages not only exports but, more importantly, a high respect and a high liking for this country. It is very hard to overestimate the value of overseas students in a country such as ours but, if we are to adopt something like a national curriculum, it is all the more important that we also remember that we are part of the globe and that that globe is understood, through us, above all by human relationships.

Therefore, I argue that the Government should think very carefully about attitudes by the Home Office, the visa offices and, in particular, the UKBA towards overseas students. Sadly, they have begun to show real signs of discouraging people from choosing to come to this country—there has already been a substantial decline in the number of, for example, Indian and Chinese students. I advert not only to members of my own party or members of the Opposition but to the ringing warning given by the Mayor of London, Mr Boris Johnson, about the evident effect of these restrictions on the level and standing of overseas students wishing to come to this country to receive their education. I draw attention, in particular, to the abandonment of the so-called tier 1, which allowed people who studied here to continue for two years only—but two years none the less—after they had completed their degree studies in order to practise what they had learnt. That is crucial, for example, in professions ancillary to medicine and to medicine itself. Tier 1 has been withdrawn

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and replaced by an extremely complicated system, which depends upon the rules that apply to residents in this country.

One of the few phrases in the gracious Speech that I really dislike refers to the need to have people who can contribute to this country and not the kind of people who simply live off the country. It is perhaps worth mentioning that it is not only Russian oligarchs who contribute to this country but health assistants and nurses. They are part of the crucial fabric of the National Health Service and they enable it to deal with the large number of people who go to A&E. Heaven knows what we would do without their contribution. Contributions can be small and great—no doubt the right reverend Prelate will inform me, quite rightly, about the widow’s mite—but that contribution has been of extraordinary value to this country in many ways. It would be a great mistake to narrow it all down to whether somebody is a businessman or entrepreneur coming to this country often in order to live in a mansion house.

In conclusion, one thing that we have to be very cautious about in this country is our attitude towards other people who want to come here. Over the years we have benefited immensely from such immigration. I remind the House of the huge value of two great streams of migration to the United Kingdom. The first of those in recent years was the great Jewish entry between the wars. That has been immensely valuable to us in field after field—medicine, science and business. The second was the entry of Asian immigrants from east African countries after the rise of Idi Amin and others, who in turn brought to this country great entrepreneurial skills and great innovation. I hope that when we look at the gracious Speech we will bear these things in mind, particularly when we consider immigration and our treatment of those who want to come to this country.

2.20 pm

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, it is always a particular honour to come after the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, especially given the force of her plea for rationality and moderation on immigration. It is a particular honour to speak after her in a debate which has already seen some remarkable speeches, especially—if I may be allowed to single out just one—the astonishingly powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, with every word of which I would be very happy to be associated.

Today’s debate is supposed to be about, inter alia, constitutional affairs and equalities. I intend to speak mostly about equalities but I cannot forbear to make a few remarks about constitutional affairs. Apart from a couple of references to working in co-operation with the devolved Administrations and continuing to make the case for Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom, there is not really anything about the constitution in the gracious Speech. To my mind, that is a good thing. I cannot understand this headlong rush for the exit door of the European Union and am therefore glad to see no reference to a Bill, a paving Bill or any other measure to facilitate this.

I am not much of a fan of referenda, which seem to me largely a vehicle for the exercise of uninformed

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prejudice and for politicians to pass the buck. In an age of globalisation, it would seem essential to work through multinational institutions. It seems paradoxical to pursue an agenda of unification with respect to the United Kingdom but one of separatism with respect to Europe. The institutions of the European Union are far from perfect but, to me, it would seem more sensible to pursue reform as a member of the club, where it is said that other countries are moving towards our point of view, than to take our bat home and sulk in isolation.

Turning to equalities, there is not much about those either. There are just a couple of references to promoting a fairer society. If that means that we will not see further attacks on the equalities agenda, such as we witnessed recently in the specific duties regulations of 2011 and the recent Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act, that, too, is welcome. However, I confess to remaining apprehensive when I read:

“A Bill will be introduced to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on businesses”.

I hope that that does not mean that we are going to get a further instalment of the attacks contained in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that when he comes to reply to the debate.

Ministers have said that they are committed to a strong and independent Equality and Human Rights Commission that promotes and protects equality and human rights. I think that the Government’s commitment and credibility are on the line here. First, some positive developments deserve to be acknowledged. These include, at a societal level, the fact that there is now widespread support for Britain being a diverse country. For example, in a recent poll by British Future, substantial majorities said that they were comfortable with someone of a different racial group marrying into their family, being friends with their children and being a boss or colleague. It is not all rosy, of course, as the persistence of hate crime and harsh public attitudes towards benefit claimants show.

Secondly, many employers now see the business case for equality and want to get this right. Companies as diverse as B&Q, Ernst & Young and BAE Systems are joining employer networks to help them to secure the business benefits of good equality and inclusion practices. Thirdly, there are the Government’s proposals for equal marriage for gay and lesbian couples. Contrary to what the noble Baroness, Lady O’Cathain, said earlier, there is public support for equal marriage. A June 2012 YouGov survey found that 71% of Britons favour gay and lesbian couples being able to marry. Ministers have shown political courage in taking this forward. Finally, there have been some other useful initiatives from the Government, for example, a more strategic approach to addressing violence against women and girls, the transgender action plan and the well intentioned social justice strategy.

However, as we survey the current scene I am afraid that concerns outweigh the positives. These include the rhetoric from Ministers talking about equality as a burden and a tangle of red tape. This is in contrast to the Government’s published equality strategy, which states that in these difficult times equality is even more important, and the coalition agreement, which recognises

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that there are many barriers to social mobility and equality of opportunity and pledges to tear them down. This is also in sharp contrast to evidence from the Government’s own research showing that employers are generally positive about equality. A recent survey of small employers found that 90% were positive about equality and that only 6% had experienced complaints or grievances. The good intentions in some policy documents and their recognition of entrenched and persistent inequalities that hold people back are not always matched by targeted action. For example, the social mobility strategy recognises that although participation in higher education by white British teenagers is lower than for many ethnic minorities, ethnic minority graduates are underrepresented in the graduate recruitment of large organisations. It also recognises that there are large differences in employment rates and wages between disabled and non-disabled people and that the gap appears to have grown in the past 25 years. Where are the policies to address those problems?

The recession and slow recovery have exacerbated these problems of entrenched disadvantage. According to the Fawcett Society, almost three times as many women as men have become long-term unemployed in the past two and a half years: 103,000 women as against 37,000 men. The TUC has found that young black men have experienced the sharpest rise in unemployment since 2010, with more than one in four of all black 16 to 24 year-olds—26%—currently out of work. Yet, there has been no targeted action to address the fact that we are not all in this together and that some groups have suffered much more severely than others. Compounding the absence of policies to tackle entrenched and persistent inequalities, a range of policies are making the situation worse and reducing the life chances of disadvantaged groups. The most obvious examples, of course, are the impact of welfare reforms on disabled people and the impact of the social care funding crisis on both disabled and older people.

The dismantling of the infrastructure established to promote equality and human rights remains a major concern. The cuts to the EHRC’s budget are now being followed by the cutting in half of the Government Equalities Office. Although no specific figures are available, there is considerable concern that specialist equality and diversity experts in local councils and other public services are being cut, which will reduce the capacity of public bodies to get it right.

The chipping away at equality law is a further significant concern. The change in the law on third-party harassment, and the loss of the questionnaire procedure and tribunals’ power to make wider recommendations are a real loss. The sector’s top priority at the moment is to make sure that the current and premature review of the effectiveness of the public sector equality duty does not result in the duty being further weakened or even abolished. There are also concerns about the MoJ’s proposals to limit access to judicial review. People are equally concerned about the combined impact of measures to make it harder to access justice, including the cuts to civil legal aid. Here, I must declare my interest as chair of the Low Commission on the Future of Advice

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and Legal Support on social welfare law, cuts to legal aid, higher tribunal fees and longer qualifying periods for unfair dismissal.

I am by no means the most extreme of equalities hot gospellers. I recognise that there can be excesses of political correctness and that some equalities safeguards can seem burdensome, so the Government ought to listen to what I say. Finally, there is all the sabre-rattling about repealing the Human Rights Act and withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights. If that ever came to pass, it would surely be a matter of real shame for this country.

2.36 pm

Lord Laird: My Lords, I wish to speak on a topic that causes considerable interest and fear in Northern Ireland, which unfortunately was not dealt with in the gracious Speech. I refer to the inexplicable actions of the Northern Ireland Parades Commission, a body that is answerable to the Northern Ireland Office. Before doing so, I want to acknowledge that my native land of Ulster is considerably different from the one beset by civil unrest of 20 years or more ago. For that I thank Members of this Parliament, past and present, for all their successful work in putting together a peace process that has made a major change to all who live there.

However, a few issues remain, the most serious of which is the activities of the Parades Commission. It was set up to remove from the police the responsibility of regulating parades—a job that it seems to do in an insensitive and ham-fisted way. I refer to one decision in particular as an example of the extremely bad handling of a situation. Last year, in a determination, the commission proposed a position that put the traditional Orange parade, which passes the Ardoyne interface in Belfast, into an impossible place. Let me explain: the Parades Commission received applications for two parades for the afternoon of 12 July 2012. They were from an Orange lodge and the Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective, a cover name for dissident republicans condemned by unionists and Sinn Fein alike. The Ardoyne shops, which is an area of contention, is a line of premises fronting the Crumlin Road. The area behind the shops is strongly republican in character. On the other side at this point, Twaddell Avenue meets the Crumlin Road. This is a residential street that is strongly unionist in character. The area is therefore an interface between the two communities with a long history of sectarian trouble.

I should point out that for 150 years Belfast Orange lodges have held a parade in the city on 12 July to commemorate the Battle of the Boyne. A feature of this event is that many lodges parade from their lodge halls to assembly points and then proceed in procession to a major assembly area in a park or large field on the outskirts of Belfast, where an afternoon of culture and family activity is available to everyone.

Lodges had followed the proposed route at the same time of day for many years and had been praised by the Parades Commission in earlier years for their good behaviour and stewarding. Their application asked for permission to parade up the Crumlin Road in the usual time, passing the Ardoyne shops at some time between 6 pm and 7.30 pm. They sought permission

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to be accompanied by one band. The Greater Ardoyne dissident republican group sought permission to hold a parade in the same area, partly over the same road, from 6 pm until 8 pm. It did not complete any applications to be accompanied by a band.

On 5 July 2012, the Parades Commission determined as follows. The Orange parade must pass the Ardoyne shops by 4 pm at the latest and must be accompanied by a band which must not play music or produce drumbeat in this locality. The republican parade was granted permission to parade along its chosen route from 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm. This ruling brought the time of that parade closer to the traditional Orange one. The commission also specified that the republican parade should not allow excessive loud drumming, an interesting point as it had not applied to bring a band with it.

The hall of LOL 647 lies on the outskirts of Belfast and the only available and practical route to the centre of Belfast is via the Crumlin Road. The parade takes two hours and the first lodges arrive at the assembly point shortly after 12 noon and start to leave the assembly point to go home at 4 pm. The assembly point is at least five miles by road from Ardoyne. In order to comply with the Parades Commission ruling members of the lodge would have to forgo all of the family events in the assembly park and proceed on their way back to the Crumlin Road. They could not walk back in the time available and therefore would have to be transported to Ardoyne by car or bus.

The commission’s decision is seen by most people as very odd indeed. The problem is that it appears to be one-sided. There may be very good reasons for this determination but the reasoning is not available for us to consider. This failure to explain is a major part of the current rise in tension in the province. That is why there is so much confusion and misinformation.

As a result, I would like answers to the following questions. Why did the commission allow two mutually antagonistic parades on the same route within 90 minutes when it is generally agreed that the Ardoyne interface part of the parade was most contentious, bearing in mind that the commission praised the Orange Order in previous years as being well organised and peaceful? Could I be told by the commission why a republican parade should be allowed in a 50/50 interface area at almost the same time on a traditional route used by the Orange Order for over 150 years? The commission not only allowed the lodge to be accompanied by one band, which must remain mute, but did not specify how many bands the republicans, who had not applied for band permission, could bring with them.

I would like the transcripts of the commission’s meetings to be made public. This will allow us to know who attended the meetings and the reasons behind these decisions. I sought this information directly from the commission but was refused. For justice to be done it must be seen to be done and understood. Last year’s determination has set an unfortunate backdrop for this summer unless we can understand the commission’s reasoning and are not forced to view it simply as being anti the unionist section of the population. The solution may be for all determination decision meetings to be open to the public to attend. I call for a total rethink

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on the way the commission operates and even, if necessary, its replacement by a system which could be respected by both sides. I urge the Government not to discount the bad community feeling against the current commission. Things need to change.

I fully accept that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, with whom I enjoy a good working relationship and who will wind up the debate, is not in a position to answer these questions. While I will, of course, listen to his remarks on the total debate with great interest, I look forward to a detailed response to my questions from the Northern Ireland Office in due course.

2.45 pm

Baroness Meacher: My Lords, I do not intend to make a long speech today, but it is important to put on record the widespread concern that there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech yesterday on the drugs issue, probably one of the three most significant issues now facing the world. As we know, because of policies throughout the world, there is a market worth $350 billion a year in the hands of terrorists and criminal gangs.

We have a law in this country, the Misuse of Drugs Act, which goes back 42 years. In the past five months, we have had four well considered reports on drugs policy. Each of the reports has resulted from at least a year of hard work, inquiries, evidence taking, examination of research and so on. The reports come from the BMA, the Home Affairs Select Committee, the UK Drug Policy Commission and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy, which I have the privilege to chair.

The BMA, not surprisingly, makes absolutely clear that of course drug addiction is a health problem. If it is a health problem—and everyone now recognises that it is—surely our drug laws should reflect that. However, we have a law going back to 1971 which does not reflect that at all: it requires that drug use and possession must be regarded as criminal offences. All four reports implicitly or explicitly—all but the BMA explicitly—call for a review of our drug laws. Something needs to be done, for example, about the fact that it is the Home Secretary who leads on drugs policy. If drug addiction is a health problem—as I have said, everyone recognises that it is—what is the Home Secretary doing as the lead Minister? The Home Affairs Select Committee suggests a shared responsibility between the Home Secretary and the Health Secretary. The all-party parliamentary group would be content with that development—it is eminently sensible— although one might one day then go on to placing the whole issue with the Department of Health, as most European countries do. That is another issue but at least a shared role would be a start in the right direction.

Another issue which could be dealt with straightaway—there could have been something in the Queen’s Speech to achieve this—is the decriminalisation of possession and use of drugs. Again, if this is a health issue, what on earth are we doing criminalising our young people? By doing this we are really saying that a third of the young people in this country today are criminals, including, probably, many of our kids, grandchildren and goodness knows who else. Is this really sensible?

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The Home Affairs Select Committee suggests that we need to pay more significant attention to the Portuguese laws. Portugal has, of course, decriminalised possession and use of drugs and diverts people straight into treatment. Whereas this policy was quite controversial when it was introduced about 10 to 12 years ago, now it has the support of the entire political elite, all political parties and the police service. The same applies in the Czech Republic where, again, drug use has been decriminalised.

I am delighted that the Minister, Jeremy Browne, is planning to visit a number of different countries to look at their drugs policies. They definitely have better drugs policies than we do. I am particularly delighted that he will visit Portugal. I hope that he will also visit Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Spain and, indeed, the Netherlands, which has a slightly odd policy. However, for all that, matters are not always absolutely perfect—the Spanish policy is not perfect—but we do and can learn from all these countries. As I say, I am very thrilled that the Minister will be going to them.

The all-partly parliamentary group is urging that he also goes to New Zealand because it is passing a law to deal with, as everyone else is trying to deal with, the problem of legal highs. If civil servants say that this is a waste of taxpayers’ money, I hope the ministerial team will say, “No, it is not. It will be a good use of taxpayers’ money if the Minister goes off to New Zealand”. I think it is possible that we need to go down that road.

I speak briefly today in the hope that Ministers will follow up Jeremy Browne’s visits with a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and a change in the law. I want to draw the attention of the House to the fact that President Obama, no less, has changed the US stance on drug policy. Through his drugs tsar, Gil Kerlikowske, he has made it clear that the war on drugs is expensive and ineffective, that drug use needs to be looked at as a health problem, and there is a need to stop criminalising young people. For 50 years, the US has controlled western drug policy, so if it has been going in the wrong direction for all that time, let us follow it now that it has finally begun to move in the right direction.

Drugs policy has indeed been dominated by the US for 50 years through three UN conventions which require the criminalisation of the possession and use of drugs. These conventions and our 1971 Act were drafted when no one had any idea about what would actually work in this very difficult policy area. We know a great deal more today thanks mainly to the European countries that have pioneered far-sighted and, in the end, more effective policies.

I know the Government are considering how best to tackle legal highs and I applaud their efforts to come to terms with this difficult problem and move forward on it. I hope very much that the Minister can today give the House some assurance that, despite the silence on this issue in the Queen’s Speech, the Government are committed to improving the legal framework in this country at least to bring it into line with the best countries in Europe.

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2.51 pm

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I shall start by saying how very much I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, in everything she has said. It is a lacuna in government thinking. There has been so little in terms of imagination about drug policy. If eventually it is possible to decriminalise almost everything to do with drugs, while that would result in perhaps a few more deaths from their abuse, it would certainly result in far fewer deaths from criminal activities related to them. It is a very important subject.

There are many reasons why one week ago the electorate expressed such dissatisfaction with the coalition Government. I do not intend to speak on the most obvious issue, that of the survival of our national sovereignty within the EU at a time when economic pressures are driving 17 of the 27 member states into a political federation. I must mention another factor, and that is the perceived infirmity of purpose. By this I mean the failure to tackle the issues which the people do mind about, and instead diverting Parliament to support the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister in legislating for their passionately and sincerely held personal agendas. They should concentrate on their real responsibilities of defining and delivering national priorities. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s decision to renew the deplorable practice introduced by Mr Blair of cutting short debate by guillotining all legislation in the House of Commons has played a part in devaluing Parliament in the public eye and thus making it less effective. That does not help with good governance.

There is a third factor which is sapping the success of the Government—that of perceived incompetence, especially that of those Ministers who fail to get a grip of their departments and instead allow the Civil Service to drive government at a time when the effectiveness and, sadly, in some cases the integrity of the Civil Service has fallen far below what I remember from my own service in Whitehall during the 1970s. It is a level of incompetence in government which is the more inexcusable since there have been such great advances in the technology of administration and management. To illustrate this, I shall focus on one narrow but crucial issue, that of the guarding of our national borders. This is part of the defence of the realm and there can be few higher priorities, especially for a Conservative-led Administration. On this I have specific proposals to put to the government Front Bench.

Let me first illustrate why it is so urgent. This country is in mortal danger of further terrorist attacks. It is only thanks to the excellent work of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, GCHQ and the police anti-terrorist forces that we have not recently suffered attacks. It is clear that the main threat today comes from Islamist jihadists from both overseas and within the UK whose overall mission is to install a worldwide caliphate with Sharia law. We are all aware of the threat presented to us by Pakistan, which is rapidly turning into a failed state. But I would quote another example, which is that of Egypt. The Egyptian elections were won by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is now regarded as a moderate Islamic—not Islamist—party ready to preside over a basically secular Government, yet 25% of the vote was won by the extreme Salafi

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movement, which is headed by Mohammed al-Zawahiri, the brother of the new head of al-Qaeda and successor to Osama bin Laden. He has declared that he will accept no element of secular government in Egypt and is quoted as saying that the next world war will be westerners against Muslims.

There can be few areas where the failure of competence has been greater than in the management of the UK Border Agency. There have been periods of inadequate leadership, normally rewarded with promotion, interrupted by gaps without anyone being appointed to the leadership role. After all, it was in May 2006 that the then Home Secretary, now the noble Lord, Lord Reid of Cardowan, denounced the Home Office immigration department as “not fit for purpose”. It was over a year ago that the report by John Vine, the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, concluded that the UK Border Agency had,

“poor communication, poor management oversight and a lack of clarity about roles and responsibilities”.

You cannot get much more damning than that.

I was impressed when I met the chief executive of the UK Border Agency, Mr Rob Whiteman, who was appointed about a year ago. He faced a huge challenge. The problem with the staff of the border agency was not just that it was of low calibre but that it had been shown to be seriously and systemically corrupt. As the Minister knows, because he gave the Written Answers, some 30 members of Home Office staff have received heavy prison sentences—I am talking about five, six, seven and, in one case, a term of nine years—for misconduct in public office; the great majority of them came from the border agency.

Last year, the Government split the UK Border Force from the UKBA. On 25 March this year, the Home Secretary announced that the UKBA was to be abolished and its functions absorbed into the Home Office. That is cold comfort in the light of the Home Office performance to date, but we shall see. I myself suspect that the staff of the UK Border Force are still not of the quality that we should expect. The command of it should not have been the temporary appointment of a retired chief constable. Now we have a new commander of the UK Border Force, Vice-Admiral Sir Charles Montgomery, who until recently was the Second Sea Lord. He has a tough challenge and I wish him well. The border force should be reformed as a highly trained and tightly disciplined uniformed force which is not allowed to take industrial action. It should have a clear command and control hierarchy, as do the military and the police. Members should be closely vetted and should have British nationality and only British nationality. It should be under the close control of Ministers, who represent the elected Government. The link between the commander of the border force and Ministers should have the same characteristics as those that Ministers have with the service chiefs. At this time, when Britain’s Armed Forces are being reduced, it should be possible to recruit some really first-class retired officers.

Who is responsible for the endlessly delayed e-Borders system, which is supposed to monitor and record electronically every person coming into or leaving the UK? It cannot, surely, be the Home Secretary and the

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Home Office board, who have far too much to do, as was announced by the Home Secretary on 25 March. When will it be complete? I would prefer even to see Ken Livingstone in charge. He at least introduced, without glitch, a highly successful electronic congestion charging system for London.

Finally, I turn to the question of passports. The UK Identity and Passport Service has, I believe, done a decent job in recent years in improving the administration of the routine issue and renewal of British passports in peacetime. However, we do not face peace; we face peril. I was warned by security sources five years ago of the danger of terrorists and, indeed, other criminals concealing their activities with the use of multiple passports. I am not against people having more than one passport or, indeed, dual nationality. However, I have for years urged that the Government should take steps to establish details of what other passports UK passport holders hold. There should be a strict obligation to divulge full details to the British passport authorities, including photocopies et cetera, of any other passports held. One response I have had from the Government is that people would not necessarily disclose that they had a second passport. The answer is quite simple: anyone found to have concealed their non-British passport would be liable to have their British passport cancelled.

If the Government do not include some such provision in the legislation for further reforms of Britain’s immigration system announced in the gracious Speech, I shall seek to introduce amendments to do so. I repeat: we are talking about national security at a time of peril and I, at any rate, am not going to let it go.

3.02 pm

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I intend to speak on two home affairs issues, one of which, immigration, is in the Queen’s Speech. To my surprise, I will be speaking in a not dissimilar fashion to the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, because I want to say something about the efficiency and effectiveness of the government machine that we have in place relating to immigration.

My second topic relates to something which, to my great regret, is not in the gracious Speech—the Government’s failure to implement the major plank of their alcohol strategy. I have said previously that, in relation to both health and crime, I endorse the Government’s efforts to try to take action over the problems that come from alcohol and, to a degree, drugs. I have supported what the Government have been trying to do and, in particular, was originally greatly heartened by what our Prime Minister said in his foreword to the strategy. After listing in the document a number of problems that arise from alcohol, he went on to say that there will be,

“a real effort to get to grips with the root cause of the problem. And that means coming down hard on cheap alcohol. When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in the pub. So we are going to introduce a new minimum unit price. For the first time it will be illegal for shops to sell alcohol for less than this set price per unit. We are consulting on the actual price, but if it is 40p that could mean 50,000 fewer crimes each year and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths a year by the end of the decade”.

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He continued:

“Of course, I know the proposals in this strategy won’t be universally popular. But the responsibility of being in government”—

as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reminded us this morning—

“isn’t always about doing the popular thing. It’s about doing the right thing”.

It is about taking the difficult decisions. The Prime Minister said that,

“Binge drinking is a serious problem”—

an issue which we shall address to a degree, no doubt, when we come to deal with the proposed legislation. He then said:

“And I make no excuses for clamping down on it”.

Since the document was produced the Government have been out to consultation and there has been a substantial accumulation of further evidence, both from the UK and from overseas, that indicates that minimum unit pricing would have a very substantial effect on the culture relating to drinking, to crime and, in particular, to health.

Unfortunately, we have not moved a great deal further. I was not sure whether I should speak today as, a bit like the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, I was not sure whether this topic pops up under the Home Office or the health brief. Alcohol has a significant cost impact within the NHS: it is a major factor in high blood pressure, cardiac problems, liver disease and cancer. Although it has not yet been properly acknowledged, alcohol is also a big factor in obesity and diabetes. If the Government take no action on minimum pricing and are not prepared to tackle the root problem, this failure to move will significantly undermine efforts to take a strategic approach to confronting increasing levels of obesity and type 2 diabetes, two major problems which are facing the country.

When it emerged that the Government were likely to execute an about-turn on the issue the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, kindly answered a Private Notice Question on it. He said that a decision had not yet been taken and that we should not believe everything that we read in the press or hear on the BBC. He said that the Government were reviewing the position and that the results of the consultation were “very finely balanced”—I think that those were the precise words—in deciding whether to move forward with legislation. He was also concerned about the possibility that the legal challenges raised in Scotland about the Scottish Government’s attempts to introduce minimum pricing there could have a knock-on effect here. As I understand it, the Scottish Government have so far been successful in seeing off those challenges. The noble Lord will no doubt correct me if I have got it wrong but I understand that the firm, decisive leadership in Scotland is such that they will stick with the plan and fight all the way through, even if that means going to Europe. I gather that the drinks industry is likely to take challenges to Europe, if needs be, to try to resist this change. They are going for a 50p per pint unit minimum rather than 40p.

One of the problems raised when the noble Lord spoke to us in reply to the PNQ has therefore been answered, to a degree, but we are still left with the

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Government’s failure to come forward and say where they stand on the consultation. I would be grateful if the Minister would advise the House on where they are at and why it is taking so long when there is so much evidence showing that the change is required. Who has sought to change the course of events when the Prime Minister was, as I have quoted, so firmly in favour of moving in this direction? I even hear stories that if it does not happen, it may appear in the next Tory party manifesto. I do not know what will happen with the Liberal Democrats but I presume that they are similarly committed to it. I urge my own party, as I have done in some of our private meetings, to get a very clear line on where we stand on this so that in the interests of the nation and its people, we might get a uniform approach, even though we may offend a number of people such as those in the drinks industry. So I hope that even though it is not closed down yet the Minister will be able to give me some heartening words this afternoon when he responds. He always smiles when he is at his best, but I want to hear that the firm decision will have been taken and that, if not this time round, when we come to the Queen’s Speech next year we shall have it clearly laid down for legislation; otherwise, it will be a great missed opportunity.

When I watch television these days and see Mr Farage for ever in front of us, my fear is that not only is he influencing the Government and the country on the course of events on Europe but, as he quaffs his pint in the bar and smokes his cigarettes and talks about a party that will be willing to let people smoke in pubs, that he is influencing indirectly where the Government stand on some of these issues. Again, I hope that I have got that wrong and we will not run away from similar commitments that have been given on cigarettes and advertising.

I will now move on to the immigration issue. Again—I feel almost like a Cross-Bencher today—I speak not just to the coalition Government on this but my own party. Having listened to Vince Cable on the radio trying to explain how some of the upcoming proposals to try to tighten up on immigration issues are going to work, it is clear that if we do not watch out we are going to have some very speedy public policies produced which have not been thought through properly.

Interestingly, just to stay on top, this week I read The Coalition: Together in the National Interest, the mid-term review. Coming back to one of my favourite topics where we made a mistake, I believe that as time goes by the coalition will be seen to have made a major error in abandoning ID cards. The review says:

“We have scrapped ID cards and the National Identity Register and scaled back the vetting and barring regime”.

As we heard this week, the Government have done an about-turn and are reversing their views on the vetting and barring regime, which they need in a whole range of areas to try to establish what is happening with immigration. Similarly, if the Government are wise—although I suspect that pride will prevent them from doing so—they ought to go back and reflect on where they stand on ID cards.

A major error has been made there. When we see the number of databases that are being created in different government departments, they are all about

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the self-same thing: fundamentally, many of the problems with crime and so on relate back to the identity of the individual and where he or she lives. The only way that that would be answered and worked through properly would be by having an ID card with a link to residence. I urge the Government to think again about that, instead of spending all the money that it seems they are going to spend with all this paraphernalia of new checks of one sort or another that will be introduced on the NHS, on GPs and so on. The basic answer to all of this would have been to come together with an identity card, as the previous Labour Government were planning and working through. Indeed, it was a former Conservative Government who first thought of this idea, going back to 1996, I think.

Having abandoned our identity card policy after we had been thrown out of office in 2010, which I believe we did in a hurry and without serious analysis of what is likely to happen with technology in the future and the problems that we face, I urge my own party at least to change its mind on that and go back and tell the public that it supports the introduction of an identity card, which will help us in so many different areas. Not only will it help the party—if it does it—it will be appealing to the vast majority of people in the country, who are in favour of identity cards. They see no problem with them at all. They see them as being useful in many respects, for authentication and ease of transactions. They have nothing in principle against them and it was a minority that was opposing them at the time. My party should change its mind and move in favour of ID cards and see where UKIP stands on that as well, because we are probably the only party that would be in favour of it. We would be bang in line with the wishes of 70% to 80% of the public and we would be moving to a system that was efficient and effective in technological terms, and doing away with some of the problems that previous speakers have identified with the border agency.

This issue runs across many parts of the Civil Service. When we think that we are now going to chip 6 million dogs, we are going to have a database to run that; it beggars belief that we are going to do that because the people causing the problem in the main will not chip their dogs and even if they have chips in their dogs we will not be able to trace them to prosecute them. These are all crazy things that we start off without thinking them through. So I urge the Minister and the Government to think again on this. More importantly, I urge my side, too, to change its policy.

3.15 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I am not a dog but I do not think that introducing identity cards is going to solve the problems that the noble Lord has just outlined. I am sorry to hear voices raised in favour of identity cards—we thought the Labour Party had lost its desire to control which it exhibited during 13 years in government.

Turning to something quite different, I very much regret that there is nothing in the gracious Speech that would permit parliamentary scrutiny of proposals which seem to be designed to destroy access to justice in criminal cases. The Ministry of Justice’s current

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consultation is for a scheme of “competitive tendering” for criminal legal aid, which will not require primary legislation.

The consultation is a sham, as Ministers have already decided that they are in favour of such a scheme in principle and, regardless of the consultation, competitive tendering will be introduced within months. The only question posed in the consultation is the precise model. The model proposed by the Government could have been brought forward only by Ministers and their advisers, who have not the slightest experience of the way criminal courts operate or of the professional values, ethics and practices of the legal profession.

The key parts of the consultation document are chapter 4, on introducing competition in the criminal legal aid market, and chapter 5, on reforming fees in criminal legal aid. Chapter 4 is about introducing price-competitive tendering. Those proposals will be the death of the high street solicitor. The intention is to remove competition on quality and replace it with competition on price alone. In each of the contract areas, which will match the 41 police areas, there will be a set number of contracts. In my own immediate vicinity, there will be four in north Wales, four in Cheshire and some 37 in Manchester. Contracts will be awarded on a three-year basis. Successful bidders will receive a guaranteed equal share of the criminal work in that area. To achieve equality, work will be allocated by a central agency on neutral criteria; for example, by surname alone. The explicit intention is therefore to abolish client choice. A solicitor will be appointed by a central agency to act for a defendant. The reputation and good will which solicitors have built up within their area disappear. The skills of firms which have built up particular specialisms—for example, in fraud, terrorism or mentally disordered offenders—will count for nothing. In cities such as Manchester, the skills of firms which have a client base within particular ethnic communities or with particular language skills—for example, Urdu or Polish—are of no value because work is to be allocated on random criteria. As for my home territory, Welsh language provision is seriously compromised.

The contracts will be one size fits all. There is a Goldilocks problem about this: most firms are too small to bid at all and, ironically, many others are too big to bid. In Manchester there are a couple of firms which have 10% to 15% of the market but which under the new system of equality would be restricted to one-37th of the market, or 2.7%. There may be a handful of firms, or networks of firms, which are just the right size to bid. However, these contracts will go mostly to service companies which have the capital to create a national network with contracts in every area; for example, G4S, Serco, Tesco and the Co-op. Perhaps the most aggressive is the newly arrived Stobart Barristers, an offshoot of Eddie Stobart truckers. Its legal director, Trevor Howarth, confirmed that the firm would bid for the new criminal defence contracts. He said:

“We can deliver the service at a cost that’s palatable for the taxpayer … Our business model was developed with this in mind. We at Stobart are well known for taking out the waste and the waste here is the duplication of solicitors going to the courtroom. At the moment there are 1,600 legal aid firms; in future there will be 400. At Stobart, we wouldn’t use 10 trucks to deliver one product”.

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I think that, like the Ministry of Justice, he regards people in trouble with the criminal law as units and justice as a common product to be delivered like a load of bricks. Mr Howarth is, I believe, currently on trial himself for contempt of court for allegedly lying in court. I say no more about it.

From a business perspective, however, the changes do not make sense. The companies which win the contracts will be monolithic, national firms. The government agenda generally is supposed to be to support SMEs—small and medium enterprises—but the effect of these proposals will be to send the existing providers, the high street firms, to the wall. There will be mass bankruptcies and redundancies. The new providers, the big companies, will bid low to start with, but once they have destroyed the competition from existing solicitors, inevitably prices will rise, with the profits going to the big boys.

If the Government’s proposed model is adopted, quality is to be driven down to minimum standards. The single determining factor for success will be price. Practitioners will be valued and rewarded for producing the highest turnover of work at the lowest cost. Literally and intentionally, no value will be attached to quality of representation. If the professions are dumbed down, it will impact ultimately on the judiciary. Someone has already said that, if you have Tesco-grade lawyers, within 10 years you will have to start appointing Tesco-grade judges because they will be the only people to have experience in this field.

The complaint about the chapter 4 proposals is that they represent the intentional dumbing-down of the criminal justice system. Quite explicitly, the intention is to reduce the quality of representation to a set of minimum standards. No value will be attached to quality of representation. The explicit abolition of client choice will erode confidence in the system.

The proposals in chapter 5 are about the reform of fee structures. There is opposition to the reduction in fees, which are cutting to levels which are unsustainable, but that is not the main thrust of opposition. The concern is that the new structures are unworkable, the most obvious being the proposals to cut trial fees. In many cases, the advocate will be paid the same for a guilty plea as he or she would get for a trial. In more complex cases, refreshers would be paid on a reducing scale so that, in some cases, they might fall to £14 a day, without expenses.

The intention is presumably to add to the incentives to defendants to plead guilty. The effect of that is to create conflicts of interest between the advocate and his/her client. The advocate is punished financially if the client pleads not guilty and goes to trial. Not only is that wrong in principle, it is counterproductive: if defendants know that the advocate has a conflicting financial incentive, they will not listen to him when he tells them to plead guilty, because it will be in his financial interest to do precisely that. Hence, there will be more trials, at greater expense.

The proposals will mean fundamental changes, but there is to be no pilot scheme. One of the most dangerous aspects of the price competitive tendering proposal is the compete lack of modelling or trialling. The Attorney-General, Dominic Grieve QC, gave the

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explicit assurance before the general election that the Tories would not introduce tendering without full trials first. Why has the one person in this Government with practical experience been overruled?

The proposals are to be brought in nationwide, commencing this autumn, without any trial period. They will be irreversible, because once the existing providers have gone, they will never come back. It was made clear in Tuesday’s Law Society Gazette that most of the significant current providers regard the scheme as unworkable and will not tender.

On the subject of minimum quality standards, there is a link to a separate set of proposals to introduce a quality assurance scheme for advocates. I will not go into that at this stage. Suffice it to say that solicitor advocates can presently obtain higher level grades on the basis of attending a course and giving a good performance in role-play exercises. They are not judged on their actual performance in real cases at a lower level.

I am a former solicitor, so I have no axe to grind, but a very experienced Crown Court judge, who was also a solicitor, told me recently that the quality of advocacy in the Crown Court is, unhappily, appalling. He faces the dilemma that if he, as the judge, steps in to the arena too often to correct a solicitor advocate who is making a hash of the case before him, it quickly gives the appearance of bias. He was also concerned that in very serious cases, where two advocates are required to represent an accused, the fees structure is such that solicitor advocates now frequently seize the role of junior to themselves. However, he told me, if the lead counsel has to be elsewhere—for example in the Court of Appeal—far from the junior taking over, as has been the tradition at the Bar for ever, the solicitor advocate immediately applies for an adjournment. He can not carry the weight or responsibility of the hands-on conduct of the case. That judge told me that he was in despair.

I have to say that no one with experience of the criminal courts could ever advise a young person starting his career to take up the role of a criminal advocate. Centuries of experience have created the system in which a team of solicitor and counsel work to high ethical standards to ensure that justice is done. I shall be sad if liberals of any political party or none in this House assist in its destruction.

3.27 pm

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, I begin by strongly supporting the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on the need to update the national drugs policy. It is an important omission from the Speech. In other respects, I welcome Her Majesty’s somewhat low-key Speech and agree with most of its policy objectives. For example, the aim to reduce the burden of excessive regulation on business is welcomed as long as the proposed Bill does not add yet another layer of obfuscation.

On the question of immigration, it is vital that any new legislation does not threaten the tourist business, which is of the utmost importance to our economic well-being. Stories of 10-page visa application forms for Chinese tourists to this country cannot be in our best interest.

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Although the Government’s commitment to continue to make a case for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom is to be welcomed, it is sad that a similar commitment has not been made for the United Kingdom to remain part of the European Union. The future of our relationship with Europe has just taken two major shocks, namely, UKIP’s success in the recent local elections and the article of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, in the Times of 7 May.

Our relationship with the European Union will dominate debate in the months to come and, as a supporter of that relationship, I wonder whether it might not be best to hold the promised referendum sooner, rather than as currently planned. It is a difficult decision for the Prime Minister, and I wish him well.

3.30 pm

Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I will speak on policing issues in England and Wales and will touch, albeit briefly, on policing in Northern Ireland on an issue which I believe needs to be mentioned.

The latest Home Office statistical bulletin, Crime in England and Wales, and data from the British Crime Survey put my county, North Yorkshire, as one of the safest areas with the least crime in England. The latest Home Office report, which is always behind real time, shows that in the financial year since April 2011 crime fell by 7%, that 62% of the residents of North Yorkshire felt that their local police dealt well with their concerns, and that the North Yorkshire police force regularly rates the highest public satisfaction levels in the huge Yorkshire and Humber region. All of this was achieved before the new regime of police and crime commissioners, so I wonder whether my noble friend the Minister will congratulate North Yorkshire Police and the former North Yorkshire Police Authority and its staff for their dedication and focused commitment to dealing with crime and driving down crime statistics year on year.

Police authorities have been given precious little recognition for their sterling efforts over the years, supporting their police forces and dealing imaginatively with falling budgets but they have been denigrated for their lack of democracy or their invisibility. Frankly, they did an amazing job, quietly getting on with providing first-rate services and shunning media opportunities. It is rather different from what is now emerging across the country. Perhaps, “I would say that, wouldn’t I?”, and I draw your Lordships’ attention to my registered interests. Having been chair of my local police authority some 12 years ago and involved in policing at a national level in a number of areas for many years, all I can say is: if things were so bad with the governance of policing then, how come crime has fallen so dramatically year on year now, for a number of years?

It is not just in this country. It appears that crime is falling just about everywhere. How can this be? Were we not told that because of swingeing cuts to budgets, crime would inevitably rise? It appears not. In a fascinating article in the Observer on 28 April, Andrew Rawnsley wrote:

“Crime is diminishing across the developed world, falling in broadly the same way in conservative countries and in leftish countries. Countries with starkly contrasting social policies and

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strikingly different penal policies are seeing similar falls in crime. It is dropping in countries that lock up a lot of people and it is also down in countries that put a much smaller proportion … behind bars. This strongly suggests that the policy remedies for crime pursued by politicians have had only a marginal influence, if any at all”.

Where does this leave the police? They are having a very difficult time of it at the moment, as my noble friend Lord McNally recognised—more difficult than I have encountered in the 30-plus years that I have been involved with policing. Change happened periodically during those years, but nothing like as significantly as now. Police officers feel beleaguered and fearful for their futures.

An example of this is how the police are being treated. Here I turn briefly to Northern Ireland, as I said I would, where policing is a devolved matter. I have to say that the recent treatment of Police Service of Northern Ireland officers was very badly handled. A 12-week consultation process was given to the police in England and Wales for their views on changes announced by the Home Secretary to move from a well established Police Negotiating Board—the PNB—to a pay review body system. Again, this was mentioned by the Minister in his opening remarks. Unfortunately, the PSNI was missed off this process and found out only by chance that it would be made to move to a pay review body. There was no consultation or discussion. Officers were told that they should have looked at the Home Office website to see whether they were included in the system. What utter nonsense. You cannot expect police officers to keep an eye on the Home Office website to see whether their long-accepted method of sorting out their pay and conditions of service was being changed, without any hint of it being proposed in the first place. It will affect Northern Ireland officers greatly.

Fortunately, and by the good offices of the Minister of Justice for Northern Ireland, I understand that this is now being remedied. But it begs the question: what did the civil servants think they would achieve by trying to push this through the back door? It was not a good idea, especially in Northern Ireland.

There is a wider lesson here for anyone involved in policing—sitting down and talking can often solve a lot of problems. The police are not frightened of change; they know it must come. But they feel utterly overwhelmed by its pace and bewildered by the demand that they must give up more of their hard-earned and properly negotiated pay and conditions of service. Let us have a look at those: they cannot strike; they are effectively on duty all the time. Their training is now in the hands of the College of Policing, but they do not know how they will manage to move from what was the excellent National Policing Improvement Agency.There is even talk of officers having to pay for themselves if they want to improve their chances of moving up the ranks. How is that going to work? Is this a sort of “pay as you go” police service?

The police are concerned about who will lead them in the future, with talk of direct-entry candidates at inspector and superintendent level. Why is it felt that someone with managerial experience of, say, Marks & Spencer or someone from the Armed Forces would make a better leader than someone from within policing?

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Why, indeed, is an officer class deemed sensible in a civilian force? Soldiers do an entirely different job in an entirely different environment. At what point can a newly badged entrant, with no background in policing, take control of a civilian firearms incident or, indeed, any critical incident? If you have not experienced it, how can you manage it?

Police officers need key communication skills and abilities, and my contention is that they can obtain those only by having done their time on the beat and gone up through the ranks. Call me old-fashioned, but if I am so wrong, why are we still acknowledged as having the best police service in the world? Why on earth must we mess about with newfangled ideas instead of sensibly improving on what we already know works?

I will say a word about compulsory severance. It is being used to remove expensive officers who have done their 30 years’ service. All that experience is going to waste. Might I suggest that we look at encouraging those officers who would like to remain on active duty, so to speak, to consider joining the Armed Forces police reserve? As mentioned in the gracious Speech, reservists will be a major defence line in the future, and I know that they prefer to take on people with a policing background. It may well help ease the transition to eventual retirement when they are still fit and young enough to have another career. Indeed, I recently met a serving police officer who is also in the RAF Police reserve and doing a first-class job. Perhaps the Minister will speak to his MoD counterpart to see whether this might be an option for retiring or, indeed, still-serving police officers to consider, should they want to.

Finally, the police know they have to change. Their HMIC has left them in no doubt about that, but my hope is that this can happen through sensible, adult discussion on both sides, where concerns are listened to and options are aired. When things go wrong, it is the police, as always, who pick up the pieces, and they deserve our thanks and our loyalty for the extraordinary work that they do on our behalf.

3.40 pm

Lord Cormack: My Lords, the House always listens with interest and respect to my noble friend when she talks on police matters. She has great experience and real passionate feeling for the police, as was evident in her peroration. I am not saying that I agree with everything she said this afternoon, but I was particularly grateful, as a former chairman of the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee in the other place, for what she said about Northern Ireland. I was appalled to think that, having devolved policing and justice to Northern Ireland, the sort of ghastly mistake to which she referred could have happened, and I am glad to know that it has been put right.

This debate has ranged far and wide on the subjects that we are supposed to be discussing today; indeed, it has ranged further and wider than the subjects we are supposed to be discussing today, to the benefit of us all, I think. I am very concerned and alarmed by what my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford said, and I want to look into that extremely carefully, as I think we all should.

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I would like to pick on one or two things, but before I do so I shall make a general point. The Queen’s Speech is the great set piece of the parliamentary year. The problem about the Queen’s Speech and the debate that follows is that it tends, implicitly, to associate parliamentary activity with legislation. That it is a pity because Parliament is about more than legislating, and this House in particular is about more than legislating. I think that by common consent we have had the thinnest Queen’s Speech in recent years, and I hope that will not lead to a repetition of what I considered to be a mistake in recent weeks—the House being sent off on an extra week’s recess when there were grave issues of national and international importance that we could and should have debated in that time. This House is rich in experience, and we could have had some fascinating foreign affairs and other debates. I hope that if this proves to be a thin Queen’s Speech in legislative terms, we will have extra time for the sort of debates in which this House excels.

The speech touches on many things, but the one thing it does not touch on is your Lordships’ House. As I listened yesterday, I could not help but feel a little glow of pleasure in the fact that the flagship of last year’s Queen’s Speech was holed below the waterline very satisfactorily in another place, and I am delighted to be wearing this tie as I address your Lordships because it was produced by the 91 who holed that Bill below the waterline in another place. The fact that the grandiose and, as the Joint Committee’s report on House of Lords reform made plain, frankly ill thought out Bill has gone—and I hope, unlike my noble friend Lord Tyler, gone for good—does not mean that we do not have to address this House and look at some of the things that could improve its effectiveness.

Although there is nothing in the gracious Speech that touches on any measure of Lords reform, and fully accepting that there cannot, and indeed should not, be wide-ranging reform in the penultimate Session of Parliament, I hope there can be a measure, perhaps based on one or other of the Steel Bills or perhaps even a combination of the two, that we can take through this House. If we do, I very much hope that the Government will feel able this time to give it a fair wind. I have enormous faith and confidence in my noble friend the Leader of the House. I believe that he brings a freshness and a sensitivity to his responsibilities that are themselves refreshing, and I hope that if a Bill is presented it will be able, in one way or another, to go forward and on to the statute books, to address some of the housekeeping measures that we have talked about in the past.

As for the future, obviously we have to bear in mind that in the autumn of next year there will be a referendum that could change the composition of the United Kingdom. I hope and pray that it will not, but we cannot assume that it will not. The worst thing one can ever do in political life is to underestimate the strength of the opposition. We have in Mr Salmond perhaps the wiliest of all political operators in the United Kingdom at the moment. We must not underestimate him, nor must we underestimate the fact that the franchise will be significantly extended for that referendum.

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I think I made my own views plain on votes for 16 year-olds this morning, but we will debate that later when my noble friend Lord Tyler introduces his Bill. Whether one agrees or disagrees with it, it will extend the franchise significantly and could have an effect. I believe that what I consider to be common sense will prevail, but we must not be patronising to those of our fellow country men and women who live north of the border; we must accept that it is their choice and hope they will recognise that the United Kingdom together is much greater than the sum of its parts.

I mention that because we have to look at parliamentary reform in that context if we are to go forward and look at the composition of the respective Houses and their respective roles. There is no point in doing anything on a wider front until that issue has been settled. I hope we can then look at a proposal, which I hope will be settled in the way I have indicated, that was made in the alternative report produced by members of the Joint Committee last year, and maybe take time over a constitutional convention that looks at the respective roles of the two Houses. At the moment this is the more effective of the two Chambers. As one who sat in the other place, proudly and with great enjoyment, for 40 years, I despair that business is over by 7 pm or 7.30 pm most evenings. I despair that Thursday is almost a non-parliamentary day at the other end of the Corridor. Although I welcome the advent of the Back-Bench committee and believe that it has done a great deal, it has not arrested the Executive’s stranglehold over the legislature at that end, which of course is exercised mainly because of the automatic imposition of a timetable on any Bill that is introduced.

We need a convention that can look at all those things and consider the implications of the timetable on parliamentary democracy and on the balance of power between the Executive and the legislature, which is out of kilter. The spotlight of reform should be focused at that end at least as much, if not more, than at this end. As we consider that the Prime Minister may not get his way with the redrawing of the boundaries because of Mr Clegg’s obdurate opposition to that, we do not want to revisit that debate. However, we could well enter a new Parliament in 2015, with 650 Members rather than 600 at the other end of the Corridor, and with a need, therefore, to look at the whole composition of Parliament, and, as I said earlier, at the respective roles and powers of the two Houses.

I advocate for this Session and the Session beyond a degree of modest, incremental housekeeping reform at this end of the Corridor, and then, in a new Parliament, I hope there will be a proper look at the whole structure of the parliamentary system in this country, because it is overdue. I add that all that could still be accomplished in the timetable of the ill-fated Clegg Bill. He envisaged everything being completed by 2025. That would still be possible, given that we have elections in 2015 and 2020.

I will touch briefly on one further thing that has already reared its head in the debate. When I modestly and gently intervened on my noble friend Lord Fowler, who had made an utterly splendid speech on Leveson and then turned his attention to another issue, and reminded him that the same-sex marriage Bill was not

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in the manifesto, he rounded on me as if he had been bitten by our noble friend Lord Deben. It was a most extraordinary moment. All I would say is that we should not think that this is an issue of equality. I do not think that anyone in this Chamber—I look at the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey, who made a most interesting and important speech—does not believe in genuine equality.

However, the Bill redefines the basic building block of our society. Some of us believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, and believe it without in any way casting aspersions of any sort on different relationships. In the 21st century, we ought to be able to preserve the best of what has sustained the nation through the centuries, and at the same time extend a greater and more generous recognition to those whose ways are different and whose beliefs are diverse. All I would say to my noble friend Lord Fowler and those who feel passionately as he does—the noble Lord, Lord Low, for whom I have great respect, indicated that he took that line—is that we will of course speak in the debate as we believe, but let us have the generosity to recognise that others will speak with equal conviction and belief. I would hate to see the Bill tear this place apart in the coming weeks, and I hope that it will not.

3.53 pm

Lord Soley: My Lords, I will speak on constitutional matters. Before I do, I will strongly endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, on the Leveson report and the current situation. It should deeply disturb the whole country that when people in financial industries such as banking, or indeed MPs and Peers, are caught in dubious situations or in wrongdoing, the full force of the press is turned against them, but when the press itself is caught, it suddenly goes into hiding and starts distorting and twisting the arguments made against it.

I also recall that the press couches so many arguments in terms of press freedom. However, it is important to remember that when the News of the World was closed we lost a successful newspaper, but the chief executive of the company continued in office. That was totally the wrong way round. I will also mention my frustration that some of the leaders of the press, for example Paul Dacre, who are busy pulling strings behind the scenes at the moment, do not put themselves before the public and expose themselves to the sort of accountability that they rightly expect of the rest of us. Perhaps it is time for radio and television to start inviting people like Rupert Murdoch and Paul Dacre on to programmes to discuss this. I am sure that in very many cases they would refuse to come. But it makes the point that people who have been very good at invading the privacy of others, sometimes correctly and sometimes incorrectly, surround themselves with a wall of secrecy that is dishonest, devious, hypocritical and frankly, at times, cowardly. They need to face up to that. We all want a free press, but closing newspapers with a failing chief executive is not the way to get it.

I turn to what I wanted to speak about today. It is a constitutional matter, which I was very pleased to see in the Queen’s Speech—and I was not surprised to see it—the confirmation that the Government wish to

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continue the argument to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom. I have said a number of times before, and I am pleased to see the Government use this phrase, too, that the United Kingdom has by almost any standards been the most successful political and economic union that the world has ever seen. It is important at times like these to recognise that the argument, which is so far taking place largely in Scotland, is about the United Kingdom. It is not just about Scotland. If Scotland chose to leave the United Kingdom, the implications for Scotland would be great, but they would be great also for the rest of the United Kingdom.

At times, those of us speaking in England make the mistake of referring to the United Kingdom or Britain as “England”, a mistake that is picked up at times in the media. We need to be much clearer about that. I understand fully as someone who has spent a great deal of my life in Scotland—in terms of my own heritage, I have very little English blood in me, if any at all—that it is undesirable that England, although it is the largest part of the United Kingdom, talked as though it was Britain. It is not. It is very important that we recognise that.

I want to put this issue in the context of the consequences of devolution. I am a great supporter of devolution; I think that it will continue and will expand in England, as well. I notice today that Boris Johnson is making the case for extended powers for himself in London. My guess is that that will continue and, if it does, as one or two other noble Lords have mentioned today, will change the nature and structure of the United Kingdom. It will have implications for the House of Commons and for this place, and we need to put that in some context. It is time that we stepped back a little and looked at the way in which our constitution functions. I do not want to see another Bill like the House of Lords Reform Bill, which we saw in the last Queen’s Speech. That was a mistake—and I say that as someone who, over the years, has occupied just about every position that it is possible to have on the reform of the House of Lords. I have never gone for abolition, because I think that a large country needs two Chambers, but it is about the only one that I have missed out on.

Any Government who chose to go down the road of electing the second Chamber would end up writing a constitution. To do that would be a very brave action for a Government, because it is very difficult to get it right—and, of course, you would unpick other aspects of the constitution, including the role of the church and the monarch, and so on, so it becomes a major issue. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said a few moments ago, that does not mean that we should not reform this Chamber. I am very much in favour of the proposal put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, at other times, on having a more independent method of selecting Peers. The noble Lord, Lord Steel, also touched on the question of trying to get the numbers down, and a number of other attributes. If we did those two things—reduced the numbers in the House and made the appointments system more visible and transparent, as well as less party political at times, although not getting rid of the party-political bit because it is very

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important—we could make reforms, so this place would not be the same in five or 10 years’ time. But I do not think that it ends there.

I am picking up on the role of the four parts of the United Kingdom and continuing devolution. If you look at what this House does best, it is scrutiny of Bills. However, what is most interesting and, in a way, deeply troubling, is that the Government use this Chamber to alter the Bills that they have brought before the House of Commons. This applies to all recent Governments in my experience. For example, the Localism Bill, which was brought forward in the previous Session, attracted 514 successful government amendments, the Health and Social Care Bill attracted 390 and I could give similar figures for previous government Bills of all parties. This Chamber has increasingly been used to alter legislation.

It is important to remember that we do not legislate in this Chamber in any significant way; that is done by the House of Commons as everything we do here can be overturned by the House of Commons because it is the elected Chamber. We need to give some thought to how this could change because one of the great changes that have taken place in the House of Commons recently, about which I am very pleased, is that Select Committees have become much more effective at criticising government. It may be a mistake to be optimistic after having spent so many years in the House of Commons, but I am optimistic enough to believe that ultimately that will transfer to the Bill committees in the House of Commons. If it does, those committees will become much more effective at scrutinising legislation and that will have a knock-on effect in this Chamber.

Together with the noble Lords, Lord McFall and Lord Foulkes, and the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, I suggested in an article in Progressonline, a revised version of which appeared in TheHouse Magazine, that, taking a much longer-term view, if we continued down the road of devolution, bearing in mind what is happening in the four parts of the United Kingdom, part of the future role of this Chamber could be to bring the United Kingdom back together again by representing those parts here. In other words, we should not go for a simplistic option of saying that we have to write a constitution and elect everyone or go for the other end of that scale and simply say, “Let us keep it as it is and appoint as we are doing”. There are a variety of options in between, many of which, incidentally, are practised in other countries. I am not automatically arguing for a mixed Chamber, but one of the mixes which could be useful would be something that represented the regions and countries of the United Kingdom but retained the scientists, experts, former ambassadors and former senior civil servants who add value to this place. We need to look at that sort of structure.

I do not think there are any quick solutions to this issue. I do not think that we ought to try to look for a quick solution because, if we do, we will get it wrong. Frankly, that was one of the things that led to the failure of the Clegg Bill. It was an attempt to get a quick fix and it was bound to fail. I say to my own party that if it attempts a similar quick fix, it will also fail. We need to give much longer thought to this issue. We need to hold the United Kingdom together. We need to recognise that devolution is developing, and is

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likely to continue to do so, and give more powers to the regions of Britain as a whole, including England. Therefore, it might be useful to find a way in which the second Chamber can bring the United Kingdom back together again so that its voice can be heard here. There are very real possibilities there and I hope that at some stage we will find a mechanism to enable us to look at this more constructively which does not make the mistake of a Government trying to bring forward a Bill and then desperately trying to amend it on the Floor of the House in a way that, frankly, is likely to fail.

4.03 pm

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I wish to speak to the constitutional aspect of this debate and about the volume and complexity of legislation. I am encouraged to do so because it has preoccupied me since before I came into this House 15 years ago. I suppose that is partly, if not mainly, because I have been a general practitioner solicitor for a great part of my life and was for 24 years what was called the “legal eagle” on “The Jimmy Young Show”, fielding citizens’ concerns about the law from all round the kingdom. The other thing that has encouraged me to talk about this matter briefly is the report—I do not know how many of your Lordships have seen it—When Laws Become Too Complex, put out by the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel in March. I am not aware that a similar report on legislation has ever been produced by parliamentary draftsmen themselves. It is an important and readable document, and I urge it upon your Lordships.

The other encouragement for my few brief words is the state of politics in our country. That was manifested clearly by the local elections last week. Surprisingly, one may think, it is impossible to obtain from anywhere the level of turnout at those elections. It is quite bizarre, is it not? It is apparently left to two academics at Portsmouth University—

Lord Smith of Clifton: Plymouth.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Plymouth. I thank my noble friend Lord Smith very much for that vital piece of accuracy. I rather get the impression that the turnout throughout the country was hovering at around 30%, on average. If you consider that among voters aged under 30, of whom fewer than one in four turned out at the previous general election, possibly only one in 10 cast their votes last week. I do not think that anyone sitting here believes that we are in our prime as a democracy or a Parliament.

We should never forget that the expenses scandal is not a thing of the past. I did a bit of canvassing this time; and the expenses scandal has marked the mind of the British public much more deeply than we would wish, I fear. We all know well about the Leveson inquiry and what it showed in terms of the press, the police and so on. All in all, we are in a dangerous phase, particularly given the continuing crisis in the financial and banking sectors.

A significant element in this disillusion relates to the astonishing amount of complex law that we churn out from this place, year after year. It may also surprise

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your Lordships that our Library does not stock a complete set of statutes from this side of 2009. You cannot even obtain loose-leafed copies of statutory instruments from 2010, for example. However, those from 2009 are available. In that year, this place produced in excess of 16,000 pages of new statute law; the split was roughly one-quarter Acts of Parliament and three-quarters statutory instruments.

There are a number of lawyers here; all of us, I suppose, are lawyers of a sort because we legislate this stuff. However, we know very well how extraordinarily complex legislation has become because of the extent to which any new law has to fit into existing law. The situation becomes overwhelming, and I have noticed that in the course of our deliberations on Bills there has been a marked reduction in the number of Peers who sit here trying to grapple with amendments that tax the wisdom of Jove.

For example, since 1984, we have passed more than 100 criminal justice Acts of one sort or another and have brought into existence more than 4,000 criminal offences. I suspect that that represents rather more than were created in the whole of our previous history. EU law finds reference in 10% of our legislation, and on top of that we gold-plate EU legislation to an astonishing extent. These are not my statistics; they come from the fine document by the parliamentary draftsmen to which I referred. They provide an example of directive 2002/42, which consisted of 1,167 words in the English text issued from Brussels. By the time we had ploughed it into our own legislation, it had gone from 1,167 to 27,000 words. What is it about this Chamber, using God’s own language, English, that we manage to produce this—I am tempted to use a very rude word—excess of legislation? So far as the people of this country are concerned, it is oppressive, distancing, expensive, disillusioning, disengaging, centralising and dependency-making—you name it.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Incomprehensible.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Incomprehensible, as my noble friend says—to lawyers, inter alia. There are a number of senior judges sitting here and I am sure that they would be able to relate wonderful tales about the stuff that has come before them. I heard from one justice of the Supreme Court the other day that they were about to give judgment when one of them suddenly thought, “Hey, wasn’t something passed in 1995?”. When they went back to look, sure enough there was, and they rewrote their judgment. I shall not name names.

The truth is that this state of affairs is brought about by a combination of circumstances, one important aspect of which the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, recently referred to—the production-line legislation in the other place and the guillotining Motions that render much of the legislation there not merely inadequately considered but not considered at all. Large chunks of legislation come here never having been debated. Added to that, there is the manifesto theory of government—that if it is in your manifesto, you are entitled to legislate for it. The fact that nobody reads or buys the manifesto is neither here nor there. In the 1945 election, the manifesto for the Attlee Government was, I think, 15 pages long, whereas for the current Government it is 115 pages, but that is apparently of no importance.

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Incidentally, the Queen’s Speech talks about bringing in 15 new statutes, and I believe that we have five carry-over Bills. I hope that under the health and safety legislation, which we are going to simplify, we will be allowed to have back the brushes in our gentlemen’s toilets. Noble Lords may not have noticed but they have been withdrawn on health and safety grounds. Therefore, one major improvement will be coming our way, God willing.

As I said, all this creates confusion in the minds of the public because we are endlessly changing things. We are not content to leave a law in place for 10 or 20 years. A new Minister in a new Administration says, “I’d like a new Education Act”, or whatever it might be. The poor old public are punch drunk. I repeat that there is a degree of resentment at what, too often, are seen as impositions by us. What is more, they are careless and unnecessary impositions. One sometimes has the feeling that some of this legislation is trophy stuff that Ministers can paste to their lavatory walls back home.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Or use it.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: Indeed, or use it. There is a serious issue of demoralisation in a literal sense—de-moralisation. The more law you have, the more you take from the citizens of the state, in whatever situation, the need to reach their own decisions or to think through the consequences of acting in this way or that. In effect, you provide a rule that all must abide by, and too often the statutory rule is the rule. As I said, it discourages businesses, societies and organisations from taking responsibility for their own affairs, and all that has had an indirect impact on the public service ethos. I do not think it is at all contentious to remark that in this age community life is under severe attack. There is a real dilution of the strength of communities throughout our land, and those communities are the building blocks of a good society—I do not think that anybody disputes that. Consider today how few of what one might call the natural elite are engaged in their communities. My own profession which used to be the classic pillar of local communities is today far less engaged in community life than it has ever been—to the great loss of community life and lawyers as a group because there is huge fulfilment and respect to be gained. It is not just lawyers, but everyone. This is a deep matter.

I shall finalise by quoting from When Laws Become Too Complex. Its conclusion is headed:

“Conclusions and a Vision for Good Law … Mitigating causes of complex legislation”.

It states that,

“there needs to be a shared ownership of, and pride in, our legislation”.

How I agree. Consultation today is too often superficial, if not insincere. Too often Governments of all persuasions make their minds up and at the last toss of the dice say, “We’ll consult”. They do and vast numbers of people reply, but nothing changes and the legislation goes on. We have consulted ha, ha. The conclusion continues:

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“There also needs to be a stronger incentive on all involved in the process to avoid generating excessively complex law, or to act positively to promote accessibility, ease of navigation, and simplification”.

That is from the parliamentary draftsmen who too often are blamed in this House and the other place for the state of our Bills when more often than not it is our fault, not theirs. Despite those unanswerable recommendations by the draftsmen, we need to look much more at implementation and enforcement of the laws that we have. It seems to me that we legislate because we have not implemented what is already there, or implemented it fairly, effectively or comprehensively.

Education in citizenship is not a voluntary or optional extra in our schools. If we have created a society of such barbaric complexity that very often we ourselves cannot understand quite where things are, how can we expect ordinary, decent young kids to feel part of this enterprise, to feel ownership of it or to feel responsible for it, if we do not equip them with the basic amount of information, knowledge and understanding to grapple with it and develop a will to be citizens? It is not just a name. I hope that in our deliberations over the next few years we will try always to think how Bills will impact on the good, ordinary citizens of this country and how we can improve.

Lastly, I must say a word about enforcement on legal aid. I shall not labour the point as my noble friend Lord McNally has had enough of it. He and the Government have said that they are committed to looking carefully at the impact of the legal aid changes that we have made. I think that after a year there is a commitment to look at sensitive aspects, and I hope that we will do that. To have all this law, which is not voluntary or optional, and then not provide citizens in most need with legal help, and without which the rights we legislate for them are cynical, is the worst of all worlds.

4.19 pm

Baroness Deech: My Lords, we heard an interesting legislative programme from Her Majesty the Queen, with particular implications for our constitution and legal system. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, emphasised the Government’s focus on the criminal law, but all legislation of the past and the laws to come depend on enforceability and the rule of law. They in turn depend on fair access to the courts and to legal advice from independent lawyers. The fascinating speech by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has shown just how necessary that is. For decades, British citizens have had the advantage of assistance through legal aid and the pro bono services of lawyers, volunteers and citizens advice bureaux. The new proposals, however, will damage our system, the best justice system in the world and one that attracts billions from foreign clients.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Bar Standards Board, which regulates barristers, but I must clarify that I am not speaking for the professional interests or the income of barristers but in support of a legal objective that the previous Government set up for the legal profession and its regulation in the Legal Services Act 2007, to which I will revert. The regulation that my board does is carried out entirely in the public interest.

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Nevertheless, I support what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said not long ago, although I come to it from a different perspective. It is self-evident that there cannot be a bottomless fund for legal aid but the wrong impression has been given in the media in relation to the sums and how they are allocated. The large sums said to be spent on legal representation do not take into account the overheads of the self-employed or that the fees may represent several years work. Only a very small number of cases dealing with the most serious crimes—terrorism and the like—command large resources. Many young barristers practising publicly funded criminal law are earning around £25,000 a year or less. Not only will they abandon it, depriving the courts of good judges in future years, but the way in which the legal system is now being treated is putting an end to the goal of social mobility and diversity in the profession that the Government alleged was so important.

I would feel hypocritical going to visit schools, or encouraging other lawyers to go to schools, to encourage children from underprivileged backgrounds, where no one in the family has ever qualified as a lawyer, to take up criminal law or family law, which is also largely publicly funded. It is misleading to draw a picture of possibilities when not only will they incur debt at university but will find after qualification that there are no jobs open to them at the starting line of the criminal Bar, in the magistrates’ courts and so on, where formerly a newly qualified young barrister could expect to earn a modest amount.

In addition to the cuts in legal aid already brought in under the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, the Ministry of Justice is now consulting, as we have heard, on making savings of £220 million a year by 2018 by cutting prices. This it can do without the opportunity to debate the impact in this House. The ministry is proposing competition in the provision of criminal representation. Where no competition is proposed for now—that is, in Crown Court advocacy and very high-cost cases—a new fee framework is proposed that will encourage early pleas of guilty, for the longer a case lasts the less the daily fee will be. There must be a case to fear undue pressure to plead guilty caused by the new fee structure proposed. Solicitor representation fees in family cases will be reduced by 10%.

Price-competitive tendering may sound reasonable in criminal representation but it will not be genuine under the proposals, as the market is not to be left to itself: a new price cap will be set at 17.5% below current fees. The new system seems to favour tendering only by new commercial outfits and large firms, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said, leaving high street solicitors to go to the wall. The client will not be able to choose who represents them and the relationship built up by advocates and their clients over the years will count for naught. There will be a two-tier system: a choice of good advocates for those who pay themselves and take what comes for those who need to be funded.

What will be the effect? One must put to one side the picture drawn by the media of money being wasted on representing undeserving criminals. This is about everyone who is ever in court, rightly or wrongly, and

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all are innocent until proven guilty. Legal aid is about ensuring that right is done. If anyone is familiar with “The Winslow Boy”, they will know graphically the emotional stigma of the wrongly made accusation and how one must strive to do justice, even for the most unappealing—a very topical issue. Parents need legal advice for their children. All of us need to be able to challenge the state when officials may have overstepped the mark. The person accused of wrongdoing ought to be able to take advice from a lawyer he knows and trusts, and who can act expeditiously to prove his innocence. Cuts in family law will bear especially hard on women, who are more likely to be carers of children and have less knowledge of the law and details of ownership of the family assets. Mediation is not the answer. If it were, we would not need a legal system at all.

Already, litigants excluded from legal aid have to resort to self-representation. While the Bar Council has, one might say contrary to its own interests, put out a booklet to help self-representing litigants, judges will have their time wasted, the court system will slow down, and more money will be lost in the long run. Very recently, the damage being caused was commented on by Lord Justice Ward, who said in a judgment that,

“the case highlights the difficulties increasingly encountered by the judiciary at all levels when dealing with litigants in person ... Judges should not have to micro-manage cases, coaxing and cajoling the parties to focus on the issues that need to be resolved … saving expenditure in one public department in this instance simply increases it in the courts … justice will be ill served by this emasculation of legal aid”.

Cutting legal aid to save costs carries the risk of becoming a classic example of false economy, and there will be no parity of justice when one party is represented and the other is not. The Government must be close to finding themselves in breach of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which says that everyone facing a criminal charge is entitled to a fair and public hearing and has the minimum rights of,

“adequate time and facilities for the preparation of his defence; to defend himself in person or through legal assistance of his own choosing”.

The cuts in aid and in fees are such as to endanger the future of the profession. They also offend against each and every one of the objectives of Section 1 of the Legal Services Act 2007, which include,

“improving access to justice … protecting the interests of consumers … encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession”,

and supporting “the rule of law”.

Given that there will be no assistance for most divorcees, it is urgent that the law on financial provision on divorce be reformed to make it user-friendly. The sums involved amount to £220 million a year. One could make savings by reforming the law of financial provision on divorce. It is now so complicated, uncertain and unfair that it is almost impossible to predict the outcome of litigation about dividing family assets on divorce. There are cases where almost as much is spent on fighting as the assets themselves are worth. There have even been cases where the entire assets are spent on costs. That is because the law is unjust and based on old-fashioned principles without regard to today’s high breakdown rates, women’s equality and independent

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earning power. The Law Commission has recently put forward for consideration proposals to replace the current unsatisfactory statutory provisions on financial provision in divorce with new ones that might rely on a formulaic calculation. While this is a blunt instrument, there is much to be said for having a law that enables separating parties to calculate for themselves how their assets should be divided. An alternative, which I am minded to put forward for your Lordships’ consideration in a Private Member’s Bill, is to replace the English law on financial provision on divorce with the Scots law. That law by and large provides for the equal sharing of family property and limited ongoing financial support. It works well in Scotland, there are few reported cases and there is no reason why it should not be imported here.

Of course, agreements between spouses and cohabitants about sharing property on separation should be respected and not subjected to dissection by the courts. In other words, we should recognise pre-nups and do away with expensive litigation over their validity and the substance of the issues. Our justice system need not be as costly as it is if, in family law at least, the parties are treated as adults and given clear guidelines about the division of their assets.

Finally, one should get the extent of legal aid savings into perspective. Great damage is about to be done to the court system, litigants, the legal profession, diversity and the rule of law to effect a saving of £220 million a year. We have just spent £10 billion on the Olympics, with so far not much legacy. The Government have recently committed to spending £60 million on converting the Olympic stadium into a football ground for West Ham. We have lost our moral compass if we think that it is preferable to spend on the Olympic stadium rather than on legal aid, to give tax relief on wind turbines rather than spend sums on access to justice, and when we send overseas aid to Argentina rather than supporting the rule of law at home. The requisite savings could be made if alleged criminals’ assets were unfrozen and used to fund their legal representation as the litigation unfolds. I am sure that everyone in this House has a taxpayer-funded project in mind that is unnecessary and less significant than cutting access to justice. If the legal system and the citizen’s ability to use it are damaged, then the fine words of a new legislative programme will never be any more than that.

4.32 pm

Lord Rennard: My Lords, I wish to make a few remarks on some of the constitutional reform issues, with which I have mostly been associated in this House over the past 14 years, that I would like to have seen in the gracious Speech. I will then discuss the issue of fairness, which was a central theme in the gracious Speech, in particular in relation to the equality issues with which I have also been strongly associated in this House. I believe that my Liberal principles are linked in these issues, because my passion for democracy is about giving everyone a fair and equal opportunity to have a say in the democratic process—my passion for equality issues is also a lifelong commitment to opposing unfair discrimination in all its forms.

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In the debate on the gracious Speech a year ago, I welcomed changes to the Government’s original plans for registering voters. I had a very major hand in bringing about fundamental changes to the draft legislation. I noted earlier the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and I hope that she will pay some attention to the detail of those changes, because they reduced considerably the risk that individual voter registration would mean that many millions of voters were to be effectively deprived of their chance to vote. I am pleased that I helped to achieve them.

I also spoke on that occasion of the need to have a proper debate about on which days elections should be held. In my view, the UK discriminates against people in employment by holding elections on a working day. I regret, therefore, that there was no indication in the gracious Speech that the Government either recognise the problem or will seek to address it. In the aftermath of the most recent elections, to which my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury referred a few moments ago, it is time to consider this issue of when elections should be held. Holding elections on a Thursday, it seems to me, makes elections much easier for the retired and the unemployed than it does for people in employment. People who are in work find it very much harder to vote, especially if they have school-age children. I believe that we should have had a measure announced to hold next year’s European elections over a weekend, with the counts to be conducted on a Sunday evening. However, as an alternative, I suggest that, as in many other countries, polling day should be declared a bank holiday. That would give everyone a more equal chance to vote.

I also think that a measure should have been announced to change the closed-list system for the European elections next year. This system, introduced by a very controlling Labour Government, was very strongly criticised by both Liberal Democrats and Conservatives when it was introduced. It should now be changed to allow voters rather than parties to rank the order of the candidates who are elected. Such a change would, for example, make it easier for voters wanting to support a woman candidate to do so, even if the party machine put forward only men at the top of its list.

I am proud of the way in which I helped my party to achieve gender balance when we began electing our MEPs by proportional representation. When I oversaw my party’s European election campaign in 1999, I had to rank all the constituencies in order of winnability to ensure that half of our top candidates were women. We elected 12 MEPs in those elections, six women and six men, but this relied on the party using a system known as “zipping”. Open lists would allow voters themselves to prevent parties from failing to ensure fair representation of women and men. This has been shown to work in other countries, such as Finland.

On the general issue of equality, I consider that the principle of fairness referred to in the gracious Speech requires support for the same-sex marriage Bill. Eleven years ago, I was pleased to speak very strongly in support of the original Civil Partnerships Bill introduced by my noble friend Lord Lester of Herne Hill. I explained then that as a Liberal Democrat I saw the

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principle of equality as a simple one and I quoted my party constitution, which says that we see ourselves as upholders of the,

“values of individual and social justice”,

and that,

“we reject all prejudice and discrimination based upon race, colour, religion, age, disability, sex or sexual orientation”.

I also explained then that you do not need to be a Liberal Democrat to believe in equal treatment for people of different sexual orientation; you just need to subscribe to the principles of human rights and equality before the law.

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says:

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”.

When we consider some of the terrible events of the 20th century, we see why we need human rights legislation. In the 21st century, I hope that we will uphold the principles of that legislation in the face of some prejudice against it. I believe that the principle of human rights includes the right of same-sex couples to marry. It is a matter of equality before the law. The right to marry is in Article 12 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is in Article 9. The prohibition of discrimination is in Article 14.

There was a long struggle in this country for religious freedom, but those who benefit from this freedom should not now deny it to others. In January, I had a letter published in the Daily Telegraph stating:

“Every religion must be able to decide for itself on issues such as forms of worship and who they can marry, subject to laws that protect minors etc. It cannot be right for one denomination or religion to prevent other faiths, such as the Quakers and the Liberal and Reformed Jews, from choosing to marry people of the same sex”.

In other countries where gay marriage has been introduced, society—I believe it exists—has not collapsed, despite some people’s fears. The terrible position at the moment in which transsexual people cannot change their legal gender without also having to end their existing marriage will be ended with this Bill.

The issue of the future of this House is settled for a couple of years at least, in spite of my hopes for reform. I hope that in the debates on the same-sex marriage Bill we will uphold the principles of fairness referred to in the gracious Speech and, by supporting the principle of equal marriage, show that we in this place can be a force for good, for progress and for a tolerant society based on mutual respect. I look forward to continuing the debate on issues of democracy and equality over the next year.

4.40 pm

Lord Smith of Clifton: My Lords, perhaps I may continue with one of the themes of the speech of my noble friend Lord Rennard and pay specific regard to gender equality in corporate life. I make no apology for again raising this issue because the problem is not improving quickly enough and in some respects is getting worse. Three examples illustrate that.

First, women have suffered much greater job losses than men in the current recession, as the noble Lord, Lord Low of Dalston, emphasised earlier. Secondly,

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women are still paid substantially less, job for job, than their male counterparts. Only last week it was reported that women earn 20% less than men in financial services. Moreover, the European Commission ranked the UK 21st out of 28 countries on equal pay. PricewaterhouseCoopers has found that Britain’s progress on other measures such as female unemployment and part-time working has been slower than in other countries so that its relative position has deteriorated. Thirdly, and more widely researched, is discrimination against and consequent gross underrepresentation of women in business at board level. This had been the subject of the government-appointed Davies commission, which reported in 2011. That report showed how dire the situation was and called for a 25% ratio of women directors among FTSE 100 companies by 2015. This was to be achieved by evangelistic encouragement or “nudging”, as it is called. The noble Lord, Lord Davies, and his colleagues explicitly refrained from recommending the imposition of quotas despite the outstanding success of the quota scheme in Norway, which has been extensively emulated in many other countries.

“Nudging” has palpably failed. Recent research has revealed that FTSE 100 firms will fall far short of the Davies target, while the situation among FTSE 250 firms is quite abysmal. In a debate on 13 November last, both the noble Lord, Lord Giddens, and I predicted that the position would deteriorate—as it has—and said that only a quota scheme would bring success. The latest Cranfield University survey shows that the number of female executive directors has fallen in the past year among FTSE 100 companies, as has the number of female CEOs—which is always miniscule in any event. It also showed that the number of women on sub-board executive committees had fallen since 2009 from 18% to 15%, which is a bad omen as it indicates a real drop in the number of women in the pipeline for promotion to full directorships. On his recent trip to India, the Prime Minister reiterated his commitment to gender equality and we await some further action, although in his most recent reshuffle he reduced the number of women Cabinet Ministers.

Quotas are opposed often by the very women who, commendably and against the odds, have successfully scaled the heights of corporate life, saying that promotion should only be by merit. That clearly does not apply to men. What appropriate skill sets did the directors of HBOS, RBS, Northern Rock and other failed institutions bring to their boards which led to the crisis of 2008, not just in the UK but across the western world? I recall in a newspaper a montage of photographs of leading bankers together with one of Sir Terry Wogan. The caption asked: “Which one has a professional banking qualification?”. Of course, it turned out to be Sir Terry. Would women have done a worse job than those responsible for causing the 2008 bank failures?

Overemphasis on skill sets is used by the “male, stale and pale” occupants of high places to slow down or avoid increases in the number of women directors. It is a restrictive practice the like of which we have not seen since the demise of the print unions. We know that the banking failures were caused by men whose skill sets were overridden by their addiction to greed,

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recklessness and megalomania. As Dame Barbara Socking put it in an interview in last Sunday’s

Independent on Sunday

:

“Equality means having as many mediocre women as there are mediocre men in top jobs”.

She also strongly endorsed the use of quotas.

Strict adherence to the principle of proportionality would make the target for women directors 51%, not 25%. As Dame Barbara implies, women should have the same opportunities to fail in business as men. Why is the hurdle placed so much higher for women than for men?

Even so, there is some evidence that they are less likely to fail. Better gender-balanced boards are more likely to succeed. On 28 April, the Financial Times reported that three women were among the 10 most consistent fund managers over 10 years. Similarly, Credit Suisse has shown that the share price of companies with one or more women board members was higher than those with none, which is a pretty minimal criterion.

Two other recent studies, the first by Alison Wolf, the XX Factor, and The Athena Doctrine by Dr John Gerzema and Michael D’Antonio, both based on extensive empirical data, provide further evidence of the still untapped economic potential of women in senior positions. Closing this gender gap must be a priority.

I have drawn the attention of your Lordships’ House not just to the Norwegian example but to a very successful example of quotas working in the UK. On four occasions, I have cited the success of the quota scheme suggested by the Patten report. That called for such a scheme in the recruitment of new staff to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. As in Norway, the target was reached well before the allotted date. In four previous debates, no Minister, in winding, responded to my specific question to confirm that the scheme had led to great success. After some badgering, a Minister—a woman—belatedly conceded that,

“the quotas applied by the PSNI over a ten-year period had led to a marked increase in the recruitment of women in both communities (Catholic and protestant) ... with figures rising from 12.45% in 2001 to 26.58% in 2011”.

I was much obliged to the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, for her letter of 22 January.

The main purpose of Patten was to improve the recruitment of Roman Catholics to the PSNI, and that was both highly desirable and, indeed, essential. My point, however, in the context of gender equality, was that an unintended consequence of the blind tests involved in quotas was a dramatic increase in female recruitment.

However, in trying to downplay the significance of quotas with regard to women, the noble Baroness, Lady Stowell, commented in her letter:

“What I cannot confirm, is the extent of the impact of quotas on this rise in the number of women police officers. Apart from the implementation of Lord Patten’s recommendations there were other initiatives that were undertaken which also had a positive effect on female representation such as the Gender Action Plan 2004 and the Gender Action Plan 2008”.

Exactly. Those action plans may well have assisted in achieving Patten, but the quotas were the main

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driver, and that cannot be gainsaid. In an interesting article, in the

Sunday Telegraph

, of all unlikely places, Octavius Black argued:

“To change behaviour, the carrot will only get you so far. You may also need the stick … As a first step, the Government should make companies publish a breakdown by gender for different salary bands and make gender balance a condition of all public-sector contracts. In effect, quotas through the back door”.

He rightly added:

“Gender equality at work isn’t a feminist issue. It is an economic one. We all need to lean in”.

Following the publication of the latest Cranfield survey, my right honourable friend the Business Secretary, Dr Vince Cable, warned that the Government will introduce quotas for boards of directors to remedy the gross gender imbalance. Will the Minister in winding confirm that what Dr Cable said is now official coalition government policy and, furthermore, when the 25% commitment will apply to Cabinet membership? Simple questions requiring simple answers.

4.49 pm

Lord Dear: My Lords, follow that. I am acutely aware that I am speaking at number 32 in what has been a very long day in a warm Chamber. I have no chance of holding your Lordships’ interest unless I am brief, and brief I shall attempt to be. There are three points in the Queen’s Speech that I will allude to very quickly, but with all sincerity.

First, there is the subject of police reform which, as some Members of this House will know, is very close to my heart and something which I support vigorously. I shall watch with some interest its progress in subsequent legislation, particularly as to whether it involves legislation or comment upon the subject of leadership in the police—something which needs to be resolved and enhanced against the hitherto remorseless trend towards management rather than leadership. That will embrace things such as direct entry and accelerated promotion to middle rank.

The question of persistent anti-social behaviour has blighted societies for a long time. I would certainly support any reasonable measures that will do something to enhance any thrust to reduce anti-social behaviour. In terms of the rehabilitation of offenders, what can I say? I am frequently asked how one can improve the police service. My answer to that is, “Do something about the probation service and something to stop the remorselesschurn of offenders going through the system”. It is sometimes called the revolving door; recidivism is another term that is often used. They mean the same thing. Anything we can do to rehabilitate offenders and prevent them reoffending, and going into that constant cycle we know so well, is to be applauded. I shall throw my weight right behind that.

I turn in all seriousness to a zoological phenomenon that has been mentioned already. I say zoological because there is a popular expression these days of “the elephant in the room”, which describes an issue of considerable significance or a significant problem, or something that is known to all and sundry but never mentioned, never referred to or simply ignored. Today, as your Lordships have concluded, we have an elephant of significant proportions in this Chamber, as the Government appear unable to speak its name. It

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is, of course, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, which is now in its last stages in the House of Commons and which, we must conclude, will pass to your Lordships’ House in the next few weeks.

I pose the question: why are the Government so secretive about it? What is the problem? Why was it not included in Her Majesty’s Speech yesterday? Carryover Bills have been included in the Queen’s Speech before. One obvious example, going back a few years, is the Equality Bill that was carried over from the 2008-09 Session with no fewer than four lines of reference in the Queen’s Speech. Moving up to the present week, the Energy Bill—another carryover measure—was included in the Queen’s Speech yesterday, so why was the marriage Bill not mentioned? Is it that the Government are losing heart or do they not intend to do other than smuggle it in through the back door?

This is a Bill in which all the usual procedures have either been evaded or ignored. It seeks to effect change to a principal institution in society: the institution of marriage, which has existed for at least 2,000 years in civilised society. Some people would say that it has been going for double that length of time. It will affect every single member of society, one way or another. Yet it has not so much been introduced by the back door; rather, it has slipped in through a crack under the back door. The noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey of Clifton, has already gone into some detail on that. Given the time, I will not repeat what he said, which I support.

Personally, I believe that the way in which the Bill’s introduction has been handled is shameful. There has been no royal commission; no committee of inquiry; no mention in any party’s manifesto prior to the last general election. Indeed, the possibility of its introduction was flatly denied by the leader of the Conservative Party in an interview on national television only three days before his successful election. There has been no proper public consultation, no matter how much the Government try to massage the results of what was, it has to be said, their limited consultation process. They were more concerned with the process of the matter than with content. If one goes into that procedure, the figures indicate that only one member of the public in every 10 supports the Bill. Nine out of 10 against is a substantial majority.

The Bill is vigorously opposed by all the leading religions. After the catastrophic losses in the local elections last week—your Lordships will not need reminding that around 450 seats were lost by the coalition parties—all the analysis shows that opposition to the Bill was a significant factor in the swing of voters away from the main parties.

The ComRes poll, published this week, provides overwhelming evidence of the depth of feeling in the general population against the Bill. Underlying much of that opposition is a fear of the damage that will be caused to the dynamics of the traditional family and to the welfare of children, to say nothing of the difficulties that will be experienced in education and in employment law. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Exeter spoke eloquently when he highlighted the error of not listening to public opinion.

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One thing that has not been touched on—I will allude to it only in headline form now, but it is worth going into at another time—is the evidence of what has happened in other countries where similar change has been attempted. That evidence is discouraging, to say the very least.

I will not prolong this catalogue of criticism; there will be time later to mount a more detailed and focused attack if the Bill comes before your Lordships’ House. At this stage, I simply emphasise that there has not been any proper consultation, any proper research, any proper mature reflection and any account of public opinion.

My opposition to the Bill is most definitely not anti-gay. I dedicated much of my life in the public service to the protection and enhancement of minority rights and securing equality under the law, including the protection of homosexual rights and equalities. But I sincerely believe that the passage of this Bill into law will, in turn, create such opposition to homosexuals in general that the climate of tolerance and acceptance in this country that we have all championed and supported and seen flourish over recent years could well be set back by decades. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, who is not in his place, spoke eloquently and, indeed, spread his wings on the subject of what is going on in Uganda. None of us would want to see anything like that in this country; the last time that sort of behaviour occurred was several centuries ago. I ask the noble Lord and others to reflect on the fact that this Bill is not so much about equality as sameness. I leave those two words with your Lordships.

My opposition to the Bill is quite unambiguously pro-marriage, supporting an institution that has been a fundamental part of society and families for centuries. In the hands of a mature Government, a Government who listen to the electorate, any change to that established order should properly take place only after the most profound thought and consideration. It should not, as has happened this year, be introduced as, some would say, a mere search for cheap political gain.

The Bill as it stands in the Commons is, I believe, ill conceived, ill considered, badly presented and heedless of consequences—the immediately obvious consequences and the laws of unintended consequences. I shall stoutly resist it should the opportunity present itself.

4.58 pm

Baroness Berridge: My Lords, violent crime is down and the UK is a much more peaceful place. It is not often that one wakes up to such a good-news story as the lead item on the “Today” programme. So despite a recession and a decline in police numbers, the UK has seen a substantial and sustained reduction in direct violence over the past 10 years.

These were the findings of the first UK Peace Index, launched in Parliament on 24 April. I, too, remained sceptical of such good news until I saw the quality of the research and the statistical analysis. Between 2003 and 2012, the homicide rate halved in the UK. Violent crime is down from 1,255 to 933 offences per 100,000 people. Broadland in Norfolk is the most peaceful place to live, while unfortunately Lewisham is the least. The UKPI also shows that public perception

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of the threat of violence is inflated and is apparently linked to mass media coverage of high-profile crimes. One only has to think of the recent wall-to-wall coverage of Boston, but perhaps our diet of “NCIS”, “Miss Marple”, “Law and Order: UK”, “Midsomer Murders” and “Homeland”, to name but a few, does not help matters.

What did not get much coverage was the UKPI’s finding that over the past five years there has been a reduction in the number of first-time offenders. With recidivism rates of around 66% and it costing £40,800 for a year’s imprisonment, preventing the first offence and the beginning of the cycle is vital. It seems that one of the causes is many small voluntary groups doing imaginative youth work, which makes gangs and crime less attractive and helps young people cope with often complex family situations. So while some serious offenders will always need the state as the probation service, many others do not, especially young people. I speak as a trustee of a prison rehabilitative charity, Kainos Community, that works in four prisons in the UK. While we depend on the governor, Kainos staff and prison officers to deliver our rehabilitative community, the prisoners repeatedly say that what they value most are the volunteers who come in to spend time with them. It is this volunteer aspect that a probation service delivered by a charity can give to young people that often the best probation officer cannot. A relationship given from choice not contract can do wonders for a prisoner’s self-worth.

Many of these charities, including the Message Trust in Manchester, have seen that such stable relationships need to be supplemented by training and employment. In January 2013, the chief constable of Greater Manchester Police opened the Message Enterprise Centre, which is creating businesses to train and employ young offenders who, in this economic climate, are, unfortunately, virtually unemployable. A probation provider that might also give you a job is way beyond what the state can give you. The challenge will be whether the huge Ministry of Justice contracts can include the often small, local providers, as without them the rehabilitation revolution in the gracious Speech will not be delivered.

Also in the gracious Speech was the reform of the police, which included the introduction of a police remuneration review body. Before going out for six shifts on the streets of Peckham recently, I was warned that police would complain to me a lot about pay and pensions, but I was very encouraged as their complaints were mainly about poor kit. They were uniform in their view that British and German makes of car for their patrol cars were great kit and that the replacement Japanese cars were poor kit.

I also saw first-hand the need for more sophisticated statistics on the stop-and-search situation on our streets to see what is really happening. However, as I mentioned recently in your Lordships’ House, I was even more convinced that police who exercise the coercive power of the state on our streets must reflect the communities they serve. The statistics I obtained from the House of Lords Library are sobering. More than 40% of Londoners now are not white, but only 11.6% of police constables are from a BME background, and once you go up just

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one rank the figures on average halve to 5.5% of chief inspectors and 3.8% of chief superintendants. In bald figures, at senior ranks of superintendant and above, the Met has 315 officers, and just 17 of them are from a BME background. I was encouraged that the figures for Greater Manchester Police and West Midlands Police are much better, so it is not an impossible task. It is true that the ratio for PCSOs in the Met is much better at 34.5%, but that post was introduced in 2002 so for how much longer can we listen to the clarion call that this will be the solution to the situation?

I fear that direct entry is now viewed as the solution, but when that other recent innovation, the national College of Policing and its board, has no ordinary person from the communities it polices on it, let alone anyone from a BME background, I find it hard to be optimistic. This issue is often viewed as historical. I am told that what I am saying is very much last-Government, as if this is some kind of fashion, but the Riots Communities and Victims Panel, which looked into the 2011 riots, showed that this is still very much a live issue.

Finally, being a trustee of the think tank British Future, which speaks on identity, migration and integration, leads me, of course, to mention the immigration Bill. Whatever might be the practicalities for the NHS and landlords, I am pleased that we can now speak about immigration without fear of being called a racist. Perhaps this change was inevitable because the latest wave of mass migration, in 2004, was from Poland, and therefore the race and immigration issues were helpfully separated. However, that enforced silence, while people had very real issues to be addressed, sent people to extremes and is one of the reasons why the tone and language of debate can still be acerbic and polemical. Had we been able to talk about this more freely, the debate would now be held in a more constructive manner. As politicians, it is vital that we keep our categories clear. There are legal migrants, illegal migrants and asylum seekers, and we must remember that many British citizens are very recent legal migrants and asylum seekers, which demands that we understand the sensitivities around this issue.

The correct tone in this debate will also help the UK to retain our long tradition of being a refuge for those who need it. In a recent YouGov survey, conducted for British Future on the asylum claims from Afghan interpreters who helped the British Army, 60% of those who expressed an opinion believed that Britain should allow those workers to settle here. We should be justifiably proud that Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai is being treated and educated here in Britain. Before its disbandment, the UKBA was open to working with the Asylum Advocacy Group, which was convened by Bishop Angaelos of the Coptic Orthodox Church and various diaspora groups, to aid UKBA officers in dealing with claims arising from Egypt.

I was saddened recently to learn that religious minorities who fled Iraq, including more than 85% of Iraq’s Christian population, went overwhelmingly to the USA, Canada and Australia, rather than here. They did not come to the UK. Unfortunately, global events may require us to be a refuge once again, and I hope—I trust not in vain—that there would in that case be cross-party support for the UK being a sanctuary for those genuinely fleeing persecution.

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5.08 pm

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, when my noble friend opened this debate, he said from the Front Bench that he looked forward to working with candid friends throughout the House. I can assure him that we will be friendly and candid.

Archbishop Vincent Nichols, in his homily at a service on Monday, said that,

“the right policy will always be guided by courage and generosity and not by appealing to fear or pessimism”.

I added to that list, as guides, sound information, logic and a clear head. I have also just added “not acerbic or polemic language”. That could be applied to any subject, but in fact the subject was migration, and he was speaking at the mass for migrants. Time and debate both in and outside Parliament will tell how the Bill is guided, and whether it appeals to fear and pessimism.

The components of the Bill are not wholly clear. In March, announcing the splitting up of the UKBA, the Home Secretary said that a Bill in this Session would address its “complicated legal framework”. That matter does not seem to have been discussed publicly but presumably will occupy us. If it is to be part of the Bill, what of the Immigration Services between now and the commencement of legislation—or is that an administrative matter?

There has been much discussion of restrictions on services and benefits for immigrants, where fear—as many noble Lords said—is too easily whipped up. The big question is whether it is the right thing to do. Another question is whether it is workable. I hope that, before the Government bring forward a Bill, they will undertake very full consultation with landlords who may be required to check the immigration status of tenants, with employers who are already required to check for possible irregular migrants—how realistic is it to give them further immigration responsibility, and how are confusion and discrimination to be avoided?—and with health professionals, who I am sure do not want to go down the road of, “We need to see your papers”, which would be comparable to, “We need to see your insurance” in the US. A framework Bill against a background of an arms race of rhetoric would not be the reminder that we need of the benefits that our country has gained and continues to gain from immigration.

We understand that the Bill will also deal with the deportation of those who have no legal basis to remain. We must be concerned about the impact of that on refugee and migrant children and families, including unaccompanied children and those trafficked into the UK. I echo the reference of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lichfield to the wide impacts of the administration of the immigration system. This in part takes us back to the quality of decision-making. If legislation is to include what is currently within the immigration rules, in what position does that leave the thousands of other rules? I do not understand the need to upgrade.

I mentioned trafficking. I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister say bluntly the other day that trafficking is slavery, and announce his intention to involve himself closely with the issue. On that occasion he met a

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woman who had escaped domestic servitude—eventually. She was helped by the wonderful little charity Kalayaan, which reports the markedly worse treatment of those it encounters on the relatively new tied migrant domestic worker visa—tied, that is, to the employer. This must be an unintended consequence that we could address in the legislation.

Much of the impact of other rules introduced last year on family migration must have been unintended and unforeseen. I am at the moment involved in an all-party group looking at these rules, and we are working on our report. I will share two stories with your Lordships. The rules make new provision for bringing to the UK adult and elderly dependants. We heard from the BMA of a woman consultant in the NHS who was unsuccessful in her application to bring to the UK her elderly parents, for whom she wanted to care. She decided to move back to Singapore. Her sister, feeling that it was wrong that only one child should take on this responsibility, moved back with her, as did her brother-in-law. They, too, were consultant psychiatrists. This country lost three consultants in that one episode. One was a psychiatrist specialising in children with learning difficulties—a very specialised specialty, if I may put it that way. If all we are looking at is numbers, I suppose that was a double win.

We have also raised considerably the minimum income threshold and other financial requirements for applications to bring in a spouse or partner—with any children—who is a non-EEA national. We heard from a gentleman living in Swansea, an area of very low wages, who is earning an adequate wage for his area but well below the threshold. He has an autistic daughter, and he would like to bring his new wife to this country from Canada, but he is not able to do so because of the financial limits. That woman would help to care for the daughter, which would be a saving to the state, not a drain on it. We heard, too, of British children separated from a parent because of the tightness of the rules. I was particularly struck by hearing more and more of the understanding of the impact of separation on a child’s development, and the attachment disorders that may result.

We will address questions of attachment and identity when this House comes to the Children and Families Bill, to which my noble friend has referred, and the work of the Adoption Legislation Committee. There turned out to be both post and pre-legislative scrutiny. I was a member of that committee, and we will be debating that for the first time next week. I hope, too, that the Bill gives us an opportunity to consider modernising the birth registration system to reflect the diverse forms of family that we now have, and the right of children and adults to know their genetic origins as well as their legal parentage.

I had hoped that we would have some opportunity somewhere to address some aspects of drugs policy, if not wholesale reform—I am with the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, on that.

In the last Session, the Government acknowledged the role of the victim in rehabilitation of offenders—and therefore, of course, as we all know, the prevention of further offending in future—in legislating for restorative justice. That was very delicate, but welcome. The community trigger for communities on the receiving

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end of persistent anti-social behaviour will also be delicate. These things need sensitive handling, and there is a difficult line between early intervention and prevention and assumptions of guilt. The fairly new Chief Inspector of Constabulary at the HMIC recently spoke about the police needing to focus on crime prevention, which is something that we would all support. I hope that he did not mean crossing that delicate line when he said that resources would be needed to,

“know where the offenders are—those who are wearing tags and those who are just known”—

I emphasise those words—

“to be the most prolific and persistent and dangerous offenders in the community—and take them off the streets”.

I hope, for my part, that the Bill will extend the restorative justice approach, working with a young person, and with those affected by anti-social behaviour, addressing root causes and perhaps building on acceptable behaviour contracts developed by some local authorities.

Another difficult line is to know what a result is, when an organisation is paid by results. I congratulate the Government on their determination to cut reoffending by recent ex-prisoners, especially those on short sentences—or, to put it another way, to help them back into mainstream society. The Government know that this needs facilitating different, new, imaginative, risk-taking ways of doing things. When I was making notes for today, I decided that I was really too weary of the terms “innovation” and “radical”, which I think are becoming a bit devalued. To find a way to succeed, an organisation must be allowed to fail. The St Giles Trust is rightly held up as a model of this way of working. It is admirable and engages ex-offenders to work with its clients to very great effect.

Conversations between all who come within the very extensive umbrella of stakeholders—another overworked term—must be the right way to go about things. In the interests of time, I will not develop that thought in relation to terrorism and counterterrorism except to say that we would not have got where we did in Northern Ireland if we had not been prepared to talk directly to terrorists. I wonder whether we need the same leap of imagination and faith to take creative steps not just with the moderates in various communities where there is a danger of breeding home-grown terrorism but also with the bad guys.

Terrorism was mentioned in the gracious Speech in the context of foreign affairs and so, too, was my final topic—preventing sexual violence in conflicts worldwide. This matter is more than prevention; it is a case of responding to people’s needs and giving aid. I congratulate the Government, particularly the Foreign Secretary, on the Preventing Sexual Violence Initiative. I very much hope that the Government will be able to use feedback on local capacity in conflict and post-conflict situations provided by those working on the initiative. We must not be yet another entourage of experts who come and go. We must build up lasting relationships as the way to achieve lasting change through working with local experts and local NGOs. After all, it is what we are trying to do at home with payment by results. NGOs in these situations often need very little payment to achieve very significant results.

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At the migrants’ mass, Archbishop Nichols talked of very real pressures made sharper in hard economic times. That will be the focus of the Government, but I come back to his wise warning against appealing to fear and pessimism and his advocacy of the guides of generosity and courage.

5.21 pm

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, mine is the last in a long and varied set of Back-Bench contributions. I return to an issue raised in his customarily elegant opening contribution to the debate yesterday by the noble Lord, Lord Lang of Monkton: the absence from this year’s legislative programme of measures on reform of your Lordships’ House that were,

“more modest but more practical”,—[

Official Report

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

than those unsuccessfully put forward by Her Majesty’s Government in last year’s legislative programme. Before I deal with that issue, I wish to deal briefly with three other sins of omission from the gracious Speech. My language must be influenced by the fact that I am sitting next to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Carey. I very much regret the absence of the expected legislation on the plain packaging of tobacco and minimum alcohol pricing. Both measures were mentioned earlier and both could have played an important part in public health policy and the prevention of illness. Not including them in the gracious Speech is a lost opportunity for improving health in this country, which is of great significance.

I also regret the omission of enshrining in legislation the Government’s commitment to spending 0.7% of GDP on overseas development. I have enormous respect and admiration for what this Government have done in overseas development in both quality and quantity. Their achievement is more impressive having taken place at a time of such strict economic circumstances. It is therefore a sadness that they have not carried through into legislation their commitment in practice to the 0.7% target. To have done so would have ensured the sustainability of spending, but not just that; it would have encouraged other countries to follow the UK’s example. It would also have added to the huge respect that other countries have for us and our influence if we had shown in legislation that we intended this to be not a one-off but a continuing commitment to the developing world—an issue which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, talked about. We have gained tremendous international respect for what this Government have done, and I hope that they will reconsider that decision.

The final legislative proposal to which I wish to refer is a Private Member’s Bill on assisted dying for the terminally ill, which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, will seek leave to introduce in the House next week. I am one of the 80% of the British public who support a measure that would enhance the choice and control available at the very end of life for terminally ill adults. I have to say that as a parliamentarian I understand very well the need to avoid unintended consequences and to safeguard against abuse. However, my experience as a member of the Select Committee of your Lordships’ House on the previous Bill, including our visits overseas and the

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very detailed work that has been put into the safeguards in the proposed Bill, reassure me that those safeguards are robust. I will be supporting the passage of that Bill.

I return to my main theme, which I am afraid is a matter on which I spoke in last year’s debate on the gracious Speech. I said then that in my criticism of the Government’s proposals I was in no way trying to support the status quo in your Lordships’ House. I hope I made it clear then, and have done so since, that there is a substantial agenda of reform—some of it legislative, some within the control of the House itself, and some which the party leaders could support and enhance. That would make us a better, more effective and more defensible Chamber as part of our bicameral Parliament. If we are to be that, we have to make some progress. I hope the Government will now accept that for the extent of this Parliament we are not going to see major reform along the lines of the previous Bill.

Indeed, the point has been made by several speakers in today’s debate, including the noble Lords, Lord Cormack and Lord Soley, that there are good reasons not to attempt the stand-alone reform of your Lordships’ House on that scale at a time of great constitutional uncertainty and possible change, and given the importance of looking in that context not only at both Houses but at all the nations of the United Kingdom. However, to my mind, that is not a reason for doing nothing.

Some of the proposals for reform—the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, always likes to call it housekeeping, and something in my feminist genes somehow responds to that; I call it incremental, evolutionary reform—have been discussed at great length in your Lordships’ House during debates on the Private Member’s Bill introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Steel, who did the House a great service by his thorough and absolutely steadfast commitment in his attempts to gain support for that Bill. He did gain support for the Bill in this House, and I believe that he could have gained support for it in another place but for the attitude of the Government.

I would have said that the noble Lord, Lord Steel, was tireless, but I feel that perhaps he is just a little tired of taking this legislation forward. Therefore, with the leave of the House, I intend to bring forward a Private Member’s Bill next week to try to promote the agenda of incremental change. I shall not weary the House tonight with a Second Reading speech—there will be time for that. All I will do is make a heartfelt plea to the government Front Bench to accept that, with the failure of last year’s Bill, there will be no major changes to the composition of this House in this Parliament, and that it would not be responsible or grown-up politics to set their faces totally against progress in areas where there is if not nemine dissentiente then widespread consensus. I hope that that will be the atmosphere in which the Private Member’s Bill is discussed.

5.31 pm