My Lords, in his opening remarks to today’s session of debate on the gracious Speech, my noble friend Lord Faulks drew attention to the dangers of the so-called compensation culture, which he described as being worrying and as having a chilling effect on volunteering. I therefore very much welcome the series of announcements made by my
The background to this is the depressing statistic from the Association of British Insurers which showed that the number of dishonest motor claims in 2013 increased by some 34%—a statistic worth dwelling on for a moment—to 59,900. While vehicle-related fraud is of course a major part of this, the tidal wave of claims of varying quality has a major effect on public bodies such as the National Health Service, education authorities and local government, as well as on businesses of many types. The situation we face has to a significant extent been exacerbated or even perhaps caused by the deregulation of conditional fee or so-called no-win no-fee arrangements, so that an industry of aggressive claims management companies has evolved.
In the introduction from the head of claims management regulation to that regulator’s annual report for 2012-13, he said:
“There is something about the nature of the claims industry which breeds, in too many that operate in it, a different kind of business behaviour—one that is less about putting the customer first and best business practice, but more about poor conduct and treating the consumer as little more than a commodity”.
That is a worrying state of affairs and that same regulator recorded some 12,000 complaints. That is a lot of complaints, many of which related to the PPI mis-selling scenario. Is it not a very rich irony that the greatest mis-selling scandal is now being exacerbated by the second greatest mis-selling scandal, namely that of claims management companies trying to engender greater levels of business?
Is it really right that these businesses should be aggressively touting for business by cold calling, texting or e-mailing the general public to encourage them to make a claim—any claim, it seems, and pretty much against anyone? This is backed up by relentless advertising on the television, online and in the print media, which is clearly targeted at those with time on their hands. The proposition seems to be very much, “Would you like to make some free money? Are you prepared to spend some time with us so that we can help you make a case?”. The regulator gives a case study of a claims management company in the north-west which generated many complaints about the “persistent and harassing” nature of its unsolicited calls:
“Consumers complained that they were encouraged to make a personal injury claim even where they had not suffered injury”.
That is an extraordinary state of affairs.
My right honourable friend’s recent announcement indicated certain areas where further action could be taken, namely: requiring courts to throw out compensation applications where claims have been fundamentally dishonest; banning lawyers or claims management companies from offering inducements in the form of cash or electronic goods; and improving the medical assessment of whip-lash injuries. There is much common sense there, but it might surprise some that courts do not already act on the first of those points and that strong medical assessments are not already in place.
My eye was taken by the measure which will ban lawyers from offering inducements in the form of cash and the advertising of that form of behaviour. However, will the Government take their clamp-down on this industry a step further? We now know that this is a £1 billion-pound industry, with many practitioners within it operating on a very dubious ethical basis, as the regulator conceded. I am not a banner by nature but in these particular circumstances, and until the industry can demonstrate its maturity and capability to act in a fair-minded way, I urge the Government to consider extending their suggested measure to ban the advertising of cash inducements into banning advertising overall for this industry.
My Lords, I am pleased to join the debate on the gracious Speech by raising two issues that are closely involved with each other, though only one, immigration, comes within today’s agenda. The other, higher education, officially belongs within BIS and is to be debated tomorrow, but I think that few in this Chamber, certainly if the debate held here last month is anything to go by, will deny that further education is correctly a matter for education policy.
As president of Birkbeck, naturally I value first and foremost the intrinsic worth of academic achievement and scholarly distinction as at the highest level of public good. At the same time, it is gratifying, to say the least, to recognise just how powerful and global an undertaking higher education is in this country, how much it contributes to the economy and how that contribution has the potential to grow and flourish if it were released from the shackles of ever harsher controls. I will come to those controls in a moment.
First, here are some facts. Higher education is a major export industry of this country, with the potential to grow steadily and further. In 2011-12 it generated a contribution of £10.7 billion for the UK economy, which included £3.63 billion paid in tuition fees by international students. At the same time, the UK is a world leader in international research collaboration: 46% of UK-authored academic papers are co-authored with at least one non-UK researcher.
Why would we want to put shackles on such a benign success story? Yet that is what is happening. International student numbers in the UK are falling. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the total number of non-EU students enrolled on UK courses fell in 2012-13 for the first time since 1994-95. Of particular concern is the dramatic fall in student numbers from India, which fell by 49% between the academic years 2010-11 and 2012-13. The numbers of students from other countries have fallen too, though: the number from Pakistan is down 21%, from Canada by 3%, Nigeria by 4%, Saudi Arabia by 6% and Thailand by 3%. These are terrible numbers—an important crisis in higher education. Numbers from China continue to grow but there must be risks in the overreliance on one market and the dominance of one nationality in the community of students.
That is all happening in this country, while student numbers in other countries are roaring ahead: up 7% in America and 8.2% in Australia. With plans for massive expansion, Germany plans an increase of 25% in international student numbers by 2020. The UK is falling steadily and remorselessly behind in a field where once we were world-acknowledged leaders.
I therefore ask the Government to make an important and significant remedy to this situation. Will they remove international student numbers from the net migration targets? This would not only benefit the higher education sector but help along this Government’s immigration policy of reducing immigrant numbers. The long-term payoff can only be good. International student graduates will take away with them from this country not only good qualifications but a warm and generous impression of the way in which this country conducts its civil life.
My Lords, I warmly welcome this year’s Queen’s Speech, not particularly for its contents—though I accept that the more innovative proposals on pensions, small business, enterprise and employment are welcome—but for its brevity. If anything, I wish that there was even less of it, so that we could somehow burst the myth put about by successive Governments that quantity of legislation equals quality of government. It does not. Indeed, if volume were the route to success, the previous Labour Government would have transformed society. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s leadership, no fewer than 558 Bills were introduced, with a record 58 in one Session in 2005-06. No wonder they missed the signs of the recession when Ministers and civil servants were so busy preparing the next set of Bills. Despite record levels of legislation, our economy went into meltdown, our schoolchildren continued to be outpaced by those of our competitors, our health and social care system was at breaking point and crime increased. The legacy, according to former Health Secretary Alan Milburn in his report today, is that some 3.5 million children are heading for living in families with poverty by 2020.
Legislation was hardly a raging success, yet, sadly, my Government felt the need to follow suit, with 47 Bills in the first Session—though that was over two years. As before, education and health took priority, with a near obsession to create new and ever more complex structures of governance and delivery, accompanied by ever more draconian threats and punishments for failure. For our schools it is not structures, ownership, targets, threats or punishment that improve the life chances of the young; it is inspirational teachers, motivated parents, enlightened and appropriate curricula and trust, not denigration, from politicians. Exactly the same applies to the NHS, where overcomplex structures, created by often confusing legislation, often act as a barrier to innovation, not an incentive.
So much of what Ministers wanted to achieve over the past four years did not require legislation at all. It is somewhat ironic that arguably the most significant successes were not even central to the original Bills.
Research and education barely featured as key priorities in the Health and Social Care Act, yet, to the credit of my noble friend Lord Howe, and due to the tenacity of Peers such as the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Turnberg, and the noble Baroness, Lady Emerton, the establishment of a research-led NHS, the only publicly funded health service in the world to be research led, is now a reality. That is a huge achievement.
We have already seen the Health Research Authority drive purposefully through a sea of red tape and petty obfuscation to create a single point of entry for clinical trials. The HRA has simplified ethical approvals and, importantly, begun to eliminate the need for multisite approval for patient recruitment on clinical trials. The academic health science networks and the 13 new NIHR collaborations for leadership in applied health research are undertaking high-quality applied health research focused on the needs of patients across England, translating research directly into practice.
Similar progress is being seen in the development of the health and care workforce. With over 1.3 million staff performing over 300 different roles for more than 1,000 different employers, even beginning to think about how you plan and then train a workforce is daunting. Health Education England, within months of its establishment, is doing just that. Later this month it will produce its first workforce tool to allow organisations, whatever their size, and individuals, no matter how important or less important they feel they are, to seek out their training needs. That will include healthcare support workers, who will now be entitled to training and to have that training certificated, and will no longer be expected to deliver high-quality safe care without appropriate competencies.
Many of these initiatives have come not from legislation but from inspirational leaders who have been given the freedom to challenge, find solutions and simply get on with the job. I am delighted that the Government have learnt their lesson: fewer Bills and no new legislation on health and education. I trust that in a year’s time there will not be any either—but I suspect that, I will not bet on it.
My Lords, I am concerned at how some of the legislation promised in the gracious Speech, particularly the Serious Crime Bill and the held-over Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, once enacted, will ever be enforced. In the final months of the previous Session, many of our debates were taken up with concerns over the cutting of legal aid, the reduction of fees paid to advocates and litigators, and the obstacles being placed in the way of ordinary consumers trying to access justice and legal advice. I have no doubt that the concerns are well founded, and the recent delays to serious fraud cases demonstrate the damage that is being caused to the legal system and to the expectations of citizens that crime will be properly prosecuted and defended. Our troubles are by no means over; indeed, they are set to increase as more young law students realise that their pathway to a decent career is closed and as more skilled advocates leave the independent criminal bar and practise elsewhere, to the detriment of the diversity and talent of our judiciary and barristers.
However, the intricacies of those arguments are not my main concern today as I speak. I am here to offer a solution, at least for that part of the law that I know best from my teaching days—the division of assets on divorce. A major reason why legal aid has proved expensive is that the law about financial provision on divorce is so uncertain, so tailor-made, so different in outcome judge by judge and so emotionally charged. Therefore husbands and wives spend more than they or the state can afford on just getting to some principles along which they may divide their assets on divorce. One of the worst effects of the cuts in legal aid is that divorcing couples who formerly qualified for legal aid and therefore could be legally represented are no longer able to be so. They appear in court at the worst moment in their lives representing themselves. They do not know what a fair outcome might be, they are overwrought in any case and they need a barrier—a barrister—between themselves and their former spouse while they negotiate life-changing settlements affecting them and their children. But they have no one, and the judges, to their annoyance, and with consequent delays, are having to conduct the litigation for them. The judiciary has complained about this. It is not its job to represent the clients or, in an even worse scenario, to try to achieve fair play when one of the couple has a lawyer and the other does not. The media are replete with accounts of couples who spend more than half their assets on fighting about their ownership after divorce.
My Bill, the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill, will not only help mitigate the results of the removal of legal aid by giving certainty and greatly reducing the need for legal representation in court but assist judges by giving them an easier role. Above all, it will introduce broad-brush fairness into a system which has not been discussed in Parliament for more than 30 years. In a nutshell, it will make prenuptial agreements about financial provision in the event of divorce binding, with very few qualifications, and it will introduce a new simple regime for the division of matrimonial assets on divorce. It is unashamedly modelled on the law appertaining in New Zealand, Scotland, many US states and some European ones. It synthesises the recommendations made over many years by the Centre for Social Justice, the Law Commission and the Government themselves. My Bill provides that on divorce the post-marital assets should be divided equally: that is, everything acquired by the couple after their marriage is to be divided, but not any inheritance or gift or anything owned before marriage. Thus, the model who marries a rock star for a few years will share only in what he earned after it, unless this is dealt with by a prenup, while the long-married couple who started with nothing and worked together to reach a reasonable lifestyle will share practically everything.
The division of assets on divorce is a delicate issue on which opinion is divided. Society has different views about the roles of men and women, and I quite understand that political parties are reluctant to take it up. It is therefore very suitable for a Private Member’s Bill. If we cannot afford to extend legal aid to family and criminal litigation, as in the past, then the obvious answer is to reform the law in a way that obviates the need for expense, or at least reduces it.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, that the quantity of legislation does not equate to its quality. As we have already heard, we doubtless all agree that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the NHS deserve a bit of a rest. However, there are none the less those who regret the fact that so little of the gracious Speech related directly to health. For instance, the charity Age UK expressed its disappointment that an opportunity was lost to put in place safeguarding legislation that would have helped prevent the abuse of older people. Certainly, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, has already reminded us, the statistics are shocking. Every hour, more than 50 older people are neglected or abused in their own homes by family members, friends, neighbours or care workers. In the course of a year, that means that about 500,000 older people are abused in the UK, which is 5% of the older population.
In addition, the General Medical Council is concerned about the lack of any reference to the regulation of health and social care professionals Bill. This is regarded by many as a once in a generation plan for much needed medical regulation. The GMC observes that if the Bill does not pass before the general election next year, it will be a significant missed opportunity. I agree and hope that we may receive some assurance on this point.
However, like my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby, I am delighted that the modern slavery Bill was highlighted in the Queen’s Speech. We have already heard that many others in your Lordships’ House share my enthusiasm for its various provisions. In particular, I am grateful that law enforcement will be better equipped to prevent the distressingly widespread incidence of modern slavery and note the proposed increase in penalties for perpetrators of slavery or trafficking. There is also a promise that the Bill will provide statutory guidance on victim identification and victim services. That is excellent, but it raises three health-related issues to which I will draw your Lordships’ attention.
First, there is the question of potential payment by immigrants for NHS services. This could be used by traffickers as yet another lever in their exploitation of today’s slaves. I hope it may be possible to disseminate a very clear message—for instance, through posters on buses and tubes, television advertisements and so on—that trafficked individuals will not be penalised for attending healthcare facilities.
Secondly, over the past two years, there have been some instances of people being trafficked for the harvesting of their organs. Your Lordships may know that the churches have been working closely and successfully with the NHS to increase numbers on the organ donor register. That campaign has included making next of kin more aware of their relatives’ intentions. This campaign needs to continue and should help militate against organ trafficking, but there will also be a pressing need to alert the public and health professionals to this nefarious trade.
Thirdly, with regard to victim identification, NHS staff may often be the only point of contact that trafficked individuals have with society. That is why it is so essential that front-line staff are properly trained to recognise the signs of trafficking, not least in children. Of course, the healthcare professionals who are sometimes best placed to do this by virtue of their wide-ranging brief and their interpersonal skills are hospital chaplains. This is just one of many reasons why the significant reduction in chaplaincy hours by some trusts seems to be short-sighted and ill advised.
There were some other health-related issues in the gracious Speech which warrant attention and raise important questions. For example, while there is a welcome extension of free school meals, which will improve the health of thousands of children, it is not at all clear where the age cut-off will come. No doubt further detail will be forthcoming in due course. While paying tribute to the magnificent work done by so many in the NHS, I trust that the relative lack of emphasis on health in the gracious Speech will not mean any diminution of attention by Her Majesty’s Government to the huge and crucial issues that we all face in this area.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I have not come to complain about the lack of a Bill on health. I have come to complain about actions on health.
Let us have a brief look at salt and sugar, two major health concerns. The related health problems from these substances cost the National Health Service billions. Salt is connected with high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease, and sugar with tooth decay, diabetes and obesity. The story of the coalition is not good on either, and yet the potential to save billions of pounds and lessen human suffering is massive.
The so-called responsibility deal between the Department of Health and the food industry has been a failure. It was hammered out by the Tories with the food industry when they were in opposition. I recently came across a BBC documentary called “The Men Who Made Us Fat”. In fact, the responsibility deal was effectively written by the men in that documentary, who were all from big food. Only last week, the Sunday Telegraph exposed the food firms ratting on the deal by taking sugar out of the lesser-known brands and promoting sugar-free brands, while keeping the top brands topped up with sugar. That was followed a few days later by the Daily Mail exposing the sugar in coffee: over four times more than the daily limit. Both those papers have done some excellent work and are to be commended.
On salt, the position is even more reprehensible for the coalition. During the previous Government, the Food Standards Agency—a government department, not a quango—launched the salt awareness campaign in 2004. The fourth phase was launched in October 2009. It was a genuine partnership with the food industry. In 2000, the average intake of salt was 9.5 grams a day. By 2008, it was down to 8.6 grams a day, which was estimated to prevent 6,000 premature deaths and save £1.5 billion every year in healthcare and other costs—well on the way down to the 6 gram target. That was a target that the industry was working to, because it was planned and agreed well in advance.
In fact, by 2011, intake was down to 8 grams a day. New targets for 2012 onwards were to be agreed in 2010-11.
However, one of the first actions of this coalition was to abandon the programme of salt reduction by not agreeing to any targets for industry to work to. This remained the case for three years. We have lost three years due to the food industry “men who made us fat” having effectively captured Andrew Lansley when he was in opposition. Leading members of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine have said that during these three years—2011-14—some 12,000 people may have died needlessly as a result of strokes and heart attacks. The policy and staff were taken from the FSA in 2010, into the Department of Health, where they were broken up and the policies conducted behind closed doors—unlike what happened when the matter was at the FSA.
Here is the rub: every time anybody raises these matters, the Department of Health claims that it has the backing of the World Health Organisation and says that,
“our salt reduction work is world leading”.
Knowing the responsibility deal was a failure, and that for three years no progress was made, I decided to look a little closer the next time that claim was made. On
“'Far from lacking momentum, the World Health Organisation has said our salt reduction work is world leading”.
Well, I set about asking the DoH where that support came from. In fact, I gave up on the website, which even GCHQ probably could not fathom these days, and wrote directly to the noble Earl, Lord Howe. Of course, he replied very quickly with his general great courtesy to the House. His letter said:
“The WHO has recognised the UK’s salt reduction work as world leading”.
Note the tense: “has recognised”.
The noble Earl went on to say that the WHO had approached us, the UK, “to share our experience”, and gave a couple of those huge web addresses that you get in letters these days. Both of them led me to the 2010 London WHO conference on salt reduction strategies in July of that year. I well recall the event because I opened the second day. By that time, the Food Standards Agency civil servants at the conference were answering to the DoH. It is therefore more than a little disingenuous for the Department of Health to claim World Health Organisation support in 2014 for what happened under the coalition, by using a WHO quote from July 2010 which referred to work from 2004 onwards by the previous Government, which the coalition abandoned within a month of coming into office. We have had three years of doing nothing, costing us thousands of avoidable premature deaths, while claiming World Health Organisation support. Then, in the year before the election, the coalition switches the programme on again.
Frankly, if I was still in the other place down the Corridor, I would bring the roof down on the Government for their despicable political shenanigans. However, I regret to say that all I hear from the Commons is a deathly silence.
My Lords, the gracious Speech refers to a fairer society. The Minister mentioned the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, and rightly referred to the importance of the rule of law. However, I start with the Home Secretary’s address to the Police Federation on
The Home Secretary suggested that leaving police operations unfettered would resist political pressures but that, to me, means inadequate oversight despite the beefing up of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. Operations at the front line will always trump policy. We still have many questions but few answers to the points raised about police culture and operations. A senior judge has recently questioned the objectivity of that other safeguard, the IPCC, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon.
Under anti-social behaviour legislation, the police have virtually untrammelled and incontestable powers. They decide ab initio who they think is the guilty party. The rampantly one-sided exercise of these in a case involving a Sussex MP has been corroborated by cases in south Wales, Devon and Cornwall, Thames Valley and, in the most recent, from Hampshire, police evidence seems to have been total fiction. I have been shown custody records altered post hoc to refer falsely to a more serious offence of violence. I have seen manifestly concocted properties for legal photographs used to procure convictions in magistrates’ courts. This I now find is very easy to do, and applies also to CCTV and audio files. This material is increasingly used as evidence in court proceedings. All that is required is slackness by witnesses and prosecution, and the guidance of ACPO on digital evidence to be ignored, and you have a recipe for misleading the court.
I learn of serious failure of prosecution to disclose documents as required, and of failure of defence teams and judges to ensure compliance. The Attorney-General’s recent guidance identifies this as a threat to a fair trial. I hear of documents that are unsigned or undated, possibly even forged, being accepted by the courts, and a failure to safeguard the interests of people under rulings from the Court of Protection.
Much of this is ongoing, with frequent accounts of files lost, court records deleted or unavailable, police notes absent or officer amnesia in the witness box. A solicitor categorised this for me as “gaming” the provisions of Section 117 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, because a police witness cannot be cross-examined on something he has forgotten, and if the only other evidence is documentary or electronic, however faulty, then that must stand unless the defence can have the evidence struck out: effectively a reversal of the burden of proof. It would also appear from a recent BBC “File on 4” programme that these and allied manipulation of rules of evidence and procedure continue at the highest administrative and professional levels.
Withdrawing most legal aid—a principle I applaud as a general concept—but without rendering the system of justice accessible and affordable to normal folk, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, seems to be a flawed policy. I question why two legal experts are required to represent a criminal defendant. However, if undeserving types were gaming the legal aid budget beforehand, we now appear to have police and prosecution gaming the procedures to the detriment of fair trials. Add these together and we have a situation once described to my father by his lawyer as follows: “Where there is muddle and confusion, dishonesty follows close behind”. I try to remember that.
Once an offence, police notification or occasion of arrest is established, the details go into a police computer system. The citizen does not have rights, or certainly has no adequate rights, to gain access to or check that for accuracy, yet may find material regurgitated at some future date in proceedings, shared with other agencies or disclosed in a CRB check. Necessary protections before the law remain inadequate, open to abuse, and are being manipulated to the unfair disadvantage for defendants in criminal proceedings in particular. This erodes trust in a vital sector of public administration. That imperils the rule of law and ultimately, the stability of society. Oversight must be restored. Senior law officers within the Government have long been aware of the situation, so why no action?
We should not be complacent or wag our finger at other jurisdictions, while all the while corrupt practices infect our own affairs. The Government need to act now—or if not this one, now, then a new one in 2015.
My Lords, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak about education in this debate. Although there are no education Bills in this gracious Speech, that does not mean that education will not be a part of much that we will debate in the year ahead. Education affects every aspect of our individual and national life. For example, lack of literacy skills is strongly related to poverty, crime—the rate of functional illiteracy in our jails is a scandal in itself—and social unrest. Equally, our failure to give marketable skills to sufficient numbers of our young people is a direct cause of much youth unemployment and a huge drag on the national economy.
I am therefore proud of the Government’s work in raising the national standards of education in very direct ways. I am now delighted to welcome a new initiative to ensure that every child learns to read at the level appropriate for their age. This builds on many schemes of the past 10 years, from the “every child reading” strategy, launched in the 1990s, to the national strategy, Literacy and Numeracy for Learning and Life, which was launched in 2011. All those have begun to have an impact on this most basic of educational outcomes, but it has still not been enough.
We cannot afford to get this wrong. Literacy is the gateway to all other learning in both the humanities and sciences, it opens the spirit to great literature, and it is a source of infinite pleasure throughout life. It has always seemed to me to be the first element of the implicit contract between the state and a parent: “Trust me with your child, and I will teach her or him to read”. One national expert said to me, so wisely, that we know when a child is reading, not by tests and grading but when we see them go into the book corner, choose a book, and curl up to read for pleasure. At that point they are reading.
I also celebrate the initiative of charities to deal with educational failure. I particularly commend the charity to which my noble friend Lady Stedman-Scott gives so much of her energy and commitment. The charity works on a one-to-one basis with young people who have been identified by their school as in real danger of slipping permanently through the net. They are truanting, failing and losing any opportunity to make a success of their lives. It was a great privilege recently to meet, along with my noble friend Lady Shephard, some of the young people in Tower Hamlets who have been lucky enough to have their lives turned around by this programme. The key to its success is that each young person is encouraged to articulate their own chosen goal. Once this has been established, their mentor—working with many excellent and far-sighted employers in the neighbourhood—arranges a work placement in the field to which they aspire. That is the turning point in their motivation.
One young 16 year-old boy told us that he simply loved cars. He wanted to work with cars and was tired of wasting his time hanging around street corners or shopping malls with other disenfranchised young mates. His mentor got him a placement with a BMW service centre, and that changed his life. He realised while he was there that if he was to work with cars, he needed to win an apprenticeship, and to do that he needed some good GCSEs. Back to school he came, and worked hard for the first time in many years. He has now won the place he so longed for, and from failure his life has been turned to the fulfilment of what had been a distant dream.
For many young people like these, academic subjects do not in themselves attract their interest. Once they see the vocational relevance of academic work, their motivation is focused. There is a real lesson here for policy, and I commend the UTC initiative of my noble friend Lord Baker for recognising and building on this. By combining high-level academic work and real motivation in the vocational subjects, success is being achieved. So many good things are happening, and so many more are to come.
My Lords, in this incredibly wide-ranging debate, the Minister referred to legal aid. I will speak about one aspect of our justice system. This may seem a narrow ambition, but—thanks to a number of highly committed and hard-working people—it is of immense importance both to the individual lives of our fellow-citizens and to the reputation of our legal system. When I use the word “justice”, noble Lords can be forgiven for thinking that I am referring to criminal justice, which of course is discussed and debated all the time, but I am not. I refer to civil justice, and in particular to what I consider one of the most pernicious and damaging policies that the Government have put into practice; namely, the removal of legal aid from vast areas of social welfare law. Whether it be benefit law, debt law, housing law, employment law or immigration law, there are areas where millions of our fellow citizens, at some time in their lives, require some legal help, nearly always in the form of early, quality legal advice. Many who require legal help are, of course, disadvantaged, poor and disabled.
When the Government came to power, this country enjoyed a system built up by Governments of both parties that meant that everyone who needed legal help could get it. It provided quality providers, whether not-for-profits such as law centres or CABs, or solicitors’ firms. However, it was not expensive—at around £150 a piece of advice—and used up only one-10th of the legal aid budget. That represented great value. Thanks to that early intervention many of those problems were sorted out and lives were changed for the better. Crucially, although it was far from perfect and far from generous, that system worked. It was a gem in our legal system. It allowed some access to justice to everyone, and seemed to have the support of all political parties.
Why, then, did the coalition—and here I mean both political parties working together—change the system from the moment it came into office? Immediately, well before the legislation was passed, the number of cases that were helped in that way per year declined, from 485,000 at exactly the moment the previous Government left office to 293,000 three years later. Then, on
Yet this practical removal of citizens’ rights at a time of continuing austerity and radical welfare reform—both of which mean that more people need help—has received scant media attention and is largely not known about by the general public. Where there has been comment, it has been hopelessly misinformed and inaccurate. Of course, that lack of publicity and interest is exactly what both parts of the Government want. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats vie with each other to claim credit for achievements they are proud of. My guess is that they will not be competing with each other to take credit for effectively destroying a vital part of our civil justice system, for ensuring that hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens, who are often at the bottom of the pile, cannot receive access to justice, and for seriously demeaning the reputation of our much-admired legal system. That policy is this Government’s dirty little secret.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a trustee of UNICEF UK.
I welcome the proposal in the Serious Crime Bill to expand the definition of child cruelty to include psychological suffering or injury, as well as the long-accepted physical charge. Since this proposal was announced in the gracious Speech, there has been something of a debate on the internet asking how on earth one can decide what is psychological suffering and injury, and where the boundaries lie. Some have even suggested that people involved in contested divorces would suddenly start to cite that their child had been psychologically damaged by their ex-husband or wife. I am sure that the passage of this Bill will make it clear where those boundaries lie and how those judgments will be made by professionals other than individuals with an interest.
When referring to psychological cruelty we are talking not about family disputes but about the constant haranguing of a child to make them feel worthless. Children often believe what their close family members tell them; or, as discussed in the passage of the Children and Families Act, it might also be the public exorcism of children in certain churches or “shutting up”—that is, locking children in their rooms with no access to others for up to months at a time, as we were told last year happens in the Exclusive Brethren Church, where a girl was shut up for three months for accessing Facebook.
Over the years, very few charges have been laid about the psychological damage to children that causes cruelty, let alone brought to court and convictions secured right across the child-cruelty spectrum. Charities such as the Children’s Society and Barnardo’s have for years been campaigning about the damage of child cruelty, especially the invisible psychological and emotional abuse. In the past I have discussed with social workers and doctors the problems of the current law which mean that too many cases are not even brought because of that invisibility and, therefore, lack of evidence. I believe that this new addition of psychological damage will strengthen the child cruelty definition well.
However, as with the stalking law reform debate that we had two years ago, with which I was involved, changing the law on its own will not take effect without a real commitment by the criminal justice system, schools, children’s service and the health service being trained and supported to deliver this. We know from the stalking legislation that where there has been training in both the police and elsewhere, the numbers of charges and convictions have gone up, whereas there is real doubt about those areas that have not yet trained all their staff.
There are also long-term mental health consequences of psychological cruelty. Convicting the perpetrator is important, but it will be useless if the child victim does not get access, and quickly, to child and adolescent mental health services. My honourable friend Norman Lamb MP is right to demand parity of funding for mental health services, and it is disgraceful that NHS England has told CCGs to cut mental health in favour of acute physical services, causing a real shortage of beds, with children having to travel hundreds of miles to access an emergency bed. Many children who have suffered mental cruelty are scarred for life, especially when much of it has taken place out of sight.
We know already that only one in four children with a mental health diagnosis is getting access to the therapy they need. This must be improved. If four children had all broken a leg, we would not say that only one could get access to a plaster cast and, if necessary, physiotherapy afterwards to help them heal. This discrimination must cease. I ask the Minister if there is an intention to provide clear guidance for multidisciplinary professionals who are likely to come into contact with cases of psychological cruelty to children, both about where the boundaries lie and what help the child victims of such cruelty are entitled to access as soon as it has been made plain, including urgent referral to CAMHS.
Equally importantly, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that more help is provided to vulnerable families to prevent neglect happening or to ensure that early intervention is offered before there is a need to resort to criminal prosecution?
Following my noble friend Lord Willis’s comments about quality not quantity of legislation, echoed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, I welcome the comments in the Minister’s speech this afternoon that much of this year would be spent in embedding and delivering the new health and social care arrangements. I welcome that, and it is vital to give the new arrangements time to bed in. Moving towards joint health and social care commissioning is an enormous step, but a step that must be taken, and the better care fund is a start to encourage best practice between local authorities and health. However, these are still very early days and the journey towards true joint working will take time to develop.
It is very important that we get every child in this country a good education because they get only one chance. I thank the late Baroness Thatcher and the noble Lord, Lord Baker, for giving us our first chance of a CTC, at Crystal Palace in 1992. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, under whose leadership we opened 10 academies. I am proud to say that nine of those are outstanding and one is good, in Peckham. I expect the school in Peckham, sometime this year, to get an outstanding rating. I also thank the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, for allowing us to have another 15 schools by September 2013 and 10 more this September.
I would like to mention all our schools. Some 44% of the children receive free school meals. Our school at Crystal Palace, which we opened in 1992, previously had a pass rate, with five As to Cs including English and maths, of only 9%. Over the past 14 years, our average has been 92%. On two occasions it was the most improved school in the country. From 1995 to 2000, it went from a 9% pass rate to a pass rate of 54%. It then went from 54% to 92%. When we took on the school, it had only 350 students; today it has 1,500. This year we have four students going to Oxford and Cambridge. It is the most popular school in the country with over 2,000 applicants for 180 places. This gave me the confidence to open more schools; so today we have 27 academies—16 secondary, 10 primary and one referral unit.
I would like to say a few words on the referral unit. It is for children who have been expelled. Instead of putting them on the street and leaving them alone, they come to this school. We opened it in September last year and it had 30 students. Of those 30 students, we have now got 27 back into the normal state schools. It is not just from our schools but from all the schools in the Beckenham-Bromley area. We are proud of that. I am also very proud that the Government have made us expand the school so that we will be taking 60 children from this September.
We have had 12 Ofsted reports on our 16 academies in the past two or three years and have got nine outstanding ratings and three good ones. As for the three good ones, we have had two of those schools only since September 2012. Some 75% of our academies have a rating of outstanding compared with the national average of 20%. All our academies, except one, were failing when we took them on. Last September, 80%—or 465—of our students progressed to university. Some 5% deferred and had a gap year for one year. Some 10% went to a Russell university.
Why did I get involved with primary schools? It is important. Our school at Purley had 1,000 applicants for 180 places in 2012. Of those applicants, 16 had a reading age of six to eight years old, or year 2 to 4. Within a year they were put back into their normal classrooms, and today they have a reading age of 12. That is why we wanted to do more primary schools: because the more primary schools we did, the more chance these pupils would have when they got to secondary school. Of the primary schools that we have taken on, nine were failing or in special measures. In the past year, one of those schools, at Peckham, which is a free school, had an Ofsted rating of outstanding in every department: four grade 1s.
Noble Lords have probably heard of the Downhills School, which caused everyone such trouble in Tottenham, and which caused me and my shops a lot of trouble personally. I am proud to say that, within less than a year, this school has been assessed as among the 20% most improved schools in the country. This week we will receive an Ofsted report and I will be very disappointed if we do not get a “good” rating, and there is a chance that we will get an “outstanding” one.
We are very proud that in September we will be opening a school called Harris Westminster, which is linked with the Westminster School and will be a sixth form for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Over 50% of the students will be getting free meals. We are very excited about this school. We will eventually take up to 500 students, and in two or three years’ time we will have 600. They will have a first-class education, helped by the Westminster School. We are proud of that. It will be chaired by the chair of governors of the Westminster School, the Dean of Westminster. I thank him very much for all the work that he has done to help make this happen. Our chief executive, Sir Dan Moynihan, is one of the best chief executives who I have ever worked with. Finally, I thank our principals, teachers, support staff and governors for making our group so successful and helping to give children a better chance in life. Our motto is, “All Can Achieve”.
My Lords, this debate ranges over four disparate areas, but there is an underlying, unifying theme across them, which reflects the Government’s record on these important areas of public policy and was to some extent echoed in the gracious Speech. That theme lies in the Government’s obsession with privatising public services, combined with botched and expensive reorganisations. I propose to cite examples of this ideologically driven agenda from the experience of the north-east.
In May the Northumbria branch of the National Association of Probation Officers wrote to the Northumbria Probation Trust and the Ministry of Justice raising serious concerns on the part of employees of the Community Rehabilitation Company and the National Probation Service about job security, workload, increased management spans, reduced support from HR and, especially, the transfer of cases and the split between risk categories. They are worried about the risk to public safety as a result of the split and point to bureaucratic delays in transfers, with existing users being transferred and high-risk offenders going to new officers. There are also concerns about the lack of a legal requirement for CRCs to maintain a level of training, which is particularly important in the area of domestic violence. They call for an extension of the transition process to the new structure until all these issues are resolved. I hope that when he replies, the Minister will be prepared at least to consider that suggestion.
In addition, the Ministry of Justice must also look at what is happening in family law cases, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, referred, where, as many of us warned, the cuts in legal aid are having a serious effect on family and especially child-related proceedings. The Journal newspaper in Newcastle reported on Saturday a rise of 61% in people representing themselves in north-east family courts, with the predictable result of serious delays—a topic on which, incidentally, I tabled a Question when Parliament resumed last week.
Also in the north-east, we had the experience of a prison riot at the newly privatised Acklington Prison, where 130 staff left: about one-third of the total. The prison is now managed by Sodexo, one of those oligopolies assumed by the Government to be capable of running any public service, despite the record of failure over issues such as tagging or interpreters, where Sir James Munby, head of the Family Division, recently described arrangements as “unacceptable”, and questioned the contracts between the Ministry of Justice and Capita. Not surprisingly, there is widespread doubt about the concept of a huge secure college, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, in opening this debate, doubtless to be privately run, which we will debate when the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill reaches us in due course.
The same contagion appears to threaten child protection, where the Government recently launched a six-week consultation about plans to permit local authorities to outsource children’s social services to the likes of G4S and Serco. This provoked a protest from 37 leading experts in a letter to the Guardian, and prompted a warning from Professor Eileen Munro, who had conducted a review on child protection for Michael Gove, the Secretary of State, in 2011. She asserted:
“It’s the state’s responsibility to protect people from maltreatment. It should not be delegated to a profit-making organisation”.
The chief executive of Children England, which represents 100 children’s charities, said:
“Such an important public function must never be open to the real, or even perceived, risk of being done in the pursuit of profit”.
Consistent with these concerns, incidentally, Ofsted—of which we have heard much today—is apparently seeking to bring inspection in-house and not to rely on contracting.
Then we have the NHS, with its injection of a toxic mixture of a huge bureaucratic reorganisation combined with increasing private sector involvement. In my own council ward in the west end of Newcastle, among the most deprived areas in the country, there are three current NHS issues. First, a GP practice—a Darzi practice—was threatened with closure on six weeks’ notice and without consultation as the provider and NHS England failed to reach agreement. While a temporary provision has been made, the future of the practice is uncertain. Recently, Care UK announced it was withdrawing early from another practice in the same area after controversially winning a tender only 21 months ago—although at least in that case it gave adequate notice. And 14 months after NHS England replaced the primary care trusts, we are still awaiting the outcome of a review of a longstanding proposal to build a new health facility on a site in the area which the PCT had agreed—indeed, the whole programme had been agreed and the land was transferred some time ago by the city council. After 14 months there is no decision.
As a final example of institutional ineptitude, I must refer to the closure of cells at Newcastle’s magistrates’ court following the relocation of the police station that was part of the same building, which has meant custody cases being transferred to other courts miles away. The Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, who is not in his place, advised me that the courts would reopen on
This catalogue of problems will not be confined to the north-east, and none of them has really been addressed in the gracious Speech. They will be addressed by a Labour Government—starting, I trust, with the next Queen’s Speech.
My Lords, the gracious Speech mentioned a fairer society. We have sadly all heard of the scandalous and shocking events that took place at the mid-Staffordshire trust over a year ago, affecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Complacency and indifference to complaints was one of the many findings of the subsequent review led by Robert Francis QC. The Francis report called for cultural change, focus on patient experience, and much greater willingness to listen to the voice of patients and people who use the service.
The Government’s response to the Francis inquiry, Hard Truths: The journey to Putting Patients First, was published last year in November. This report demonstrated the Government’s commitment to supporting NHS organisations to create a culture of openness in the NHS, and to supporting staff and patients who raise concerns or complaints. This is to be welcomed, as is the subsequent duty of candour which places a requirement on all Quality Care Commission-registered providers of health and adult social care to be open with patients and service users about failings in care. Also to be welcomed are new leadership programmes for nursing and clinical staff.
These are important commitments, but little has been done to see things through the eyes of patients and the people who use the health and care services. Visibility and ease of accessibility of the current complaints system for the public is generally poor, and there is unnecessary complexity in it. There remains an overreliance on outdated methods of dealing with complaints. Good governance should be much more than following rules. The landscape of complaints handling and related issues of regulation is a very crowded place: who is supposed to do what, I suspect, is fully known and understood only by officials working in the Department of Health.
There are numerous organisations with overlapping roles and responsibilities, such as clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts, the Care Quality Commission, Healthwatch England, chief inspectors for hospitals, primary care and social care, the Health & Social Care Information Centre in England, NHS England, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman—who has a dual role and is also, confusingly, known by another title—the Local Government Ombudsman, Monitor, and the NHS Trust Development Authority on finance. No doubt there are others.
In my view this unnecessary complexity has been further compounded as new or additional functions have been bolted on in an ad hoc fashion when failings in service delivery have emerged. This cannot, and is not, sustainable for the long run. It aids confusion and fosters a lack of clear accountability and therefore overall responsibility. Despite this, I recognise that some good innovations have been put in place, but their full potential will be difficult to achieve in an overcrowded field. Besides the burden of bureaucracy there are also significant costs at a time when the NHS can ill afford them.
The Government have a Bill on deregulation that will be coming before your Lordships’ House. I would welcome the Government considering modernising the deregulation framework for healthcare professionals and for users of health and social care services. I agree with the chairman of the Public Administration Select Committee, who said:
“There needs to be a revolution in the way public services are run, and how the public perceives government. As things are, most people believe there is no point in complaining”.
His statement is backed by a report undertaken by the consumer organisation Which?, which highlighted a survey showing that 35% of people who have cause to complain about the NHS choose not to do so. I suspect that the figure may well be even higher.
According to government statistics, there are 10 million patients aged over 65 and 15 million people living with a chronic condition in England. The number of these vulnerable people is rising, and increasingly there is a much greater blurring of lines between health and social care as more people move to receiving care in their home and budgets are pooled.
I, like the Public Administration Committee, urge the Government to create a new, accessible and transparent unified Public Services Ombudsman, which brings together the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman and the Local Government Ombudsman, and to bring together health and social care complaints at the second tier of complaints handling. The Government should also consider establishing a supercomplainant power for Healthwatch England and simplifying the complexities of the regulatory burden. In that regard I agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Patel. Good things have happened but the NHS, patients and service users deserve more.
My Lords, I base my contribution on two military analogies, one comparatively ancient and one more modern. I have often thought that Governments should base working relationships on the ethos of my regiment, the Rifle Brigade—that is, a mutual bond of trust and affection between all ranks which officers have to earn, trust coming before affection. Last week saw the 70th anniversary of D-day, the success of which was based on meticulous planning.
The whole House, the country and particularly criminal justice system staff would have sat up with a jolt had Her Majesty’s gracious Speech last Wednesday included the words: “In recognition of its duty to protect the public, my Government will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, about the rehabilitation of offenders”. I say that because the Government are losing public and staff trust by not telling things as they are and mounting inadequately planned operations.
When Her Majesty said in her gracious Speech on
“Legislation will be introduced to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in England and Wales”,
I suspect that she, like everyone else outside government, did not know that this included deliberate denial of parliamentary scrutiny of incomplete and untested plans for reorganising probation. Neither do I suspect that she realised, when she said:
“To make sure that every child has the best start in life, regardless of background, further measures will be taken to improve the quality of education for young people”, that these included modern-day Dotheboys Halls—secure colleges for offenders aged between 12 and 17 without specification of the rules under which contracted staff are to be allowed to use restraint in the interests of good order and discipline.
Regarding probation, and all the unanswered questions during the passage of the Offender Rehabilitation Bill, such as how the supervision of 50,000 short-term prisoners in the community would be paid for, the Public Accounts Committee has published a devastating report asking many of the same, and calling on the Ministry of Justice to set out the key points it will use to assess whether it is safe to progress to the next stage of the programme. The Ministry of Justice tells us that all is well while the probation officers association reports considerable staffing problems, confirmed by advertisements in the Guardian seeking probation officers from Australia and New Zealand at a significantly higher hourly rate than that paid to United Kingdom staff. Will the Minister please explain this variance?
Regarding variance of views, I used to tell Home Secretaries that they could believe either the observed facts that I gave them, or in what my successor called the “virtual” prisons described by officials, but that real improvement could be made only if based on fact. Recently the Chief Inspector reported that the provision of purposeful activity was inadequate in over half the prisons inspected, having plummeted over the past year to the worst levels for six years. Despite this, Mr Grayling said during Second Reading of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill that he had,
“transformed the regime in our prisons so that they are now places of hard work and discipline, where prisoners are expected to engage with their own rehabilitation and work hard to earn their privileges”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 24/2/14; col. 47.]
More recently he said publicly that disturbances at HMP Northumbria were merely the reaction of prisoners being made to work longer hours. Last November he imposed changes to the incentive and earned privileges scheme, demanding that, in order to attain either standard or enhanced status, prisoners, including the elderly and disabled, must show their commitment to rehabilitation by taking part in purposeful activity. When he, the inspectorate and staff know that there simply is not enough work for prisoners, what does he think that such abuse of the truth signifies and proves about the living virtue and stored-up strength of our nation, to quote Winston Churchill’s famous words?
Does this matter? Offenders, from whose reoffending the public expect to be protected, will be in prison or on probation whichever party is in power. Public protection and offender rehabilitation are national responsibilities, not party-political matters, which is why I hate the self-styled “tough” Mr Grayling saying that he wants to bring “right-wing” solutions to correct the “palpable failure” of the left. Decency and fairness are not matters of right or left politics.
My noble and learned friend Lord Woolf said in his seminal report on the riots in Strangeways and other prisons in 1990 that, as often happens at times of change, the improvements that were being introduced,
“brought with them periods of increased instability which made the prison system particularly vulnerable to disturbances”.
The latest statistics published by the Prison Reform Trust draw attention to an increase in symptoms of instability, exacerbated by the breakneck speed with which untested change is being imposed. No one can possibly know whether the Government’s plans will work by the 2015 election, but given the lack of trust and inadequate planning I only hope that I am wrong in warning of impending crisis, about which I detect more government complacency than contingency planning, and that the gracious Speech in May 2015 will not have to include the words: “In recognition of its duty to protect the public, my Government will introduce urgent measures to rehabilitate the rehabilitation of offenders”.
My Lords, measures to end smoking in cars while children are present did not appear in the gracious Speech. After the large vote in favour of the measure in the Commons in February this year by 376 votes to 107, it might have been assumed that it was a done deal and a job done and that legislation would follow swiftly. Here I must declare an interest as the author of the Private Member’s Bill introduced in 2012 which proposed a ban on smoking in cars when children are present.
The Government are to be congratulated on tackling the two great obstacles in the way of reducing harm to children through smoking—that is, the introduction of plain or standard packs of cigarettes and smoking in cars. In the face of stiff opposition from the tobacco industry, the Government have shown courage and steadfastness in pursuing their strategy to reduce harm from smoking. In order to have the evidence to support their proposals, they invited Sir Cyril Chantler to undertake an independent review of standardised packaging of tobacco. It endorsed the findings of the University of Stirling in 2012 and, after careful consideration, the Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP, said that,
“if standardised packaging were introduced it would be very likely to have a positive impact on public health”, and that these health benefits could include health benefits for children.
So why are we still waiting for legislation? The Government are committed to undertaking a six-week consultation on the draft regulations. There is then a bureaucratic process that involves a regulatory impact assessment, notification to the European Union, and another six months before the process is completed. We are now 11 months from a general election. Can my noble friend assure me that there will be no further delay and that we can expect legislation before the machinery of government turns its focus on to the election? One can expect continued lobbying from the tobacco industry to frustrate the proposed legislation, which has cross-party support and the overwhelming support of both Houses of Parliament. I urge the Government not to let this prize for which they have worked hard slip through their fingers, like the sands in an egg timer.
I welcome the intention to introduce legislation to stop female genital mutilation—again, a further assault on our children.
Public health is increasingly getting the recognition it deserves, and it is strange for me as a surgeon to be promoting it. However, in developing countries the burden of disease has shifted from infectious diseases to chronic conditions. The level of infectious diseases is, in fact, falling in developing countries. In an article in the
As the millennium goals come to an end in 2015, we need a Government to lobby the World Health Organisation and the World Health Assembly to pass a resolution on the use of essential surgery. The Lancet quotes a former WHO director-general, HT Mahler, who asked for an internationally agreed list of essential surgical procedures to support primary healthcare and help countries to decide on their own lists and the related training and equipment that they would need. He concluded:
“The alternative for most people in the world is either the kind of selected essential surgery I am advocating or absolutely nothing at all”.
My Lords, in this short debate I want to speak about the free movement of people across Europe, because I believe that travel around Europe has been a major contributor to peace since the last war. Many noble Lords will not have experienced war, and certainly not invasion, in this country. This possibly influences the attitude that the Government and many other politicians have to immigration, which I want to speak about particularly in relation to the services through the Channel Tunnel—with which I was involved when it was being built about 25 years ago.
I lived in Romania in the 1970s and witnessed at first hand the lack of freedom to move. That was not just to neighbouring countries—you could not go to sunny Bulgaria for a holiday, and you certainly could not go to the West. When the iron curtain lifted and those countries eventually joined the European Union, I thought it was a major step forward. I was rather sad that so many politicians last year, Ministers and others, screamed about the “hoards” and “floods” of Romanians who were going to come here when the borders were opened on
There is of course an economic argument to this, too. Many noble Lords may have read in the Sunday Times yesterday a view that, because Chinese visitors require separate visas to come here from the Schengen countries, the UK is losing out on about £1 billion of spending. That is a significant figure. There is a lot to do and I have talked to the Minister about this on several occasions, but we are not getting very far.
The demand for travel is of course growing. Immigration checks seem to be a major constraint to growth. They add cost and delay, and bring no hope at all of any services beyond London, Brussels or Paris. Apparently, we now have to check everyone going out of our country. I do not know why Big Brother needs to know everybody who is leaving; they should possibly be pleased that people do leave. However, I am told that the scanner for doing such checks will take 12 seconds per person. It is supposed to be a bit like Oyster cards, which, however, take about half a second to get through. There will therefore be horrible queues to get out of this lovely country. The immigration service cannot cope with the present workload because Ministers keep changing their ideas. I came back from Brussels on Friday and our checks took twice as long as the Belgian checks. The train left 10 minutes late in order to allow all the passengers to get on. I do not know why this is the case, but it is a continuing issue.
Looking further ahead, HS2 is now proposed. Admittedly the HS1 link has been removed, but one could still run a train service from Birmingham to Paris tomorrow. Of course, that could not happen because immigration controls would require fixed installations at every station along the route, whether in France, Germany, Frankfurt, Cologne, Aachen or Rotterdam. At every station in each direction there would have to be an immigration desk. Of course, one could not mix domestic passengers with international passengers. What hope is there for anyone wanting to operate those services? The costs would be enormous.
I maintain that it would be possible to develop a system of checking passports on the train before people arrive in the country. I have not heard any reason why that could not be done except, “It’s much easier to do it in one place”. If we are going to have the benefit of the tunnel, which is a wonderful connection between two countries, we ought to go further afield than Brussels or Paris and be able to get on the train and have the checks made much easier. We would then see a modern, up-to-date network of rail services to wherever one might go, day and night, but with immigration checks—which are clearly necessary—that are modern, proportionate and do not, as is currently planned, impose such an enormous cost on the operators that they cannot get a business case together.
My Lords, given the time constraints, I want to comment on just one aspect of the gracious Speech and to ask one or two questions. The aspect on which I want to comment is the provision, which I am sure we all welcome, for a Bill to strengthen the powers to prevent modern slavery and human trafficking. This is an opportunity not only for Members of all sides of this House but for both Houses to come together in an uncontentious but determined way.
My questions relate to the fact that this criminal activity is of the second order worldwide after drug trading. Estimates put the global human trafficking business at $150 billion a year. The European Union estimates that 26.9 million people are traded annually and that 880,000 work in slave labour conditions in western Europe. If those facts and the cash problems associated with human trafficking are to be believed, is not this Bill lacking ambition?
The proposal in the gracious Speech is to bring about measures to amalgamate existing measures and then to appoint an anti-slavery commissioner, as the notes indicate. However, is that really what is needed in the light of the scale of global human trafficking, the devastating stories of human lives around the globe taken and disrupted, the sex trade on the back of that, the abuse of young people at major international sporting events, and the way in which certain countries seek to hide their human rights duties and responsibilities behind commercial priorities or even religious approaches? Is a Bill that simply amalgamates existing provisions adequate?
I wonder whether, in their response, the Government might consider not rushing this legislation through what will be a partial year in this House but, rather, reflecting on the fact that, when this Parliament last seriously took through legislation on slavery more than 200 years ago, it was a 40-year journey. I am not suggesting that we need 40 years in which to bring to a conclusion this horrendous and ugly global trade, but I am not convinced that the normal processes of time, nor this small Bill, will be measured and appropriate or do what is necessary for the scale of the issues involved. Is it not right that, outside the provisions of the Bill at whatever point it is published, we should debate the issues of modern slavery, human trafficking, global supply chains, the mechanisms for legal checking and the processes through courts, and that we should ask hard questions of both DfID and its resources invested in international law and the Foreign Office concerning the extent to which Britain is serious about dealing with the global supply trade systems and the legal complexities that keep this trade ever growing and ever more complex?
I contend that the provisions of the existing Bill are welcome. They will not divide this House—we will agree almost unanimously. It may be possible to move this legislation through almost too easily and too quickly, but I suggest that if we do that we may well lose the weight and substance of this issue facing the Government. We may not deal with it with the dignity required for the women, in particular, who are trafficked and all those in slavery, and we may lose the opportunity to be genuinely heroic. I urge the Government to think about that and possibly to take this issue forward into the next manifesto—and I look to the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats to do the same—so as to make a commitment on it beyond this small Bill.
My Lords, I share the view of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and several others who have spoken that it is a great disappointment that there is not something in the Loyal Address about care and health. It is one of the electorate’s highest priorities and there is still much work to be done on it. In his opening remarks, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, recognised that and nodded in that direction by explaining how much good work the Government have been doing, particularly in relation to Public Health England. I regret that the noble Lord is not in his place to hear it but perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, will draw the following to his attention.
“Alcohol misuse is the third highest preventable cause of ill health and death after tobacco and high blood pressure. Consumption has doubled in the last 50 years and the costs to the individuals concerned, to their families, to the NHS and more widely are huge. Preventing and reducing these harms requires action by individuals themselves and at national and local levels to implement those policies and interventions that the evidence tells us will have the greatest impact, for example, nationally on minimum unit pricing, and for local government, incorporating health into their judgments on alcohol licensing decisions”.
Those are not my words but those of Mr Duncan Selbie, the Government’s chief executive officer for Public Health England, to whom the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, referred. They were in a message that he issued as recently as
Mr Selbie was formerly the chief medical officer for Brighton and Hove, a city much plagued at weekends by drunkenness. Its major hospital’s A&E department can be inundated and sometimes almost overwhelmed from Thursdays to Sundays by people suffering from alcohol or substance misuse. Therefore, he knows from personal experience what he is talking about. Regrettably the Government have, to all intents and purposes, ditched a meaningful and effective policy on minimum unit pricing for alcohol. That was the major plank in their former alcohol strategy, and no matter what they may argue, the opportunity to do this has now gone, and that is to be regretted.
Similarly, under the Health and Social Care Act 2012, much decision-making on health has been devolved to local authorities. The Government have so far rejected all attempts to permit local government to incorporate a health factor into its judgments on alcohol licensing decisions—something which, again, Public Health England advocates strongly.
The Government could have looked at this again if they had tabled legislation in the Queen’s Speech based on the Local Government Association’s January report entitled Open for Business: Rewiring Licensing, but they did not. Instead, we see that they are moving precisely in the opposite direction with the Deregulation Bill, which is soon to come to this House from the Commons. On the last day of business there, the Government introduced late amendments to that Bill which, to quote the Liberal Democrat Minister responsible, is a,
“new light-touch authorisation to reduce burdens on ancillary sellers of alcohol”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 14/5/14; cols. 786.]
While that comes under the guise of helping local groups such as the Women’s Institute to sell alcohol, it is to be extended to small businesses that want to sell, as he puts it,
“small amounts of alcohol … as part of a wider service”.—[ Official Report , Commons, 14/5/14; cols. 777.]
What is a small business in that context? What is a small amount of alcohol? Just where is liberalisation in this area going to lead? Is there really a need for it? Do hairdressers desperately need to start selling alcohol to their clients? A whole range of other operations will be named as places where alcohol will possibly be on sale in the future. Who wants this, unless it is your major interest to sell more alcohol and to make it easier to access it? I urge the Government to think again while they are still dealing with the Bill in the Commons and before it comes here. If it does come here, I urge colleagues to oppose it strongly.
Is it healthy and right that Sainsbury’s—one of our more responsible supermarkets—now sells lemonade and dandelion and burdock with alcohol in it? As I have been told by that supermarket, it is authorised by the Portman Group, the drinks industry representative body and the principal partner of the Government in their so-called “responsibility deal”, on which my noble friend Lord Rooker spoke passionately earlier. As the Government seem to have such faith in this body, can the Minister say whether discussions have opened up within it to control and regulate alcohol in powder form now that its partners in that deal have devised a means whereby the drinks industry can produce such a form of alcohol?
My Lords, I propose to address a broad issue to which there is little or no direct reference in the Queen’s Speech, but which I believe is of fundamental interest and importance to this House. It is of course the state of our democracy. If one seeks to measure that by, for example, voting statistics or the number of our fellow citizens who are members of political parties, then the degree of crisis—I believe that that is an appropriate word—facing us now in terms of our political vitality and relevance is extreme.
I remember very well making my maiden speech in the debate on the Queen’s Speech in 1998 and referring to this subject then; it is not new. I believe that it is a continuing and deepening problem. I quoted then from the great John Pym who, your Lordships will remember, led the parliamentary cause into the Civil War before dying in 1643. He uttered a remarkable phrase, which has stuck in my mind ever since I read it 50 years ago, when he talked about the essentiality of what he called the,
“vigour and cheerfulness of allegiance”.
He remarked on the fact that such vigour and cheerfulness was not a feature of those years and on how Charles I had sacrificed that vigour and cheerfulness by his failure to involve Parliament et al. That lack of vigour and cheerfulness is dramatic today. If we add in the several million voters who did not even bother to register at the previous election, fewer than one in five under-25s voted. We need to ask why this is so and we need to address the complex causes of this state of affairs. They are mightily complex.
The Queen’s Speech refers to preparing “school pupils for employment”. How about preparing them to be active and engaged citizens and to have the knowledge, skill and will to engage as citizens in civic life? There are three further obstructions or challenges to the crisis, as I will call it. The first is the breakdown of community life, which continues unabated, as it has almost since the war. It is within community that we learn about citizenship. We do not learn it formally, but informally—involuntarily. We learn about mutualism and the common wealth, and so many things which then and forever thereafter sustain us in our engagement with our local communities. Community life has broken down everywhere.
What about the complexity of our laws? We know enough about that in this House. We change the laws every few years, usually because we have not implemented the laws that we have. It is a common fact that the number of parliamentarians in both Houses who now engage in legislating is going down and down, which is why we have more debates. It is so complicated. You need to be a lawyer to get your head around half of it. What about the poor citizen, who is not consulted and certainly not informed in language that they can understand?
We need to refer to and remark on the lack of civic leadership, which is acute and impacts on public service, local and national. A number of speakers today have referred to the Bill on slavery. I was reading about the great William Wilberforce the other day and came across this remarkably contemporary quote. He wrote:
“The opposite to selfishness is public spirit; which may be termed, not unjustly, the grand principle of political vitality, the very life’s breath of states”.
How is public service in our time? It is in a dire condition. The natural elites of our communities are now largely opted out of civic engagement. There are wonderful exceptions, but take my own profession—the law. It is, I am afraid, a tragic fact that, from being pillars of the community at the start of my professional life, we are now largely absent. I think that the disaffection and disconnection to which this state of affairs has led, which I have had to sketch very briefly, has impacted devastatingly, particularly on the less able and the less—how shall I put it?—elevated. Of course, UKIP and the Scots Nats tap into the feelings of abandonment, of being outside the tent and of being ignored and overlooked. They have tapped into that with a will. We have to revitalise our national democratic vitality. I am sorry that time means that I have to leave it at that bare exposition.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Bach, I want to say a word or two about the civil justice system in this country and the importance that individuals should not only have but be able to exercise their rights of access to the courts, either to prosecute civil claims of their own or to defend themselves against civil claims made against them by others. The ability to have access to the civil courts, whether as claimant or defendant, has a vital part to play in establishing a healthy relationship between individuals and the law and in creating a climate of respect for the rule of law. If any individual is unable to enforce his or her rights in the civil courts, or equally important to defend himself or herself in the civil courts against claims by others, there is a real danger of a diminution in the individual’s self-esteem and a diminution in the individual’s respect for the law itself.
There is no doubt that civil litigation is expensive and that the cost of litigation is capable of constituting a serious impediment to a realisable access to the courts by many, perhaps most, citizens of this country. Of course, legal aid, traditionally, and for many years in my experience, has come to their aid in that regard. Your Lordships may recall that in 1988 and 1989 the then Government adopted a policy that the civil justice system should be made self-financing—the costs to be met by fees charged to litigants. At first, the fees to be so financed excluded judicial salaries, but in 1991 the Government decided that judicial salaries, too, should be included and that all the costs of the civil justice system, save only the costs of the legal aid scheme, were to be met by fees charged to litigants. This was, of course, an impediment to access to justice for all those unable to avail themselves of legal aid.
Since that time, the legal aid scheme itself has been under attack by Governments unwilling to stand the size of the legal aid debts as a burden on the Exchequer year after year. Of course, the consequence of this is that litigants in person will increase in number. The time taken by litigation when the judge does not have the assistance of counsel to represent one or other of the parties will be longer and the whole style of the litigation will change. A judge with a litigant in person before the court cannot afford to have the normal adversarial approach to litigation, with one side against the other and the judge then deciding which of the two is to be preferred in the result. The judge will have to enter the arena and himself or herself investigate the matter, try to discover the real cause of the dispute and the best line of law that should be applied to resolve the dispute. The length of the litigation, as I have said, will increase and at the end of the day I wonder how much in costs will be saved by withholding legal aid from one or both of the disputants.
I ask the Government to make clear their current intentions with regard to legal aid in civil cases. Whatever they are, the Government will, I hope, bear in mind the importance of the respect for the rule of law engendered by a proper ability to appear before the civil courts with legal assistance so as to present the case to the judge and for the acceptance by the general public of the importance of respect for the law. If further inroads are made into the ability to have free access to the courts for want of funds in a way that prevents a proper hearing, that may damage respect for the rule of law, which, in my opinion and the opinion of many, is important for the health of this country’s community.
I therefore ask the Government to make clear their intentions in regard to legal aid, which has been cut down drastically over the past few years and, more recently, in the regulations which came into effect in April this year, which impede the granting of legal aid on applications for permission to bring a judicial review. I need not emphasise how important judicial review is as a form of civil litigation in this country and an individual without legal aid having to make an application for permission is difficult to accept. I therefore ask the Government to think carefully about any further impediment to justice in that and other fields.
My Lords, I welcome the Government’s intention to bring forward the modern slavery Bill. It is seven years since I first spoke in this House about the need for action to address the appalling crime of human trafficking. In those seven years much has changed. We have opted in to the Council of Europe’s convention and the EU directive to combat human trafficking; we have established a national referral mechanism and victim support programme; and we have worked to raise awareness among the general public and the staff of our criminal justice and social care services.
However, many of these developments have come about one by one through incremental improvements in legislation and occasional government action plans. It is time that we re-evaluated our response to this continually evolving challenge and the legal framework that underpins it. In 2011, I first proposed a human trafficking and exploitation Bill to your Lordships’ House and I am delighted that we will finally have a new law focused on eradicating this abhorrent crime from our country and offering support and hope to those who have been exploited so cruelly.
I was privileged to serve on the Joint Committee scrutinising the draft modern slavery Bill under the able chairmanship of Mr Frank Field MP and the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss. We had the opportunity to hear from experts across many fields, from victims of slavery and from those who work hard to catch and prosecute offenders. This issue, in general, receives support in all quarters. I was particularly pleased that, as a cross-party committee of both Houses, we were united in our recommendations to enhance the draft Bill. I sincerely hope the Home Secretary has found our report of use and will be able to incorporate our recommendations into the Bill.
It is vital that the Bill contains not only strong measures which deter, prosecute, convict and punish those who visit this terrible exploitation on vulnerable people, but also gives support, care and protection for the victims. Organised crime gangs play a big part in slavery and human trafficking, and a country which is hostile to this activity will be better for all of us. However, the greatest impact of this awful crime is on those who are deceived, coerced, threatened and exploited. The Bill must reflect that.
Specifically, I hope the Bill will contain measures which will guarantee support for victims in the initial recovery and reflection period. I hope also that a clear definition of these criminal offences will reflect international standards and ensure that our courts are able to convict people who commit the worst forms of exploitation. Last month I welcomed the Minister’s assurance of a measure to enable provision of specialist child trafficking advocates. I hope that this provision has all the necessary teeth set out clearly in the amendment to the Immigration Bill with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and my noble friend Lord Carlile.
I welcome the news that victims who are compelled to commit crimes by their traffickers—for instance, those who are forced to tend cannabis plants—will be protected from prosecution. I am pleased that our legal system will now recognise that these people, many of them teenagers, have not freely chosen to engage in criminal activity but have done so under extreme duress. I also welcome the desire to see more victims receive reparation from the people who have profited at their expense. This reparation needs to be within a structured framework.
The Bill has the potential to be a milestone in our Parliament’s history, an opportunity to be proactive to a developing problem and not simply reactive. Up until now there has been a piecemeal, random distribution of amendments within other Bills with little sequential structure. However, we owe it to this House, to our forebears who fought so persistently for the abolition of chattel slavery, and most of all to those who are exploited, to make this Bill the best it can be. I assure the Minister that I will continue to do all that I can to help him achieve that goal.
Perhaps I may finish by quoting Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who said:
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself”.
It is widely rumoured that Secretary of State Grayling will be Britain’s candidate for the presidency of the European Commission. I am not entirely convinced that he is cut out to do that job but there is one decisive advantage—he would no longer be the Secretary of State.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, has pointed out, law and justice should be inseparable. I think, as he does, that legal aid is part of that. Unhappily, the Justice Secretary, as he steams furiously forward, sees his prime aim as the virtual elimination of our legal aid system which, hitherto, has been the envy of other countries. The first time legal aid was seen as a vital part of our human rights system was in 1947. It was seen in that light as far as both civil and criminal cases were concerned.
Lawyers were reasonably, although not excessively, remunerated and were an integral part of the system. This country led the way, enabling justice—both civil and criminal—to be done. Although some were unfairly enriched, which was undoubtedly the case, they were a minority, and the system of legal aid certainly worked. It is wrong and unwise to dismantle the majority of our legal aid machinery. However, that is what is happening today as the Justice Secretary alienates those lawyers who seek to make legal aid work, thereby bringing justice to many people. He is apparently unconcerned, or at least insufficiently so, about the fact that today a disproportionate part of the criminal legal aid budget is being expended on very few cases. Surely we should concentrate on finding ways and means of shortening cases or ensuring that legal aid is available for only a reasonable part of the case—and that issue should be appealable, if necessary.
Legal aid should be regarded as a vital part of our social services, not as a luxury, which it certainly is not. It is a mark of our civilised society. Does the Secretary of State really believe that the pressures he is imposing on legal aid will save money? That may be his fervent wish, but is it realistic? As has been pointed out, we are bound to witness the burgeoning of unrepresented people, leading ineluctably to increased costs.
Either the Secretary of State fails to recognise the extent of his actions or he is well aware of the consequences. In either case, he is failing to discharge the essential duties that he has been called upon to do. In personal terms, I am loath to attack the Secretary of State because in my view he is a very agreeable person, but unfortunately he is inured to misconceptions which are damaging our very way of life as far as the law is concerned.
My Lords, arriving at his Cardiff primary school at the age of five, the future vice-chancellor of Cambridge University could use just one English phrase. Today, at the age of 63, he still remembers the kindness that people showed him as he learnt to speak English, and of course he now holds one of the world’s most influential academic positions. The gracious Speech talked about the packed programme of a busy and radical Government, but despite that there is no mention of immigration or of higher education. I want to talk about those two topics and I declare my various interests in the higher education field, as well as being an immigrant. Professor Leszek Borysiewicz has made a defence of the value of immigration. He opposes crude numerical limits and praises Britain’s plural society as one of its greatest strengths.
We all know that the target of tens of thousands has become a real issue. The number of students coming here from India fell by 39% between 2011 and 2012. The vice-chancellor has said that a university such as Cambridge is in the global race, a point also made by the Prime Minister. It is competing not just with other British universities, but with Princeton, Harvard and Stanford. Setting an immigration target of this kind is harming Britain, because for the first time in many years the number of international students coming to Britain has fallen overall. What is even more scary is that the numbers have fallen in the STEM subjects, which we so desperately need students to study.
Michael Kitson, a university lecturer in global macroeconomics at the University of Cambridge, has come up with some great insights. He feels that the popular press has been propelling the bandwagon in immigration. He has said that non-EU students contribute over £7 billion to our economy—our GDP and balance of trade—and, while some students may remain after they have finished their studies, the vast majority leave. When we look behind the figures for net immigration, if students are excluded, the net figure in 2013 was 58,000, averaging 49,000 between 2004 and 2013. Voilà, the Government’s target of net immigration to be measured in the tens of thousands has already been met if students are excluded. When we look at people who come here to work we see that, while 214,000 came to work here in the UK, some 186,000 left the country to work overseas.
The main driver of future prosperity in this country can be summed up in one word: innovation. Innovation is driven by diversity. Just look at Silicon Valley, one of the most diverse communities in the world, and what it has achieved in changing our lives. What has happened over here is that the popular press has been stirring up a hatred of immigration based on anecdotes, rumours and slurs, not on figures. I think we need to come to terms with that. The National Union of Students has conducted surveys which show that 51% of non-EU students think that the UK Government are either not welcoming or not at all welcoming towards international students. We had the Government’s £3,000 visa bond, which set off the alarm bells. In a U-turn, the Government withdrew it. They then had the idea of hoardings saying “Illegal immigrants go home” being driven around. Even Nigel Farage of UKIP objected to them, and they were the subject of another government U-turn. Yet here in this House we have the noble Lord, Lord Glendonbrook, who made an excellent maiden speech. He is an immigrant who has made a brilliant contribution to this country. The Government’s attitude to immigration can be summed up in one word: hypocrisy. On the one hand, we have the immigration cap, while on the other hand, for years I have been saying that we should bring in exit controls at our borders: scan every passport that comes in and scan every passport that goes out. You will then know who is in the country and thus who should or should not be here. The Government must do this. The e-border scheme has been a miserable failure and over £500 million has been wasted on it.
The National Union of Students, which supports the aim of removing international students from the immigration figures, says clearly that such students contribute a great deal to the social and economic fabric of the UK, contributing more than £12.5 billion to the UK economy. Its surveys show that only 1% of all immigrants granted settlement in 2009 progressed directly from a study route to remain in this country. That is because the vast majority of students leave the UK within five years. The excellent post-graduation work visas need to be brought back in by the Government. In any case, we have one of the most expensive visa systems in the world.
I conclude by going back to the vice-chancellor of Cambridge, who has said:
“When I think of how my parents were welcomed to this country, I find that actually quite saddening. I do feel we are an open, democratic country and we should be setting the standards for the rest of the world, not hindering them … One of Britain’s greatest strengths has been in the way it has assimilated so many different communities, and we are a very plural and open society … At a personal level I abhor the idea that we actually have a very strict migration target. There are so many nuances to numbers in this regard that it actually hides the true potential benefit that people coming into Britain can have. We should be looking at the capacity of individuals to contribute to our society here rather than have a political ding-dong over ‘we brought in 10,000 fewer than you did’”.
My Lords, I have indicated previously the impact that forced migration has had upon my family. We had in the Queen’s Speech a Bill for dealing with the abuse of children and the intention to bring forward better controls over trafficking. Those are closely connected. This country has a terrible record in its handling of the migration of its own subjects. It has combined the most appalling suffering of children with the most appalling lack of management of the migration process to get the worst of every world. There should be no smugness around these two initiatives going forward. It is a very small penance to pay for a very big crime.
It started in 1682. The first migration in this country happened when one of the early colonies in North America was raided by the Indians, who took all 84 of its children and would not give them back. No one knows what happened to them. The colony sent a communication back to England by the first available boat saying, “Look, we have no children and therefore no future. Send us some children”. The Mayor of London was asked to deal with it and he did. He sent his beadles out on to the streets of London and took the first 84 vagrant kids he could find. He sent them down to a boat at Rotherhithe and sent them to America. He told the captain that he could pay for the trip by taking the kids out and bringing it back with a load of tobacco on board and that would pay for it, and it did. Unfortunately, it created the precedent of making it seem that trafficking these children was profitable, which it was.
We have a terrible record of having introduced waves of migration in the same way in latter years. The great shock is when you get to 1880 and find that Dr Thomas Barnardo himself—a man of irreproachable reputation, one would think—formed a council for the identification of the migration needs of the whole British Empire and took from each country an indication of how many children it would like. He then went out to find the children to fill the quotas that were requested. This was effectively a disaster because a lot of these children were taken without any recognition or contact with the homes from which they came—they might have had some small misdemeanours in their community—and were swept up. They were the poor of the churches of the country. This was very heavily supported by the Protestant Church of the day, right the way through, and it was not until 21 years later in 1901 that this House debated the subject for the first time and said that it was a probably not a very good thing. But by that time tens of thousands had been sent to Africa because of concerns about the encroachment of the German population in Africa, and many had gone out to Australia.
It is appalling that in the old government building in Sydney today there is an index where you can access the details of every criminal who was ever sent to Australia and what happened to him, but there is no such index for the children who were sent because nobody knows who they were. They are lost without trace. Eventually around 1938 the Catholics decided that this was something they wanted to get in with as well so they started sending migrant children from their own communities to Australia. Then the war came and it was too unsafe to send ships to sea with children on and nothing happened again until 1947, when the Australians set a target: they urgently wanted 4,000 children and 30,000 adults. They did so by first buying two Italian aircraft carriers and converting them into liners, the “Fairsky” and the “Fairsea”, and sending out 2,000 migrants on each of those ships every month. It took six weeks to get there and six weeks to get back.
I regret to say that I was recruited to that exercise as the religious liaison officer for the Australian civil service. My task was to find clergymen who would go with these people. I had to have one clergyman for every 30 kids on board. It was the most appalling thing ever. These children were bussed in—God knows where they had got them from; I was never given any details on where they came from—and they were terrified. They were screaming. They had lost control of every bodily function and they were just a screaming mess. The clergymen and I had to rip the fingers of these kids off the gangplank to get them up on to the ship. It was a very gruesome task indeed. The clergy got paid a good fee for going out there and doing it and they got a free sail trip back again afterwards.
It was an official policy. This is why I am saying that we have a big penance to pay and we need to recognise that in putting it right now we are not doing something that we should be proud of. We should be seriously ashamed of what went on before and I hope that in what we do in this Bill we will reflect a great many of the concerns that we did not honour at the time.
I have explained previously how my uncle and aunt were sent out to Canada by the Church of England. As a small peace offering to the Church of England, I should say what happened to those two. The girl married the grandson of the lady she had been bought for $50 to look after, who had had a stroke. Today her grandchildren operate and run the biggest and most profitable logging operation in the whole of Canada. The boy ended up owning a 35,000-acre farm in British Columbia. When he died 12 years ago, he had double-digit millions in the bank. He left it all to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, with the stipulation that they could only have it $1 million at a time for every Protestant priest that they could kill and lynch for him. That order was overturned in court and the Jehovahs were allowed to keep the $12 million and the priests all survived.
There is a lot to be concerned about in this. We have a lot to put right and I hope that your Lordships will have some very far-reaching thoughts about what we can do about somewhere along the line trying to restore the record of where all these people were, who they were and where they went. It would be a small penance to pay.
My Lords, my brief contribution to this debate picks up on the points made by the noble Lords, Lord Patel and Lord Ribeiro, on the introduction of standardised packaging for cigarettes and tobacco products.
Your Lordships will recall that tobacco control clauses were added to what is now the Children and Families Act as a result of initiatives taken by a cross-party group of Members of this House. One of them I see sitting opposite me: the noble Lord, Lord McColl of Dulwich. The thought that standard packaging could be achieved as a child health measure had not occurred to Members of the House of Commons and we added the new clauses to the Bill in this place. We were delighted when the Government brought forward their own amendments to give effect to the provisions and were able to get them passed by overwhelming majorities in this House and the other place. The votes were a clear demonstration of the will of Parliament that these important public health reforms should be brought in as soon as possible.
For reasons which we understood, the Government decided that they should commission an independent study from the eminent paediatrician Sir Cyril Chantler on the public health benefits of standardised packaging, particularly as far as children and young people were concerned, before proceeding further. Sir Cyril’s report, published in April, was a model of careful and rational analysis. I urge anyone with an interest in this area of public policy to read it. Sir Cyril concluded that the policy was justified, saying:
“Having reviewed the evidence it is in my view highly likely that standardised packaging would serve to reduce the rate of children taking up smoking”.
Quite rightly, therefore, the Public Health Minister responded immediately that the Government would publish draft regulations by the end of April for a short further consultation before they were laid before Parliament. But, as the noble Lord, Lord Ribeiro, pointed out, we are still waiting for those.
The Government have committed to a six-week public consultation period after the draft regulations are published. It will then be necessary for them to notify the European Union of the draft regulations. This process can take up to six months. Counting backwards from a May 2015 election, we now have a rapidly closing window of opportunity. If the draft regulations are not published imminently, the chance to vote on them before Parliament is dissolved will be lost. That would be a very great loss indeed. The United Kingdom is a world leader on tobacco control, which is the achievement of successive Governments. It should be the common concern of everyone who cares about the health and well-being of the public that this is so; it should not be a party-political matter.
The facts are not in dispute. Everyone knows that most smokers start when they are teenagers. Two-thirds of existing smokers report that they started before their 18th birthday and about two in five before they were 16. Every day the Government delay in introducing regulations, hundreds more children start smoking for the first time. The younger the age at which smokers start, the greater the harm is likely to be, because early uptake of the habit is associated with subsequent heavier smoking, higher levels of dependency, a lower chance of quitting and a higher chance of death from a smoking-related disease.
While the wheels of government seem to be turning more slowly than usual, the tobacco industry and its small band of remaining parliamentary allies and recipients of its hospitality have been busy, spreading lies and misinformation through bogus research and grotesquely biased opinion-polling, and creating a climate of fear for retailers. Their objection is quite simple. The tobacco industry believes that its claimed “intellectual property rights” trump the requirements of public health—or, to put it more sharply, that its right to design products intended to get children addicted is more important than the children’s right to be protected from that addiction and the health damage it causes.
Cigarettes are the only legal product that kill their customers when used exactly as the manufacturer intends. Why should any company be allowed to promote such a product through advertising and marketing— especially to children and young people? When you see what they get up to in the third world, blatantly promoting their products to the poor and vulnerable—so brilliantly described by Peter Taylor in his two BBC2 television programmes last week and the week before—you wonder how their executives can sleep at night.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Holbeach, has the opportunity when he replies to this debate to convince us that we have no reason for concern and that the Government’s policy on this subject is on track and as unequivocal as it was when he spoke on the Anti- social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill. He stated then that,
“The Government are determined to try to stamp out smoking as a habit, particularly among young people”.—[Hansard, 14/1/14; col. 141.]
I say “hear, hear” to that, and I hope that he is able to say the same thing tonight.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Faulkner of Worcester. I am pleased to contribute to this important debate. It has been very interesting and it will be quite difficult to sum up because so many subjects and topics have been covered.
I start by declaring an interest in that I am the chair of the superannuation committee of the General Medical Council. The noble Lord, Lord Faulks, now knows what is coming next, because we had a very good debate in the Moses Room recently on a Question for Short Debate on medical regulation. He was as good as his word and took the message back from that. The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and others in this debate expressed dismay—I think that is what it was—that this opportunity to deal with the modernisation of medical regulation, not just for doctors but also nurses and other professions allied to medicine, will now be missed. There is a real fear that, with the election upon us next year and the manifesto priorities of an incoming Government, the chances of slipping something as sensible as medical regulation into an early programme within the next five-year Parliament is remote. The 1983 Act—which is, as the noble Lord, Lord Patel, said, completely unfit for purpose now—will have to prevail for that length of time.
My plea again to the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, and the Minister who will wind up is that they take the message back from this debate. It may well be that we have had enough health legislation in this Parliament—we have had our fair share—but I think this would probably be susceptible to cross-party or all-party support. I do not mean by that there would not be robust debates. We would all promise to be very well behaved under the guidance of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, as we always are. My spies tell me—my spies are everywhere—that this is a failure of political will and that the Government are frightened of having a health debate in the year running up to an election. That seems to be the height of cowardice, if true.
My Lords, I understand that the Department of Health is telling regulators that it is due to lack of parliamentary time—which rather defies all logic.
That is a helpful intervention and if that is what they are trying to tell people it is nonsense. The 11 Bills in this Queen’s Speech could easily have been 12. The 11 are workaday measures and are all sensible and useful. To be honest, as a former business manager, in the fifth year of a five-year Parliament I would leave a little leeway at the end on the grounds that you might get more than you bargained for. I put that marker down. I notice that there are Oral Questions and I will add my name to those who continue to argue for that addition to other measures that will be laid before the House.
I have two minutes left and want to make two points. I am not an expert on migration or immigration. All my parliamentary experience was in the fastness of the Scottish Borders. There are colleagues in this place who know much more about immigration and migration than me. However, over the last three months, I have become really concerned about the mood of the country in this particular field. I have always believed that it was the conventional wisdom that everybody realised that Britain had to be an open not closed society. Actually, former Prime Minister Blair made a very good speech about that in relation to the European Union on
The other thing that concerns me a lot is the uncertainty of the mood of the electorate which really feels left behind. An increasing minority of our communities are feeling more and more left behind. It is the lower 15% to 20% end of the income distribution that feels it hardest. My plea to both my Front-Bench colleagues—both are sensible men who have influence in this Government—is that of course deficit reduction and the removal of the national debt have to be priorities, but we have to be careful that there are not indirect and unintended consequences from the diminution of public services that in turn exacerbate the tension in some of our communities which bear large numbers of immigrants. That would be a false economy. My plea to them both is that, in all these important areas of public policy—home affairs, law and justice, health and education—very careful thought is given to the distribution and allocation of resources, some of which will need to go to deficit reduction but some of which should be used to deal with some of the downstream consequences in education in the communities that are affected most.
My Lords, perhaps slightly quirkily, I begin by congratulating Michael Gove—not, I may say, on the subject of today’s Statement, but because he has pledged to change Britain’s appallingly low level of reading attainment, as shown in international school league tables, by ensuring that in future, from their first day at school, every child must be taught to attain the basic standard required. Above all, that will mean that children with special needs must have the specialist support necessary for them to reach the required level. So, well done Michael Gove. Just in case he is not in the job at the appropriate time, I should be very grateful if the Minister, when he replies, can confirm that the Government will indeed honour that pledge.
I intend to continue to focus on online child safety, which perhaps will not surprise your Lordships. To date, I have introduced three online safety Bills, and tomorrow we have the First Reading of the latest new and improved version. I will continue to raise the issue until the problems are properly addressed.
Of course, I congratulate the Government on the progress that they have made since I introduced my first Bill. In his first NSPCC speech last July, the Prime Minister announced that, from January, the four big ISPs would be introducing filtering options and that if customers seek to avoid the filtering questions during the setup, the filters would be turned on by default
There are, however, some significant problems. First, there is the remaining 5% to 10% of the market not covered by the filtering announcement made by the Prime Minister in that speech last year. One thing is sure: some of the remaining providers will embrace such an approach only if required to do so by law. Andrews and Arnold is one of the larger of the smaller ISPs. Its website proudly proclaims “uncensored internet for all” and markets itself on the basis of its dedicated opposition to filtering.
Secondly, there is considerable public concern that filtering standards are determined by multiple companies and there is no commonality of approach or sense of public accountability. Again, that can be addressed only if we embrace a statutory approach and invest a publicly accountable statutory body such as Ofcom with the responsibility of determining common standards. Then there is the fact that although self-regulation may have some success while we have a Prime Minister who has made this a personal priority, where will we be in 10 or 20 years when we have a different Prime Minister with different priorities? There would be far greater certainty if this was dealt with through law.
What disturbs me most about the current arrangements, however, is the inconsistency that they generate and what that says about how we value children. The Prime Minister has said that few things are more important than keeping children safe online. The difficulty is compounded by the fact that, in the offline world, the law does protect children. It is an offence both to sell an 18 certificate DVD to a child and to allow a child into a cinema showing an 18 certificate film. We cannot claim that child safety is sufficiently important to require legislation in an offline context but not in an online one. If the Prime Minister is really serious about addressing this problem, he surely cannot allow self-regulation to be anything other than a very short-term solution.
I have two questions for the Minister. First, what action has been taken in the remaining 5% to 10% of the ISP market that has not embraced the ISP code introducing the default-on approach to filtering announced in the Prime Minister’s speech last July? Secondly, what action have the Government taken specifically in relation to those smaller ISPs that have sought to develop a marketing strategy clearly defining themselves against the Prime Minister’s announcement?
Another important development with respect to child safety online with direct bearing on the Government’s legislative intentions for the coming Session relates to the call made in March by ATVOD requesting that the Government tighten up the law defining its remit in relation to video-on-demand adult content. It made two specific requests. First, it asked that the laws defining its remit should be amended to put it beyond doubt that it is its responsibility to police adult websites to ensure that those providing R18 material online must do so only on websites with robust age verification. Secondly, it asked that the law be tightened to make it absolutely clear that material deemed to be too controversial even for an R18 rating should not be shown online at all.
I understand that the Government have responded positively to those suggestions, although no legislation has yet been produced. Happily, however, my Bill once again assists in addressing both points.
My Lords, for the past 20 years I have been able to use the debate on the gracious Speech as a vehicle for my comments on the state of the NHS and dentistry. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for extending that personal tradition this evening.
Progress towards the introduction of a new, more preventive, contractual basis for dentistry has been welcomed. Work continues on contractual reform, which forms a key component of the vision for the direction of NHS services. In April, my noble friend Lord Howe attended the BDA annual conference and announced the Government’s intention to move to a more advanced stage of reform, with selected practices—prototype pilots—testing whole variants of a possible new system, preceded by an engagement exercise. This exercise, aimed primarily at the dental community, is an opportunity to widen understanding of dental reforms within the profession and for it to contribute to the shape of the prototype pilots planned to start during 2015-16 and manage expectations about the pace and scale of change to be expected. He stressed the need to “get it right”. At first, different elements will be adopted by a select number of practices, with a view to rolling them out later on. He also stressed the importance of improving access and quality, and the need to take this into account. Capitation will be a central part of remuneration together with some payment for quality, related to activity in order to deliver a balanced system.
The pledges made to dentists and dental patients by successive Governments must now be confirmed and the final stages of contract reform completed. The work of the task group launched in 2012 to look at care for vulnerable and hard-to-reach patients must also be implemented. Care in settings such as residential homes and through reaching out to those who might not otherwise avail themselves of dental care is vital if we are serious about reducing the oral health inequalities that persist in this country. A focus on preventive treatment may not only yield long-term savings but improve the quality of life across the country. NHS England has a legal duty to commission dental services to meet local needs. More than 29.9 million people were seen by an NHS dentist in the 24-month period ending on
Searching questions have also been posed this year by the dentistry call for action. This consultation, which closed on
Levels of pay for dental foundation trainees must be sorted out. It has been deeply worrying this year to see a proposed 8% reduction in the salaries, a proposal first ventured as one of a number of efficiency savings being sought by NHS England at the start of April 2014. The BDA moved quickly to condemn the proposal, warning that it would be seen as an attack on the most vulnerable members of the profession. Despite that warning, the Department of Health has signalled its intention to press on with the cut. The dental profession will be stressing in the strongest possible terms that the proposal is absolutely unacceptable. Cutting the salary for those beginning DFT in September 2014 is particularly unfair to those who have already accepted their place, expecting a higher salary than they now stand to receive. Dentists themselves face a postcode lottery on their earnings. An independent review body’s call for an across-the-board 1% rise for salaried and hospital dentists was rejected. Recent years have seen support for salaried primary care dentistry ebb away, with staff posts not being filled and facilities left to decline.
The workforce of consultants in dental public health requires strong positive action. In Answer to a Question that I put down on a possible extension of the current 12-month fixed-term contracts, answered as HL7006, my noble friend Lord Howe announced that Public Health England has commenced,
“a review of the number of dental public health consultants required to meet its statutory and non–statutory functions”.—[ Official Report , 13/5/14; col.
Public health issues are crucial in the fight for improved oral health. Water fluoridation—a measure recognised among the dental community for its ability to improve oral health and narrow inequalities—is one whose full potential remains untapped, with many communities in England that might benefit from its introduction still going without it. It is important that we also reaffirm our commitment to the fight against oral cancers. There is growing recognition among the dental community of the value of extending vaccination against HPV to boys, and I encourage the Government to listen to that advice.
My time is up but the BDA agrees with the principle of business regulation. There must surely be a stronger role for the GDC in the regulation of bodies corporate. Since 2010, much progress has been made in the field of oral health and dentistry; that momentum cannot be allowed to falter. A new contract, a focus on prevention rather than cure and appropriate regulation could be essential in delivering a cost-effective and patient-focused dentistry, with stronger health outcomes for the British people.
My Lords, I shall say a little about the modern slavery Bill and the Serious Crime Bill and refer briefly to the Government’s drug policy reviews.
I welcome the modern slavery Bill and applaud the commitment and hard work of my noble and learned friend Lady Butler-Sloss and Frank Field in the other place in convincing the Government to introduce the Bill, and indeed I congratulate the Government on recognising the importance of the issues raised. I understood when we debated the need for independent legal guardians for all trafficked children, in the context of the Immigration Act, that the Government would be reviewing the need for guardians in the context of this Bill. I understand that the Government are running trials, but can the Minister explain whether these trials will provide guardians only for children identified as having been trafficked? If so, that will only scratch the surface of the problem, as I am sure he recognises.
The Minister will know that trafficked children are generally not recognised as such until they have been through the criminal justice system—indeed, often not until they become adults. In the mean time, many become embroiled in immigration and criminal proceedings due to the actions of others. If guardians are available only to the minority of trafficked children who are recognised as trafficked from the start, the provision will exclude the great majority. The inclusive provision of guardians for all unaccompanied children assessed as needing them would include those children who are vulnerable for a variety of reasons, including those who are not immediately recognised as having been trafficked when they arrive in the country.
Of course, children fleeing war and persecution, as well as those who are victims of trafficking, cannot cope alone with the complex legal and social systems that they face on arrival. They probably do not have the language, and do not have anyone about—it is a very frightening situation for all of them. All these children are likely to suffer mental health problems and should be regarded as vulnerable. The UNCRC has made clear the responsibility of signatory states to provide guardians for unaccompanied and separated children, not specifically trafficked ones. I hope that the Minister can assure the House that the modern slavery Bill will provide for independent legal guardians with statutory powers to be allocated to all separated migrant children.
The Children’s Society has provided a most helpful briefing raising a further point. Can the Minister give us an assurance that the Bill will create a specific offence of child trafficking and exploitation, spelling out the most common forms of these crimes? I believe that these are just not familiar to a lot of the professionals who will be involved in these cases.
Turning to the Serious Crime Bill, I applaud the Government’s decision to clarify the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make explicit that emotional cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child is an offence. This recognition of emotional cruelty is long overdue and very important. In the past, a physical assault on a child has rightly been recognised and action taken, but the sad reality is that long-term emotional neglect or cruelty, often in fact by mothers, can be even more damaging to a child’s mental health. The UK has been one of the only countries in the world failing to recognise emotional neglect as a crime.
However, recourse to the law for emotional or physical abuse should of course be the last resort. The Children’s Society rightly points to the need for preventive measures, including support in developing parenting skills and better interventions with parents with drug or alcohol problems. As the Minister knows, this is an issue close to my heart. If a parent is found to have a drug addiction or other mental health problem, treatment must be the right answer, not a resort to the law. While I welcome the new proposals, I am very concerned that people who are addicts are then subject to criminal action not only for the addiction but also for this other aspect of their lives.
It is important to welcome the Government’s review of international drug policy developments and the review of policy in relation to new psychoactive substances. Neither of these two pieces of work is complete, so I understand that there is nothing on those issues in the Queen’s Speech. However, I am sure that the Government are undertaking the reviews for a purpose, and I hope that the Minister can give the House some hope that before the election they will introduce sensible evidence-based reforms that would provide a safer world for our children.
My Lords, Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech contains some very welcome measures that will protect the most vulnerable in our country and advance the cause of a fairer society. One such measure that I particularly welcome, and the subject on which I will speak today, is the inclusion of the modern slavery Bill.
Modern slavery is an appalling crime that has no place in today’s society. The modern slavery Bill, the first of its kind in Europe, represents a historic opportunity to get new legislation on the statute book and reflects the Government’s determination to lead the global fight against this evil. Human trafficking is an issue that is of great concern to me. I have raised it on a number of occasions in your Lordships’ House. I was born and brought up in Africa, which was ravaged by slavery. I have always appreciated the work of General Gordon and David Livingstone. About four weeks ago, I went to Zanzibar and visited the site where the slaves were kept and sold. Some 200 years since the abolition of slavery, it is depressing that there is a continuing need to confront this evil.
Human trafficking destroys lives and its effects damage communities. It is an international organised crime, with the exploitation of human beings for profit at its heart. Vulnerable women, men and, most tragically, children are trafficked for sexual exploitation, labour exploitation or to be used in criminal activity. This is something that no civilised country should tolerate. Victims often travel to the UK willingly in the belief that they are destined for a better life.
Despite concerted efforts in this country and across the world, the appalling reality is that human trafficking is one of the fastest growing international criminal activities. The International Labour Organisation estimates the number of slaves worldwide to be 21 million, with the slave trade generating £150 billion of illegal profits annually. I am pleased that the Government have shown that they will not tolerate slavery and human trafficking within, or into, the UK, and are taking the lead on combating these awful crimes. Human trafficking is a truly international crime, with potential victims identified from all over the world. We must work more closely with our international partners to stop this terrible crime.
The modern slavery Bill will be a significant step in Britain’s approach to combating this evil. The main provisions of the Bill relate to the committal of offences, the introduction of slavery and trafficking prevention orders, the creation of an anti-slavery commissioner, the protection of victims and stricter law enforcement powers at sea. It brings together, rationalises and simplifies existing laws that are dotted around in other Acts, bringing clarity and focus to Britain’s approach. I am pleased that there is cross-party consensus on this issue. We must continue to work together on this so that the Bill is the strongest it can possibly be. I look forward to the modern slavery Bill’s passage through your Lordships’ House and hope that this will be an effective step on the road towards ending this most heinous of crimes at home and abroad.
Finally, I welcome the United Kingdom’s intention to lead efforts to prevent sexual violence in conflict worldwide, which was included in Her Majesty’s most gracious Speech. I have spoken in your Lordships’ House several times on this matter, and I am very glad that a global summit, which will be co-chaired by the Foreign Secretary, is being held in London this week on the subject. I do not have the time to talk about the subject in any detail, but I would like to say it has been reported that rape has been used as a weapon by certain Muslims, and in this regard I would remind them that Islam strictly forbids this evil practice. Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, instructed Muslims not to lay hands on women, children and elderly people in any form of warfare.
My Lords, I will concentrate my comments this evening on the Government’s proposals for education, an issue referred to in the gracious Speech in terms I can best summarise as “more of the same”.
This approach shows a deeply worrying level of complacency, given the problems which are causing discontent among parents, teachers and educationalists. The Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham, which we were debating this afternoon, has highlighted the failures of government policies, but it is not the only one. Only last month, a damning Public Accounts Committee report accused the Department for Education of spending £240 million on free schools in areas which do not need them, and of then being unable to give a consistent explanation of how it approved or rejected free school applications. Take the case of Steiner Academy Five Valleys free school in Stroud, which is seeking to open in an area which already has a surplus of places and is therefore threatening the existence of some excellent village schools in the area. This is not unusual.
All this is taking place against a backdrop of a crisis in school places which has led to a doubling in the number of infant class sizes of more than 30 pupils since 2010, amid persistent reports that parents are struggling to find places in local schools. Meanwhile, sadly, the Government have no effective system for school improvement. Michael Gove’s strategy is to let schools sink or swim and, to be frank, many of them are sinking. According to Ofsted, nearly 1.5 million children are being taught in schools that require improvement, and nearly 250,000 pupils are languishing in inadequate schools. Goole High School, recently converted to an academy, is a good case in point. Having been judged inadequate in all categories, its recent plan to get out of special measures was judged “not fit for purpose” by Ofsted. Meanwhile, the children at the school continue to suffer. Of course, Michael Gove famously and repeatedly denigrated the very people he needed on side to turn the situation round, describing teachers as “the enemies of promise”, and introducing reforms at pace that has frequently caused administrative chaos in the classroom. I would therefore describe the Queen’s Speech as a missed opportunity to drive up standards in all schools and to deliver excellence for all young people.
In contrast to the abrasive, singular ideology with which Michael Gove has approached reform, our party is developing a different approach. Our education agenda is centred on a “what works” policy that draws on the best of best practice, takes account of evidence, works with the practitioners and prepares the country for the future, not the past. This is why we are committed to introducing local directors of school standards to ensure oversight and accountability at community level. This will allow us to address underperformance up front and decisively, rather than waiting for whistleblowers or Ofsted reports to ring alarm bells in the department.
Secondly, we will build on the concept of school autonomy first developed by David Blunkett in 1997, extending the freedoms of academies and free schools to all schools. Importantly, however, we will differentiate between autonomy and isolation. The lesson from the highly successful London Challenge programme, introduced by the previous Government, is that the schools which are most effective are those which collaborate and work in partnership. This will be a clear expectation.
Thirdly, we will address the skills gap, a frequent concern of business leaders, by creating genuine parity between vocational and academic education. This will be built on a national baccalaureate framework for all pupils aged 14 to 19. In addition to A-level or high-quality vocational qualifications, all learners would study maths and English to 18, undertake an extended study or collaborative project and develop their character and resilience through individual programmes of work or community service.
Finally, and crucially, we will reverse the Government’s hostility to the teaching profession by recognising that the most effective way of improving children’s attainment is by raising standards of teaching to deliver a world-class teacher in every classroom. We will begin by ending the wrong-headed policy of encouraging unqualified teachers. Instead, qualified teacher status will be the bare minimum. In addition, we would expect all teachers to undertake regular professional development.
Unlike this Government, our approach would be a collaborative one, which learns from the best and delivers the best for every child. This coming legislative programme was an opportunity for the Government to learn from their mistakes and put their education programme back on course. Sadly, they have chosen not to take up this opportunity, so we on these Benches stand ready to take up that challenge.
My Lords, I thought that after about 50 speakers, a change of pace might be welcome. I had planned to read to your Lordships the poem “Deportation”, by Carol Ann Duffy. The time constraints mean that I can only give noble Lords a taster:
“Love is a look in the eyes in any language, but not here,not this year. They have not been welcoming.I used to think the world was where we livedin space, one country shining in big dark.I saw a photograph when I was small.Now I am
We do not have an immigration Bill; we will have rules—we seem to get new Immigration Rules almost every week. I will continue to raise the problems of restrictions on family migration, although not as effectively as the Poet Laureate. I note the irony of those restrictions, and how families are split up when according to the Queen’s Speech we are to have tax benefits for married couples—support for marriage.
Without a Bill, there is still a lot to be said about immigration. From the negatives, last week a report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons said that deportees are treated as commodities by security staff; and from the positives, recent reports on immigrants’ contribution to the economy have come from the Office for Budget Responsibility, the OECD, and the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
By way of legislation we have the modern slavery Bill, to which many noble Lords referred, which is one of those Bills which we will all welcome and strive to make even better. The focus, as other noble Lords have said, has tended to be on the trafficking of children and young women for sexual exploitation. I agree with the points made by other noble Lords that it is important to extend our focus to all victims: domestic workers, boys and young men, vulnerable people, and people who have left the services. I very much welcome the comments made by the pre-legislative scrutiny committee on supply chains.
Of course, legislation is not everything, as other noble Lords have said. We need to increase support for victims as witnesses and to help them rebuild their lives. I very much liked the phrase of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford that we need affirmation to live well. There is the functioning of the national referral mechanism, the work of witness protection, the work and resources necessary for social services and for the criminal justice system—in that case, how it operates—and not criminalising victims. I know that the Government are very well aware of those and other issues. The challenge is to achieve changes in practice. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby asked whether we can afford all this, or at least said that that would be the question. Is not the question: can we afford not to focus on this?
This week the Government are hosting the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict—an admirable initiative. Some of the issues to which I have referred are the international ones found in different contexts, including the appropriate response by authorities and services, identifying victims as victims and treating them appropriately. As the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle said, I have decided to refer only to the Bishops’ Benches in my speech.
We recently debated problems police forces have in recognising victims of domestic violence—there is a read-across there. The Howard League recently reported on children within the criminal justice system. It told us that a child was arrested every four minutes in the past year in England and Wales and recommended a reduction in arrests for trivial matters. That is a matter of appropriate responses.
It is ten to nine now and we will be back in less than a week to debate the Serious Crime Bill. I will not say more now than that I welcome, as others have done, the statutory recognition of psychological injury to children, putting it on the same footing as physical injury. It is extraordinary that it needs to be spelt out but clearly it does, as was done—again I mention domestic violence—some months ago.
It seems it is also necessary in terms of legislative lacunae to add to our laws on female genital mutilation. I cannot help noting that this is just a few days after the deportation of Afusat Saliu and her daughters whom she was seeking to protect from FGM in Nigeria.
I had planned to ask the Minister about the extremism task force which started last year after the Woolwich murder to such fanfare and then went very quiet. However, there seems to have been something of a coda or possibly even a new movement in that. It is extraordinarily important to be open-minded and imaginative in addressing the issues around extremism and radicalisation. I guess that many NGOs have less baggage than government institutions in the eyes of the individuals at risk. The NGOs need to be supported.
I wonder whether the time has come to consider extending the role of the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation whose experience might well be used more proactively. Above all we need to talk—Northern Ireland showed us that at home. There must be so many different personalities among the boys and young men at different stages of their development—such a range of reasons for their conduct. Legislation, in itself, will not persuade them to buy into the rule of law. We must be prepared to take risks. It was brave of the American Government to exchange prisoners they were holding for the US soldier whom they retrieved last week.
My Lords, I have one more stanza:
“They are polite, recite official jargon endlessly.
Form F. Room 12. Box 6. I have felt less smallbelow mountains disappearing into cloudthan entering the Building of Exile. Hearse taxiscrawl the drizzling streets towards the terminal.I am no one special”.
My Lords, like others I wish to focus on the protection of children and our duty to the most vulnerable in our society. The legislation on all child abuse, including female genital mutilation and slavery, must be as strong as possible if it is to be truly effective in improving the lot of children in our society. As the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, so strongly pointed out, shamefully we have turned a blind eye to the most vulnerable far too often. We must respect and legally enforce the rights of children and stamp out cruelty because all too often cruelty breeds cruelty. I hope the Government will support the online safety Bill brought forward by my noble friend Lady Howe of Idlicote.
Others have addressed health issues. I agree with noble Lords who have called for the awaited Bill to modernise the regulation of health and social care professions to better protect the patients and improve care delivery. Will the Government, following this debate, bring it forward for scrutiny? It is a Bill that this House would look at very thoroughly.
Let me turn to legislation that remains uncompleted. This year the clear will of both Houses was to introduce standardised packaging of cigarettes and tobacco products. As Sir Cyril Chantler’s independent review of the evidence supported this, where are the draft regulations for consultation, for notification to the European Union and then to be laid before Parliament for debate? As the noble Lords, Lord Ribeiro, and Lord Faulkner of Worcester have highlighted, if the Government drag their feet, time will play into the hands of the tobacco tycoons.
In November last year the Government amended the Energy Bill to include audible carbon monoxide alarms in a review of the private rented sector. Each year, carbon monoxide kills about 40 people in England and Wales. At least five of those who died last year were young campers and holidaymakers. Regulations are needed now to prevent yet more totally avoidable young people’s deaths over the summer.
Finally, I am glad that England is following Wales’s lead on tackling the environmental damage from plastic bags. Legislation in Wales has decreased the number of plastic bags in retail by more than 76%, but I am concerned that, without tackling all types of bags in all settings, England may see a mushrooming of paper-based bags and so-called exemptions rather than rejoice in reusable bags as we do at home in Wales.
Wales looks forward to hosting the NATO summit in September. In the mean time, I am sure that this House will carefully scrutinise all legislation affecting Wales.
My Lords, there was nothing in the Queen’s Speech about the NHS. Past experience suggests that may be a very good thing, but no one can be unaware of the serious financial problems facing health and social care over the next few years. Yet we also have this striking paradox that, according to the Office for National Statistics, we are the fourth wealthiest country in the world and we have more billionaires per square inch than anywhere else. So talk that we cannot afford an acceptable level of healthcare begins to sound just a little hollow. I know that it is unfashionable and distasteful to the Government—and, I fear, to my own party—to say that these services need more money. Furthermore, I have little doubt that we can afford it, as I will describe in a moment.
The year 2015 is frequently talked of as a “crunch” or “financial cliff” year, and after that the years ahead are talked of in even more gloomy terms of crisis and bankruptcy. It is not just me talking but a flurry of reports and predictions that have been produced in the last year or so that describe a fraught future for these services, and they are all accompanied by clarion calls for action of some sort. Yet there is this terrible sense that the Government are not listening and are simply ploughing on with their plans to make unrealistic savings, come what may.
After the Nicholson challenge of the last four years, in which savings in the NHS of £20 billion per annum have been made, mostly by short-term measures that are not sustainable, the long-term plan is to see even more draconian savings—£30 billion a year of them by 2021. Needless to say, no one in the service, where 40% of trusts are said to be already in deficit, believes that this is remotely achievable on current trends. Something has to give; there must be even greater efficiencies or more money. My thesis today is that we need both.
There is a surprising degree of agreement in the message that all the recent reports convey: a rising demand for health and social care by an ageing population with a frightening increase in the number of people with multiple long-term illnesses, including the burgeoning numbers with dementia. The reports point to the need to shift much more care from hospitals and into the community and to the desperate shortage of funds for social care as the severity of cuts to local authorities is being felt.
Of course, the service needs to change, not only in response to the economic pressures but in particular to the changing needs of society. There is little doubt that we should be providing better care in the community, more preventive measures, monitoring of vulnerable people, improving the desperately poor provision of health visitors and access to GPs at weekends and more rehabilitation facilities. These measures should reduce the pressure on acute hospitals, at least in theory. Focusing specialised services in fewer hospitals makes sense too, and providing more integrated hospital services may save money.
Such changes are absolutely vital, but the important point is that they cannot be made with the current level of funding. Where will the patients go when hospitals close and facilities in the community are not yet available? It requires new community services to deliver instantaneous improvements that equally instantaneously reduce the need for hospital admissions. As the King’s Fund makes clear in its report, the so-called Better Care Fund comes nowhere near filling the gap.
There are those who say pouring more money in is not the answer; it just goes into a black hole, they say. They are correct only if the service does not change at the same time, but it cannot change radically without more funds—hence the Catch-22 situation. Furthermore, the black hole idea ignores the evidence that the service improved dramatically when a Labour Government brought up the proportion of GDP for health to match that in the rest of the EU. It also ignores the proposals in the Wanless report of some years before, which concluded that funding for the NHS would have to rise to about 9.4% of GDP by 2021 to keep up with increasing demands.
Yet now the proportion of GDP for health has fallen from around 8% in 2010 to about 7%. Furthermore, the proposed further £30 billion a year savings will bring the proportion of GDP spent on the NHS down to 6% by 2021. Given our economic strength, which is fourth strongest in the world, how can we justify a plan to cut not just the amount we spend on health but its share of our national wealth from more than 7% to 6%? That is far lower than in any OECD country. There can be no justification for that and 6% is way off providing the 9.4% that Wanless recommended.
There have been several recent proposals on ways in which it may be possible to provide at least the transitional funds that would allow us to build up community services and then reduce hospital services. However, to my mind the only one that might fly is to have some sort of hypothecated tax, perhaps on the basis of a sales tax. But whatever mechanism is decided upon, it is a decision that must be made soon. We must level with the population now in advance of the election and not prevaricate.
It is unfortunate—and, I believe, disingenuous—that the current Health Secretary and the shadow Minister should run scared of saying anything about money. I fear that well before the next election they will come to regret that and will both have to recognise that it is not only transitional money that will be needed. I know that I will not be popular with my own Front Bench in saying that, but I do not think I am alone in wanting this or any future Government to come clean on what is needed for healthcare funding.
My Lords, it is a great pleasure for me to wind up for the Opposition. I start by congratulating our two maiden speakers: the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford and the noble Lord, Lord Glendonbrook. The right reverend Prelate reminded us of how it used to be with selective education, when a small percentage of students went to grammar schools and the rest were consigned to secondary modern schools to do CSEs and often had few prospects in life before them. The right reverend Prelate is a shining example of that system but I hope that we never go back to those days. It is good to welcome the noble Lord, Lord Glendonbrook, who has been a generous supporter of Gilbert and Sullivan over the years. He is the very model of a modern major aviator.
This has been an excellent debate which has clearly exposed the paucity of the Government’s last legislative programme. We have spent more time discussing what is not in the legislative programme than what is in it. We face so many challenges in this country with the disenchantment with politics and politicians felt by so many people, as the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, said, and the sense that too many people in the UK feel let down by the lack of housing and the lack of prospects for children. Above all, I suggest, they doubt whether their work and effort are reflected in their sharing fairly in the wealth of this country. The Queen’s Speech was silent on that. It made no response to the recent speech of the Governor of the Bank of England, who said that inequality was now one of the biggest challenges facing our country. As my noble friend Lady Lawrence said, there was no response to the issue of the huge number of people—more than a million—who are forced to work on zero-hours contracts, with the huge insecurity that that brings. There was also silence on the National Health Service which is crumbling under the weight of one of the most ill conceived measures in the history of Parliament—namely, the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
There are, of course, things in the Queen’s Speech that we welcome, such as the slavery Bill, which many noble Lords have welcomed—although I hope that the Minister will be able to respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who asked about to whom guardians will be made available.
On the Serious Crime Bill, we of course support measures to tackle child abuse and emotional neglect; but I hope that the Minister will respond to my noble friend Lord Patel and others on the need to protect in legislation mentally vulnerable adults. I hope, too, he will respond to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who was forthright and to the point; the lack of purposeful activity for offenders in prisons is alarming and undoubtedly is storing up great trouble for the future.
On legal aid, my noble friend Lord Bach spoke vividly about the importance of early access to advice, whereby many problems in the past have been sorted out. The Government have to be held to account for destroying a vital part of our justice system. My noble friend Lord Beecham pointed out the problems in the courts; so many people now have to cope for themselves because they cannot get access to a lawyer that it is having a real impact on the administration of justice. My noble friend Lord Clinton-Davis was right about the dismantling of legal aid, and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scott of Foscote, spoke about the potential diminution of people’s respect for the law. He put a straight question to the Government on the future of legal aid, and I hope that he receives an answer.
On education, my noble friend Lady Lawrence spoke eloquently about apprenticeships schemes, which need to lead to long-term employment. I agree with my noble friend Lady Jones about the current fragmentation of our schools and the need for local accountability. Now is not the time to debate the Statement made by Mr Gove this afternoon but the flawed response shows that the coalition’s policy increases the risk of infiltration and radicalisation. Ever greater fragmentation at local level, more schools with unqualified teachers, no local oversight and the centralisation of power in an unwieldy Department for Education can only exacerbate the risk of further problems.
On higher education, my noble friend Lady Bakewell and the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria, who I am delighted is shortly to become chancellor of Birmingham University, clearly illustrated the disaster of the Home Office’s completely obdurate approach to students coming to this country. We all know it is about the target. Ministers claim that it was because of problems with certain dubious institutions, but that problem had been dealt with years ago. This policy is having a direct impact on some of our best universities and is causing horrendous problems in terms of the reputation of this country. We are surely entitled to ask the Government to think again on this matter.
I now want to turn to health. Remarkably, in the fifth session there is no Bill to modernise the regulation of health professions. The current process, as has been readily identified by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkwood, is slow and out of date, with bureaucratic processes. We have had the work of the Law Commission and the Francis inquiry. Why on earth are the Government not bringing a Bill? If they cannot, why are they not bringing one forward for pre-legislative scrutiny, as was briefed out by the department some months ago? What I find remarkable is that in the absence of a Bill officials do not have time to produce Section 60 orders for the different professions—except for one measure, which, apparently, is to arrange for the regulation of a few hundred public health doctors within the HCPC. This is a measure that nobody wants and will have no impact on public protection, yet this is where the department’s energies are going to be in the next few months.
The Queen’s Speech was silent on public health measures, and I join my noble friend Lord Faulkner in asking the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whether he is confident that the Government will bring forward regulations as soon as possible on standardised packaging of cigarettes and tobacco. The Government were dramatically defeated in this House on this measure. The will of Parliament is quite clear. The job of the Government is to make sure that those regulations come before Parliament before the election.
The Government are also silent on other public health measures. My noble friend Lord Rooker identified the failure of the responsibility deal, when it comes to sugar, of companies who take action only on the less popular brands. We see the same problem in relation to salt and alcohol. We are entitled to expect a more proactive policy.
There is silence on the NHS. When the 2012 Health and Social Care Bill went through Parliament, we warned that it would be expensive and disruptive, and that it would fragment services and attack the NHS’s core values. How right we were. In his opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, described it as a profound change—profound disaster, more like. This month, waiting times are at a six-year high. Almost 3 million people are now on waiting lists—up by half a million since 2010. The cancer target of patients starting treatment within 62 days is being missed. GP services have become less accessible and it is becoming harder to get a GP appointment. Mental health services have been cut, despite Parliament enacting parity of esteem between mental health services and other services. Walk-in centres are being closed, the latest being in Worcester. Minor injuries units are being drastically cut back, the latest being the one in Cannock. Dentistry is also being neglected. The failure of the NHS and social care to work together to provide integrated services is readily apparent. Access to primary care becomes more difficult. No wonder accident and emergency departments become more stretched. Hospital beds are then at a premium and the discharge of patients becomes more difficult because adult social care has been decimated.
The Government’s response has been woefully inadequate. They finally produced their Better Care Fund, which does not start until next year, and the fund is in trouble. There is little confidence either locally or, apparently, in the Treasury that the money to be transferred from the NHS—because it is not new money—will be spent on community services, which would reduce pressure on the NHS. Ministers do nothing, just as they do nothing about the shocking failure to implement the recommendations following the Winterbourne View scandal. Ministers guaranteed that those recommendations would be implemented in full by the end of the month.
When the Prime Minister was leader of the Opposition, he promised no more top-down restructuring of the NHS. Some promise, my Lords. Instead, we have £3 billion wasted on this highly damaging change, fragmentation of services, longer waiting times, less accessibility and plunging morale. No wonder the risk register has yet to be published; no wonder the Queen’s Speech is silent on the NHS. It is surely a symbol—is it not?—of a Government who have run out of ideas and run out of steam, putting party before people and so patently failing to meet the challenges of this country.
I suggest that that is a good point for me to come in to somewhat disprove the final comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. However, before I do so, I should like to say to all noble Lords who have spoken that it is a challenge—in fact, almost impossible—to sum up a debate such as this, but it is also a privilege to have been able to listen to such a wide-ranging debate. We have talked about home affairs, law and justice, health and education. All those are important, as today’s debate has shown.
If noble Lords agree, I shall do my usual thing of writing a commentary on the debate and will circulate it to all noble Lords who have spoken. Obviously, in doing that, I shall need the help of my noble friend Lord Faulks. I shall also certainly need the help of my noble friends Lord Howe and Lord Nash, who will provide me with the technical expertise that I shall do my best to demonstrate in my brief comments. However, I am obviously way outside my comfort zone in certain of these areas.
Before I go on to comment, I should like to congratulate our two maiden speakers. It is not often that we have two excellent speeches such as we have heard today. My noble friend and the right reverend Prelate are from extremely different backgrounds and have different callings in life, but both demonstrated a determination to be good at what they felt they were called to do and, furthermore, they did so with a great sense of humour. I am delighted to welcome the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford to this House, and I am sure that we will hear from him; he has a lot to tell us. My noble friend Lord Glendonbrook, as I must learn to call Michael Bishop whom I have known for an awfully long time—before I came here and before he did—said that he is a great supporter of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company. In many ways he has shown how one can be successful in business and successful in achieving other things in life that are important to so many other people.
I shall now turn to the matters in hand. The modern slavery Bill is warmly welcomed by noble Lords. I pay tribute to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, and her committee. She is not in her place now but she was earlier today. The pre-legislative scrutiny committee has enormously helped the Government to present their Bill. We have been able to hear from two Members of that committee today—the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby and my noble friend Lord McColl. I am grateful for the support that the Bill has received. I have little doubt that there will be critiques. I expect that; it is what this House is good at. I thank all those who have welcomed the Bill. It was one of the things that my noble friend Lord Glendonbrook mentioned in his speech. My noble friend Lord Sheikh mentioned how international this phenomenon is and how important our contribution can be to what is a worldwide scourge.
My noble friend Lady Hamwee is right to explain that slavery has a broad definition. It is not confined to the sexual abuse of young girls and women, so I hope that I will be able to answer at least some of the points that people made. It may interest noble Lords to know that the modern slavery Bill will be introduced in the House of Commons tomorrow—
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Derby asked why the Bill would not be legislating on transparency in supply chains. The Government are committed to tackling exploitation in private sector supply and will support businesses to tackle this issue. The Home Secretary will meet business leaders on Wednesday as part of the Government’s commitment to work with business to develop the most effective approach. If businesses take no action, they risk both their reputation and their profit. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick—I do not see him in his place at the moment—said that he felt that the Bill perhaps did not go far enough. The Bill will be a critical first step in stamping out this horrific crime, and it is something on which future generations will be able to build. I am pleased that, generally speaking, the Bill has been so welcomed.
The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, asked about the whole question of child advocates. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked that I give a reply. Perhaps I may do so in this way: the Government are committed to improving the protection of incredibly vulnerable trafficked children. We have announced trials of new independent specialist advocates for child trafficking victims. The modern slavery Bill also legislates so that advocates have a statutory basis.
We are also concerned about the welfare of children where there is no evidence that they have been trafficked. All local agencies have statutory duties to safeguard their children and there is a major programme of reform to transform the system in this area. This is an evolving situation and clearly one of the reasons why the details in the Bill which will be produced tomorrow are of an enabling nature is because of the requirement to find out from these trials where we need to be to be effective in this area. However, let there be no doubt that we are determined to make progress on this issue.
The modern slavery Bill must improve support for victims and improve law enforcement, as my noble friend Lord McColl of Dulwich said. I thank him for the perseverance he has shown on this issue over seven years. It is because of individuals that the Government have been persuaded and have taken on this task. It is not an easy task but they have done so recognising that we now have an opportunity to make great progress in the area. We agree with the noble Lord about support.
On the Serious Crime Bill, to which a number of noble Lords referred, the Government welcome the support that the provisions have generally received. As noble Lords will know, the Bill was introduced on
I was asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, about ISP filtering. She is right that it is an important matter and that there is still more to be done. However, I hope she will welcome the fact that the possession of anything that can be described as a paedophile manual will be a serious crime under the Bill. That in itself is progress and a way forward.
There were a number of other points. The noble Lord, Lord Noon, asked about the penalty for an offence under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act and felt that it was insufficient. We welcome his support for this measure. As he said, the maximum penalty for the offence of training for terrorism is currently 10 years’ imprisonment. We think this is appropriate and we have no current plans to increase it. However, the extension in the Bill extraterritorially will make an enormous difference. I agree that this is a serious problem which requires action and I hope that we have the support of the House in bringing forward these changes.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked whether we would get rid of the requirement to prove wilful neglect. The Government believe that the current offence of child cruelty in Section 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act is still effective and that the courts are able to interpret it effectively. We acknowledge that some of the language is outdated and that the law might be easier to understand if it was updated and clarified. This is why we are amending the 1933 Act to make it absolutely clear that children who are subjected to cruelty likely to cause psychological suffering or injury are protected by the law. I have noted the comments of my noble friend in this regard, and we can examine the detail of the changes when we reach the Committee stage. I am sure that we will have some good debates on the Bill.
A number of noble Lords mentioned policing. I recall a speech by the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, also said that she is concerned about the way the Government are handling police corruption and police integrity. We have already introduced a comprehensive programme of reforms during this Parliament, including a beefed-up IPCC, which will have the capacity and capability to deal with all serious and sensitive cases involving the police. I do not agree with the noble Baroness that the IPCC should be abolished, but I do agree with her comment that the vast majority of officers work tirelessly to serve the public and work to the highest standards. Policing integrity is at the heart of the trust between the public and the police, and we must all work together to make sure that it is maintained.
The noble Lord, Lord Patel of Bradford, mentioned the position of 17 year-olds held in custody. He talked about the large number of people of that particular age. Recently we changed the law to ensure that they must have a suitable adult present and that their parent or guardian must as a matter of course be informed of their detention. We are currently reviewing primary legislation as it relates to 17 year-olds which treats them as adults. I hope that the noble Lord is pleased that we are on the case, one that he presented to us so ably in his speech.
My noble friend Lord Faulks is going to introduce the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill when it comes to this House. It will shortly finish its Commons stages. My noble friend Lord Goschen referred to the whole business of whip-lash claims. It is and will remain legitimate for lawyers to advertise their business in the areas where they practise, but we are primarily concerned about inducements to claim, not information about the claims process itself. However, we may return to this issue when we bring forward our proposals for consideration.
My Lords, I am much obliged. I do not know whether the noble Lord is going to deal with legal aid, but can he indicate in any event how much the Government propose to save through the amendments that they are introducing to legal aid?
I cannot do that because I do not have the figures to hand, but I know that a number of noble Lords have mentioned legal aid. I have no need to tell my noble friend Lord Faulks how important the issue is to this House because it has been the subject of lots of debates in the last Session of Parliament. I will make sure that we write with an update of where we are on legal aid—we will be most happy to do that. All noble Lords who have raised the issue can then be reassured on the point.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, whose contributions are always good value, made an attack on the concept of the secure college and the lack of rules on the use of force to maintain good order and discipline. I have no doubt that we will have plenty of opportunities to debate this matter. The noble Lord will be aware that time spent in custody can represent a rare period of stability in a lot of young people’s lives. Some three-quarters of young people who leave custody reoffend within a year, so it is clearly an area where we need to be involved. The current system is not working well enough. Secure colleges will have education at their heart, with other services designed in support of educational attainment and tackling offending behaviour. Specifically on the question of force, as the Minister for Prisons has already stated, the Government intend to consult on secure college rules, including those in respect of force, and have committed to publish this consultation during the Bill’s passage. I hope that will give the noble Lord an opportunity to contribute to that discussion.
Many noble Lords talked about health. Indeed, it was helpful to have my noble friend Lord Howe here earlier in the proceedings. The noble Lords, Lord Patel, Lord Ribeiro and Lord Faulkner, talked about standardised packaging of tobacco. I can tell noble Lords that the Government will very shortly publish a final, short consultation, which will contribute to the final decision-making on this policy. The consultation could not be published during the period of the elections because of purdah. It is being finalised and will be published shortly.
I have been told that I have been going for 18 minutes. I am going to try to wind up but I want to try to cover points where I can. The Government are taking early action to introduce a ban on selling alcohol below the price of duty plus VAT. It does not go as far as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe, would wish but it goes a long way towards it. When further empirical evidence becomes available, we will consider it very carefully.
Why is there no Bill on the regulation of healthcare professionals? The Government remain committed to legislating on this important issue when parliamentary time allows. We are working with the regulators to ensure that key provisions, such as faster fitness-to-practise tests for nurses and midwives, and English language checks for all healthcare professionals, are in place during this Parliament.
A number of noble Lords spoke about residents in care homes being abused. We are introducing a new fundamental standard for care homes. We are bringing in specialist inspection teams involving people who have experience of care services. They will take action and will have the power to bring prosecutions if necessary. Noble Lords asked about the lack of action on carers. I apologise if I have not addressed all the health matters that noble Lords have raised but the Care Act was passed by this House at the end of May, including significant changes for carers, and for the first time there will be a duty on local authorities to meet carers’ eligible needs for support and consider the impact of their caring responsibilities when undertaking an assessment.
The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, made his usual stimulating speech. I cannot give him an answer on the points that he raised.
That is reassuring but it says here, “We will write rather than respond now”. Perhaps that will give me time to write one.
I have a few things here on education. Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Peckham, talk about his role in education, particularly in south London, was remarkable. It shows what has been achieved through the academy principles. The Department for Education has been working closely in toughening up the curriculum to ensure that what pupils learn in school equips them for the future. There were a number of criticisms on the education front. I would like to think that apprenticeships can now be seen as a genuine alternative to university, equipping people for life and for the opportunity of getting jobs in a growing economy, which we now have the prospect of sustaining.
I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for not answering everything at this stage. I intend to do so when I write to your Lordships within the next few weeks.
Debate adjourned until tomorrow.