My Lords, in my maiden speech I said that one of the things I wanted to concentrate on in this House was social justice. We are talking about what for me is one of the very central issues of social justice—that is, how you deal with those who are most troublesome to society. You can measure a society by how it deals with those who cause it most difficulty.
As a Member of Parliament, I found the visits to the young offender institution in my former constituency among the most troubling that I ever made because you met young men who had never had a chance of any kind whatever in their lives and you recognised that they could so easily have been your own sons. You also recognised how privileged your own children were, not in terms of money or any of the things which are foolishly trotted out by egalitarians, but just by the fact that they were loved.
That leads me to be very worried about any measures which are hurriedly introduced because I think this is a very difficult issue. It is very hard to get these things right. I come back to personal experience. If you bring up children in a loving and secure environment, it is still very hard to get these things right. It is very hard indeed and we all get it wrong. So often we say to ourselves, if we are honest, “If only I’d spent a bit more time thinking about that and taken a bit more advice about it, I might not have made such a blooming mess of it”.
That is in the context of a continuing relationship in a loving background. We are not dealing with that but with something much more difficult, simply because none of the things that you normally rely on is there. That is why this House has an important role to play, which is to say to the Government, “Look, you’ve done remarkably well”. That is one of the reasons why I am proud to support them because they have done remarkably well. They have also shown themselves to care about this section of the population whereas previous Governments of all persuasions have not shown much indication that they were very interested.
The Government have also stood out against the more raucous elements of the press, which of course find it easy to attack this particularly deprived and vulnerable section of the population because we are talking about people who have done dreadful things. Let us not kid ourselves; we are not talking about people who have been somehow misused by the justice system but about people who, for reasons that we can find upsetting, have done inexcusable things. This is huge problem for a Government, and this Government have behaved enormously well.
I therefore want to say a simple thing to my noble friend. He has heard speeches from people who are not among the flag-waving antagonists he sometimes faces but from those who genuinely want him and the Government to get this right. The feeling is seemingly universal that we would like him to give time to get this right and enable this House to do its proper job. We would do that job better if we had all the knowledge and experience from the consultation that is about to take place. This might therefore be an opportunity for him to say, “Perhaps I can go away, think about this again and find it possible to give this matter time”, which is, after all, available. I do not quite understand why anyone does not want to give it. I hope that the Minister will take away the genuine feeling of this House, which will help him do something very important.