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The Earl of Longford: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I cannot make sense of what he says. What he says is not true. He says that there are some prisoners for whom a life sentence has always meant life. That is untrue. I hope that the Minister will withdraw that statement.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I do not believe that I can withdraw it. It is the case. I believe that the public would expect that to be the situation. Anyone now receiving a mandatory life sentence is told the judicial recommendation as to the period which should be served for retribution and deterrence and given the opportunity to make representations before the
I do not want to comment here on the recall of the prisoner the noble Earl mentioned in particular, but I can assure him that my noble friend will be happy to meet him and discuss the questions he raised.
I realise that there is some controversy over the subject of criminal injuries compensation, which a number of your Lordships raised. However, it has to be emphasised that one of the reasons the projection has been growing so vigorously is that over the past 10 years the average award has increased by some 5 per cent. more than inflation in every year. If one projects that forward it results in very large figures. I should say to your Lordships that in this country we provide the most generous scheme of any country in the world. I have figures before me covering a number of countries. Not only are we ahead of them, we are in a different league. Awards totalled £165.1 million in 1993-94. The next country in the list is Canada, with £29.5 million. Of all the schemes around the world, the scheme in this country provides 36 per cent. of all the resources put into criminal injuries schemes.
A number of points were made by noble Lords concerning the health Bills which are before us. I want to say to the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow--and I gather that the issue was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Robson of Kiddington, but I am sorry that I missed her speech because I was out of the Chamber for a few minutes at that point--that the mental health Bill is a very important piece of legislation. It will improve the treatment of mentally ill people. It will introduce a clear legal framework for care in the community for certain patients. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, I have had experience as a Member of Parliament in another place 10 years ago of people with schizophrenia. It is the most appallingly debilitating disease for the families and for the young men involved. It is very important that when they go out into the community--and we want them to do that--we must not lose sight of the fact that they can easily relapse if they are not properly treated and taking their drugs.
I am sorry that I missed the speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Gould of Potternewton. I shall read her speech with interest. However, I received a report of what she said, and I would say to her that almost everyone living in the UK today is better off than their parents and grandparents were. I gather that she seemed to doubt that proposition. That is not my quotation. It is taken from the first page of the first chapter of the report of the Commission on Social Justice.
The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, who has had to catch a train because he has court business in Edinburgh tomorrow, and the noble Lord, Lord Macaulay, asked me about matters pertaining to Scottish legislation. I know that all three noble Lords have taken a great interest in the Children (Scotland) Bill. My noble and learned friend Lord Fraser of Carmyllie proposes to publish the Bill shortly. Noble Lords will not expect me to go into any detail about its contents, but it will be a
The procedure will be as follows. The Bill will be dealt with in another place for its Second Reading by the Scottish Grand Committee. A Special Standing Committee will be appointed to take evidence from interested parties. That will be done in Scotland. It will be for the committee itself to decide exactly how it is done. Shortly thereafter the Bill will be referred to the Scottish Standing Committee in another place. For the Committee stage in your Lordships' House, if your Lordships agree it would be possible for the Bill to be considered by a Committee off the Floor of the House.
Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, will a time limit be placed on the evidence taken during the Standing Committee stage; or will there be an evidential free-for-all with everyone coming back from the Orkney inquiry and all the other places. How will the procedure work?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am not sure of the time limit. My memory tells me that there is a limit on the time that the committee takes evidence. That committee will decide who will give evidence. While I suspect that it will wish to hear some factors about the Orkney affair, I hope that it will also wish to take evidence on a rather broader base.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Morton of Shuna, gave us a fairly detailed account of what he considered the shortcomings in the procedures in civil justice in Scotland. His views are well known and respected. We are gratified that he welcomes the new commercial procedures. No doubt my noble and learned friend the Lord Advocate will wish to consider his proposal for an inquiry into the civil procedures very carefully indeed. As he suggested, a re-examination of some of our pleading rules may well be appropriate.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, spoke on more constitutional matters. I do not wish to continue for too long, but this is perhaps an appropriate place to refer to it. The noble and learned Lord referred to two or three subjects of constitutional interest--devolution, proportional representation and reform of the House of Lords. As the Government have no intention of bringing in legislation about any of those issues, there seems no point in the Government setting up a Royal Commission to advise them what to do.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the last time we had a Royal Commission on devolution it came to conclusions which ultimately the people of Scotland rejected in a referendum. If we do not wish to go down the road of devolution, proportional representation or reform of your Lordships' House, I do not see why we need the advice of a Royal Commission. The parties opposite may need that advice to get an answer to the
Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister use some phrase other than "broken up"? Historically that is an inaccurate way of dealing with the regional distribution of power which has been normal for most centuries in European history.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I do not wish to enter into a great argument about it. Many of us firmly believe that devolution, independence or whatever one calls it--one is a short step to the other --will lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom. Many of us quite firmly believe that. I do not wish to take up too much time, but I am happy to give way to the noble Lord.
Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I am sorry to press the Minister on the point, but in his earlier remarks he talked about the Scottish legislation concerning the children Bill being considered by the Scottish Grand Committee in another place and taking evidence in Scotland. The anxiety I have is that that is rather different from the remarks which the Minister is now making about treating the United Kingdom as a whole.
I remind the Minister that in this House we do not have any convention of treating Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish business separately other than with all Members of your Lordships' House dealing with it. How does the Minister envisage the House dealing with the Scottish children's Bill?
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I answered that by saying that, if your Lordships wished it, there is the possibility that the new committee procedures off the Floor of the House may be used for the Scottish children's Bill. All noble Lords, of whatever place they are Peers, will be free to attend and debate it. The children's Bill in the other place will be discussed by Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, one unitary Parliament.
A number of noble Lords spoke on the question of the disability Bill. I say to them all that I believe that the Government have an excellent record on work for the disabled. For example, in the year 1993-94 the Employment Service placed 53,300 disabled people in jobs. The access-to-work scheme will provide an even wider range of help to more people through a budget of £14.6 million in this financial year. The total spending on benefits to help the long-term sick and disabled people and their carers has trebled in real terms since
Over the summer we have been consulting on a range of new initiatives to tackle the continuing problems of discrimination against disabled people. My honourable friend the Minister for disabled people has been working with my right honourable friends at the Departments of Employment, Health, Transport and Education to produce a range of measures, including legislation in this Session, which will go further than ever before in advancing the position of disabled people. He will make announcements with the details in the near future.
I was asked about the Child Support Act. At the moment we are considering the Select Committee's report, but we are still quite firmly of the view that the absent parent of the first family--however we wish to call it--has considerable responsibilities, social, moral and financial, to the children which he fathered--and largely in this case I can call him "he".
I turn now to the pensions Bill, which will be very important. I have no doubt that we shall spend some time on it and I do not wish to spend too much time this evening. I had not intended speaking for quite so long and I apologise to your Lordships. The non-state pension part of the pension Bill will attempt to improve the security of pension funds in order to ensure that no other group of pensioners or prospective pensioners has to go through the trauma that the pensioners whose pension funds were pillaged by Mr. Robert Maxwell have had to endure.
On the state pension side, the noble Baroness, Lady Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, suggested she did not quite approve of the age of 65. The noble Baroness, Lady Turner, indicated the same. I need not remind them that the Commission for Social Justice seems to have come down more on our side of the argument than on theirs. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, that it is not a matter of saving money that we are spending now. It is actually making sure that we do not impose on the working people in 2020, 2030 and thereafter a level of expenditure that they will not be able to afford. So it is not a matter of saving money. It is a matter of ensuring that, come 2020 and 2030, the state pension will be affordable by those people in work. I believe it would be absolutely irresponsible for us not to take action on the problem and to leave a time bomb ticking away for those people who will retire in the next century.
The jobseeker's allowance is a very important new idea, changing the rather negative aspect of unemployment benefit and unemployment centres into a more positive idea of job seeking. After all, that is what the great majority of people who become unemployed are doing. Two-thirds of unemployed people get back to work within six months. Of course we recognise the difficulties, especially for the other third who go beyond the six months. But we believe that the agreement that we shall have with the job seeker, which will set out what we will do to help and what the job seeker himself or herself will do, will help with this difficult problem. Ideas such as the new back-to-work bonus will, we believe, be very helpful in encouraging people who are
The noble Earl asked me a number of questions, and one in particular about "in work, out of work", the role of incentives in the benefits system by the SSAC. The committee's paper certainly presents a number of valuable ideas. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, Peter Lilley, has already thanked the chairman. We will certainly be considering some of those ideas further; although I have to say--and no doubt the noble Lord is aware--that some of the proposals, such as increasing the earnings disregard, have not been accepted. We believe that the back-to-work bonus, as I said, illustrates an effective way of encouraging people to enter part-time work and act as a stepping-stone into full-time work. We shall be considering the ideas in this report and in a number of other reports which deal with the same problem of how we help people--especially long-term unemployed people--back into work.
Today we have ranged over a wide number of issues, touching on the lives of all our fellow citizens: crime, and its evil impact on far too many decent, law-abiding citizens, and the need for the law to be firm and fair; the health service, with its vital role of looking after all of us when we are ill; in Scotland, where we shall address the needs of some very vulnerable children; and in my own department, helping the disabled, ensuring the security of occupational pensions and the capability of future generations to pay for the state pension and helping the unemployed to seek and find work.
The Opposition have accused us of running out of steam. Touching as it does on many vital aspects of all our fellow citizens' lives, I believe that the Queen's Speech has more than enough steam in it to run a whole class of Flying Scotsmen.
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