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Lord Elton: My Lords, is it not clear that the Government's approach is failing and that the number of people in prison shows that they are not acting on the possibility of identifying children about to go into crime--for example, those on school exclusion lists? School exclusion results in 80 per cent of excluded young people being involved in crime. Why do not the Government spend £5 a week on such children rather than more than £500 a week on catching people when it is too late?
The Lord Bishop of Bradford: My Lords, as bishop of a diocese with a substantial Asian and Muslim population, with whom I work regularly, I welcome the appointment of Maqsood Ahmed as the new Muslim adviser to prisons. Is the Minister confident that in prisons and other penal institutions where there are Muslim prisoners, satisfactory arrangements are made for the timing of Friday congregations, for the provision of halal meat and for imams to visit? Given the increased number of Muslim young men imprisoned during the 1990s--often for drug-related offences--have the Government made any inquiry as to why this should be so? Is there evidence that it may be related to poverty, underachievement at school and unemployment?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I shall deal first with the right reverend Prelate's last point. There is much in what he said. There is little doubt that the kinds of issues he mentioned are related to criminality. In going round various prison establishments, I have been impressed by the way in which prison regimes have responded to the fact that we live in a multi-faith, multi-ethnic society. That is now beginning to be reflected more accurately in the way that people are given the opportunity to celebrate their particular religions. I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for his support for that programme.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the prison population would be even higher if it was not for the early release tagging scheme? Does he agree that, under that scheme, some 18,000 prisoners have been released early, including those convicted of attempted murder, sex offences and, in 2,000 cases, drug dealing? Does he further agree that some of those who have been released early have subsequently been charged with further crimes, including rape, assault, theft and burglary?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am impressed by the noble Lord's interest in this issue. My understanding is that the previous Government began experiments in this programme and that they supported it at that time. Now it would appear the party opposite does not support it. Yes, of course, occasionally there will be failures--that is accepted--but the home detention curfew programme has had a 95 per cent success rate. We should be grateful for that. If we increase the prison population by continuing to restrain those who could be released on home
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as a result of personal tax and benefit measures introduced by this Government, the tax burden on a typical single-earner couple, on average earnings and with two children under 11, will fall from 21.5 per cent in 1996-97 to 18.8 per cent by 2001, the lowest level since 1972.
The tax burden on such a family is measured as income tax plus national insurance contributions less tax credits and child benefit, as a share of pre-tax earnings. This definition has been used for many years, under successive governments, in the Treasury's Tax Benefit Reference Manual, which is placed in the Library of the House.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the problem with adding indirect taxation to direct taxation is that indirect taxation depends on the particular consumption patterns of households. It cannot be predicted definitively from a family's level of earnings and family structure in the way that tax credits, income tax, NICs and child benefit can be predicted. No external organisations produce estimates of indirect taxes at the individual level, and that includes the Institute for Fiscal Studies.
Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the so-called "stealth taxes"--such as petrol tax, the disappearance of MIRAS and the marriage allowance, and so on--mean that the take-home pay of the average working family has decreased? Why do not the Government take notice of the various independent reports which have been published by the Library of the House of Commons, the OECD and others? Would it not be a good idea to bring forward the debate on the Budget so that the Government can either substantiate their figures or apologise for misleading the general public?
Lord Northbrook: My Lords, does the Minister agree that another example of a misleading statistic in the Budget relates to the effect of the impact of proposals to tighten tax rules for companies with overseas subsidiaries? Is he aware that, according to the Financial Times of 23rd March, this will cost companies a total tax figure of £10 billion?
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Government Chief Whip a procedural question. Not for the first time--I do not wish it to become a habit--a Minister has insisted on posing questions to the Opposition. We make no complaint about that. But will the Government Chief Whip have a discussion with the Leader of the House and with the usual channels so as to make time available for the Opposition to answer?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord, on behalf of the Leader of the House, can offer a slightly lengthier explanation of the need for this Business Motion. Is it not a fact that it deals with the education regulations and order to which my noble friend Lady Blatch will respond. Is it not also a fact that the regulations and the order were introduced by the Minister responsible only some two days ago? It was then announced by the Minister responsible that the regulations and the order had to go through by the end of the week. Having earlier been offered to my noble friend on a Friday two weeks ago, which my noble friend agreed to do, they were then withdrawn. Is it really a satisfactory way of doing business to force my noble friend to have to respond to two important provisions--one relating to student loans, a subject on which this House feels very deeply--at a very late hour at night? What can the Government Chief Whip say about the time at which the regulations and the order will come up?
We have before us the fifth and possibly--I only say "possibly"--the final Committee day on the Financial Services and Markets Bill. There are more than 30 groups of amendments. I am advised by those responsible for the Bill on this side of the House that there is certainly more than a whole day's business ahead of them in relation to that Bill. Will the noble Lord give an assurance that he will allow my noble friend Lady Blatch to respond to the regulations and the order at a reasonable time, so that she will not have to respond to them at two, three or four o'clock in the morning, and so allow the Financial Services and Markets Bill to be completed on another day, possibly next week?
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