Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, has the Minister considered the impact of these very welcome rises for schoolteachers on the recruitment of university teachers? A teacher in a secondary school with one year's postgraduate and five to seven years' teaching experience has the prospect of a considerably higher salary than a university teacher with the

5 Feb 2001 : Column 936

equivalent rate and three-years of debt-laden graduate work. Does not the Minister think that this will have an adverse effect on the recruitment of the next generation of university teachers?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I do not know. I suspect not. The pool from which people who want to be university teachers are drawn--that is, graduate students who have completed PhDs--is different from the one from which primary and secondary school teachers are drawn. I hope the noble Lord agrees that it is vitally important that we have enough good, high-quality teachers who are committed to the profession working in our primary and secondary schools. Without that, we shall not reach the standards that all universities want to see when they are recruiting from secondary schools at the sixth-form stage.

Baroness Hooper: My Lords, can the noble Baroness give the House any good news in regard to the numbers of teachers of modern languages, particularly Spanish and Portuguese? These languages have traditionally trailed behind German and French in spite of the fact that Spanish is a global language. Can she further say whether there is any imbalance on a regional basis in the numbers of such teachers?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I said in an earlier reply that the numbers of teachers of modern languages have improved as a result of the Government's intervention to pay teachers in shortage subjects an additional 4,000 after they have completed their induction year. I cannot comment specifically on the situation with regard to Spanish and Portuguese teachers. I shall write to the noble Baroness on that issue.

European Monetary Union: Entry Criteria

2.59 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will publish before the next election an assessment of progress in meeting their criteria for possible entry into European monetary union.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government have said that they will make an assessment of the five economic tests early in the next Parliament.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, why on earth cannot the Government, from time to time, give their judgment on progress towards meeting the five tests? If the national institutes and others can do it, why the secrecy in the Treasury? Will the Minister at least assure us that the final judgment as to whether the convergence tests have been complied with will not be left exclusively to the Treasury, in order to quash suspicions in certain quarters that the Chancellor, in

5 Feb 2001 : Column 937

taking such a decision, might just be influenced by the effect on his own career--suspicions which I am sure have no foundation whatever.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord is right: they have no foundation. Of course, it is possible for anyone to make the assessment for which he asks. The committee chaired by Professor Huhne, of which the noble Lord was a distinguished member, made such an assessment, as has the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. We simply do not see it as the Treasury's job to give a running commentary. As to the Chancellor's ambitions, the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, must make up his own mind.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, has my noble friend seen the statement in the Treasury's response to the report by the European Union Select Committee of this House, How is the Euro Working? that they will recommend joining the single currency only:


    "if the economic case for the UK joining is clear and unambiguous"?

Has my noble friend ever come across any economic case that has been clear and unambiguous?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord has had three and a half years to reflect on that question; the words that he quotes were delivered by the Chancellor in October 1997. They have not been queried until now, so perhaps he scored a first.

Lord Renton: My Lords, will the Government, in the public interest, try to be as broad-minded and impartial as possible in this matter, by pointing out the circumstances in which their criteria for entry into the euro have not been met?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, will the Government consider adding a fifth criterion; namely, the current effect of uncertainty about the euro on British manufacturing and British farming? Is the Minister aware that the directors of Corus attributed one of the company's troubles to the level of the euro against the pound? Is he further aware that one of the reasons given for Vauxhall winding up its plant in Luton was, again, the exchange rate between sterling and the euro; and that the green pound is worth something like a fifth less to British farmers than it is to their competitors in the rest of Europe--again because we remain outside the euro-zone?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, there is nothing magic about the number five, but there are already five economic criteria, as set out by the Government. They include flexibility to cope with economic change, the effect on investment, and the effect on employment. Those three criteria cover the valid points that the noble Baroness makes.

5 Feb 2001 : Column 938

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will my noble friend agree that there are criteria to be considered other than economic and financial criteria--for example, the constitutional implications of joining the euro-zone? Will the Government consider those points before making any recommendation to Parliament?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords; we have always said so.

Lord Saatchi: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the acid test of whether a union will be successful--a marriage, let us say--is whether there is a meeting of minds between the prospective partners? Is there a meeting of minds between the Government and the president of the Bundesbank, who says that,


    "a single currency does not require a single government, but a single government will follow"?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure whether an "acid test" implies only one acid, or whether we are allowed a number of chemical tests as acid tests. We certainly listened with interest and attention to the president of the Bundesbank, as we do to all major figures in economic life in Europe.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, save in the view of the zealots who are either pro or anti the euro, the Government have got the criteria right? Will he confirm that at the end of the day, when we believe it is in Britain's interests, the final decision will be taken by the British public by means of a referendum?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I never like using the word "zealots". Whenever I have used it, I have been shot down in flames for doing so. Yes, of course, as I should have said originally in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, it is not merely a matter of the Treasury making up its mind for itself; we have a commitment that the Government have to make a recommendation, first to Parliament and then to the people of this country, before entry.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has great merit? Would not any government assessment immediately be met with counter-assessments by a number of distinguished economists--possibly putting forward an even larger number of opinions? Does that not show that any answer to at least four of the tests must be subjective? Therefore, will not the tests give the Government the opportunity to hold a referendum when the public opinion polls point to a "Yes" vote--in the unlikely event of that ever happening?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Lord almost invites me to make cheap cracks about the divergence of opinion among economists, and I am certainly not going to do that. Of course there will be different views; there is no fully objective reality. However, there are political realities. It is on the basis

5 Feb 2001 : Column 939

of the political and economic realities, and constitutional considerations, that the Government will make up their mind as a result of the Treasury assessment and make their recommendation to Parliament and to the people of this country.

Criminal Defence Service (Advice and Assistance) Bill [H.L.]

3.6 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Extent of duty to fund advice and assistance]:

The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department (Lord Bach) moved Amendment No. 1:


    Page 1, leave out lines 5 to 7 and insert--


("(1) Subsection (1) of section 13 of the Access to Justice Act 1999 (duty of Legal Services Commission to fund advice and assistance as part of Criminal Defence Service) shall be treated as having been enacted with the substitution of the following for paragraph (b) and the words after it--").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, for the convenience of the House, perhaps I may speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3. All three amendments have been tabled in my name. I tabled and withdrew these amendments at Committee stage in order to give your Lordships a reasonable length of time in which to consider the changes that I propose to make. I hope that during the two-week period that has since elapsed the House has had time to consider the amendments proposed.

The effect of the amendments, taken together, is to allow the Bill, on enactment, to have retrospective effect. Amendment No. 1 provides that the Access to Justice Act will be read as if it had always been amended by this Bill. Amendment No. 2 provides that secondary legislation made under the powers in Section 13(1) of the Access to Justice Act may also have retrospective effect. Amendment No. 3 changes the commencement date of the Bill--there is no longer any need for the Bill to commence on 2nd April and it will be commenced on the day on which it receives Royal Assent.

I shall explain why the Bill needs to have retrospective effect. At Second Reading, I explained that it was essential that the Bill received Royal Assent in time for its provisions to be in force before the criminal defence service is introduced on 2nd April 2001. In practice, this meant that we needed Royal Assent by 9th March. This would allow time to make the secondary legislation using the power in the amended Section 13 of the Access to Justice Act, which is necessary to maintain the current levels of legal assistance available to those involved in criminal investigations and proceedings.

When the Bill received its Second Reading on 21st December, I was grateful for the reception it was given. Since then I have received letters from all of the main legal groups confirming that they support the

5 Feb 2001 : Column 940

introduction of the Bill. The Committee stage took place on 22nd January. No Minister could ever hope for swifter progress! However, I am concerned that we may not be able to guarantee Royal Assent in time. This would result in a lacuna in which the powers under the unamended Section 13 of the Access to Justice Act may be insufficient to maintain the current levels of legal assistance.

No one knows the date of the next general election; however, the possibility of an early election, combined with an early Budget, could put the parliamentary timetable under even greater pressure than is usually the case. If that happened, it is possible that business managers may be unable, among competing priorities for parliamentary time, to give the time required for this Bill in order for it to receive Royal Assent before 9th March.

It is for this reason that I feel that the Bill should be amended so as to have retrospective effect. Any secondary legislation will also be capable of having retrospective effect.

I am aware--and, indeed, I agree--that in general it is important that legislation should not have retrospective effect; people have a right to know where they stand under the law. However, in this instance the retrospective nature of the Bill will simply enable the status quo to be preserved. By making this amendment, the right that currently exists, for example, to consult a duty solicitor, or to receive legal advice and assistance after as well as before being the subject of a criminal charge, will be maintained. The critical point is that no one will be adversely affected by the retrospective nature of the Bill, but without it significant elements of our legal aid system could cease to be available.

Of course, I am still hopeful that the Bill will complete its progress in good time and that the introduction of retrospectivity will prove to have been over-cautious. If this proves to be the case, no harm will have been done. But, by taking this action, if it turns out that the Commons business managers are unable to accommodate the same swift passage which this House has provided, there will be no possibility of gaps in our provision of important legal support to those facing criminal charges.

I hope that in those circumstances the House will support the amendments. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page