|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister ask his right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer to do something about the annuity position so that people aged 75 are not forced to put all their money into an annuity which, at present, is subject to very bad rates, only to find that if they die within a day, a week or at any time thereafter they can lose the lot?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have today tabled a Written Answer on the subject, the careful wording of which I recommend the noble Baroness to read. It does not rule out any of a number of options that are available to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the run up to the election. However, it is a complete fallacy to think that it is unfair on people who take out an annuity and then die soon afterwards. The value of annuities is calculated on a basis that is pooled. Some annuity holders will live a shorter time, while others will live longer. It is the average that counts.
Lord Northbrook: My Lords, can the Minister confirm the article in the Observer section of the Financial Times today that the Government are split on this removal of the annuity limit as regards 75 year-olds, and that some members of the Government want this to be removed while others do not?
Lord Carter: My Lords, immediately after the proceedings on the Regulatory Reform Bill, my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on criminal justice. This will be followed by a Statement on the foot and mouth outbreak that my noble friend Lady Hayman will, again with the leave of the House, repeat to the House.
The Motion is required to vacate the proceedings on the Motion of 19th February that the Regulatory Reform Bill do now pass. Unfortunately, the proceedings on Third Reading were defective to the extent that I did not at that time invite the House to agree to the privilege amendment. Although the Bill itself has no financial effects, it is possible that orders made under it might have. This means that a privilege amendment is required in order not to offend the financial privilege of the House of Commons.
If your Lordships agree to the Motion, the House will be able to resume its proceedings after Third Reading. I shall invite noble Lords to agree to the privilege amendment. The Bill will then be sent to the Commons.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I do not know whether this is an appropriate time, but I should like to seek the Minister's assurance that, notwithstanding the proceedings being technically vacated, the substance of the proceedings that took place on 19th February will remain on the record.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, before the Minister responds, I have to say that this shows an element--to say the least--of parliamentary sloppiness on the part of the Government. When, on Second Reading, I described the Bill as an "albatross" round the noble and learned Lord's neck, I did not appreciate that that albatross would be in a slightly different form; namely, cap shaped with pylons.
As I understand it, this is only the second time in the past 10 years that it has been necessary to move such a rare Motion. In one sense, it is surprising for this Government. On the one hand, they have trumpeted on and on about the supremacy of another place: on the other hand, they have shown a certain amount of arrogance as far as concerns parliamentary proceedings. I do not blame the noble and learned Lord, who, I believe, had other things on his mind at the time. Indeed, for all I know, that is still the case. However, he has had the very able assistance of the Deputy Chief Whip, who jolly well should have known what was going on.
Lord Simon of Glaisdale: My Lords, the Minister got very close to apologising to your Lordships, but in fact we are in his debt. What has happened draws attention to the absurdity of the privilege amendment. It is unique in that it is only moved when what it says is
Why do we do it? Until 1972, the House of Commons would not accept a Bill originating in your Lordships' House unless any charge on public funds was merely incidental and subsidiary. Since 1972 they have accepted a Bill which has originated in your Lordships' House even though it imposes primarily a charge on public funds or on the citizen. But it seems to be agreed, although it is not in Standing Orders specifically, that they will only accept a Bill provided that the privilege amendment is passed.
In fact, the Standing Orders of the other place merely state that a Minister must be in charge of the Bill. On Third Reading the Minister in charge of the Bill says, "I beg to move the privilege amendment". It is not read out; it is not known to the majority of the Members who are assenting to it; and it is passed without debate. In case the taradiddle might be missed by the other place, a thick black line is drawn on the right-hand margin next to the privilege amendment. When it gets to the other place, they merely remove the privilege amendment, which disappears together with its black line, and everyone is perfectly happy. Honour, if that is the right word, is satisfied.
Why do we do this? There is no particular reason. There are much easier ways of deferring to the financial privilege of the other place. One way would be merely to annex to the message that accompanies the Bill to the other place a note that it is not intended to conflict with their financial privilege. What we have is something that is consistently put in when it does not apply. Even statistics are sometimes not misleading. However, the privilege amendment is invariably misleading. We should really change the old saying to, "There are lies, damned lies, statistics and privilege amendments". This is the very matilda of parliamentary practice. No doubt your Lordships will accede to the noble and learned Lord's half apology and will uphold the Motion. However, I suggest it is a matter that the Procedure Committee might look at again. I happen to know that that appealed at one time to the noble Lord the Chief Whip. Perhaps he will put his great authority behind it.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, of course I give the noble Baroness the assurance that she seeks. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, that I am responsible for the Bill and therefore I am responsible for the privilege amendment not being moved. I apologise for that but I think he was being unfair to suggest that that showed any kind of contempt for parliamentary procedure. It showed that I had followed advice. I regret that I made the mistake that I did. I apologise for that.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat a Statement about the Command Paper Criminal Justice: The Way Ahead, copies of which are available in the Vote Office, together with the Criminal Justice System Business Plan for 2001-02 which is being published today. The Statement is as follows:
"Reducing crime carries wider responsibilities than those of the criminal justice system alone. The Government have invested in a range of cross-cutting programmes which will tackle the underlying causes of crime, including Sure-Start for pre-school children, the new Connexions programme, the Children's Fund, the welfare to work programme and the new National Treatment Agency for drugs. This is a key element in our approach to crime reduction. We are determined not only to deal effectively with crime once committed, but to reduce the numbers of people who turn to crime in the first place.
"The youth justice system is being transformed. The National Youth Justice Board and a network of local youth offending teams are co-ordinating effort against youth crime as never before. Repeat cautioning of juveniles has ended. Graduated court sanctions are helping to ensure that young offenders and their parents take greater responsibility for their behaviour and allow for the active involvement of the victims in the process.
"From April this year, for the first time police, probation, CPS and magistrates will be operating to the same coterminous boundaries. Statutory partnerships between the police, local councils, the health service and voluntary organisations have been established across the country to ensure that everyone works together effectively to reduce crime and disorder. These partnerships are benefiting from significant investment under a three-year crime reduction programme--including the biggest ever expansion of CCTV--to help drive crime down at a local level. New anti-social behaviour orders have removed a climate of fear and intimidation from many neighbourhoods, while more than 1,100 successful prosecutions have taken place for new offences of racial violence and racial harassment.
"The system for community punishments is being reformed to ensure better enforcement by a new national probation service. The Prison Service is investing large sums into drugs prevention, accredited offending behaviour programmes, better education and training and an extra 2,660 prison places. This strategy is bearing fruit. Against demographic projections that crime would rise in this period, the British Crime Survey shows that from 1997 to the end of 1999 overall crime had fallen by 10 per cent, with reductions of 4 per cent for violent crime, 15 per cent for vehicle crime and 21 per cent for domestic burglary. Since 1997 overall recorded crime has fallen 7 per cent to a total of just over 5.2 million offences with reductions of 28 per cent for domestic burglary and 20 per cent for vehicle crime.
"I pay tribute to the efforts, commitment and dedication of the police, all those who work in the other criminal justice service agencies and the host of volunteers in Victim Support, Neighbourhood Watch and many other local organisations.
"Over the past 20 years the performance of the CJS has not kept pace with long-term trends in crime, nor with new types of crime: too few crimes are detected and prosecuted successfully. Between 1980 and 1995, while the number of recorded offences doubled, the number of convictions in
"Cases still take too long, while sentencing is too variable and insufficiently focused on reducing re-offending. Within two years of starting a community sentence, or finishing their prison sentence, over half of offenders will be back in court to be convicted and sentenced for further offences.
"The legacy of these failures is that crime is still far too high here, not just in comparison with levels 20 years ago, but also compared with other Western countries. The British Crime Survey showed that while violent crime has fallen by 4 per cent, there are worrying increases in street crime, including robbery.
"With this Command Paper the Government are tackling these longer-term problems. Alongside our continuing programme set in place over the past four years, the paper describes our further strategy for reducing crime and reforming the criminal justice system. It describes a demanding programme for delivering the targets set out in the CJS Public Service Agreement, and also identifies a wide range of new areas where we are looking for improvements. These are focused on four key themes: first, crime prevention--dealing with those factors which appear to increase the chances of a person getting into crime; secondly, catching and convicting more offenders, especially persistent offenders--to close the 'justice gap' between crimes reported to the police and those resulting in a criminal being brought to justice; thirdly, ensuring that punishments fit the criminal as well as the crime, thus reducing re-offending and crime; and, fourthly, radically improved treatment for victims, to ensure that their need for information, support and advice is better met at every stage of the criminal justice process.
"Research that we have undertaken shows that a small group of hard core, highly persistent offenders, fluid but probably no more than 100,000 strong at any given time, may be responsible for half of all crime. Our strategy, involving both investment and reform, is therefore intended to help catch and convict more of these serious and persistent offenders, and to do so more often.
"Using the extra resources and further new technology and techniques, the police will give priority to these serious and persistent offenders. The entire active criminal population will be on the DNA database by 2004. The national intelligence model will be adopted by every police force to establish a consistent basis for gathering, sharing and using intelligence. In addition to previously announced measures to increase the number of police officers to the highest ever level by March 2003, the document details proposals to improve detective capability, and leadership and the management of senior careers in the police service, and to enhance the prospects of those who make a career of being a front-line constable.
"As a whole, the CJS will be receiving the biggest injection of new resources in 20 years. This will deliver more staff, more capacity, and the modernisation of information technology systems for all those working in the CJS. A 23 per cent real term rise in funding for 2001-02 will enable the CPS to recruit scores of extra prosecutors, remedying the under-funding of the service when it was first set up.
"But with this investment and reform must come results. There will therefore be a CJS-wide target for 2004 to increase by 100,000 the number of recorded crimes ending in an offender being brought to justice.
"The document also sets out why we also want to consider fully and carefully the scope for improving court organisation and procedures, the rules of evidence, and codifying and clarifying the criminal law itself. So in December 1999 we asked Sir Robin Auld to conduct a comprehensive and independent review of the criminal courts. The Government will take final decisions after carefully considering his recommendations.
"To achieve our broad goal, of punishments which fit the criminal as well as the crime, we will reform radically the present sentencing structure. This will be based on preventing reoffending as well as punishment and will ensure that persistent offending leads to an increased severity of punishment. There will be a new approach to community punishments and far better enforcement. From April the new National Probation Service will have its funding increased by over a fifth--22 per cent--in real terms over the next three years to deliver a 5 per cent reduction in reoffending. There will, for the first time, be proper supervision of short-sentence prisoners after their release, and a new emphasis on sentence management and review. In making final decisions in this area we shall take full account of the review of the sentencing framework under Mr John Halliday, a senior Home Office official.
"To deal with young offenders there will be a range of new measures, including a commitment that every young offender in custody will get a minimum of 30 hours a week education, training or similar development work.
"Many of the 100,000 most persistent offenders are hard drug users. We therefore have to target better our efforts to break the link between drugs and crime. New measures include the introduction nationally of drug treatment and testing orders. There will be more referrals into treatment at the point of arrest, and drug testing at the point of charge, to ensure that we identify drug misuse problems and intervene earlier. Over the next three years, spending on drug treatment will rise by 70 per cent to over £400 million. And there will be more money to help educate prisoners and ensure that they are able to get work on release.
"We want the CJS and everyone working within it to focus on two clear and linked outcomes: the delivery of justice and the reduction of crime. That is the goal of the programme which I have set out today. I commend the Command Paper to the House".
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, clearly none of us has had the opportunity to study properly the Command Paper; the business plan is not yet available. Can the Minister confirm that the Statement--it has an obvious pre-election flavour--and the Command Paper owe little to any new proposals? They owe a great deal to the fact that spin doctors have spotted the Government's poor performance on crime, to use the words of Mr Justin Russell, the Home Secretary's political adviser. Are the words of Mr Russell, as quoted in the Sunday Times, accurate?
The main purpose seems to be to make headlines; and that was achieved towards the end of last week. However, some of those headlines have not materialised in the Command Paper. Others appear only in consultative form. Is that because the Home Office lost the battle with the Treasury about which we also read in the newspapers over the weekend?
We have had a deluge of Home Office Bills in the past Session. The few firm proposals in this document are not in the Criminal Justice and Police Bill which is now before Parliament, as are several other Home Office Bills. Am I correct in thinking that the Home Office research published before Christmas on lay and stipendiary magistrates will not now result in an important shift of work away from lay magistrates? Why has the Home Office said that the Government will reform radically the present sentencing structure? The Statement indicates that the Government are waiting for the report from Mr Halliday before doing so.
Does the Minister think that the newspapers were right to report that the sentencing reform--when it comes--will mean a cut in prison sentences for tens of thousands of prisoners? The fond hope is that outside prison at least some prisoners will get the training that they ought to get inside prison, although I am not sure that releasing them will improve the chances of that.
Similarly, there are many references to court organisation, but we have to wait for the report of Sir Robin Auld before we hear anything positive on that. Will the Minister spell out a little further the proposals to enhance the prospects of those who make
Victims got a mention at the end of the Statement, with a reference to a consultation paper being issued tomorrow. Will that consultation paper rephrase the promises that Labour made before the last election? That seems to be the indication, but we may have to wait until tomorrow to find out about that.
Since this Government came to office, there has been a surplus of proposals and a lack of performance. I am not alone in thinking that, instead of producing great blocks of glossy paper recycling promises, the Government should concentrate on delivering on the promises that they have already made.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, there is a good deal in the Statement that we welcome, but I have some queries and comments to raise. First, the Government say that the British Crime Survey shows that from 1997 to the end of 1999, overall crime had fallen. Is not that the continuation of an existing trend, not only in this country, but in many others in the developed world? It is not peculiar to this country.
The Statement says that, in addition to previously announced measures, the Government will increase the number of police officers to the highest ever level by March 2003. One wonders what figure the Government have in mind. They talk about 9,000 extra new recruits, but what will the outcome be? Will the number of police officers be significantly above the highest previous level, and if so, by how much?
Have the Government considered the proposal put forward by my honourable friend Mr Simon Hughes for community safety forces, which would co-ordinate and expand the work now done by traffic wardens, park wardens and others to deal with matters such as litter, relatively minor acts of vandalism and graffiti, thereby releasing the police for more serious work?
We welcome the long overdue substantial real increase in funding for the Crown Prosecution Service. I hope that it will improve the efficiency and morale of the CPS. However, I am a little worried by the comment in the Statement that there will be a CJS-wide target for 2004 to increase by 100,000 the number of recorded crimes ending in an offender being brought to justice. Obviously we hope that there will be a substantial increase in the number of prosecutions resulting in conviction, but specific targets worry us. We all know about the alleged cases of traffic wardens who are supposed to fulfil a specific target. We do not think that that is a good idea. We welcome the increase in the work of the CPS, but we are worried about the targets.
The Statement then refers to considering the scope for improving, among other things, the rules of evidence. I do not for a moment suggest that the rules of evidence are immutable and cannot be changed or
The Command Paper refers to alcohol abuse, although the Statement did not. The misuse of alcohol is undoubtedly a major source of crime. It is no coincidence that, along with our very high rates of alcohol consumption in this country, particularly by young people, we have considerably higher crime levels than many other European Union nations. Will the Government consider a campaign against alcohol abuse that is as serious as their campaign against the abuse of other drugs?
We welcome the Statement. There will be more money to help educate prisoners and ensure that they are able to get work on release. We strongly support that. We believe that there should be a working day programme to ensure that prisoners are in work or training for 35 hours a week--that is substantially more than at present. We also suggest an increase in prison wages, not to allow the prisoners to spend more in prison, but to provide a pool from which compensation can be paid or help can be provided for victim support schemes, and to provide a sum that will give released prisoners some money to keep themselves going through the very difficult first few weeks after they come out of prison. We welcome the reference to the criminal injuries compensation scheme, but, while the Government are undoubtedly correct in saying that it is generous compared with other countries, recent cases, particularly that of Lisa Potts, have shown that there are serious problems with it, particularly the rule that in the case of multiple injuries, compensation is payable on only the most serious and the rest must be ignored. That seems illogical.
We look forward with great interest to the proposals to be published tomorrow for the new charter of victims' rights and the victims ombudsman. We strongly welcome the improvements in the Command Paper on that important issue.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, noble Lords opposite have raised a number of useful and interesting points. I do not believe that our Government have lost the will to fight crime; nor have we lost the battle of ideas in this field. I believe that the document published today provides ample examples to that effect. It has little or nothing to do with the fact that a general election may or may not be approaching. It has much to do with providing a clear sense of purpose for the criminal justice system over the next 10 years. Our document is full of new ideas--ideas which emanate from wherever is necessary. We are a Government driven by ideas, thinking and practical problem-solving. That is the way in which we operate and that is where we are in government.
I shall run through a few of those ideas. With regard to policing, we say that we want to enhance detective capability. It is very sad that, when in power, the party opposite ran down the quality of detective training. We say that we want to bring in new, outside experience from the public or private sectors to enhance detective capability. That seems to me a sensible, pragmatic way in which to approach the matter. No doubt it will be much welcomed by the police service. We say that we want to create a new joint central body to set out service-wide strategic approaches to information technology and to scientific and technical developments. That is a new idea.
We say that we want a more structured career management process to be put in place, including the development of a new leadership development board. That is a new idea. We say that we want to explore the scope of specialist court hearings to deal with drug dealers. That is a new idea. We say that we want to see continued and better oversight and intervention by the criminal justice system in drug abuse matters generally. We say that we want to develop specialist prosecutors. We say that we want to have a consolidated criminal code. I could go on with a long list of the new approaches and ideas that are contained in this document.
As to losing a battle with the Treasury, I believe that I made it plain in the Statement that we are increasing significantly resources to all parts of the criminal justice system. Those resources were much depleted in many spheres during the watch of the previous government. We are putting more money into the Prison Service and the National Probation Service. By 2003, record numbers of police officers will be serving the nation. They will be on the streets and in the places and communities where they need to be.
The noble Lord, Lord Cope, asked about the role and development of the constable. Constables make up approximately 75 per cent of the front-line service. We greatly value their work and want to enhance that work in the community. That is obviously a shared objective across the three major parties. We want to enhance the status of constables in the very active, important and visible community role that they perform, and we want to explore with the service how that may work.
Tomorrow we shall publish a consultation document. Both noble Lords drew attention to that. We want to strengthen the position of the victim within our criminal justice system. I pay tribute to earlier administrations, not least the Labour administration which, some 35 or 36 years ago in the early stage of our administration in the 1960s, set up the criminal injuries compensation process. I also pay tribute to those who have enhanced the system during their watch. However, we want to go further than that. When examining the criminal justice system, we want to ensure that the victim is at the centre of our concerns and considerations.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, referred to patterns of criminality. It is true that varying rates of criminal activity are to be found across the world and that crime patterns vary. We are pleased that, according to the BCS, there has been a 10 per cent reduction in crime in the period since 1997 and a 7 per cent reduction in recorded crime figures. We want that reduction to continue. At the heart of our approach is a strategy which is designed to reduce crime. I hope that that will be generally welcomed and supported.
The noble Lord asked a specific question about police numbers. We estimate that police numbers will reach approximately 126,000 by March 2001, approximately 128,000 by March 2002, and the highest ever level during 2003-04. Clearly that final figure will depend very much on the continued success of the recruitment campaign. However, I can tell your Lordships that across the country numbers in police training colleges are now 74 per cent higher than they were this time last year. I believe that that gives a fair indication of where we expect the numbers to be moving during the coming period.
The noble Lord also referred to funding for the CPS. The CPS was set up in 1985. At that time, we argued that we were concerned about the basis on which it was to be established and about its resource levels. Despite the tireless efforts of those involved in it, when we came into government we inherited a situation in which the service was perhaps not performing at its best. For that reason, we have given it further funding through the spending review process. As I understand it, next year the service will receive an increase of 23 per
Although I understand the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, about simple target-setting, we believe that it is right that more people are brought to book. The fact is that since we have been in government we have seen a 13 per cent increase in the number of convictions. We are delighted about that. We believe that with extra resources the CPS will be able to increase the number of convictions by approximately 30 per cent. We consider that to be important. People want to see criminals brought to book; they want to see the criminal justice system working well; and they want to have confidence and reassurance from it. We in government believe that that is right and we support that desire.
The noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, made a point about previous convictions being taken into consideration. Of course, this is a sensitive area and we respect the point which the noble Lord made. However, matters will be left very much to the discretion of the judge, and no doubt this is an issue on which Sir Robin Auld will comment. I consider it to be a very important point.
I have covered a range of the points which were made in the opening responses of noble Lords opposite. It may be worth reiterating that the increase in funding for the CPS will be in the region of 23 per cent in the period 2001-02. That further underlines the point that I made earlier and I hope that it is helpful. I look forward to receiving questions from other noble Lords during this Session.
Lord Elton: My Lords, as one who is particularly interested in young people before they become, as well as when they are, criminals, perhaps I may ask a few questions about the key points listed on pages 27 and 28 of the report. First, I see that 400 additional secure training centre places are to provide intensive supervision and so on. Recently I visited Medway. Together with colleagues who went there, I came to the conclusion fairly quickly that in part the place depended for its effectiveness on its small size. I should like to know how many more secure training centres are to be built to accommodate the extra 400 people. If it is merely a question of squeezing them into existing accommodation or expanding that accommodation, that will be counter-productive.
My second question is about the new children's fund and the associated £450 million. Where is that money coming from? Is it being taken from other programmes or is it new money? More particularly, what proportion of it will be devoted to supporting the voluntary sector that works to prevent young people from getting into crime? My view, which is based on considerable experience, is that that is infinitely the most effective arm that we have. If it is possible at this early stage to say how voluntary agencies could apply for those funds, that would be helpful.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|