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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the law relating to the age at which certain persons become eligible to receive travel concessions on journeys on public passenger transport services; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to establish a committee of inquiry into the implications of a withdrawal by the United Kingdom from the European Union. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.
"Most Gracious Sovereign--We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament".
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I am conscious, on rising to make my maiden speech in your Lordships' House from the Front Bench, that I am not subject to the normal conventions on interventions. It is not my intention to provoke anybody and I shall deliberately try not to do so.
I thank Members from all quarters of the House for the incredibly warm welcome that I have received in the past few days as I have been walking the corridors of the House. I debated--sometimes quite acrimoniously--with many noble Lords on both sides of the House when we were in the other place. I am also conscious that, after the introduction of the new Members to your Lordships' House earlier this afternoon, I now have behind me the two Ministers and the senior Whip who were on the Finance Bill Committee in 1977 when, along with Audrey Wise, I made a technical adjustment to the Chancellor's Budget. They have promised not to seek to make a Barnett-Sheldon-Stoddart amendment to any Bill that I may take through the House, but if they did I would hardly be in a position to complain.
One other point that I have to get out of the way so that it cannot be used in evidence against me during future proceedings is that I never expected or had any long-term plans to arrive in your Lordships' House. The proof of that is that, in the early months of 1980, I moved a 10-minute rule Bill in the other place to abolish your Lordships' House. I hope that that issue can now be put aside.
I shall try to speak briefly on the health and home affairs issues raised in the gracious Speech. My noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who is to wind up the debate, will deal with health issues in more detail. The Government have proposed three major health Bills in the gracious Speech. The first is the NHS Reform and Decentralisation Bill. As I have learnt in the past four years as a Minister, we do not write titles for Bills; they are laid down for us. That one is a bit of a mouthful, but the Bill will enable front-line health staff to meet the standards expected of them in a way that is best suited to our communities. It will also radically reorganise the current 95 health authorities. We reckon that it will free up about £100 million by cutting bureaucracy. That money can then be devoted to front-line services.
We will also devolve more power and resources to primary care trusts. When the provisions are fully in operation, we expect that two thirds of NHS funding will be in the hands of front-line staff--doctors, nurses and other health professionals. That will be a major change from what has happened in the health services over the past 50 years and will bring great benefit to our fellow citizens, which is the most important point.
The Bill will also touch on the self-regulation of the medical profession, with provisions for the modernisation of the running of the General Medical Council. We shall also try to strengthen the public and patient representation bodies that were initiated in the Health and Social Care Act 2001.
The NHS (Wales) Bill will meet the desire of the National Assembly for Wales and the manifesto commitments that were made. By and large, it will provide a framework for the NHS in Wales in line with the NHS Plan that has already been agreed by the National Assembly for Wales. It will improve collaborative working between local and national partners and provide essential statutory functions in public health.
The third health Bill deals with a sensitive and important issue discussed by Members of this House and of another place over many years--adoption. The Prime Minister personally led a review of adoption policy last year. The Adoption and Children Bill will lay the foundations for a better future, putting the child's interests firmly at the centre of adoption processes, cutting delays and making adoption processes fairer. Many of us have been involved as citizens, neighbours or representatives in this place and elsewhere in various tragic cases of people who have been unable to adopt because of the political correctness laid down by some authorities. The Bill will also strengthen safeguards on inter-country adoption and on the advertising of children for adoption. Children who are looked after by local authorities deserve the same chances as any other child. I hope that the Bill will provide an opportunity for a new start for thousands of our most vulnerable children.
In the past two Sessions of Parliament, the Home Office has been responsible for 17 Acts, much to the chagrin of other Ministers who have not been able to gain a slot for their legislation. That has placed an enormous load on Parliament. We are currently seeking to find out what has happened to the operation of those 17 Acts to ensure that they do what this House and the other place intended. Passing legislation is a fruitless exercise if it is not implemented or tracked or if no one checks whether it performs the function originally intended. We do not do that systematically enough in our parliamentary processes. As a contribution, I am pleased that in this Session the Home Office is offering only four Bills. That is a clear reduction.
We are seeing the fruits of some of our first-term reforms in youth justice and the probation service, as well as higher police numbers. However, crime levels are still far too high, even though, according to the
The first Bill is the Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill. Unusually, I have no interest to declare. I am often asked who I support. The last time I went to a live football match, I took half a day off school, and I left school in 1957.
Last year we introduced tough measures to help to combat football hooliganism. There is no question that this is a very serious issue which affects our national sport; it also affects us in many other ways, including internationally. Prompted by the disorder during Euro 2000, the Football (Disorder) Act 2000 refined and expanded existing anti-hooligan legislation. While the Act made provision for the courts to impose banning orders in circumstances others than on conviction of a football-related offence, it was also needed to demonstrate to governments, police forces and citizens across Europe, beyond the UK, that we were taking the issue seriously. Football hooliganism is not something that we are proud to export. It must stop and we must take all reasonable legislative means to ensure that that happens.
A report on the impact of the 2000 Act has been laid before Parliament. By and large, it confirms that the measures have been successful in reducing disorder and that the powers are being used in a targeted and proportionate way. In order to assist the passage of the Bill--noble Lords will remember this--the life span of the key measures was limited to 12 months, extendable for a further year by an affirmative instrument. Thereafter, the measures will lapse unless the sunset clause is removed by primary legislation. The purpose of the Football (Disorder) (Amendment) Bill is to remove that clause. Of course, we shall bring forward the order in adequate time.
Whatever the nature of crime and disorder, the police are in the front line of the fight against them. Our aim is to work in partnership with the police service and to help it to work as effectively as possible. There is no doubt that part of that project is an ambitious modernisation programme, developed together with the police service. I emphasise partnership and developing the programme together. Our vision for the future of policing is a professional and effective police service which has the confidence of the public. Of course, it will need strong leadership and more effective management, a well-trained and well-equipped workforce, and the most modern technological back-up that we can provide.
Additional, enormous advantages are to be gained in helping the police to do their job by making the best use of modern advances in technology. In this Session we shall bring forward a Police Bill which will build on the progress already made as a result of discussions with the service since the autumn of last year. The Bill will make amendments to legislation which are essential in order to deliver the Government's manifesto commitments on police reform.
However, the police are only one key agency; there are others within the wider criminal justice system. Their effectiveness depends on that of the totality. One area which we believe requires urgent reform is the criminal justice system's poor ability to deprive criminals of their ill-gotten gains. The weaknesses were set out by the Performance and Innovation Unit, which reported to the Prime Minister last year.
Earlier this year, the Government published the Proceeds of Crime Bill in draft form. The consultation period has recently been completed and we shall indicate our response to the comments received when the Bill is introduced. I understand that it is quite a weighty Bill. That is not to say that big problems require big Bills; indeed, the very opposite is sometimes true. A big problem does not necessarily need a big Bill, but this is a weighty tome.
The Bill will establish a criminal assets recovery agency, dedicated to tracking down and depriving criminals of their unlawful earnings. Funds have already been set aside for that purpose. The agency will have a new power to recover criminal proceeds through civil litigation in the High Court or to tax criminal gains, drawing on the powers of the Inland Revenue. Its director will advise the Secretary of State on strategic issues in this field, and the agency will provide training and accreditation to financial investigators.
The Bill will reform and strengthen restraint and confiscation procedures in criminal cases and will extend the powers of the law enforcement authorities to trace and investigate suspected criminal assets. It will also modernise the system of dealing with the prosecution of money laundering. However, because I understand the sensitivities surrounding this issue for anyone who cares about the conduct of public policy, I want to make one thing absolutely clear. The legislation will include the best possible practical safeguards that we can devise in respect of human rights.
In his remarks on the Criminal Justice Bill during his speech in the other place this afternoon, the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, will make the point that we want to arrive at as much of a consensus as possible on this issue across the parties and across the divide. There is no reason why the function of criminal justice should be subject to a party political dogfight. An invitation will be extended to noble Lords in this House to take part in the discussions on the approach that we should adopt in taking through the legislation and on what parts we should include. We want to take through the Bill with as great a consensual approach
In some ways, the Criminal Justice Bill will go much further than the Proceeds of Crime Bill. It will pave the way for fundamental reform of the sentencing framework. We shall consult on fully the sentencing review first, but the Bill will provide a vehicle for early legislation to implement parts of the review. It is possible that not all parts will be implemented at the same time.
It is hoped that the Bill will improve public confidence by tightening up bail procedures and by providing for retrials following acquittals in murder cases where there is compelling new evidence of guilt. That, of course, is an incredibly sensitive issue and concerns a fundamental change in our system of criminal justice. We want to get the matter right, but we shall not get it right if we say, "We are the Government; we know best". We want to adopt a consensual approach to this change. A change in this area is needed in order to take account of modern technology and the processes which are now available. I shall not go into detail about those, but everyone is aware of them.
Protection of the public from sex offenders is also high on the list of priorities. The Bill will improve protection by strengthening the registration requirements in the Sex Offenders Act. It will also reform the law on corruption, bringing it up to date and making clear our compliance with international instruments.
I have tried to set out the various points as briefly as possible in order to give an overview of the central Bills that we shall bring forward in respect of the health and Home Office portfolios. I said that there are only four Bills. Previously, during debates on the gracious Speech, I have listened to Ministers list the forthcoming Bills. Then, half way through the Session, Bills that had never been mentioned have popped up out of the blue, all of which seemed a good idea at the time.
Sometimes we legislate in haste and then repent at our leisure, going through the issues again with an amendment Bill. We shall seek to avoid doing that. We shall seek to think through the legislation before we present it to the House and to be as consensual and open as possible in getting it through.
I hope that noble Lords will consider that I have given an overview of our aims. I understand that, according to the rules under which I am operating, I cannot elaborate further by way of interventions. However, my noble friend Lord Hunt will do that. I commend the gracious Speech to the House.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, my first duty and, indeed, pleasure is to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, on three counts: first, on his appointment to this House. He comes with great experience. Your Lordships will know of his 27 years
Secondly, it may not be so well known that at the age of 16 he was apprenticed as a toolmaker. It is right to point out that toolmakers are the aristocracy of the engineering shop. He subsequently worked with increasing responsibility in several engineering firms and earned a formidable collection of qualifications, including a BSc and MA; he is also a chartered engineer, a fellow of the Institute of Production Engineers--he was a member of its council for a while--a mechanical engineer and a member of the British Institute of Management. This House values experience and the noble Lord brings plenty of it from inside politics and government and from outside them. I am delighted to congratulate him on his appointment to this House and on his maiden speech. We all look forward to hearing him speak again. We can be certain of hearing from him frequently!
Thirdly, I congratulate the noble Lord on his appointment as Minister of State at the Home Office. It is a busy department, although it is not as busy as it was because it has been shorn of a long list of responsibilities. However, before I discuss that in more detail, I take a moment to thank the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, for his work as a Home Office Minister. As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, worked very hard and was hard pressed by conflicts and--the noble Lord hinted at this--ill-prepared legislation. The legislation was usually drawn up by others and given to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, to steer through this House. He remained throughout a model of courtesy and always tried to respond to every point with care and in writing if necessary. He remains on the Front Bench as a Whip, so I had better not say any more.
I shall concentrate today on Home Office matters. My noble friend Lord Howe will discuss the health aspects of today's debate when he winds up. As I said, the Home Office is not what it was under the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. Almost every other department in Whitehall has taken a bite out of it. Perhaps the Prime Minister balked at the idea of a full ministry of justice but the decks were cleared for it in any case.
The noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor has taken from the Home Office responsibility for human rights, data protection and freedom of information. The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions has taken from the Home Office the important constitutional responsibility for electoral law and the Electoral Commission; it is also responsible for fire services and Her Majesty's Fire Service Inspectorate but not, I believe, civil emergency planning.
In exchange for giving away all that, the Home Office has regained from the Cabinet Office full responsibility for drugs policy and it has also taken over responsibility for work permits. The Cabinet Office is being upgraded in other respects, so moving responsibility for drugs policy co-ordination appears to involve downgrading the emphasis on drugs. That is apparently confirmed by the downgrading of the "drugs tsar". If that is so, it is worrying because drugs and their consequences are a massive and growing engine of all kinds of crime. We shall continue to give priority to fighting illegal drugs and we shall press the Government on that.
Work permits are an interesting case. Some think that more immigrants are needed to fill particular skilled vacancies or simply to provide more manpower. A new "green card" system, like that used in America, is supposed to be needed. The relevant American cards are not green any more, but we know what is meant by the phrase, which refers to an arrangement that is very like our own work permit system. Many work permits are for short-term employment--they involve specialists of various kinds, including actors, musicians and those seeking to improve their employment skills--or for those wanting more usual long-term jobs.
Such decisions have been taken until now by the Department of Employment--to use one of the various names it has had over the years--because it knew where the skills shortages were and where spare manpower was or was likely to be. It used that knowledge to assess employers' applications for work permits for overseas employees. In other words, Whitehall responsibility for work permits reflected the fact that it has been job-market based. In future, it appears that it will be Home Office and "immigration control" based. I find it difficult to see that as either logical or an improvement.
The same goes for a good deal of the reshuffling of responsibilities in Whitehall. Such shuffling of departments' responsibilities involves tremendous upheavals. Ministers' responsibilities can be changed at the stroke of a pen and in this country they take effect at once. However, the staff, buildings and computer programmes take months to reorganise and years to settle down in their new conformation. Establishment officers throughout Whitehall who are involved in pruning this once great department face a massive volume of work. It will take time for the many outside people who have to deal with government to chase their contacts around Whitehall and to find out exactly what has happened. Reorganisations of this kind should be embarked on sparingly and should not
As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, said, the gracious Speech promised us a police Bill. He also set out its main themes. Throughout the previous Parliament we were promised more police officers, but the numbers in fact fell, largely because of high wastage, which reflects the low morale about which we all know. We will judge the proposals by their effect on police morale and on officers' self-respect and respect for the job. Without such self-respect, the respect of the public is inevitably threatened, standards fall and a difficult job becomes even more difficult. Incidentally, the Home Secretary's intervention in Sussex is an odd start in that respect.
Effective numbers and morale are also linked to the bureaucratic burdens that are placed on the police, and the Bill is potentially important in that regard. Considerable work has been done on the new complaints system, which has consequences in terms of public respect and the bureaucratic load. The work of our police is examined and second-guessed by a great number of bodies, apart from the complaints body in either its present or its proposed form. Those bodies obviously include the Home Office, and Parliament directly observes the police and the Home Office. The police are also supervised by the police authorities in the various regions, Her Majesty's inspectorate, the National Audit Office and, crucially, the courts and the Crown Prosecution Service, which seeks to follow up the work of the police in the courts. That means that a huge number of institutions are effectively looking over the shoulder of every constable as they deal with incidents in the middle of the night. He may be called on within a few minutes to justify his conduct or his superiors may be faced with this huge barrage of groups.
The gracious Speech also promised us a continuation of the special legislation against football violence. Parliament needs an opportunity to consider the way in which those provisions are working in practice because they were necessarily introduced very quickly. They involve the sort of Bill to which the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred when he discussed Bills that were squeezed in with a shoehorn at late date. As he said, we will soon have a preliminary opportunity to consider the provisions through the continuation order. The noble Lord told us about his interest in football, which is roughly parallel with my own. The whole subject was and no doubt remains a personal interest of the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, so availability of advice on this matter is not lacking.
The other three Bills mentioned in the gracious Speech are awaiting reports, "remanded, awaiting reports" might be one description. The criminal justice Bill awaits the publication of Sir John Halliday's review of sentencing. The proceeds of crime Bill awaits
I hope that in each case, publication of the necessary reviews, consultation and so on will be in good time to enable your Lordships and others outside to consider what is said, preferably before the Bills are put before Parliament. Those outside reports and reviews are, after all, supposed to help others, not just the Home Office, to consider the issues and get them right in the Bill concerned.
The proceeds of crime Bill will build on measures introduced originally by the Conservative government. The Minister showed that he is already sensitive to the potential human rights problems of the proposals and to some of the dangers in the detail for legitimate businesses for, of course, those provisions will affect not only criminals. They will indirectly affect criminals, but they will also affect a very large number of legitimate businesses too, with the dangers which that might create. But at the moment, we await the results of the consultations.
Criminal justice Bills are now more as less as regular a feature of parliamentary life as Finance Bills. With violent crime still rising, who can be surprised? This year's criminal justice Bill promises to be another mixed collection of measures, as the Minister set out briefly, including the modification of the double jeopardy rule. Your Lordships will not need me to tell you that the controversial aspect of that is the possible retrospection involved.
The gracious Speech promised nothing about another important remaining responsibility of the Home Office; that is, prisons. But fortunately, my noble friend Lord Hurd of Westwell has given us an opportunity to discuss them fully in a few days' time, so we do not need to refer to them today.
The Minister has been given personal responsibility within the Home Office for asylum, immigration and work permits. No legislation is planned in that field but there is plenty of work to do there. There are a great many unfulfilled promises. The Minister concerned has to deal with one of the heaviest caseloads in government. For that reason, if for no other, the noble Lord will be relieved, I think, that he will only have to respond on behalf of a somewhat truncated Home Office by comparison with his predecessor. But in any event, I congratulate him and wish him well.
But I have some good news for the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor. I understand that the Leader of the House has taken to consulting the noble Viscount, Lord Cranborne, about how his kinsman, Lord Salisbury, managed to be Prime Minister from the House of Lords.
My main task, however, is to respond to the gracious Speech in relation to home affairs. Like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I associate myself with the tributes to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, who, although now in pastures new, exhibited enormous fortitude, I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, as he dealt with the heaviest workload of any Minister in the House of Lords in the last Session.
Like the noble Lord, Lord Cope, I welcome the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and congratulate him on it. I know from my own experience that he comes from another place with a well established record both as a Member of Parliament and as a Minister. Even with that experience, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will need a little help from his friends. For a start, I know that the layout of this place is rather confusing so I should explain that there is the Official Opposition, this is the real Opposition and occasionally, from time to time, up there is the noble Lord, Lord Hattersley. I hope that the Opposition Front Benches will not be too hard on the noble Lord, Lord Hattersley. Although the Minister is not a footballer, the noble Lord, Lord Hattersley, is a keen football fan and as a supporter of Sheffield Wednesday, he has not yet become used to supporting a winning team.
The Home Office has changed a lot since the general election. In fact, I believe that only the noble Lord, Lord Warner, has survived as a kind of influential spider in the middle of the Home Office web. All the other Ministers are new. I can understand the desire to clear decks to allow the department to concentrate on the core issues of crime and punishment.
I put it on record that I am worried that betting and gaming have moved from the Home Office to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. There were very good reasons for betting and gaming being kept within the Home Office and in recent years, those reasons--in particular, defence against organised crime--have grown stronger rather than weaker.
Be that as it may, the Home Office refocusing under a new Ministerial team offers the opportunity to take stock. I hope that reports that David Blunkett intends to play the tough guy even more than his predecessor are not true. I have made my criticism of Jack Straw before. He saw as the first priority of his stewardship
The question that David Blunkett should be asking himself is whether populist illiberalism produces the solutions to the problems facing a Home Secretary. It is the contention of these Benches that it does not. Gesture politics and, even worse, gesture legislation has been the abiding failure of successive Home Secretaries, Tory and Labour, over recent years.
But if young offender institutions were likely to undo eight years of remedial work on Jamie Bulger's killers, what kind of damage are they doing to the young people that we send there? Instead of every Home Office Minister trotting out statistics about new prisons and increased prison numbers, would it not be better to bring forward a real strategy for prison reform and a greater emphasis on successful alternatives to prison?
I do not deny that a real fear exists in the mind of the public in relation to the issues of law and order. However, in responding to crime, it is important to keep a cool head. Knee-jerk reactions are not a sound basis for a system of justice or of punishment. With that in mind, this House has a particular duty to examine measures in the gracious Speech in terms of civil liberties and basic freedoms. I welcome the spirit and the content of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in that context.
The quick fix rarely proves the right solution in such matters and we must eschew the idea that when one draconian set of measures has failed our only response is another turn of the ratchet towards even tougher measures. In recent years successive Home Secretaries have implied that any questioning of their particular solutions means a kind of namby-pamby liberalism that leaves the criminal unpunished and the victims of crime unprotected. Nothing could be further from the truth.
As an example I turn to the issue of drugs, to which the noble Lord, Lord Cope, referred. Over seven years ago, in 1994, the Liberal Democrats called for a Royal Commission on drugs. We were well and truly dumped on by Labour and Conservative spokesmen and lampooned by the popular press as potheads and crackpots. Yet the very first observation of the ground-breaking report of the committee chaired by Lady Runciman on drugs policy, commissioned by the Police Foundation, stated:
Meanwhile, let us take some real and practical measures against the drug menace. In that respect I welcome the promise in the gracious Speech of urgent action against money laundering. It is clear that action against street-corner pushers has only marginal effect. We must go after organised crime at its roots with measures to track down and to confiscate the proceeds of crime. I welcome the declaration by David Blunkett that one of his primary objectives is a war on traffickers in drugs, people and terrorism. The recent report of the House of Commons Select Committee on International Development called for the establishment of a single government department to provide a focus for current activity, and pointed out that the,
An added incentive for a country like Britain to take action against money laundering is what I call the BBC World Service factor. Today at Question Time we heard that all over the world people tune in to the BBC World Service in preference to domestic or other international news providers for one simple reason: they believe the BBC.
A parallel can be found in the City of London, which still has a reputation for business probity. I believe that such a reputation is an asset in a global economy, particularly in the area of financial services. But it is an
I worry whether the National Criminal Intelligence Service is being given the priority or the resources to make a reality of Government intent. The number of prosecutions for money laundering offences is still minute and the co-operation of all but a few major banks and virtually none of the big law firms and accountancy firms undermines the thrust of declared policy.
As the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, indicated, the gracious Speech contains four Bills that are directly within the ambit of the Home Office and I believe that in the past week a fifth has been added--the civil defence funding Bill.
There are also a couple of constitutional Bills, the fox hunting Bill, which has some relevance to this debate, and, of course, the "Harold Macmillans events", the entirely unexpected, which will occupy us during the coming year. I do not intend to give a detailed comment on each of those Bills today, especially as my colleagues, the noble Lords, Lord Dholakia and Lord Phillips, intend to cover certain aspects in more detail in the light of their own vast experience.
I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, and through him the Home Secretary, takes on board the message from these Benches: basically it is time for a change of emphasis from the Prime Minister's old mantra of "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" towards "effective on crime, effective on the causes of crime".
The Home Office is a great Office of State which in the past has championed civil liberties and human rights, as it must do again. We cannot provide more law and order by undermining the protection for the citizens that over the centuries has been built into our criminal justice system.
We cannot achieve support for the police unless we recognise and remedy the faults and weaknesses that exist. A programme of police reform that brings our police forces closer and makes them more accountable to the communities that they seek to serve will have enthusiastic support on these Benches.
Likewise, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has special responsibility for asylum policy, so he will have our support when he seeks to implement a policy that honours our age-old tradition of tolerance and refuge for those in need of shelter from persecution. He will receive support from these Benches if he seeks an asylum policy that fairly shares the burden of reception and absorption in full consultation with local communities and seeks genuine international co-operation in dealing with the matter. However, it will not be acceptable to use bureaucratic delay and inhumanity of treatment as hidden deterrents to those who seek asylum here.
On race relations I shall make only two points. My noble friend Lord Dholakia will have more to say on the subject. First, there is a need to look at the special circumstances that have arisen in some of our old
We start a heavy work programme with some big issues. I repeat that I welcome both the offer and the tone of the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, to which I believe we can respond. On these Benches he will find informed criticism and principled opposition when the Government get things wrong, particularly on matters of individual liberty, and civil and human rights. However, he will also find unflinching support when the Government take the road of radical reform. That is how it was in the previous Parliament and so it will be in this.
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, first I must crave the indulgence of the House in case this debate should continue late into the evening. Early tomorrow morning I have to lead into retreat those whom I shall ordain on Sunday morning. My only opportunity to keep that appointment with them is to catch the last train to Durham tonight. I apologise for any discourtesy to the House.
I join other noble Lords in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, on his clarity, humour and experience. No doubt all that will stand the Government and this House in good stead in the future. I hope that he will soon be converted to the wisdom that flows from all the Benches in this House.
I welcome the Government's intention to address a wide range of issues relating to the prevention of crime. I welcome the opportunity to make our response to it in terms of police investigations, the court system and the responsibility that we have to the victims and to the perpetrators of crime. Our inability as a society to stem the rise particularly in violent crime should not be blamed only on our police forces. It is a reflection of the instability in society, caused by the erosion of family life and the lack of moral framework that we offer to younger generations.
Crimes which spring from common human frailties such as greed or jealousy are bad enough. But when racial or religious motives are responsible for crime, we have used the positive delights of human variety, dignity and sanctity and turned them into excuses and weapons for violence and destruction.
It is this evolving and unpredictable nature of society which makes it important that legislation is always appropriate to meet the demands of the age in which we live. But in framing new legislation, I hope that the Government will have in mind that in the end we cannot legislate to eradicate the causes of crime nor provide a cure for it. The origins of and responses to crime will be addressed by much broader government policies which deal with the encouragement of marriage and family life, with education and with the eradication of unemployment and urban and rural poverty.
No reforms to our judicial systems, no scientific methods of detection, no increase in the numbers and efficiency of our police forces, desirable and necessary as all these things may be, will address the root causes of crime.
When we come to address the details of the new legislation, we must keep those reflections before us. A show of strength and political determination may be welcome, but we must remain aware of the limitations of legislation in itself to provide all the answers to our deep concerns. We should keep in mind four purposes of the criminal justice system: to punish the criminal; to serve those who are the victims of crime; to protect the public; and to restore to their full humanity those who fail.
The system must seek to do all that with clarity, openness and fairness. For example, the double jeopardy protection should not be thrown out thoughtlessly or in a populist knee-jerk reaction to particular notorious crimes. It is important that in the vast majority of cases those acquitted of accusation should be able to put aside that experience for ever; and it is important that we do not provide excuses for criminal investigations to be less thorough because there is the possibility of returning the case to court.
Nevertheless, with the advancement of technology, it is quite possible that new evidence could come to light which suggests that the case could be returned to court. There may be instances where the accused is freed on a technical matter which means that the issue is not fully or satisfactorily resolved.
That suggests that in the most serious or repeated crimes, the abolition or protection of double jeopardy may serve the cause of justice, but we must safeguard the legislation from opening this gate too widely. When we know the details of the review carried out by Lord Justice Auld, I hope that we shall be able to address some current failures of the police and courts system.
One example which was brought to my attention involved the case of a minor fraud which took three years to come to court after arrest. During that time, the defendant lost his job and a number of personal and essential items were not returned to him. He also underwent a nominal sentence of a few weeks, an experience which was totally negative for him. It was his first and I trust only offence, but his whole life was put on hold for an unconscionably long time.
Thankfully, that man had the support of the Church during his long wait, his trauma of court proceedings, his short but devastating prison sentence and his rehabilitation into the community. It is worth noting that the Church's Criminal Justice Forum has launched a resettlement programme under the direction of two Salvation Army officers. It is called "Community Chaplaincy", whereby chaplains work as much with the prisoners after release as when they are in prison. Pilot sites for this programme are now in operation in Swansea, Preston and Gloucester.
Finally, I turn to an issue which is a good example of the needs expressed in my opening remarks. The Queen's Speech indicated that legislation will be introduced to extend the life of the Football (Disorder) Act. Sadly, we must now assume that this should be further extended to include cricket and perhaps other sports as well.
For those of us who love our cricket, it seems unbelievable that what is clearly necessary at Highbury is also relevant to Lord's. But the recent happenings at cricket grounds point to something more sinister than high spirits. Let us hope that it involves only a small minority. However, the indicators are that those disturbances are another expression of the racial and perhaps religious motivations of some who have ambitions further to destabilise our society.
By all means, let us give the police and the courts the power adequately to control such behaviour. But we must also take note that the causes and cures of these disturbances reach deeper into our society than can be handled by legislation alone.
I look forward to hearing from the Government that the fight against crime, as well as being tackled by improvements in our police and judicial systems, needs to be engaged on a broad front and among the people who at local level are teaching, counselling and praying that our communities may be safer places in which to live.
Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, it is clear that the gracious Speech closely reflects the priorities which dominated the election campaign and which represent the key elements of the mandate of the Government for this term. In particular, two of the most important priorities are the subject of our debate today; namely, health, with the objective of the reform of the health services, and justice and home affairs, with the objective of improvements in policing, in the criminal court system, in the recovery of criminal assets and in sentencing.
The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, who I am very pleased to see back in his accustomed place on the Front Bench, knows that from time to time I intervene on some health matters, in particular those concerning mental health as I am a patron of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship. This is the first time I have intervened in your Lordships' House on issues of justice and home affairs. But what can an ambitious Cross-Bencher do? As the noble and learned Lord the Leader of the House told us last Wednesday:
First, there will be widespread support, which I strongly share, for the measures to help the police fight crime and co-operate across boundaries. Sometimes there are moments in a person's life when he wonders what the Government are for. Certainly, that happened to me from time to time when I was a public servant. But surely in this area there is no doubt that government and Parliament must support the police and seek to make them as effective as possible, not only in the detection and arrest of criminals but also in the wider role to prevent crime by their presence in sufficient numbers and the advice that they give to householders and others who are potentially affected by crime.
Most of the measures taken in the community to prevent crime, to make it harder to commit it and to influence the actions and opinions of actual and potential offenders are not so eye-catching as a high-speed police chase, but public resources devoted to preventing crime are generally well spent, and I am sure that the public are well aware of that. I hope that such measures will continue to have priority, whether they are conducted by the police themselves or other organisations. I commend the project of the Howard League, of which I am an ordinary member, called Citizenship and Crime which challenges 7,000 children and young people in 60 schools so far to understand their responsibilities and reject harmful behaviour.
Secondly, there will be widespread support for the Bill to establish a criminal assets recovery agency and to make it easier to recover the proceeds of drugs and crime. I understand that the Bill will change the burden of proof in determining whether assets are the proceeds of drugs and crime so that it is easier to arrive at a satisfactory result. Action in this area certainly responds to public dissatisfaction with cases where criminals have apparently been able to continue a high life style while their victims suffer.
The third main element in the plethora of new legislation on justice and home affairs is the potential reform of the criminal courts system which follows the recommendations of the committee chaired by Lord Justice Auld, which are eagerly awaited on these Benches, and other moves to reform sentencing. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, referred to a fundamental reform of sentencing, including, according to the press briefing, new style intermediate courts where a judge will sit with magistrates, and a review of sentencing policy with longer prison terms for some offenders.
While supporting much of the Government's proposals, it is on the last point that I express some doubt. It is evident that for some offences, in particular those involving violence, substantial prison terms are necessary for the protection of the public. Subject to that, the situation in our prison population gives rise to serious misgivings. That is indicated by the fact that shortly we shall have a further debate on this matter in the House initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd of
That is not fully the situation today. We have a very high prison population in comparison with some other states in Europe. More than 200,000 men, women and children experienced prison here in 1999. That was not the prison population but the number of people who passed through prison. Eighty per cent of those who go to prison are sentenced for non-violent offences, and two-thirds of prisoners are sentenced to six months or less. I look forward to the possibility that in relation to the latter point the proposed new system of custody plus, which may come forward in this legislation, will be an improvement.
The present system is very expensive. It costs about £26,000 a year to keep someone in prison. It is also costly because about half of those who experience prison will be reconvicted of another offence within two years of release. In addition, of the very many people in prison on remand half will not be sentenced to imprisonment when their cases finally come to court.
Some of the increase in the prison population in the 1990s is easily understandable; for example, there was a very big increase in the number of those convicted of drug offences. But the growth in the number of prisoners has arisen mainly from longer sentencing, not more crime. For that reason, whatever we debate on these Bills in relation to sentencing is very important.
I believe that the Minister should be concerned about two points. First, at the end of the period covered by the digest published by the Home Office in October 1999 almost twice as many people were in prison for burglary, theft, handling and robbery as for violence against the person. Secondly, the proportionate use of immediate custody for indictable offences, which fell in the 1980s, rose, I believe, for seven years in the 1990s, and by 1997, 72 per cent of those convicted for robbery, for example, were sentenced to immediate custody. In the Crown Court custody was used in 43 per cent of cases in 1990 and 61 per cent in 1997. It may be that more recent events show some reversal of that trend and, if so, I welcome it.
The difficulties are extremely well understood, but it is perhaps wise to use an unhappy expression, which no doubt will appear in the Oxford English Dictionary shortly; in relation to some of our practices on sentencing and the prison population we are in a "SPAD" (signal passed at danger) situation. We need to think carefully how, while fully protecting the public and giving attention to the needs of victims of crime, we can develop for more offenders penalties which do not involve imprisonment.
It is true that in a recent year about 28 or 29 per cent of those sentenced for indictable offences were given a community sentence, but I am convinced that community penalties will be used to greater effect
Finally, our prisons also hold prisoners with a good number of specific mental health problems. I realise that the Government have decided to defer the major mental health Bill until a later Session and so it is not before us today. I believe that in recent times the Government have done very well in this field with the national service framework and the additional commitments to mental health. But I should like to be assured by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, that when the major necessary reforms in the health services which are announced in the gracious Speech take place they will not unwittingly prejudice the £700 million that has been committed to mental health over three years for the national service framework and the £300 million a year by 2003-04 under the NHS Plan. We want full implementation of the funding plans set out in the previous Parliament.
In conclusion, the Government did a good deal in their previous term. In many ways I am very satisfied with their actions on law and order and improving the priorities, effectiveness and funding of mental health. But it is a legitimate concern for a reforming government that the prison overload should be steadily reduced by greater use of community sentences and that the efforts decided on to improve mental healthcare are followed through.
Lord Rea: My Lords, I shall use my slot in this debate to discuss two of the most powerfully addictive drugs. Noble Lords will appreciate that in this I refer to important topics which have been omitted from the gracious Speech as well as those which form part of it. Noble Lords may have guessed that I am referring to the Government's failure to reinstate the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill which in the previous Parliament passed through all its stages in the other place and its Second Reading in your Lordships' House.
Your Lordships will be aware that nicotine is now known to be as highly addictive as heroin, if not more so. The means by which it is imbibed--that is to say, through smoking tobacco in the form of cigarettes--is far more lethal in the long term than heroin. I shall say a few words about heroin addiction later because it has recently been in the news and because the Government will be seeking greater powers to curb drug trafficking in this Session through the legislation outlined by my noble friend in his light-hearted but extremely businesslike maiden speech.
I imagine that my noble friend Lord Hunt who is to answer the debate is as concerned as all of us in the health professions about the decision to delay the Tobacco Advertising and Promotion Bill. However, being a loyal as well as a highly effective member of the Government's health team, I imagine that my noble friend will not be voicing this disappointment in his speech today.
My noble friend will be aware of the strong and universal criticism of that decision by leading figures in medicine and cancer research. I will quote only from a few; there are more, all equally cogent. First, I repeat the view of Sir George Alberti, president of the Royal College of Physicians. He said:
The Government are also eating their own words. Again I will give only a few quotations from the mouths of Ministers. First, I quote from Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, in his Second Reading Speech in another place. He said that,
The Government do not need another Formula One or Ecclestone embarrassment. I am sure that the right honourable Kenneth Clarke is chuckling in his "BATmobile" about this matter as he zooms around the world selling cigarettes to developing countries.
In another place my right honourable friend Robin Cook, who will be leading the House, I am sure, on ethical principles, said that proposed future Bills which were not included in this Session were not to be considered as being of lower priority. All I can say to that is, "You could have fooled me".
I now turn to say a few words about other drugs of addiction, particularly heroin. There is much discussion about the possible role of soft drugs such as cannabis acting as the "gateway" to hard drugs such as heroin. However, there is a much higher prevalence of cigarette smoking among both cannabis and heroin users--about 90 per cent--than in the general population--about 30 per cent. It has recently been suggested by researchers in the USA that the effect of nicotine on dopamine metabolism may predispose tobacco smokers to experience enhanced pleasure from narcotic drugs and thus predispose them to becoming drug dependent. Therefore, if cannabis is a gateway drug--that is not proven--it may well be because it is commonly inhaled together with tobacco. So not only would a ban on tobacco advertising save
Yesterday, I attended part of an international conference sponsored by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office entitled the Global Economy of Illegal Drugs. There is much international co-operation and huge expenditure on attempts to curb drug trafficking. Plans for its improved effectiveness were discussed. It included what was virtually a Second Reading speech by Robert Ainsworth, the new Home Office Minister who is now handling drug issues. He described the new measures to tackle money laundering and recovery of criminal assets, a matter about which my noble friend Lord Rooker also spoke.
But we all know that however successful the legislation is, more drugs will get through than are intercepted. If one drug cartel is exposed and eliminated, another will replace it. As long as the market exists for illegal drugs the international criminal fraternity will find ways of supplying it. Globalisation ensures that more and more goods and people move around the world. It is not economically or technically feasible to strip search everyone or minutely examine every consignment of traded goods.
It is surely clear that a renewed emphasis on "demand reduction" is the only answer. That involves a combination of approaches: first, helping people to come off drugs. That is an almost impossible task, even in prison, if they do not want to come off them. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, spoke about the drug testing and treatment orders (DTTOs). Now if one is convicted of a crime and is suspected of having been a drug user, one can at least be offered testing and treatment.
However, independent researchers have shown, contrary to the belief of the previous Home Office Minister, Paul Boateng, that DTTOs are not quite as effective as he would like to make us believe, particularly among those who are being pressurised into having the treatment. One cannot expect an addict to come off drugs unless he really wants to come off. But many do want to come off and they cannot get the help that they need. The Runciman report, to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred, emphasised that only 13 per cent of government expenditure on drug abuse supported treatment or rehabilitation but 62 per cent went on enforcement. Much more emphasis needs to be put on treatment and rehabilitation, as many of us pointed out in the debate on 21st February.
I shall skip over the role of education, except to say that there are many problems. The most common introduction to hard drug use is through the activities of small-time suppliers who are themselves addicts and who buy the drug, cut it--that is, adulterate it and dilute it--and sell it on to finance their own habit. They form the basis of the pyramid selling phenomenon. The best way to prevent this happening is to supply the hard core of addicted heroin users with a pure, clean form of the drug that they need through controlled outlets, as used to be the case before the
At the end of a Channel 4 series last week, 65 per cent of a studio audience, chosen to be as representative as possible of the population, voted in favour of the proposition that "The drugs laws do not work". One of the clearest messages from that debate was that treatment and rehabilitation facilities are nowhere near sufficient to cope with the demand.
I should like to end by referring to a debate on drug abuse in your Lordships' House in December 1997. Winding up, my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer referred to my speech, which covered some of the same themes as my speech today. He said:
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, I add my congratulations to those given by other noble Lords to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, on his excellent maiden speech and on his appointment as Minister of State at the Home Office. I held that post myself for a year. Michael Howard was the Secretary of State and Ann Widdecombe was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary. During the course of that year I found that my views became progressively more liberal. I am much closer to the position outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, in his speech than I was when I started. I do not propose to speak today about home affairs, but it strikes me that addressing that question of how we use prison more effectively for rehabilitation and make better use of resources is one of the big problems that remain unsolved.
I was sympathetic to some of the arguments put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Rea. I found myself thinking that perhaps there is indeed a case, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, reminded us, for a Royal Commission to look at the whole drugs issue. It is a complex issue and one that people find difficult to address for all kinds of political reasons. However, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, likes to present himself and his fellow Liberal Democrats, at least in this House, as the Official Opposition. Where I live, north of the Border, they are in bed with the Government and are part of the Government. It reminds me of the days when I was canvassing: Liberal Democrat policies would vary from street to street. Now, whether they are in opposition or part of the Government varies from one part of the United Kingdom to another. It must be very convenient to be a Liberal Democrat, with such flexibility of mind.
I dare say noble Lords would expect me to begin my speech by criticising the Government for the gracious Speech. We have yet again a series of health Bills that are concerned with reorganisations. The very last thing that doctors, nurses and managers need is yet another set of reorganisations. If there is one criticism I would make of our time in power--I was concerned with health for six years--it is that, largely driven by the Treasury, we were obsessed with the idea that every year we could achieve further efficiency savings and that every year there was, through reorganisation or competitive tendering, something that could produce additional resources that did not demand us to look at the problem of resources in healthcare directly.
If I were being fair to the Government, having criticised them, I would also congratulate them. There is no doubt that over the past 10 years the leadership of the Labour Party has moved forward by a century. It recognises that the market is better than politicians at delivering all kinds of services that were once seen as, unavoidably, state monopolies. It sees that market provision often has defects but accepts that a regulated market does a better job than its own nationalised industries ever did. Yet it cannot bring itself to admit that in the case of health. The Labour Party is completely hung up on the fact that it invented the NHS. Having ceded so much to the market, whether in gas, water, electricity, airports or buses--you name it--its left wing has dug in deep to keep our healthcare system nationalised. So the arch-reformer, the Prime Minister himself, found himself appointing, right at the start of an administration with a huge majority, which regrettably he still has, the left-winger Frank Dobson as Secretary of State for Health simply to appease his old Labour colleagues. It did. But it landed the Government in the floundering mess they are in today on the NHS. A health service run of Dobsonian principles could not work; and it did not.
In business, when you do something that does not work, you pull out the other drawer and implement Plan B. The Government are in such a cul-de-sac on health policy because they did not have a Plan B. When their policy fell to bits, they had nothing other than the old Labour language to hang on to. All they could do
To be fair, the Tories--the Conservatives--have also been avoiding this issue for many years. I was fascinated by the criticisms which were made of Mr Hague by some, saying that he did not spend enough time talking about health during the general election campaign. Those criticisms were fascinating because I know that they were made by people who had no enthusiasm for raising the issue of healthcare during the election. They see that the public rather like the idea of a health service free at the point of use, one that delivers the healthcare that people need fairly and without regard to their ability to pay. They fear that any reforms which they might propose as to how the NHS is run will be portrayed as a fundamental assault on that principle and, quite reasonably, will lose them votes.
Of course it is true that the public love the NHS. Every poll confirms that. However, the important point is this: yes, the public love the NHS, just as we all love our children. We would not give them up for anything. But, as parents, we are also fully aware of their many failings. We do not ignore those failings or say that they do not exist: we try to correct them by encouragement and exhortation. Therefore the question which I would ask noble Lords to address this afternoon is this: why cannot politicians on both sides of the House make this simple admission; namely, that all of us adhere to the founding principle of the NHS--the principle that necessary medical care should be available to everyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay--but that the precise way to deliver that objective of a nationalised healthcare system now looks increasingly out of date and failing?
The NHS is a huge industry. One million people work in it. It holds assets worth £25 billion in buildings and land alone. Reform would be no cakewalk. But until we accept that there is a problem and that new ideas are necessary, we shall not even make a start on serious reform. The first step in helping an errant child is to recognise the problem. Only then can you steel yourself to take whatever painful or difficult action is necessary to protect that very one you love.
However, the trouble is that while politicians remain in a state of denial or fear, people are suffering. It is an awful thing to be on a waiting list, even if the complaint turns out to be minor. You do not know whether it is minor. You do know that there are risks in surgery. It preys on your mind for the entire duration of the long wait. You worry that the condition may turn inoperable by the time you get treatment as, tragically, has happened recently in more than one case. At the very least, you may be incapacitated and unable to work to support your family.
When targets are set for an industry that is unable to cope, the problem simply leaks out somewhere else. So now we have waiting-list targets, but the wait even to see a consultant is getting longer and longer. I have friends with a nine year-old child who developed a hacking cough which became worse and worse. Eventually, they ended up on a waiting list to see the consultant. The list was nine months long. It took the consultant less than a minute to diagnose the cause--just a nervous cough--and to suggest a course of action. But in the mean time, the parents had been driven to distraction by worry. Convinced that it was due to an allergy, they bought a special Hoover, replaced all the bedding, threw out all the carpets and banned suspected foods.
That is just one tiny case among millions. It may seem trivial, but no case is trivial to those who are involved. The inability of politicians to admit the truth is causing unnecessary distress, worry, grief, pain, misery, heartache and even death in families up and down the country. Should not that shock us into an honest debate, however difficult?
I know that on the other side of the House noble Lords worry that if we break away from our traditional forms of delivery, we shall see the development of a two-tier health service. However, the truth is that we already have a two-tier health service. If you have private health insurance, you can see a consultant the week after next, you can have a scan the week after next and you can have the operation when you want it. If you do not have private health insurance, you may have an agonising wait that lasts for a very long time indeed.
When I was a Member of Parliament, my wife dealt with my constituency correspondence. She now works for another Member of Parliament. She tells me that the letters about the health service now coming in to that Member of Parliament are completely different in character from those that I used to receive. Two cases came in this week, one concerning a woman who had her fortnightly chemotherapy treatments cancelled at a day's notice. She expected to stay in hospital, but because they had no bed for her, she was expected to stay in a hotel while the chemotherapy took place. Hundreds of cases like that exist. All noble Lords know of examples from their own experience and every Member of Parliament knows it from their postbag.
Is more money the solution? I certainly believe that it can form part of the solution, but it is not the whole solution. In Scotland, we spend 25 per cent more on the NHS per head than is the case in England and Wales. Everyone acknowledges that the Scottish health service is much better, but no one says that it is perfect. To raise English spending on health by the same proportion would require a vast injection of money, vastly more than the Government have promised to put in. A huge rise in taxes would be necessary to pay for it, although I doubt whether the English would like to see their taxes rise by one-third. Even in Scotland severe pressure will be put on those spending levels as the Barnett formula is reassessed.
The Prime Minister has noted that health spending in most European countries is a good deal higher than ours. The clinicians have noted that their records on life-saving treatments for cancer or heart disease, to take two examples, are also a great deal better. So, in his unguarded "Frost interview" moments, Mr Blair sees European levels of spending as a target, an aspiration or whatever.
But Europe spends almost exactly the same as we do on healthcare in the public sector. The difference is that it spends a great deal more privately. If we are to find new money for healthcare, that is where it will have to come from. The Government, or at least their modernising leadership, know this, but are unable to admit it for the reasons that I have mentioned. So we continue to fall behind and people continue to suffer and to die.
Yes, more money would provide at least part of the answer but, no, getting the money from taxpayers and spending it through today's politicised institutions is not the way forward. Whatever is put in will be simply swallowed up. There is no point in pedalling any faster when the chain on your bike is broken--you have to fix the chain. We have to fix the UK healthcare funding and delivery system.
I said earlier that the NHS is a nationalised industry. However, of course it is not only the provision of healthcare that is nationalised: the way that healthcare is paid for is also nationalised. Most of our healthcare spending comes through taxation. The trouble with that is that the money goes straight from Whitehall to doctors and hospitals without patients being given a look in. So the service looks upwards to its political paymasters instead of downwards to its customers.
The customers, meanwhile, quite naturally think that, if someone else is paying, they will have as much healthcare as they can get. Thus, some people will call out doctors for self-limiting conditions or clog up the surgery to get a bottle of Calpol or a prescription--and why not? But all such unnecessary demands put on the system mean that more serious problems go untreated or are treated only after a long and painful wait. Somehow we have to restore the link between paying and receiving so that people realise that healthcare is not free, but that it has a real and often considerable cost. That must be done--I emphasise this point--in such a way that those who cannot pay are not disadvantaged.
Other European countries have found ways to do this. In many there is state funding for the poorest, but those with above-average earnings are expected to insure themselves. In Britain, prescriptions are free for certain groups, including those over retirement age, however rich they may be. But really, why should the Duke of Edinburgh be entitled to free medicine? Other European countries are not so daft. In some, you pay proportionately for your prescription, depending on your income level, by presenting your smartcard at the chemist's. We have endless debates about whether to provide expensive drugs such as Viagra free of charge or, more seriously, Interferon, which is now available according to your postcode. Other countries solve this
European politicians, even in the most socialist of European countries, do not seem to get hung up on this kind of thing. They see its benefits in terms of choking off unnecessary demand and encouraging people to take more of an interest in their own health because they know that there is a cost if they do not. So why are we not honest enough as politicians to explore these options?
I am sure that the Government are right that private insurance is not the answer. Insurance is meant for infrequent but catastrophic events which could wipe you out financially if you had to pay for them. It is no good for common, minor problems because the paperwork costs more than the fix, and because sometimes people volunteer for things they do not really need if someone else, such as an insurer, is paying.
Instead, it seems to me that we need a mixture of insurance and saving. We need the state or private insurers to underwrite the infrequent and "big-ticket" events, but we need people to save for the smaller, common events. Then they will see the true cost. Insurers have been very slow to design such schemes. Some insurers actually give money back for using the NHS. That is a ridiculous state of affairs.
There are a variety of ways in which this issue could be approached. I do not say that I know precisely what is the right answer, but I do say that we should be discussing these models. When people are waiting and suffering and dying, why are we so hesitant?
I appreciate that I have been speaking now for quite some time, but perhaps it is symptomatic that, in the debate so far, few speeches have addressed the healthcare issue. It seems to me that it is by far the biggest problem facing our country. The fact that they saw no leadership in this area may account for the failure of voters to turn up on polling day.
Perhaps I may now say something about the provision side of healthcare. We all agree that an important service such as healthcare must be provided and that, if necessary, the state should pay for it. But that is not to say that the state has to make the actual provision. The state pays for motorways and bridges, but private contractors, not civil servants, actually build them. The state pays welfare benefits so that poor families can buy food and clothing, but it does not run supermarkets, thank goodness. So why should the state run our hospitals? Why not harness the benefits of competition and let private or voluntary groups provide state-funded medical care?
The Government are groping towards this when they accept the need for a compact with the private sector. It is obvious that the private sector can do some things better than the NHS and that the NHS can do some things better than the private sector. So
I wish the Government well in their groping. Certainly on this side of the House they will find tremendous support for a genuine partnership, but one which recognises that we cannot use the private sector simply to be dumped on when there is a winter crisis. We need a genuine partnership and a genuine and comprehensive review of how to get additional resources into healthcare in our country.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, I should also like to put on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam. He and I have something in common: we both come from the same stable--that is, the Brighton Council. The difference is that I was there about 15 years before him. The second advantage that we had is that we both supported the same football team. However, during my time they won promotion to the first division; during his time they went down to the fourth division. I do not hold that against him. I have never questioned his judgment and he has always been very helpful. Equally, I wish the new Minister well in his job.
Her Majesty's gracious Speech gives us an opportunity to comment on the Government's legislative programme. It also gives us the opportunity to talk about matters that have been left out. My noble friend Lord McNally has spoken about some of the issues identified by the Home Secretary as being the key plank of the Government's legislative programme.
Too often, simplistic solutions have been offered. Many are impractical and irrelevant; some have not worked or not been used; and, despite promising to reduce paperwork, the system has become more bureaucratic and some of the measures have undermined civil liberties.
Pursuing a policy on crime which is superficially populist does not mean that it is effective. Look at our prisons, which are overflowing at a huge cost to the taxpayer. Violent crime is on the rise and the number of convictions is down. The money spent on dealing with crime is wholly disproportionate to the money spent on crime prevention.
I agree with my noble friend Lord McNally that we should move away from the knee-jerk reaction to crime. The last Conservative Home Secretary, Michael Howard, famously said that "prison works". He failed
It is important to recognise that prisons have not only become the dustbins of society's ills but that we continue to subscribe to the outdated notion that prison works. When will we accept that our prison system is under serious strain? Why is it that we still find it necessary to subscribe to expensive and unsatisfactory disposals more widely than the rest of Europe?
We must also accept that the frenzy generated by the media does not necessarily reflect the public mood, but, in the absence of pronouncements from political leaders, we often assume that such is the case. The controversy surrounding the Bulger case clearly demonstrates this.
The links between social exclusion and crime are crystal clear; we have to look only at the characteristics of people in our prisons. More than half of the young people in custody have been excluded from school; two-thirds were unemployed before imprisonment and 40 per cent have been in care; 60 per cent of prisoners have literacy and numeracy skills at or below the basic skill level; more than 40 per cent have drug problems, and the proportion with psychiatric problems ranges between 40 per cent and 75 per cent. For many prisoners from minority ethnic groups, who comprise about 18 per cent of our prison population compared with 5.5 per cent of the general population, social disadvantage is confounded and reinforced by racial discrimination.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the country and, in particular, young people are becoming increasingly lawless. That is not true. A large number of our population are law-abiding. It has been proved again and again that the ability of criminal justice legislation to influence the crime rate is strictly limited. If that is the case--and the statistics prove that it is--we have seriously to ask what changes are necessary to reduce offending. I am grateful to the Minister and delighted to hear him say that the Government intend to examine past legislation, because there seems to be an insatiable appetite on the part of the Home Office to promote legislation without due care as to the consequences.
Burnley, Bradford, Oldham and Leeds are clear examples of failure to bring economic and social benefits to all our people. We have the most comprehensive race relations legislation in western Europe; yet it has failed to promote equality for all our citizens. We have strategies to tackle social exclusion;
Such situations are often exploited by extremists, supplemented by irresponsible political pronouncements which inflame the situation. Politicians should be worried about the role of extremist organisations. Let me make it clear that racial attacks perpetrated by ethnic minorities on whites, or by whites on ethnic minorities, should be condemned. Equally, if we are not careful, we shall find that the recent gains made by the extremists in Oldham and in other constituencies in the North are a clear reflection of the fact that racism raises its ugly head when elements in society set out to exploit race for their own advancement. What are the Government doing about this?
Britain is not a "foreign land". It has always been a nation of migrants. They have contributed to a booming economy and have reduced labour shortages. Look at our health service. Would it survive without their contribution? Would our transport infrastructure survive without their contribution? Look at our small businesses--where do we go for our sweets and newspapers? Look at our post offices--who is running them? Who is providing services in rural areas? Nearly a third of doctors nationally are now non-UK born and nearly a third of all nurses in inner London are non-UK trained. We should never forget that a proportion of today's refugees will be tomorrow's citizens and will make a valuable contribution to the economic development of the United Kingdom.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has stated that the protection that is owed to refugees under the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees may be rendered meaningless if persons in search of protection and assistance are unable to reach the territories of states that are party to the convention.
We believe that some of the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act are a barrier to human rights protection. The Act seeks to prevent those who are at risk of persecution from fleeing their persecutors. Almost all avenues of entry are now closed. I have yet to receive an answer to a question that I have often posed in this House; namely, how can genuine asylum seekers who are being persecuted enter this country legally? I am still awaiting a reply. Here is a challenge to the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, in his new role. Can he provide an answer?
As I have said repeatedly, immigration and asylum issues are fairly emotive. But that should not stifle discussion and debate on how such matters are to be tackled. Despite the nature and effects of various immigration and asylum legislation, the circumstances surrounding them remain contentious.
There is evidence that fairness has often been sacrificed in preference to a faster and firmer policy. The current asylum policy is in disarray--it is in a mess; and the voucher system is a disgrace. Life under such a system is no bed of roses. Perhaps I may quote from an article that appeared in the South London Press, based
The history of immigration is one of success for this country. The integration of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers has been truly remarkable. Their contribution is important and valued. Also, we are seeing a labour shortage in key areas of our economy. There are shortages of skilled workers in the IT sector and shortfalls in the health sector. Fruit is being left unpicked for want of the necessary labour. Added to this are demographic changes. Our society is ageing: by 2050, nearly 23 per cent of Britons--14.7 million--will be over 65. Even the Metropolitan Police are keen to seek recruits among those who have applied for asylum. Equally, unless we open the door for the intake of migrants to provide the necessary skills, we are heading for serious trouble in future years. Many Western countries have found this out, to their cost.
There is also serious concern about the asylum process. The Government may have got the initial decision time down to two months, but one way of speeding up the process was to ask applicants to fill in a 28-page questionnaire in English within a week and, if they did not do so, to refuse their application on grounds of "non-compliance". Last year, 27 per cent of refusals were for that reason and not because of any defect in the substance of the application. As a result of a recent court case, caseworkers still have to consider any information that arrives after the one-week period before a decision is taken, but other than that points of substance have to be considered by adjudicators. So the two-month target has been achieved, but at the expense of the quality of decision-taking.
Under the Tories, the immigration casework department had been allowed to run down. From 1998 onwards, it had a programme of recruitment and training so that, by the beginning of 2000, decisions had begun to exceed new applications and the backlog was gradually reduced. By the end of April 2001, the backlog had been reduced to what is described as "frictional level" and the number of initial decisions started to tail off. In the meantime, however, the appeals system was unable to cope with the extra workload. The backlog of appeal cases has risen by 11,000 since the start of 2000, or about three months' work. In addition, the appeals support section is simply not sending cases to the Appellate Authority to the tune of 45,000 cases since the beginning of 2000. This delay is not counted anywhere; so the Home Office can say that it is reaching its targets, while applicants are still having to wait in the queue for over a year.
The Immigration Law Practitioners Association, which represents the lawyers who act for asylum seekers, says that, although they are now funded by the Legal Services Commission and that that is working well, they are at the limit of their capacity to deal with cases, particularly appeals. Since the beginning of this year, 3,300 appeals a month have been determined. That figure is still woefully short of the rate that is necessary to cope with the huge increase in decisions. It is even more difficult to increase the throughput of the appeals system than it was to speed up the first decisions. The infrastructure of courtrooms is not there; not enough adjudicators are available; and there are not even the lawyers to act for either the applicants or the Immigration Service. This is a recipe for chaos.
In the meantime, more and more asylum seekers are being detained, most of them in prison despite the Government's official policy that special purpose detention centres should be used. They are in the process of building new centres for 1,800 detainees, the first of which, Harmodsworth near London Heathrow, is due to open at the end of July. In the meanwhile, the Government said that in order to speed up the process of removing asylum seekers who are turned down from 12,000 to 30,000 cases a year, the Prison Service was being asked to provide another 500 places to accommodate those about to be returned. These extra detainees are not wholly, or perhaps even mainly, at the end of the asylum process. The exercise is being used to mask an apparent increase in detention on arrival, coupled with a tougher attitude by adjudicators on applications for bail.
Apart from those technically detained, there are also those who are held at Oakington as a condition of their temporary admission. Again, its purpose is to accommodate 400 asylum seekers. They are processed there in a week, and, if refused--as most of them are--they are either transferred to detention centres or prisons. That must cause us concern. Perhaps the Minister would care to study what I have said and perhaps write to me about the concern that I have expressed.
I am concerned that we are going to miss the boat as far as concerns radical reform of race relations legislation. We have seen some progress in amendments introduced from time to time. We need to look at the relationship between the Human Rights Act and legislation relating to gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion and discrimination on other improper grounds. Is it not time for the structure appropriate to equality bodies to be examined? We need to know what is being done in this respect.
There are also concerns about the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, which, for the first time, brought immigration control within the scope of the Act. But its impact will be limited if immigration officers are given a blank cheque to discriminate based on statistics that they compile on intelligence that they gather. The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will be aware that there was considerable discomfort in the other place that there should be such exceptions. Will the noble Lord examine the current authorisations and report back as to whether he is satisfied that they cover only those situations where discrimination is absolutely necessary and justifiable, and when the objectives of the Immigration Service cannot reasonably be achieved by other non-discriminatory means?
Perhaps I may conclude with reference to the retirement of Paul Whitehouse, Chief Constable of Sussex. I am concerned about the wider implications of the way that this matter has been handled. I was a member of the Sussex Police Authority when Mr Whitehouse was appointed. I make no comment as to the handling of the fatal shooting incident. The investigation was supervised by the Police Complaints Authority and a separate inquiry was conducted by Sir John Hoddinott. These recommendations were acted upon and the appropriate disciplinary action was taken.
May I ask why it was necessary for the Home Secretary to dictate to the police authority the action that it should take? The obsession that everything must be controlled centrally must be rejected. This is bound to compromise the operational independence of our police forces. We have been promised a police Bill. We shall resist any more centralised control or, for that matter, a national police force. We shall look at the police disciplinary procedures with great care. That will determine how we should deal with such situations. The last thing that we need to do is to deny justice either to the Ashley family or to Paul Whitehouse.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I should like to join in the welcome given to my noble friend Lord Rooker. Just listening to his speech today was refreshing. Of course, he is no maiden speaker, but it was delightful to hear my noble friend express his willingness to listen before pressing ahead with change. That is a style that will be particularly welcomed in this House. I have long been an admirer of my noble friend from afar. He made a very considerable contribution--one insufficiently
I am sure that my noble friend has been warned that, as Minister for the Home Office, he will not always have an easy ride in this House--not even from colleagues on his own Benches. I assure my noble friend that any criticism is always made in the spirit of the warmest good will, but I, too, like the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, have been a critic of the Government's policy of vouchers for asylum seekers. I, too, have been concerned about a penal policy which has seen a continuing rise in the prison population; and I, too, have been concerned about the treatment of juvenile offenders. However, it will come as no surprise to noble Lords that I am here wishing to raise issues concerning civil liberties.
I ask: what is this all about? Why is it that we are seeing an extraordinary draconian assault upon civil liberties happening in the early 21st century? How does it come about that the Labour Party, my party, which has always passionately championed civil liberties and been so vigilant of their encroachment, is now so prepared in government to abandon some of its principled positions? I tended to think that, as with the economy, a new government were anxious to prove that we on the Labour Benches could engage rigorously and prove that, in our grip, other areas of government could be handled as effectively as any other government had handled them. Perhaps with the issue of crime we were again wanting to show that we, too, could be tough. When I was feeling less optimistic, I even thought that perhaps it was simply a display of machismo.
But I now think that what we are seeing is something that is, perhaps, more extraordinary; and it is happening without enough discussion. One of the reasons that there is not enough discussion is that citizens are becoming distanced from the processes of government. What I propose and should like to see discussed on other occasions in this House is the claim that somehow we are at this time, in the early stages of the 21st century, reaching what some people have described as "the end of history"--the end, some claim, of ideology. In among all this there is a notion that we now have more or less a degree of consensus politics and that with that a modern state has evolved: a modern state that is somehow benign, a vanilla-flavoured modern state that is incapable of tyranny. Washed clean of ideological conflict, this new form of state is presented as even-handed, as an arbiter between citizens, a state which is itself incapable in its managerial manifestations of any serious abuses of citizens' rights.
At every turn we are told that there are procedures, appeal processes, and opportunities to sue for compensation if anything goes wrong. The drivers of the modern state are cost effectiveness and "pragmatism"--that very popular word--and, of course, the Human Rights Act is evoked as the new mopper-up of the occasional default by state
We all in this House want to end unnecessary delays and to improve the system. We all want to see wrong-doers brought to justice. So why do civil liberties matter? Is this about clinging to ancient kitchen gods which have outlived their usefulness? I suggest that to understand civil liberties we have to understand the nature of power and to understand the state. We have to recognise that, although the modern state may present itself differently in some facets and although we may be in the process of modernising it, the essential elements remain the same.
It is in the very nature of power that it has a huge capacity for corrupting. Those who acquire power find it very addictive and seek, even unconsciously, to extend it. The state's powers have to be held in check in the interests of the citizen. Carefully calibrated checks and balances have to be created over centuries. I say with conviction that tyranny does not just come in a uniform, it also comes in an open-necked shirt and even in an Armani suit.
Civil liberties are our protection against the state. They are your protection and mine, as I so often say to juries. Encroachments on civil liberties are always sold on the basis that they are designed to convict the guilty, and that decent citizens have nothing to fear. The rhetoric of all governments who reduce civil liberties is that they are doing so for good reason in the interests of the people and to counter disruptive elements in society. The current rhetoric is that these changes are required in the interests of victims. These changes will undoubtedly create more victims. If this is seen as part of a modernising programme, all I need to remind your Lordships is that there is nothing modern about removing rights--governments have always done that.
Civil liberties are not the invention of effete intellectuals who live in Hampstead or Islington and have a soft spot for criminals. Our civil liberties were forged in the painful heat of experience over generations by all sorts of people: "revolting" peasants, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Clydeside workers, servants vis-a-vis their masters and, more recently, the Guildford Four. To reduce trial by jury to those whom the state decides deserve trial by jury is an encroachment of civil liberties. To put an accused's criminal record before a jury and thereby erode the presumption of innocence is another of those encroachments. To retry offenders who are acquitted until the state gets the result it desires is an assault on fundamental principle.
I refer to what seems to be on the face of it a sensible possible change; namely, removing the double jeopardy rule in murder. The argument is made that DNA may be forthcoming which shows that someone
Defending liberty does not mean being on the side of those who commit crime. Our civil liberties are the mortar in the architecture of our society. Interfere with that glue and there will be a serious price in terms of alienation and loss of trust. Trust is essential to good governance. I make a plea to the Government to think again. Our civil liberties are precious.
Lord Colwyn: My Lords, debates on the Queen's Speech seem to move from one subject to another without any specific direction. After the excellent speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, I feel a little embarrassed to return to health. However, I do so and I declare an interest in that I am a practising dental surgeon. I wish to comment on dentistry and the National Health Service.
I take this opportunity to thank the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, for the time he spent in the Department of Health with responsibility for dentistry. While congratulating him on his new role, I hope that he will ensure that the new Minister, Hazel Blears, is thoroughly briefed to ensure that she has a similar comprehensive understanding of the dental profession, which is a vital and essential part of the health service.
In his speech at the BDA conference in Harrogate in May, the Minister paid tribute to the dental profession--something rarely heard from Ministers in recent years. He said that he was impressed by dentists' professionalism and standards and thanked the many thousands of dentists who had stuck with the NHS. He admitted that that support should not be taken for granted and said that he understood why so many dentists had felt unable to continue devoting themselves to the NHS. He stressed the importance of NHS dentistry as a core service matching the fundamental principles that were laid down in last year's NHS Plan--a service shaped around patients, which constantly improves itself and which supports and values everyone who works in it.
The Queen's Speech proposes significant changes to NHS management, with the abolition of regional offices and the streamlining of health authorities to 30 strategic centres, and the passing over of 75 per cent of
But PCTs have no experience of commissioning dentistry and have no existing expertise in dentistry. It is imperative for the future health of primary care dentistry, both in the general dental service, the community dental service and the personal dental service, that the reshaped PCTs have a dentist on the trust board to advise at the highest level of decision-making and, moreover, have access to the highest quality of dental advice for service commissioning, quality standards, health needs and outcomes. That is in short supply. There is also the question of how PCTs will interact with the profession. What is the future shape of local dental committees and what areas should they cover?
In March the Health Select Committee reported on its inquiry into access to primary care dentistry in the NHS and the effects of the recent strategy proposals. It stated that the time for talking was over and that NHS dentistry needed action now. There were too many reports, too much talk and too little action. The members concluded that dentistry had never been fully integrated into the NHS and that as a result major health inequalities exist. The present arrangements for accessing NHS dentistry are inequitable, uncertain and getting worse. Patients do not know where they stand. Unregistered patients find it hard to get any form of care and registered patients can lose that status without redress, often without knowing they have done so. Patients do not always get the advanced conservative treatment they need and some vulnerable groups of patients face even more problems.
The Government's paper on NHS dentistry was disappointing to the profession as it seemed concerned with access, to the exclusion of a huge number of other important issues. Can the Minister repeat the assurance that he gave to the profession before the election that the document, Modernising NHS Dentistry, was just the start of the process to revitalise and reinvest in NHS dentistry; and that there is still a need and a commitment to look at some of the endemic problems that have bedevilled the profession for decades?
With a full parliamentary term ahead of them, the Government have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at a better system of providing primary care dentistry. Are they willing to follow up the conclusions that the Commons Select Committee on Health demanded in March of this year?
I have referred to access and the Government's promise that everyone will have an NHS dentist by September. I am sure the statistics will show that this promise will be met. But a survey of vocational dental practitioners--those who are in their first year after qualification--has shown that 71 per cent are considering a career in private practice; and that only 10 per cent will consider working in a dental access centre or the personal dentist services. The Government need dentists to staff their access centres.
The Government will fail to stem the flow of dentists out of the NHS if they do not tackle the huge bureaucracy in NHS primary care dentistry. For example, the dental modernisation fund--the £35 million announced for upgrading NHS surgeries--is worth about £1,000 per practice. To obtain that, practices have to wade through a 17-page document which explains all the complications of the process. The Government must commit themselves to simplifying a system which half the time their own Ministers do not understand. The public is confused and the profession is angry that the system regulating dentistry is so complicated. The only people who defend it are the bureaucrats. When it involves a key part of the primary care system, that is not good enough.
The General Dental Council's programme for reform has government support. For several years the GDC has been developing proposals to modernise its outdated regulatory structure, allowing it to strengthen its role in protecting patients, including promoting good oral health and high standards of dentistry. Until recently, those aspirations were frustrated by the lack of parliamentary time needed to amend the legislation.
On 27th April of this year the department published a draft order to amend the Dentists Act 1984. That order is the first in a series and deals with a modernisation of the GDC constitution. It will enable the council to reduce its numbers, increase lay representation and become more responsive and strategic. It will make continuing professional development a condition of registration for all dentists.
These two reforms are only the first in a series. The Government have confirmed that they will be consulting on two further orders which will, among other things, reform the council's conduct and health procedures, introduce procedures for reviewing the performance of dentists and enable the registration and regulation of the entire dental team. The GDC is also working on proposals to put in place robust arrangements to deal with complaints about non-NHS dentistry and the regulation of dental bodies corporate.
It is a formidable programme of reform to which the GDC is fully committed and the Government have agreed. I hope that the Minister will shortly be able to announce a timetable for the reforms, which are essential for the protection of patients and the continued high standards of dentists and the dental team.
The Minister will be aware that the non-consultant dental anaesthetists register is to close shortly. By the end of this year it will be mandatory for all general anaesthetics to take place in hospital. I have repeatedly asked the Government for details of waiting lists for patients who were previously treated under general anaesthetic in dental practices and who are now transferred into the hospital service. It was a great mistake to take away the right of general dental practitioners to treat patients in the way they considered best. It was an even greater mistake to establish a register, known as the tripartite list, of non-consultant dentists, many of whom have spent much of their working lives providing GA and sedation to a very high standard, providing further education and financing essential equipment, but to drop the whole idea now that the surgeries have been set up.
Anaesthesia is lost, but there is now a problem because so many GCPs do not have the skills to provide sedation or the education to consider its provision. Many patients are being referred to hospital for general anaesthesia when they could have their treatment carried out under sedation in dental surgeries. The GDC is addressing the issue and I hope that it will create acceptable standards in the teaching of pain and anxiety control and take advice from those in the profession who have spent many years working with anaesthesia and sedation. Patient safety should be based on education not regulation.
In the debate on the Address last year, I asked the Minister for news on the implementation of fluoridation. He wrote to me confirming the fact that the York University study has shown that fluoridating water helps to reduce tooth decay and that there are areas in the country where better dental health is associated with fluoridation. He said that the Government would be having further discussions with water companies and local authorities and that there should be more good quality research. He referred to the Medical Research Council and a request that it investigates where it is possible to carry out further research to strengthen the evidence currently available. He said that when this action was completed the Government would review the need for legislation.
I suppose it is easier to say this from this side of the House, but surely any government with a marginal interest in public health and health inequalities would have acted on water fluoridation. This Government have claimed to have a serious and major interest in public health. Yet they have completely failed to do anything to progress the most important oral public health measure available to them. Is it possible to get a commitment that the Government will work to address concerns about water fluoridation and will act at the earliest opportunity to introduce fluoridation where there is evidence of greatest need and where local population, local authorities, health authorities and water companies are willing to introduce water fluoridation?
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