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My noble friend Lady Anelay dealt with the Home Office legislation. I shall spend a little more time reflecting on—the word used often is “reform”, but I do not think it is appropriate—the proposals, to be thoroughly neutral, for changes in the House of Lords. My first port of call is my noble friend Lord Waddington because he asked the really fundamental questions. It is extremely difficult to make up our minds about what constitutional function your Lordships’ House should play without having a clear understanding of what is happening in another place. The central issue is the extent to which Parliament, collectively, can control the Executive. Whether that is done in another place or here, it is the net quality of control of the Executive that matters. So to the extent that another place is not capable of controlling the Executive, that is an argument for having stronger powers in your Lordships’ House. I wonder whether just looking at the status quo without investigating exactly what is going on in another place is enough before we move on to questions of composition.

There is a real paradox at the heart of the way in which the British constitution works in another place. On the one hand, another place has to keep the Government in power; on the other hand, it has to keep them under control, and it is the majority party that has that task. Nine times out of 10 the majority party will opt for keeping the Government in power rather than keeping them under control. So if we are going to control the Government successfully, it must come from other constitutional initiatives in another place—perhaps from Select Committees that are not controlled by Whips—and from your Lordships’ House. I see no sign of any serious analysis of these issues being done as a preamble to questions about composition and the authority of your Lordships’ House.

The other important point that my noble friend Lord Waddington made is the extraordinary dissonance of the Government’s view that, even though an elected House would give this House greater legitimacy, in the Government’s opinion, nevertheless that has no implications whatever for its powers. The noble Lords, Lord Williamson of Horton and Lord Cobbold, said that if the Government think that introducing elected Members into your Lordships’ House will be politically neutral, perhaps they ought to think again. It seems to me and certainly to my noble friend Lord Waddington and a number of your Lordships that the introduction of elected Members into your Lordships’ House will have a considerable political impact, though its exact shape and form are as yet unpredictable.

The timetable set out by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, as I understand it, is that first we will have a debate on the report of the noble Lord, Lord Cunningham, and then we will move to—

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, just for accuracy, I said the Government would respond first to Cunningham and then we would have the debate.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I beg the noble and learned Lord’s pardon. The Government will respond to Cunningham, and then we will have the debate.

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Then, if my memory serves me correctly, there will be a White Paper; sometime in the New Year, that White Paper will be debated in another place; and there will be, ultimately, a free vote in both another place and your Lordships’ House.

I know that the Minister will be careful not to anticipate in detail the White Paper, but just how much detail can we expect in it? Of course, we know that it will say something about the appropriate number of elected Members, but what will it say, for example, about the nature of the elections themselves? My noble friend Lord Wakeham, for example, referred to a single term of office. I think that he meant by that a rather long single term, somewhere between 12 and 15 years. That seems an admirable proposal, should we move to a system of elections. It would mean, in the memorable words of the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, some five or six years ago, that elected Members of your Lordships' House would have nothing to hope and nothing to fear.

Is it the Government’s view that there should be a single long term or do they have another view? What about the nature of the elections themselves? I hope that the Government will not come up with a proposal of regional lists determined by the parties along the lines that we have for European elections. It is vital that, if there are elections, they are proper elections, held as close to the grass roots as possible. I would prefer them to be based on the counties and the great towns in the way that is traditional in this country, but in some way in which there was a genuine election and not simply a selectorate imposing its decisions. All these issues will have to be grappled with, quite apart from the question of whether there should be elected Members or what proportion of the House they should make up.

On House of Lords reform, we are in the foothills of what will be a very long story. It is extremely difficult to take any view, let alone a final one, until all these different shapes are coloured in, or at least coloured in to a greater extent than at present. We shall watch the development and see what the Government propose.

I am very interested to know what the Government mean by “consensus”. Do they mean that there must be a majority in both Houses for their proposals before they go forward, or are they referring merely to consensus between the political parties? I hope that the noble Baroness will address that question.

I was particularly taken by the intervention of my noble friend Lord Ferrers, who adumbrated the principle that democracy means rule by the people, aristocracy means rule by the best. Despite his own thoroughbred breeding, I assume that that judgment was made as a consequence of a dispassionately objective analysis.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, it was merely a translation.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: From what, my Lords?

Earl Ferrers: From the Greek, my Lords.



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Lord Kingsland: My Lords, my noble friend was making a very important point. Since 1999, your Lordships' House has been confronting the prospect of radical change, which, so far, has never come. The import of my noble friend’s message was, “Why can’t you leave us alone for a decade or two to get on with a job that we are really doing rather well?” I think that the chances of that happening over the next six months are rather slim, but if consensus is not reached, then it is time to draw a line under these matters, at least for a reasonable period, so that we can make the kind of changes that the noble Lord, Lord Luce, suggested and get on with our work. No doubt in a decade or so these matters may be returned to. I see the Liberal Democrats jesting, but we simply cannot go on and on about this question. If we cannot achieve that reform this time, there should be a long period of reflection before we return to it.

My noble friend Lord Ashcroft, in a characteristically trenchant speech, demonstrated how absurd the current arrangements are for party funding—a matter that is being investigated at the moment by Sir Hayden Phillips. I do not think that anyone would want to anticipate what Sir Hayden is going to say, either on the question of state funding or on capping. I take the view that in principle it would be a bad thing for the state to shoulder the responsibility for funding political parties. There is a great deal to be said for what lay behind my noble friend Lord Ashcroft’s remarks about the importance of allowing the market to decide these matters, provided that the process was completely transparent and open and that everyone knew what the source of funding was. My noble friend made an extremely useful contribution to the debate on that aspect.

My noble friend Lady Anelay said everything that needed to be said about the Home Office Bills. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, made a remarkable and memorable contribution to the debate on the question of rehabilitation.

In closing I shall refer to one other matter—that of jury trial. The Government have introduced a very short Bill in another place to give courts the right to try certain classes of fraud case without a jury. That has been the subject of a long battle between the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats and the Government over the past three years. The initial rationale for the Bill was that fraud cases for juries took far too long and were far too expensive. That argument lasted until the Lord Chief Justice on three recent occasions stated that irrespective of whether fraud trials were heard by a single judge or a jury they would take just as long.

The argument moved on and it was said that some of the issues were too complicated for juries. That suggestion was blown out of the water as a result of the report on the Jubilee Line case by Mr Wooler, who, after interviewing the jurors who appeared in the trial, came to the conclusion that they had a remarkably good grasp of what was an extremely complicated case.

Although it has not been said in terms by the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General, I have come to the conclusion that the real reason why the

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Government want trials by single judges has nothing to do with either of those matters. In a trial by single judge, certain evidence that would be inadmissible in front of a jury would be admissible which would have an effect on the number of prosecutions that could be brought in the first place. That speculation may or may not be true.

The acid test is what happens in the United States, a country that is by no means unfamiliar with the problem of white collar crime. The United States manages perfectly well with juries in fraud cases—so why on earth cannot we? We have managed well up to now; there is no evidence that it is a problem in the United States, so why should it be a problem in this country?

There is, moreover, an important constitutional issue here. My noble friend Lady Anelay mentioned the thin-end-of-the-wedge argument. That is a very important argument. First fraud cases—where next? The jury has played throughout our history an absolutely central role in guaranteeing freedom. People are sent to prison or worse because 12 men or women who have absolutely no connection with the Government at all say that that should happen. They are simply part of the community. What better guarantee can you have of freedom than that? I have seen no argument from the Government that in any way measures up to the importance of retaining that principle and we shall oppose the Bill when it comes to your Lordships' House.

6.20 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, yet again we have had an extraordinary series of speeches on the gracious Speech. During this erudite and interesting debate, I have kept a chart of what everyone has said. I shall hold it up to the House, although I know that I am not supposed to do that. The balance of the debate has been extraordinary.

I come, first, to the three exceptional maiden speeches. Many of us waited a long time to hear the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York speak for the first time. I do not think that any of us was seriously disappointed: his comments were insightful, trenchant and forthright, and we very much welcome his contribution to this House. I assure him that his desire for the fabric of our community to be expressed not only in legislation is passionately held by this Government. Through the many things that we have achieved—for example, the Together We Can campaign and the conference that I attended early this morning with the faith alliance and faith groups—people are coming together to heal communities and change the lives of offenders, and that very much speaks to the most reverend Primate’s aspirations for us. We welcome his contribution.

The noble Lord, Lord Luce, has been missed by this House for the past six years. We did not understand how much we had missed him until we had the privilege of hearing him. Not only was his contribution today sound and insightful but it gave a

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number of us pause for thought—particularly his acceptance that, in order for us to remain where we are, we have to change.

I could not have appreciated more the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Dear. He has been one of the most stalwart and brave members of the constabulary that we have ever been fortunate to have. I very much commend him for what he said—indeed, I could not find fault with it. It bodes well for the maintenance of our debates in the future.

This debate fell into five principal areas. The first related to criminal justice and, in particular, the National Offender Management Service. The second, and by far the weightiest, was the House’s concentration on the proposals for changes in the House of Lords. The Legal Services Bill, which will be piloted by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, had three stalwart contributors in my noble friend Lord Lofthouse and the noble Lords, Lord Hunt and Lord Goodhart. Immigration held a little interest for the House, too, as we heard in the contributions from the noble Lords, Lord Waddington, Lord Avebury and Lord Williamson, and my noble friends Lord Judd and Lord Graham of Edmonton.

There was passion and illumination in relation to political parties. Although the noble Lord, Lord Ashcroft, was the only person to speak on that issue, I think that he probably made up for the contributions of at least 50 Members of the House, such was the power of his comments. However, it was illuminating to understand the Conservative view, and perhaps the dividing line between the Labour views was all too clear. I was particularly interested in the noble Lord’s idea that there should be no limit on the people from whom we accept money and that the matter should be reviewed by the public only when they come to vote. That was an interesting and insightful suggestion, which I know many of us will enjoy for many a year to come.

I turn to the first issue. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay—with whom I will have the joy of doing many Bills; and it looks as though we will have good company this Session—said that the Bills that we have previously gone through were a bit of a mess and asked about what we had done. My noble friend Lord Young was right—the cup is not just half full; I gently suggest to her that our cup is probably 99.8 per cent full and we are going to deal with the extra 0.2 per cent.

We have made substantial changes in the past 10 years, and it is important to remember how great they have been. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 made significant changes to sentencing provision, such as extended sentences for sex offenders. Under the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000, victims of sexual or violent offences may be consulted on the licensing conditions of their attackers, and registrable sex offenders became statutorily ineligible for early release. The Sexual Offences Act 2003, which was touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, brought about the most radical reform of sexual offending legislation for more than 100 years by redefining offences and sentencing as well as giving

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stricter control over offenders. The Criminal Justice Act 2003—the single biggest reform of the criminal justice system since 1997—established the Sentencing Guidelines Council to increase consistency in sentencing and the early removal scheme, allowing foreign national prisoners to be deported up to 135 days before the halfway point. The Police and Justice Act 2006 regulates the use of live links in courts and gives greater protection.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, was far more restricted in her comments on non-implementation. Quite properly, she concentrated on intermittent custody and custody plus. I commend her on her propriety, restraint and accuracy. Noble Lords will know that intermittent custody was introduced and worked well in relation to weekend provision. However, there is an issue about how much space can be adopted in that regard; we will have to look at that again when we have more resources. On custody plus, I assure the noble Baroness that our intention is to bring in provisions if and when we have the resources so to do. We have not by any means put that to one side. It would not be right to say that the provisions of that legislation have not been properly implemented. It brought about comprehensive change and although not all of the provisions of that weighty tome could be brought in overnight, they have been brought in, and to considerable effect.

The noble Lords, Lord McNally and Lord Dholakia, my noble friends Lady Thornton, Lord Judd and Lord Young, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and—last but by no means least—the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, commented on changes that we aspire to make on the National Offender Management Service. I very much agreed with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, about the principles involved and the reasons why we must change. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, was absolutely right about the thrust, ambition and energy that we intend to put into this change; change is absolutely fundamental.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that—notwithstanding the huge commitment of the Probation Service, the improvements and the huge investment made—a situation in which we collectively have a reoffending rate of 60 per cent can never be described as a success. We cannot accept that that should continue. It needs to change, but that change involves the creation of a partnership between public, not-for-profit and private agencies working together to satisfy the needs of both victims and offenders.

Victims whose needs are not addressed can often become offenders in a very serious way. We see that time and again, particularly in the case of women. The women in our prisons cause us concern. About two months ago, I went to see Holloway, one of the major women’s prisons in London. I was told by the governor that 83 per cent of the women in his care at that time had at some stage been a victim of either domestic violence or sexual assault. Many of those women had used alcohol or drugs as a means of relief; a panacea for the pain they quite clearly felt. They had engaged in acquisitive and other crimes, becoming damaged but also extraordinarily

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damaging to other people. This idea of helping victims and making them the centre is meant to address those needs and, one hopes, help us stem the tide of those who subsequently go on to offend. There is a huge opportunity here for us; the Offender Management Bill is our opportunity for real and dynamic change.

I turn to House of Lords reform. I listened to each contributor with care: the noble Lords, Lord McNally, Lord Waddington, Lord Luce, Lord Wakeham, Lord Williamson, Lord Hunt of Wirral, Lord Cobbold, Lord Goodhart and Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, my noble friends Lord Davies of Coity and Lord Desai, and the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, who spoke with quite extraordinary and unusual passion. I noticed that there was no consensus between any of those who spoke.

The fact that we need to strive for consensus is critical. I agree with the wise comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. This is an issue about which we will never get total agreement. There will always be nuanced differences. The noble Lord was right when he said that, in order to achieve a consensus, there will have to be movement—movement, I respectfully suggest, by all. We do not underestimate that as an easy thing to do, but that it is important that we endeavour to do it cannot be in any doubt. I hear, of course, what my noble friend Lord Desai said, about no change ever being undertaken purely consensually. However, I hope the House has been used to the way we on this side have operated now for seven years, certainly since I have been answering from this Dispatch Box. We strive for consensus on those issues where it is possible, thereby narrowing the areas about which we subsequently may have to disagree, argue and fight. Consensus, and the attempt to find it, must be the right way.

My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor has set out the methodology that we propose to adopt. I am not surprised to hear the noble Lord, Lord McNally, say that he finds the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, more seductively alluring now than perhaps he did when he first espied them. I am given to understand that mature judgment comes with time.

If we look at the difficulties with which we are faced, and the passions that are clearly felt about this issue, we have to appreciate the enormity of the challenge that we will have to undergo to reach success. I assure the noble Baroness, Lady Miller, that although she would appear, if I may respectfully say so, slightly antipathetic to my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, he is a man of great integrity and wisdom, and I am sure that he will be utterly forgiving of her for her temporary lapse of charity.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and others, said that we have made a number of changes on immigration, and asked why, therefore, change was still necessary. It is necessary because although we have made considerable improvements in outcomes, those improvements have not yet resulted in all the success that we appreciate is possible. We have honed

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and changed the system, and we have made it faster and more effective. There have been a reduced number of unfounded asylum claims. There were 25,720 in 2005, fewer than in any year since 1994. That figure is 24 per cent lower than in 2004. On decisions, approximately 76 per cent of new substantive claims were decided in the two months January to March 2006. In 1997, when we first came into office, it took 22 months. Decisions have now really changed around. We have met the targets for initial decisions, where 76 per cent of new substantive cases are settled within two months, compared with a target of 75 per cent. Removals are up. We have made huge improvements and huge change. I say to the noble Lords who raised this that there is still much more to do.

I turn now to the Fraud (Trials without a Jury) Bill, which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, and others. I hear, not with trepidation but with happy delight, the promise of the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, that he will make sure that the passage of this Bill takes a long, long time. Having had the delight of accompanying him through Bills, I know that he is absolutely capable of doing that. I am sure that the House will be delighted to hear that and will treat his contributions with its normal courtesy and care.


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