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Lord Triesman: My Lords, the whole approach is to ensure that we charge for an end-to-end process, as the Treasury requires. I have been quite straightforward in telling the House that there are aspects of border control—of making sure that,

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before people come into the country, we are getting documents and evidence that can be verified or shown to have been forged—where there is a cost. But if this country is determined to have secure borders to the maximum possible extent as well as to welcome students—to which the Government and I personally are wholeheartedly committed—then there is a balance to be struck.

Lord Acton: My Lords, I declare an interest as honorary president of the Association of American Study Abroad Programmes UK—I knew that I would have the longest title. Perhaps I can help my noble friend with his market research. Is he aware that the association estimates that some 7,500 such American students will require visas, but that they spend some £20 million each year in this country? Are those not 20 million good reasons for listening to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, if there were a capacity, as some might argue that there should be, for us to set aside Treasury rules on how to cover costs, then the argument could be taken to another level. Yet the Treasury regulations are as they are. To aid everybody’s market research, I will point out that, despite what has been said, over the past year there was a 21 per cent increase in the number of students from China, a 27 per cent increase over comparative quarters from Turkey, and a 22 per cent increase from India. I will not go through the full list, but this country is in a positive state in the marketing of its higher education. Let us not assume that there is grief where there should actually be much pleasure.

Lord Crickhowell: My Lords, the Minister has now three times given as his reason for pursuing this policy the fact that the Treasury requires it. Is the Treasury no longer part of Her Majesty’s Government, for whom he answers?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I know of no more powerful part of Her Majesty’s Government than Her Majesty’s Treasury. However, the fact is that we have to be able to pay for the systems that I have described. With end-to-end security, as well as rapid treatment of people when they apply for visas—in the past year, we had to pay for the introduction of biometrics, which will increase our security considerably—the money has to come from some reliable source. The Treasury is not to be condemned for that.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, when I was travelling in the Middle East this past weekend, people with whom I was discussing various business matters went out of their way to congratulate the United Kingdom on the speed with which we currently deal with our visas in that part of the world? They said that the service had improved immensely.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for making that point, because the statistics stand on their own. Whatever I say, I invite

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Members of the House to look at the statistics on the speed with which we deal with these things. I hope that that has contributed, for example, to the 24 per cent growth in the number of Saudi students in the United Kingdom in the past year.

Armed Forces: Expenditure

3.30 pm

Lord Wallace of Saltaire asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, departmental expenditure limits for 2008-09 to 2010-11 will be set in the 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that holding reply. I hope that he will agree that the Prime Minister’s speech in Plymouth should be recommended reading for all Members of this House. The Prime Minister buys into the neo-conservative view of world politics; he talks about a long war against a single enemy—all the mistakes that the Americans make on global terrorism. However, he stated very clearly:

Is that not a clear Prime Ministerial pledge for a significant and sustained increase in defence expenditure?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that every Member of the House would benefit from reading the Prime Minister’s speech, but the interpretation that they would give it would be rather different from that which the noble Lord has indicated. We are in the process of establishing defence expenditure for the next three years, as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review. Our projections beyond that will be made at a later stage, but there will be a number of contributions to that debate. The Prime Minister’s contribution will, of course, be regarded very seriously and very importantly indeed.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, while I would not for a moment dream of dissenting from the views that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister expressed in Plymouth—and there is the need of which he spoke—would it not help also if Members of your Lordships’ House emphasised the imperative not only of getting more expenditure in the United Kingdom, but of persuading our NATO and EU allies to increase the percentage of the gross national product that they commit to mutual defence issues? At the moment, we are bearing a wholly unfair burden by comparison with many of those allies, not least in the present actions in Afghanistan.

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. For Britain to play its part in the modern world with regard to defence issues, it will need to work in alliance with other countries. We look towards our partners in NATO to play their full part and, as my noble friend has indicated, we hope that their contributions both in Afghanistan and elsewhere will match those that we are presenting.

Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, when the Government are considering the necessary future expenditure on defence to which the Minister referred, to what extent are they considering the cost of the 7,000 or 8,000 British troops—I have found it not to be possible to find the exact figure—to be allocated to what in this country is called the rapid reaction force and in Europe is called the European defence force?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the cost of that contribution to the force is included in the provisions for defence in this country. That force represents a successful area of international co-operation and Britain is pleased and proud to play its part within that framework.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that yesterday was the 300th anniversary of the signing of the Act of Union between Scotland and England? Is that not a cause for celebration? In case he is wondering about the relevance of that question, would he ask the Ministry of Defence to undertake a study of the effect on bases like RAF Lossiemouth and Rosyth, the Clyde naval base and many others in Scotland, in human and economic terms, if we were ever to implement the Scottish National Party’s policy of breaking up Britain?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I had not the slightest doubt that my noble friend would ask a highly relevant question on this particular day. Let me emphasise that if there were any thought of breaking up the United Kingdom, the costs that he identified would be an important part of the balance.

Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, in considering future defence expenditure, the Government should concentrate expenditure on the troops themselves, be that by way of accommodation or essential equipment, rather than on expensive weapons systems, which combine massive cost over-runs with dubious operational value?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there is no question of the British Government ever doing anything other than putting troops first with their defence expenditure.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, does the Prime Minister not have a nerve to come to the end of 10 years in power, having committed our troops to wars in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq—during which time there has been barely any increase in the defence budget—in trying to commit

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his successor to significant increases in defence spending, when during his time we have seen troops ill equipped? Their barracks are a disgrace and the married quarters worse. All our Armed Forces are overstretched.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the truth is that defence expenditure has been increasing at 1.2 per cent each year. This is contrary to the nerve of the noble Lord, who was part of an Administration who reduced defence expenditure.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, can the Minister explain why this Government have reduced the percentage of GDP spent on defence?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, they have not.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, would my noble friend, when considering defence spending, pay no attention to the major party opposite, which cut defence spending by 30 per cent in its period of government?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend is right, but I pay attention to what the party opposite says; it helps to identify why people should vote Labour.

Mental Health Bill [HL]

3.37 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Lord Carlile of Berriew moved Amendment No. 28:

“CHAPTER 2B Criminal justice system amendments (a) has been sent for trial before the court for an offence punishable with imprisonment and has not yet been sentenced or otherwise dealt with for it (unless he has been convicted of the offence and the sentence is fixed by law), (b) has been committed to the court to be sentenced for such an offence and has not yet been sectioned or otherwise dealt with for it, or (c) has been committed to the court under section 43 and has not yet been dealt with under that section.

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(a) remands on bail a person to whom this section applies, and (b) is satisfied on the evidence of a registered medical practitioner that there is reason to suspect that the person is suffering from mental disorder. (a) the person’s mental condition, or (b) the appropriate medical treatment for that condition,

The noble Lord said: With Amendment No. 28, which stands in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, we are debating Amendment No. 29.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Did the noble Lord say that he was grouping Amendment No. 28 with Amendment No. 29? My understanding is that the noble Lord is speaking to Amendment No. 28 and that the grouping of Amendment No. 29 and Amendment No. 30 will follow.

Lord Carlile of Berriew: I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall speak only to Amendment No. 28.

Amendment No. 28 would provide for better case management in court when there are issues about the mental health of those who are remanded on bail. If the amendment—or something very close to it—is adopted, it should provide for better and more reliable results, and more profound assessments of mental health in court.

It is very common for psychiatric reports to be prepared for a court when somebody is awaiting sentence. That is usually done on the application of the defence. Perhaps the Minister should know that there are sometimes funding difficulties in obtaining medical reports in certain cases. It is often difficult for solicitors to obtain prior authority for the funding of such reports, and sometimes they have to take the risk, albeit on the advice of counsel, that such reports should be obtained. They are not always paid for and sometimes the solicitors have to carry the expense.

The amendment would enable the judge to decide whether, in his or her opinion, there is a requirement for a medical report, particularly dealing with the kinds of issues with which the Bill and the Mental Health Act 1983 are concerned. Proposed new subsection (5) is of especial potential assistance. It would permit the court to specify any matters to be included in the report and, in particular, an assessment of the risk posed by the defendant to members of the public.

The Committee will be aware that the Government have introduced a new form of sentence, the IPP—imprisonment for public protection. This is an indeterminate sentence, which occasionally has given

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rise to press controversy because, although the IPP is passed, the judge is in effect required to specify the minimum period which he or she thinks the defendant should serve. When passing an IPP, the judge is specifically required to assess the risk or dangerousness posed by the defendant. Giving the court the statutory power to specify particular matters to be included in the report would, in my view, be of especial assistance in dealing with IPPs.

There is also the issue of the difference between defendants who are remanded in custody for mental health reports under Section 35 of the 1983 Act and defendants who are remanded on bail. This provision would place people who are remanded on bail in an equivalent position to those who are remanded in custody. It would enable the court to obtain exactly the kind of assessment in relation to a person on bail that it would obtain if that person were remanded in custody.

A realistic assessment of people while on bail may be easier to carry out when they are in their normal residential conditions—perhaps at home with a caring family—than if they have to be remanded in custody, which can be frightening and disorientating and is not always necessary for the person concerned. In addition, when there are remands in custody for reports, there are sometimes substantial delays, which cause real frustration to judges. Some of that frustration would be alleviated if defendants were remanded on bail for this purpose.

I should perhaps declare the interest of being a Crown Court recorder and having many friends, associates and colleagues—some of them falling into all three categories—who are judges. I beg to move.

Earl Howe: I support the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, on this amendment. One thing to which he did not refer but which I think is worth mentioning is that the provision in the amendment was included in the 2002 and 2004 draft Mental Health Bills, so I very much hope that he is pushing at an open door here. I shall add just a couple of remarks.

There is a strong belief within the Mental Health Alliance that this additional remand provision may help to reduce the number of remands in custody by the courts. That was implicit in everything that the noble Lord said. At the moment, a judge’s only choice under the 1983 Act is between remanding the person in custody or in hospital, but the judge’s ability to remand the person to hospital may be limited due to a lack of available hospital beds. Research also suggests that there is a culture of resistance towards accepting patients via the criminal justice system, partly because of the perception that such patients tend to be “more difficult” than others. So this amendment will help to provide the courts with an alternative and less restrictive course of action when dealing with people with mental health problems.

3.45 pm

Lord Patel of Bradford: There is little to add to the compelling arguments made by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, so I shall be brief.

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As I am chairman of the Mental Health Act Commission, the body tasked with monitoring the 1983 Act on behalf of the Secretary of State, it may be helpful if I make some observations. While many aspects of the 2004 Mental Health Bill will not be missed, this one would be. As we have heard, the amendment would reintroduce what was Clause 86 of the 2004 Bill as an amendment to the 1983 Act. The Government clearly thought this measure worth while and included it in both the 2002 and 2004 Bills. I hope that they will accept this call to pick it up again now.

In recent years, there has been something of a decline in the number of patients remanded to hospital for assessment under existing powers—under Section 35 of the 1983 Act. Official statistics from the Department of Health over the past decade show that the annual number of such remands more than halved in 2004 and 2005. Only 118 such hospital orders were made by the courts. By contrast, the remand population in prison continues to be more than 10,000 people. Among that population there is a high incidence of mental disorder. For every one person given a remand to psychiatric hospital directly from the courts, at least four people are transferred as remand prisoners, incarceration having been found unsuitable because of their mental condition.

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