|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for publicising these terrible figures, of which I have been aware for some time. When
27 Mar 2007 : Column 1556
Lord Harrison: My Lords, in consulting the NSPCC and Childline, among other established charities, will the Minister consult also groups such as SACCS, which has 20 years experience in dealing with these problems?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the effectiveness of child and adolescent mental health services is often seriously diluted if a child inpatient is placed on an adult mental health ward, where they can be subjected to abuse of various kinds. What are the Government doing to ensure that children who need mental health treatment are treated in an age-appropriate setting?
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, as noble Lords will have gathered from recent discussions in this House on the Mental Health Bill, we are doing everything to ensure that age-appropriate treatment is available to children whenever possible. We recognise that there will be a very few circumstances where a child is admitted for urgent treatment and might have to go to a ward where there are adults. However, we are determined to ensure that, wherever possible, a child will receive age-appropriate treatment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, an announcement on successor arrangements for the chairmanship of the Committee on Standards in Public Life will be made shortly. No chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life has ever been appointed for more than one term. Only this morning, at the committees annual public meeting, Sir Alistair Graham said that it was entirely appropriate that he serve one term as chair.
Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Might there not have been an unusual, one-off case for renewal of Sir Alistairs chairmanship, bearing in mind his outstanding work in highlighting
27 Mar 2007 : Column 1557
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I have indicated, it is no comment on the quality of Sir Alistair Grahams execution of his role as chairman that he is serving only one term. All his predecessors served only one term, and they, too, served with distinction. The noble Lord will know that the Public Administration Select Committee in the other place has been investigating a range of public appointments and standards in public life for over a year. It is due to report shortly. The Government are awaiting its report before they announce further action.
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is it not refreshing that Sir Alistair has approached his job with a refreshing and fair mind? Are the Government therefore prepared to pay him a generous tribute for everything that he has achieved?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government appreciate Sir Alistair Grahams work; that is recognised in the letters exchanged on his imminent departure. I have no doubt that these points will be made public in the fullness of time. Certainly, Sir Alistair served in the post well, as did his predecessors.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I agree entirely with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Dykes, and having worked with Sir Alistair I have nothing but the highest regard for his probity and independence of spirit. Will the Minister confirm or deny reports to which he has alluded that the Governments decision is part of a wider plan to amalgamate the Nolan committee with, among others, the Appointments Commission and the Prime Ministers Advisory Committee on Business Appointments? If that is so, a number of your Lordships would regard it as a very retrograde step.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, what is the Ministers reaction to Sir Alistairs statement in his letter to the Cabinet Secretary earlier this month to the effect that the Prime Ministers failure promptly to appoint Sir Alistairs successor,
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, any such criticism would be unfair. However, we would certainly be open to criticism among Members in the other place and noble Lords if the Government were to act and take decisions about the future before the Select Committee had produced its recommendations.
Lord Snape: My Lords, has the Minister seen the latest international report on supposed corruption in British public life? Does he agree with the conclusions of that report that the United Kingdom is almost entirely free of corruption in political life? Does he agree, too, that the successor to Sir Alistair, whoever he or she may be, ought to try to avoid briefing journalists apparently to the contrary? Finally, does he agree that as the Liberal Democrats main donor at the last election is in prison, perhaps the noble Lord opposite and his colleagues should work out how to return the £2.5 million that he gave them instead of lecturing the rest of us?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I shall ignore that last remark, but I am grateful to my noble friend for putting things into perspective. Of course we should strive to follow the highest standards in public life, and all of us are committed to doing so. But we should recognise that this country can hold its head high in comparison with most other political systems in its freedom from corruption and the general standards in public life. I am grateful to my noble friend for reminding the House of that fact.
Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, following the remarks, which have already been quoted, from the retiring chairman about the absence of ethics and the lack of trust at the centre of British public life, has the Minister also noted his recommendation that a Civil Service Bill should be enacted that does not require to attend the report from the Commons committee to which he referred? Sir Alistair regarded that as central to providing a clear and explicit basis to guide the behaviour of civil servants and Ministers. It is long overdue and, according to Sir Alistair, only the lack of political will is holding it up.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I note, as the House does, Sir Alistairs views. However, most of his recommendations related to the discrete work of the committee, its inquiries and conclusions. Noble Lords should therefore look on some of his other comments rather more as a personal stance on these matters than as the views of his committee duly arrived at. But the noble Lord is in good company when he stresses that a Civil Service Act would contribute to some of these issues. Nevertheless, a Civil Service Bill is very difficult to draft.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, perhaps I can advise my noble friend. He will not be aware that, about 20 years ago, I sat with Sir Alistair Graham on the general council of the TUC. I am very pleased to hear my noble friend commend Sir Alistairs work on behalf of the Government since then. However, does he agree that perhaps more than enough mischief has been caused by the press in this matter, given that Sir Alistair has been treated the same as his predecessors?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend should not assume my ignorance about trade union relationships over the past 20 or 30 years; I assure him that I was all too well aware of his close
27 Mar 2007 : Column 1559
The purpose of this Motion is to allow the House to consider all stages of the Northern Ireland Bill to be introduced in the other place later today. Provided that the other place does not amend the Bill, it will not be reprinted when it arrives in this House. The Second Reading will be taken shortly after the Bill arrives, probably at around 7 pm. I hope that this will allow enough time for the completion of the Committee stage of the Serious Crime Bill, but if necessary the stage will be interrupted at a convenient moment. The speakers list for the Second Reading is already open in the Government Whips Office.
At the end of the Second Reading there will be a short adjournment in case any Member wishes to table an amendment. The Public Bill Office will accept amendments as soon as the Bill is introduced in the other place. The remaining stages will then be taken, followed by Royal Assent, which must be achieved before midnight. The exact timings for the Bill will be shown on the Annunciators.
In order to accommodate the Bill, the three Defra orders that were scheduled for the dinner break tonight have been moved to last business tomorrow. I am sorry for any inconvenience caused to noble Lords interested in those orders. I beg to move.
Moved, That Standing Order 47 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with to allow the Northern Ireland (St Andrews Agreement) (No. 2) Bill to be taken through all its stages today.(Baroness Amos.)
Moved, That it is expedient that a Joint Committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the draft Climate Change Bill presented to both Houses on 13 March 2007 (Cm 7040) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 13 July.(Baroness Amos.)
Moved, That the draft orders laid before the House on 30 January be approved. 8th Report from the Statutory Instruments Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 20 March.(Baroness Morgan of Drefelin.)
Lord Trimble rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, to leave out all the words after that and insert this House, having regard to the changed circumstances which render reverse discrimination counter-productive, declines to approve the draft order.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the order renews for a further three years the temporary provisions on recruitment to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. These provisions are commonly known as the 50:50 recruitment arrangements and seek to ensure that recruitment to the police service comprises 50 per cent persons from the Catholic community and 50 per cent non-Catholics. Because applications to the police service in recent years have predominantly been from
27 Mar 2007 : Column 1561
However, what is not supported is the method that has been used, because it involves discrimination against people. As I said, the term positive is used. Discrimination is always positive for those who benefit from it and always negative for those who suffer from it. Therefore, so far as I am concerned, there is no distinction between one form of discrimination and another. But the amendment does not focus on that issue. I should like your Lordships to focus on the changed circumstances mentioned in it. I shall explain what those are. I am not referring to the events of yesterday or the decision, which I expected, by the Democratic Unionist Party to enter into an Administration with Sinn Fein. I refer to the decision by the republican movement, formally taken in January although signalled long in advance, whereby it dropped its objections to the police service and formally committed itself to support the present police service and policing and the legal system generally. That is a very significant step. Some folk expressed reservations about whether republicans had moved far and fast enough. In that sense yesterdays events are significant, because I am quite sure that they will reinforce the decision of republicans to support the police and help further to change the atmosphere.
In the Northern Ireland target population from which the police are recruitedyoung persons from 18 to 25there is broad equality in numbers of Catholics and Protestants. It varies slightly from one year to another but we need not go into that. If there were equal participation from both communities, you would get rough equality in appointments. Up until now there has not been equal participation, but that is changing. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, brought to our attention the fact that in the previous competition for applicants to the police service, which I believe took place in September last year, 41 per cent of applicants were from a Catholic background. That was the highest figure achieved so far and, as he said, the figure is rising.
Given the decision of the republican movement to support policing, it is expected that that figure will rise further. Indeed, there is reason to believe that because a significant number of young people with a Catholic background have been dissuaded from applying because of republican hostility to policing, there is a strong probability that there will be a surge in recruits from a Catholic background.
If that happensand that strong probability should be taken into accountwe could have within a short period, perhaps in a matter of months or a bit longer, a situation in which more than 50 per cent of applicants to join the police were from a Catholic background. If that happens, then the 50:50 provisions specified in the order, which hitherto have penalised those from a Protestant background, will start to penalise those from a Catholic background and will slow down the achievement of the Governments objective, which is to achieve 30 per cent Catholic membership of the police service. I would have thought that it was in the interests of the Government to reach that target sooner rather than later and to do that in a way that minimised any upset, disappointment and hurt that people might feel as a result of discrimination. One can only imagine what the reaction will be within the nationalist community in Northern Ireland when it discovers that provisions that it thought were to its advantage work to its disadvantage.
During the debate in Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, did not dissent from the basic analysis that I have presented. He said that he expected that the majority of applicants would soon be from a Catholic background. At one stage he said in reply to me:
The noble Lord, Lord Trimble, is absolutely righttwo seconds before he raised the point, I satisfied myself on the answerthat if the proportion of applicants is 41 per cent, the highest it has been, and rising, it will not be long before it is more than 50 per cent. I will then make the same speech to members of the other community supporting the 50:50 in order to achieve the policy objective as I must make today. The same situation will apply; there cannot be any difference.[Official Report, 20/3/07; col. GC 176.]
I confess that I find that response perverse if the objective is to increase the Catholic percentage to 30 per centand the sooner that that happens the better. I would have thought that the Government should take this matter into account.
If my analysis is correct, the proper course might be not to approve this order. If the Government want to be more cautious in their approach, it has been suggested to them that they drop this order, which provides for arrangements to last for three years, and bring forward an order that would continue the current recruitment arrangements for a further yearand during that year they could examine circumstances and developments to see what happens. There is an argument for proceeding in that way.
Obviously, in Grand Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, was not in a position to change these matters, because that would require a policy decision by the Secretary of State. I know that the Secretary of State has had a few other matters on his plate in the past few days, but I hope that he has had the opportunity to consider this matter and that he is in a position to respond to this situation. As I said, I am not arguing against the scheme as a whole; it is a question of what is likely to happen in the near future and how best to achieve the Governments objective. It would be best if that objective were achieved with as little discrimination as possible. I beg to move.
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|