To ask Her Majesty's Government what action they have taken to garner support from other member states for the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, to be considered at the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. I declare an interest as chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Abolition of the Death Penalty.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the United Kingdom welcomes the adoption of the UN resolution on the moratorium on the use of the death penalty and was pleased to co-sponsor this important initiative. The increase in support on the 2008 resolution to 107 votes in favour reinforces the international trend towards abolition of the death penalty. In October and November, the United Kingdom discussed the aims and content of the resolution with several key states, particularly those which we considered might adopt a new position or where we were keen to confirm support.
Baroness Stern: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on the Government's efforts at the United Nations and on the success of the resolution. The Minister will be aware that Singapore was one of the states strongly opposed to the resolution. In relation to Singapore, is the Minister aware of the book by the British author Alan Shadrake, which highlights flaws in the way in which the courts in Singapore deal with capital cases? Is he further aware that Mr Shadrake has been given a prison sentence of six weeks for insulting the Singapore judiciary as a consequence of his book? Therefore, have the Government made representations to Singapore about the treatment of Mr Shadrake and about the use of the death penalty there?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for her kind words. She is of course second to none in campaigning on this central and very important issue. Yes, I am aware of Mr Shadrake's book and can confirm that he has been sentenced to six weeks in jail for contempt of court. My colleague, the Minister of State, Jeremy Browne MP, issued a statement on 16 November expressing dismay that Mr Shadrake had been charged, convicted and sentenced to six weeks' imprisonment in Singapore for expressing his personal views on the legal system.
Senior United Kingdom officials have discussed the death penalty with Singapore, most recently in July. The Singaporean authorities are aware that we certainly do not share their views on certain aspects of human rights, but we and the European Union continue to engage with them to encourage them to ratify and implement international human rights agreements and conventions.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, is my noble friend aware of the support that 22 Commonwealth countries still have for the death penalty? I note that the Foreign Office strategy document on the abolition of the death penalty makes an issue of the fact that the Government have to work with those countries. Will my noble friend tell us what he is doing to get the Commonwealth countries on board to abolish the death penalty?
Lord Howell of Guildford: This issue is particularly important to me personally, as of course it is to the Government as a whole. As we have outlined in HMGStrategy for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, we are looking to expand that work with the Commonwealth, given the number of Commonwealth countries that retain the death penalty, as my noble friend rightly pointed out. We have funded projects in a number of countries and there has been some success. We successfully challenged the mandatory death penalty in Barbados in 2009 and in Kenya in 2010. Indeed, the Kenya challenge led to the commutation of the sentences of the entire population of 4,000 prisoners being held on death row in 2009. There is some progress, but my noble friend is right to say that this is a very worrying area.
Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does the Minister realise that the English Bar has a very good relationship with the Singapore Bar? Could we not use the English Bar to press on its colleagues in Singapore the necessity of being more generous towards people?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I think that that is a very good idea, and one that is often overlooked in thinking about and analysing the Commonwealth. The legal and judicial links between the 54 countries of the Commonwealth provide one of the most powerful opportunities to improve and upgrade human rights, and indeed the administration of justice generally. The noble Lord is absolutely right.
Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, in 2010 Sudan raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and introduced the Child Act 2010, which prohibits the execution of children. However, in October, 10 people, of whom four are believed to be children, were sentenced to death by hanging. What representations have the Government made to Sudan on this issue?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is right to use the word "However" because, although Sudan has raised the age of criminal responsibility to 18 and has indeed introduced an Act of Parliament that inhibits the execution of children-I should think so too-nevertheless, in October, 10 people were sentenced to death by hanging and four of them are believed to be
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Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the only country in the Council of Europe to retain the death penalty is Belarus, which has held two executions this year. That is on a par with its disgraceful treatment of the Roma people. What efforts have the Government made to persuade Belarus to abandon the death penalty?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Baroness is right to say that Belarus is the last country in Europe to retain the death penalty. Indeed, for that reason, it is not in the Council of Europe. We continue to lobby the authorities to establish a moratorium on the death penalty as a first step towards its abolition. Our embassy in Minsk has been working to support non-governmental organisations campaigning on death penalty issues, and my colleague the Minister of State, Jeremy Browne, whom I have already mentioned, has lent his support to a petition against the death penalty initiated by Belarusian NGOs. There is activity-indeed, I have a lot more briefing on the issue-but, in the interests of brevity, I shall say that we are doing quite a lot on this front.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, what recent representations have been made to the Government of Iran concerning their use of the death penalty, and in particular on the execution of juveniles and the use of stoning as a method of execution?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The Iran issue is of considerable concern because the human rights record of that regime is almost non-existent and certainly repulsive. We continue to make representations of a very vigorous kind. Iran executes more people than any other country in the world except for China. We know of at least 388 executions in 2009. While restating the UK's view that capital punishment has no place in the modern world, we also regularly remind Iran of its commitments to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that the death penalty may be used only in rare cases for the most extreme crimes. Whether that reminder has any effect at this stage, I rather doubt, but we keep pressing on a very serious and dangerous situation.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, the Low Pay Commission undertakes research and provides advice to the Government on issues related to the national minimum wage. The commission assessed developments in internships in its 2010 report and reported evidence that a growing number of people were undertaking unpaid internships. It did not report on the London area separately and it did not report any effect of the minimum wage on the number of unpaid internships.
Lord Lea of Crondall: I thank the Minister for her reply, but it does not really address the anxieties of hundreds of thousands of young people for whom unpaid internship is their only option, despite their debts. First, will she commit HMG to producing some data, whether by random sample or otherwise, so that illegal practices can be identified and exposed? Otherwise her department will confirm its reputation as having no serious interest in enforcing the national minimum wage. Secondly, guidance on what is possible at the moment under the national minimum wage is really about what employers do not need to do, so will she look at the guidance and bring a Statement to the House before Christmas as to how it needs to be strengthened?
Baroness Wilcox: The Government of course recognise concerns about the increase in unpaid internships and the risk of exploitation and we are working to improve guidance on the status of interns and to raise awareness. We will ensure that enforcement of the national minimum wage continues to be effective and that resources are focused on where they will have the maximum impact. We want to make as many internships and work experience opportunities as possible available to our talented young people, from all backgrounds, because these opportunities may lead them into work in the future. Of course we wish to make sure that the guidance is clear and of course we wish to avoid people being abused-children particularly-in this way. At the same time, we want to be careful that we leave these opportunities for youngsters to gain good experience and possibly lead themselves into work in the future.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, I support the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lea, particularly with regard to the expectation of the Government producing data on this. However, does the noble Baroness recognise that, for many people leaving college or university at the moment, at this stage of the economic cycle, their future path to employment often lies in starting with unpaid internship, which then leads to permanent employment? Does she recognise that getting the balance right between that and exploitation of youth is something that the coalition Government need to look at?
Baroness Wilcox: My noble friend is exactly right and I agree with him on everything that he has said. As we are a coalition, it makes life so much easier that we can discuss these things sensibly. Thank you.
Lord Myners: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former chairman of the Low Pay Commission. May I ask the Minister two simple questions? First, will she confirm that there will be no encroachment on the independence of the Low Pay Commission? Secondly, will she confirm that there will be no diminution in the funds available to survey and enforce compliance with the national minimum wage?
Baroness Wilcox: On the first question, I do not have any answer at the moment. I think that everything seems to be as it is. In the remit of the 2011 report, the Low Pay Commission was asked to review the labour market position of young people, including apprenticeships and internships. The commission will continue to do its work and report to the Government by the end of February next year, when I will return with that finding.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough: Does my noble friend accept that a significant number of unpaid interns work in the Houses of Parliament and that we should be setting standards rather than exploiting these young people? Furthermore, many young people, particularly from the north of England and with limited income, cannot possibly come to intern here. Will the Minister discuss with her colleagues in DWP the possibility of making JSA available to interns coming to work in Parliament and other places in London so that there is at least a minimum recognition of the expenses that they have to fulfil?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Does the Minister agree that the problem with unpaid internships is that they discriminate against graduates from poorer households? Can she confirm that the Government will build on programmes introduced by the previous Government, such as the graduate talent pool and the scheme with the Federation of Small Businesses to encourage its members to create a number of opportunities?
Baroness Wilcox: In 2009, the Department for Work and Pensions announced a series of temporary measures, which the previous Government of course took forward. We have been using those measures and will do so until the end of this financial year. As we emerge from the recession, we will introduce more effective support for young people and the unemployed. A new work programme is coming out in the new year and we will be happy to bring that forward.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, does the Minister accept that many of us are interested in the question asked by noble friend Lord Myners, which she is unable to answer at the moment? We would like a written answer, with a copy in the Library, on whether the Low Pay Commission is going to remain independent of government.
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, over the past 12 months the Government have provided expertise, advice and funding to support the Wedgwood museum through a challenging time. The Charity Commission has now given consent to allow court proceedings to determine whether the Wedgwood collection should be available to an administrator. The Government will await the court's decision before considering further steps.
The Earl of Clancarty: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she agree that it is entirely wrong, and not a little crazy, that the future of the magnificent and historic Wedgwood collection-a true national treasure-is threatened by the possibility of a massive debt not to a private company but to a non-departmental government body, the Pension Protection Fund? Have the Government plans to safeguard the collection so that it can remain in its award-winning museum in the heart of the Potteries? Will the Government take steps to ensure that, whatever the outcome of next year's court case, no other collection can be so threatened?
Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, who has tirelessly campaigned on this issue. We hope that museums will learn from this case and make certain that collections held in trust have legal protection to safeguard their objects. The court will determine whether the collection is available to an administrator and is put up for sale. DCMS will attempt to secure the collection for the nation. As the noble Earl said, clearly this is an extraordinary case. DCMS has helped all along, but it cannot provide further funding.
The Lord Bishop of Winchester: I declare an interest as a previous Bishop of Stafford with responsibility for the city of Stoke-on-Trent. Does the Minister recognise that the museum is not only one of the finest ceramic collections in the world-begun by the great, farsighted and humane Josiah himself-but a repository and a monument to the craftsmanship and the labour of Potteries people over two-and-a-half centuries and vital for the self-respect of people in those parts? Can she give an assurance that, if by any chance the court's judgment in January goes against the trustees and in favour of the PPF, her department will do everything possible to ensure a stay of execution, so that there is
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Baroness Rawlings: The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Winchester is absolutely right that the collection is outstanding. DCMS has been in conversations and has provided money-and is continuing to do so-because the collection is for the whole of the area of Stoke-on-Trent and the Potteries. We realise that this is an extraordinary situation that has unfortunately come about-under the new Act of, I think, 2008-because of the pension fund.
Lord Howarth of Newport: Would it not be grotesque if the Wedgwood archive, which is so extraordinarily important for our country's industrial heritage, were broken up, destroyed and sold to raise no more than a small fraction of the deficit in the Waterford Wedgwood pension scheme? While we hope that the court will rule in this case that the collection is inviolate and thus enable the collection to remain as and where it is in the Potteries, will the Minister please say what the Government will do to put in place a regime that will ensure that there is reliable protection in the future for nationally designated museum collections?
Baroness Rawlings: The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, has been involved with this for a long time. We have discussed this and he is absolutely right that the Government cannot influence what the court will take into account. The administrator is currently in control of the museum's operations and will present the case to the court with evidence from the trustees. We hope that the trustees will be able to put their view to the court as part of the evidence. Timings are difficult, but the noble Lord is right that the museum trust is currently liable under the new pension law for the pension debts of around £60,000. That is tiny compared to the liability of £134 million.
Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury: On a slightly wider point, can my noble friend the Minister confirm that the £1.3 million of funding that is going directly to the British Museum to run the portable antiquities scheme will be ring-fenced?
Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge the overarching responsibility of the department to preserve for the nation not only the important collection at the Wedgwood museum but those of a number of other specialist and iconic museums, such as the Geffrye museum, the Horniman museum and the Design Museum, which are currently under threat from cuts in her department?
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that passive smoking annually kills 600,000 people worldwide, and to the recommendation that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control be immediately enforced.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the report from the World Health Organisation sets out the significant harms to health from exposure to second-hand smoke. The United Kingdom is a strong supporter of the FCTC and has worked hard to implement it since ratification of the treaty in 2004. Today, we exceed our treaty obligations in this area through the effective and popular smoke-free legislation. Tackling tobacco will be a key element in the Government's new public health White Paper.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very positive and welcome reply, which is particularly interesting in view of the interview given by the Secretary of State, Mr Andrew Lansley, on the "Today" programme this morning, in which he had some interesting things to say about packaging. Would the Minister comment on that? Does he agree with Mr Lansley's assertion that "the visibility of cigarettes ... constantly tends to reinforce smoking, but it also leads to initiation of smoking amongst young people"? Can he confirm that it is necessary for the United Kingdom, in order to comply with Article 13 of the framework convention, to proceed with restrictions on tobacco display and the banning of vending machines?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct that plain packaging is an idea that we are considering, which would require tobacco products to have standardised plain packaging so that only basic information and health and picture warnings were visible. The Government are going to look at whether the plain packaging of tobacco products could be an effective way to reduce the number of young people who take up smoking and to help those who are trying to quit, but the decision will depend on the strength of the evidence, which we are going to have to look at.
On tobacco displays, the Government are currently considering options around the display of tobacco in shops. We recognise the need to take action both to reduce tobacco consumption and to reduce burdens on businesses. No decisions have yet been made on that.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, on Her Majesty's Government's commitment after ratification in 2004 to produce a five-year implementation report, I note that the WHO website gives no indication that the report due on 16 March this year was in fact forwarded to the WHO. Will my noble friend confirm whether the report has been forwarded?
In addition, given the enormous amount of smuggled tobacco-accounting for some half of hand-rolled tobacco and 10 per cent of cigarette tobacco in the United Kingdom-what has happened to our commitment under Article 15 to deal with illicit tobacco and, indeed, to the protocol mentioned in the commitment in the Uruguay meeting of earlier this month to ensure that, by 2012, others will also fulfil their responsibilities?
On illicit trade, HMRC leads on tackling the availability of illicit tobacco and has carried out-as I am sure my noble friend knows-a great deal of activity to tackle that market through its overseas network of fiscal crime liaison officers, as well as through activity at the border and inland detection work. HMRC also works closely with local authority trading standards officers. Those efforts have led to a decline in the market share of illicit cigarettes from 21 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent, according to the latest available figures. However, he is right that hand-rolling tobacco in particular remains a problem.
Earl Howe: My Lords, that is the very question that we want to look at. Of course, tobacco companies regard their brands as a form of marketing and they attach value to the intellectual property that they consider to be in those brands. However, the issue from a public health perspective is whether the design
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Furthermore, in relation to intellectual property, which is what we are taking about with packaging, is it not a very brave Government-even a coalition Government-that interfere with international laws that are already on the statute book to protect intellectual property, which is basically what packaging is?
On his first point, it is always a pleasure to hear of someone who has lived a long time in good health despite smoking. However, I say to my noble friend that the Royal College of Physicians estimates that more than 300,000 primary care consultations are recorded each year across the UK for conditions in children due to exposure to second-hand smoke.
Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Given the risk to children that has just been highlighted of exposure to passive smoking, what action do the Government intend to take against smoking in cars-which is a very restricted space, particularly when the windows are closed-and also in schools or among young people generally, so that young people have the courage to challenge when somebody lights up in close vicinity?
Earl Howe: My Lords, we have no plans to legislate further for banning smoking in cars. As she will know, when a car is used as a workplace smoking is illegal, but when a car is being used privately that is a different matter. We do not intend to legislate.
On messages in schools, we know that youngsters are concerned about parental smoking. In fact, the younger the child, the more concerned the child tends to be. Schools are encouraged to include advice on smoking in the PSHE curriculum.
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, following the successful implementation of the smoking ban in all workplaces and public places in July 2007, which was opposed by many in the party opposite, will the Minister undertake-
Will the Minister undertake to ensure that, under the proposals for GP commissioning, NHS smoking cessation services will continue to be effectively
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Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, is wrong. The Conservative Party did not oppose the second-hand smoke provisions. We did not oppose them in principle; we supported the Government. We opposed some of the detail, but that is a different thing.
On smoking cessation, there is no doubt that local stop-smoking services are effective and are available free of charge in communities across the country. Evidence shows that the most effective way of stopping smoking is with local stop-smoking services because smokers get behavioural support as well as effective medicines and treatments on the NHS.
That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to which the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill has been committed that they divide the Bill in two so as to separate the provisions relating to the parliamentary voting system from those relating to constituencies.
Baroness McDonagh: My Lords, I declare an interest as a former General Secretary of the Labour Party and also, like many people of all political persuasions in this House and none, I have been a lifelong grass-roots community campaigner, passionate about how democracy works in our communities. That is why I was interested in this Bill and looked forward to examining it. I was slightly worried because, on the face of it, it appeared this was two Bills not one. I then read the Bill and indeed it read like it was two Bills and not one. Who was I to question it as a mere Back-Bencher? I was sure it would all become clear to me when we came to debate it. I entered the debate and, yes, it debated like it was two Bills, not one. It was a car crash. It was impossible to scrutinise and the Minister was unable to answer the points and the questions that were raised.
This reads, looks and debates like two Bills because it is two Bills. It is what we in south London call a cut and shut. I do not know how many noble Lords are familiar with the term but I will explain it. A cut and shut happens when rogue traders buy cars that have crashed. They have either hit something from the front
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To be fair to the Government, no one has tried to say that this is anything other than politically expedient. No one has pretended that it is other than two Bills. I appreciate it when everyone tells me that this is very clearly set out in David Laws's book but they did not need to do that. On this side we are all a little bored by political biography and we would not have got around to reading it. However, I understand how it happened. When you go on a date, you are not that sure of the other party so you enter into a pre-nup. Both parties wanted two separate Bills and each was unsure that the other party would vote for theirs, so they were put together. Now that you are in a secure marriage-it certainly looks like that to me-you can rely on each other to vote for each other's Bill.
So that we can properly scrutinise this legislation, I-again, as a Back-Bencher-attempted to table amendments. I thought to myself, "This can't be the right way to go about this". I took advice from our fantastic Clerks, who explained that the Bill could indeed be split. It has been done twice in the past-once successfully, albeit in the originating House. That Bill was split four times. The second time, the vote was lost. I read the rules-this has been a great Bill for my learning experience, so I thank you for that-and could find nothing that would prohibit splitting the Bill. It seemed a sensible way to proceed, particularly as there is a time constraint on the referendum. It is an important debate for the public to have.
However, subsequently, I now understand that there may be problems if the Government were not to support the Motion. It is not my intention to do anything that would stop us getting this legislation through properly and efficiently. Therefore, I call on the Government to support the Motion. That will allow us to treat the Bill in a timely, efficient and properly scrutinised way. I beg to move.
Lord Pannick: I remind noble Lords that your Lordships' Constitution Committee, of which I am a member, reported to the House earlier this month that it understood the need for urgency in relation to Part 1 of the Bill, which concerns the proposed referendum. However, it suggested that the case for proceeding rapidly with Part 2-relating to constituencies-was far less strong. We expressed regret that the Bill was not the subject of any pre-legislative scrutiny or any prior public consultation. We further advised the House that, because of the lack of prior consultation and consideration of the important issues raised by Part 2, several vital constitutional concerns had not been properly addressed by the Government-for example, the impact that the proposed changes might have on the relationship between the Executive and Parliament. It is very important to ensure that there is sufficient time to give Part 2 the closest scrutiny. I, too, am concerned-speaking entirely for myself and not the committee-that the Government's understandable wish to proceed speedily with Part 1 may adversely impact
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Lord Tyler: My Lords, I follow the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, with some trepidation because he always speaks with great authority, as those who have often appeared in court appear to do in your Lordships' House. There is a wider issue here that your Lordships' House needs to address. I am absolutely certain that the noble Baroness, Lady McDonagh, has the best of intentions but, as we all know from our early youth, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The effect of delaying Part 2 by separating out that part of the Bill into a separate Bill would be, inevitably, that it would be delayed dramatically. In a way, it reflects the point that the noble Lord has just made, but it should be taken in a different direction. On these Benches-and on all sides of the House-we want to make sure that the boundary revision is fair, workable and sensitive to local conditions. It will take time in your Lordships' House to decide how to do that.
I recognise that there are differing views about different parts of the Bill on all sides of the House. The problem is that, if we simply discard Part 2, separate it out and take it later, it cannot be implemented with proper consideration of all the local conditions in time for the next general election. There is wide concern on that point. It really would be ridiculous at the early part of this Parliament to delay this process so dramatically that it could not be implemented in time for the next general election. I hope, therefore, that you Lordships will very carefully consider what has happened in the other House on these issues.
Lord Tyler: My Lord, my point is that, if it is held together as one Bill, it can. So the noble Lord is supporting my position. However, if it is separated into two Bills, then, by definition, and, indeed, because of the way in which this has been presented, it is clear that that would be a delaying tactic. That may not be the intention of the noble Baroness but, no doubt, we will hear from noble Lords on the opposition Front Bench. I will be very interested to hear what exactly their position is on this because, for all those who profess to want to make this a careful consideration of important legislation-of very considerable importance to the other place-there seem to be others in this place who think that it is a very good opportunity to delay, divert and derail the acknowledged agreement between the two coalition parties that we want to make progress on both counts. Both are trying to give more power to the individual voter so that in each constituency there is a better chance of having equal value.
The noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, has made it clear in this House, at Second Reading and since-privately and publicly-that his position is to try to delay, divert and derail this Bill. What fun it would have been if he had adopted the role of courtroom jester when he was Lord Chancellor. This is an important Bill. Your Lordships' House could do great damage to its own reputation-and possibly even to its future role in our constitution-if it simply seeks to play games with this Bill. It is a Bill, after all, which almost uniquely deals with the other place. Of course we have to try to improve it but, if we are seen to be simply standing in the way of the other place-where this Bill has been passed as one Bill-then we will be doing great damage.
I am sure that I do not need to remind the House that the previous Administration, in which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, played a very distinguished part, committed themselves to a referendum on electoral reform way back in 1997. There is no question that that part of the Bill has not been discussed ad nauseam over the past 13 years so we are not rushing into that part of the Bill.
As to more recent commitments, it was of course a last-minute death-bed repentance on this issue, within the context of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, that in the past 12 months permitted and committed the previous Government to having a referendum, and there the commitment was again in the Labour Party's manifesto just a few short months ago. In those circumstances, if we sought to delay this legislation in a way that is out of character with your Lordships' House, we would stoke up further irritation that Peers always seem to be devious and seeking to delay and dilute reform when they should be proceeding in a sensible and businesslike way.
If we want to guarantee the fate of most Cross-Benchers, when Peers are seen to be delaying important changes to our House of Commons, passing this Motion is the best way to do it. The political and public pressure for a fully elected senate will increase if your Lordships are seen to be playing games.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I know and fully acknowledge that this is not the other place, but I am slightly alarmed by the sort of threats being made by the noble Lord opposite. When this House comes to deliberate on House of Lords reform, it will do so in due course and with the wisdom and knowledge held by every Member of this House. No Member should be under any threat in terms of the legislation which is about to be debated by this House.
Lord Tyler: I understand precisely what the noble Baroness is saying and I understand that that will be the role of your Lordships' House. All that I am saying is that we have to be extraordinarily careful with this measure which, after all, deals entirely with the other place. It is not relevant to how your Lordships' House is composed. If it is seen by the public outside that this is simply an attempt to delay and dilute important legislation, and to prevent it reaching the statute book in good time and in good order, we will not be doing anything to improve the reputation of your Lordships' House.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I think it would be helpful if I set out the Front Bench's position. Our position is that it would be a good thing to split the Bill. At the end of last week, I believed that the Motion would have the effect of splitting the Bill. Further constructive discussions with the Clerks yesterday revealed that if the Bill were split, it would nevertheless have to come back together again before it went to the Commons. In those circumstances there is no purpose in a split unless the Government agree to a split which allows the two Bills in the hypothetical split to go at separate paces. It seems obvious that the Bills should go at separate paces, because one has the drop-dead deadline of 5 May whereas the other, which is much bigger, will take longer.
The Front Bench's position is that we support the principle of a split but recognise that this Motion cannot achieve it. We will therefore not support it in any vote. I understand from my noble friend Lady McDonagh that she will not press it to a vote. We support her in asking the Government to think about that. I have just one further point. Should anyone in this House wish there to be any delay, I suggest that they urge the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, to make more speeches.
Lord Hunt of Wirral: My Lords, I rise just to respond to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton-it is a brief point. Life is always difficult in opposition, particularly when one has been in government for so long. I underwent 13 years of opposition and recall that I could have resorted to procedural devices on many occasions.
All I will say is that we have suddenly begun to embark on a number of procedural debates. That is all well and good, and it is part of the tradition of the House that we should do so. However, I question whether we need to explore the uncertain waters of hybridity, and whether we should ignore 99 years of tradition by questioning a money Bill. Now when we need to proceed to our normal function of revising and improving a Bill, I simply say to the Opposition that they should take time to think.
When I was opposing the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, of Foy, on the Postal Services Bill, I was made aware that there were two or three procedural devices that I could have resorted to had I wanted to delay the Bill. I reached the conclusion that I should do my best from the Front Bench to enable this House to do what it always does well, which is to revise and improve. I would just say that reputations take generations to build, but they can be lost overnight by an irresponsible Opposition.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, criticises the Opposition when in fact the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, got up to say that he does not support the Motion and that-if it were put to vote, which it is not going to be-he would not vote for it. I really cannot understand why the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, started to put it about regarding the noble and learned Lord.
The problem arises-do not make any mistake about it-not because of this Motion but because the Government decided to put two separate matters together in a single Bill. That is the real problem. The noble Lord, Lord McNally, may laugh, but he knows perfectly well that if he had been sitting on those Benches he would have been doing exactly the same thing. He would be opposing the bringing together of two completely separate issues.
To make it even worse, the Bill presumes to hold a referendum on a very important constitutional issue-the method of voting-on the same day as the local elections and the Assembly elections. That has already been discussed at Second Reading but, nevertheless, it is a bad thing to do. The issue of AV voting is so constitutionally important that it should have been dealt with on a separate date, after proper examination and proper information to the people of this country.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I take issue with the assumption of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, that the House of Lords is not, as part of its responsibility, a guardian for the proprieties of passing legislation. It will not do for him to suggest that when we seek to establish whether a Bill is hybrid or whether it is proceeding properly or requires other forms, we are time-wasting, dithering or trying to delay. It is part of the task of the House to establish propriety. When I was a Minister, time and again Members opposite wished on Report to move back to Committee. I could have alleged, with the same force as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, did today, that this was time-wasting and impeding of the Government, and that the party opposite was trying to use process to delay important legislation. I would not have dreamt of it, because it was proper and right that, if there was a concern about the propriety of how we were handling legislation, those views should be listened to and, even if it took extra weeks to get the legislation through, we should take that time-and we did. I take it very ill indeed, when the Opposition are rightly reminding the Government of their responsibility to observe the proprieties of legislation, to be accused of time-wasting and hindering the pace of the Government to succeed.
Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: I am surprised that neither the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, nor the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, referred to the big change that will be made in the process and procedure for determining constituencies. I do not declare an interest
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Ultimately, I would like to be out of this place and have my vote back, because, as noble Lords know, I have a personal commitment to reform of your Lordships' House. However, while I am a Member, I bitterly resent anybody implying that my motives are unworthy. In my experience, the Conservatives' partners have in the past used to the full their right to locally-based inquiries into where boundaries should be. On this issue, we are defending the rights of communities to speak for themselves. We are the only ones who can do it, and if we do not, the rights will be abolished.
Lord Howarth of Newport: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, effectively accuses this side of the House of procedural malpractice, he might care to consider that the coalition is introducing radical proposals for constitutional reform without any authority to do so from the electors. He might also care to consider that the Bill comes to us from the other place with very important parts of it entirely unexamined, both in Committee and on Report. Against that background, perhaps he would accept that it is the duty of the Opposition to scrutinise this legislation exhaustively.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, we are in danger of having a rerun of Second Reading: let us not to do that. I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, for what he said. I completely agree with much, although not all, of it. He spotted that the Motion before us is defective and would not do what the noble Baroness intends. I am glad that he confirmed that, if there is a vote, he will not be able to support the Motion. I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral, who spoke extremely well, and my noble friend Lord Tyler, who made some important points about the Bill, some of which I will return to.
Most Peers came here to attend the Committee on the Bill. Instead, we have had yet another procedural device. I am not questioning the motives of the noble Baroness. I am sure that she believes that it should be two Bills rather than one. However, to put that Motion now gives the impression that noble Lords opposite do not want to engage in the proper debate in Committee that I hope we will have in a moment.
Noble Lords opposite do huff and puff rather too much. Only a few months ago, earlier this year, we had the previous Government's Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. Noble Lords opposite will remember that legislation joyously. It included provisions on no fewer than 13 different subjects ranging from a referendum on the alternative vote to freedom of information, the removal of hereditary peers and the ratification of
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Noble Lords opposite also sought to progress that legislation with unseemly haste. Was that politically expedient? I cannot possibly guess their original motive. So it is somewhat surprising to hear it suggested today that a referendum on the alternative vote merits a stand-alone Bill. If our Bill is a car crash, their Bill was a multiple pile-up.
My noble friend Lord McNally and I made it clear during the Second Reading that there are compelling reasons why the Bill before the House takes the form that it does-as the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon, I am sure knows. The two parts of the Bill are fundamentally related: both concern how MPs are elected to another place. Together, they concern arrangements for the next general election in 2015, and as such merit consideration in the round, as a package. It would not make sense to prioritise reform of the voting system while leaving the fundamental unfairness in constituencies untouched. Nor would it make sense to tackle unfair boundaries but deny the public the opportunity to vote in a referendum on the voting system-something that noble Lords opposite promised in their own manifesto.
It is simply not the case that the referendum can be separated from the boundary reviews, which can then be scrutinised at leisure. Current boundaries in England are 10 years out of date, and it is not unreasonable that they should not be 15 years out of date at the next election. The Boundary Commission must be allowed to get on with its reviews so that there is time for proper consultation on boundary recommendations and all concerned are given an adequate period to prepare for a general election on the new constituency boundaries.
Baroness Corston: My Lords, does the Leader of the House accept that he is wrong in one of the assertions he makes? Many parliamentary constituency boundaries were changed in 2005-my previous one in particular.
Lord Strathclyde: All of them may not be out of date, but many are. We are going to put that fundamental unfairness right. Surely the noble Lords opposite are not supporting the continuation of unfairness.
A couple of weeks ago this House gave the Bill a Second Reading. I believe that, in doing so, the House accepted its general principles and indeed its overall architecture. The House accepted it as one Bill. We are due to go into Committee on the Bill, in its entirety, this afternoon. Some noble Lords have put down
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Baroness McDonagh: I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, and I would like to refer to a couple of the points. I say to noble Lords opposite that the Motion would not discard Part 2 of the Bill and that every bit of work done up to now would remain. It would simply allow us the opportunity to have proper scrutiny.
I also say to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde: please do not tell us that we do not wish to debate the Bill. When we were debating it, there was not one Conservative Member on the Benches opposite. The Motion is a genuine and constructive attempt to make both Bills work, and I am sorry that the Government have not seen it as such. I think that it would make it much easier to pass the legislation, but I will not be pressing it to a vote. However, I make it clear that, like many other Back-Benchers, I will not take criticism or be harried for fully discharging our responsibility to scrutinise the legislation properly. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health.
"With permission Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on public health. Today, the Government publish a public health White Paper with two clear aims: first, to protect and improve the health of the nation; and, secondly, to reduce health inequalities by improving the health of the poorest, fastest.
The need for this White Paper is beyond question. Britain currently has among the highest rates of obesity and sexually transmitted infections in Europe. Smoking still claims 80,000 lives a year. Alcohol-related admissions to hospital are unacceptably high and, in recent years, inequalities in health have widened, rather than narrowed. As Professor Sir Michael Marmot's review to my department put it,
There is a seven-year gap in life expectancy between the richest and poorest neighbourhoods, but a gap of nearly 17 years for disability-free life expectancy. About a third of all cases of circulatory disease, half of all cases of vascular dementia and many cancers could be avoided by reducing smoking, improving diet and increasing physical activity.
We need to do better, and we will not make progress if public health continues to be seen just in terms of NHS provision and of state interventions. Two-thirds of our potential impact on life expectancy depends on issues outside healthcare. Factors like employment, education, environment and equality all are determinants of health. They are, as Michael Marmot put it,
the underlying factors leading to poorer health. Unhealthy behaviours, like drinking too much, smoking or taking drugs are part of a complex chain of individual circumstances and social causes, typically rooted in poor aspiration, adverse peer pressure and low self-esteem.
The human cost of poor health is obvious. So, too, is the financial one. Alcohol abuse costs us an estimated £2.7 billion and obesity costs an extra £4.2 billion each year to the NHS alone. And, while there are things we can do to help, we cannot resolve all the difficult issues from Whitehall. Hence, this White Paper has one clear message above all others: that it is time for politicians to stop telling people to make healthy choices, and time to start actually helping them to do it.
There will be a profound shift in tone, attitude and outlook. Rather than nannying people, we will nudge them by working with industry to make healthy lifestyles easier. Rather than lecturing people about their habits, we will give them the support they need to make their own choices and, rather than dictating policies from the centre, we will support leadership from communities by giving local authorities more power to develop the right approaches for their communities.
This White Paper is a genuine cross-government strategy. Through the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Public Health, we will put good health and well-being at the heart of all our policies. To do so, we will recognise that we need to provide support at key times in people's lives. We will not only measure general well-being, we will seek to achieve it.
For instance, because we know a mother's health is key to a child's health and development, we are investing in Sure Start children's centres and 4,200 more health visitors to give families the support they need. Because we know that those who are unemployed for long periods are more likely to be admitted to hospital and more likely to die prematurely, we are transforming the welfare system, ending the benefits trap, and making sure that work always pays through a single universal credit. Because we know more people would cycle to work or school more often if there were safer routes for them to use, the Government are investing £560 million in sustainable transport.
Subject to parliamentary approval, there will be a new dedicated public health service-Public Health England-which will provide the resources, the ideas, the evidence and the funding to support local strategies. Public Health England will bring together, within the Department of Health, expertise from a range of public health bodies, including the Health Protection Agency, the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse and the Chief Medical Officer's department. It will work with industry and other government departments to shape the wider environment as it affects our health. It will also develop health protection plans".
The Countess of Mar: I am awfully sorry to disturb the noble Earl and I am sorry to have to ask two very venerable noble Lords if they would mind having their conversation outside the Chamber as suggested in the Companion to the Standing Orders. I cannot concentrate on what the Minister is saying.
"It will also develop health protection plans and screening programmes to protect people from health risks. Because we also know that the foundations of good health are rooted in the community, often at a neighbourhood level, we must strengthen and renew local leadership to ensure that these efforts reach deeply into communities and match their unique circumstances.
Under this White Paper, the lead responsibility for improving health will pass to local government for the first time in 40 years. We intend to give local authorities new powers to plan, co-ordinate and deliver local strategies with the NHS and other partners and to embed the foundations of good health in ways that fit local circumstances. Directors of public health will provide strong and consistent leadership within local councils.
We also intend to establish the new local statutory health and well-being boards as a way of bringing together the NHS and local government. Whereas before, public health budgets were constantly raided by other parts of the NHS, we will prioritise public health spending through a new ring-fenced budget. We will look to the highest standards of evidence and evaluation to ensure that this money is spent wisely. The new outcomes framework for public health, on which we will consult shortly, will provide consistent measures to judge progress on key elements across all parts of the system-nationally and locally. The framework will emphasise the need to reduce health inequalities and will be supported by a new health premium incentivising councils which demonstrate progress in improving outcomes.
We have learnt over the last decade that state interventions alone cannot achieve success. We need a new sense of collective endeavour-a partnership between communities, businesses and individuals, which transforms not only the way we deliver public health, but also the way we think about it.
Through the public health responsibility deal, the Government will work with industry to help people make informed decisions about their diet and lifestyle, to improve the environment for health, and to make healthy choices easier. Through greater use of voluntary and community organisations, we will reach out to families and individuals and develop new ways to target the foundations of good health. Reflecting the framework in the ladder of interventions developed by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, we will adopt voluntary and less intrusive approaches so that we can make more progress, more quickly and resort to regulation only where we cannot make progress in partnership.
This is a time when the NHS and social care are under intense pressure from an ageing population and higher costs. It is a time when we must therefore put as much emphasis on preventing illness as we do on
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By empowering local authorities, by strengthening our knowledge of what works and by establishing the right incentives to drive better outcomes, the White Paper will deliver the strategy and support needed to reduce health inequalities and to improve the nation's health. I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement, which as we know was well trailed on the "Andrew Marr Show" on Sunday and on the "Today" programme this morning. There are some things that we would like to welcome and support in the Statement, and there are some that we think are a cause for concern. My overall impression is slight disappointment at the insubstantial nature of this Statement. Much of it is common sense and much of it picks up where the previous Government left off, but the Government have had quite some time to think about and to decide on the direction for public health. I believe that this White Paper is short on strategy. Therefore, I look forward to more substance as we move forward.
I think that we would agree that local authorities have an important role to play in the delivery of the public health agenda. Presumably, the new public health service will take on some of the responsibilities of the Health Protection Agency. I have to say to the noble Earl that I wonder why it was necessary to announce the abolition of the HPA, except to make a political point, which is disappointing, when a new agency is being created. The appointment of the new directors of public health will be very important in this programme of delivering a public health agenda. For them to be effective, they will need to be independent. How do the Government intend to ensure that directors of public health in local authorities have the necessary independence and power to deliver an agenda, which sometimes a local authority may not want to hear and may find expensive to deliver?
I am disappointed at the cheap gibes in the Statement, which I can only assume were the idea of the Minister's bosses-that the nanny state ruled during the Labour years and that Mr Lansley's "nudge-nudge" public health strategy will be more effective. We need to get past that sort of name calling. The evidence shows that by taking a lead, as Labour did, in the diagnosis of public health issues based on evidence and in taking some of the big decisions on, for example, smoking, exercise and diet-the noble Earl has not ruled out that this Government might need to do that too-we provided a good framework for people to take responsibility for their health and to start to change their habits. I hope that this Government will continue to support families where it is needed.
I do not think that nudging would have got us the ban on smoking in the workplace. "Nudge" will not replace the brilliantly successful schools sports programme.
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I disagree with this Statement where it puts forward a cross-government initiative; that is, joined-up government. The noble Earl needs to explain how throwing somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people on the dole will help their self-esteem and their family's prospects. He would need to explain the joined-up bit of the Government that led his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education to get rid of the successful school sports scheme that got our nation's children playing sport. Ditto housing benefit cuts, which may put some families' homes at risk or move them away from where they can earn a living. That is not going to provide the right environment. Finally, we have the abolition of the education maintenance allowance, which has allowed thousands of children from low-income families to stay on at school after 16. If, as Marmot says, life chances and opportunities are an important part of people's well-being and health, how can the Minister explain the contribution of this initiative to public health?
I want to turn to the regulation of tobacco. This House has debated this issue at length and over quite some time, and by several large majorities it supported the introduction of point-of-sale tobacco regulation and the banning of tobacco products in vending machines. Just this morning, on the "Today" programme, the Secretary of State confirmed that he accepted the evidence that the visibility of cigarettes is a factor that leads to the initiation of smoking. He also mentioned the issue of plain packaging and the Government's intention to consult on this. We all know that such a consultation will take years and that any action to put tobacco into plain packaging, following on from such a consultation, will take years to come into force. This cannot and should not be seen as an alternative to the legislation to ban tobacco displays. The display legislation is on the statute book. It will protect this generation of children from brightly coloured displays in shops. I should like to ask the Minister this: will cigarettes no longer be on display in supermarkets from October next year? Further, if the Government intend to consult on plain packaging, how long will the consultation take, who will run it and how much will it cost?
I have two or three more questions for the Minister. I warmly welcome the Government's intention to invest in Sure Start children's centres and in more health visitors. I also support the development of health protection plans and screening programmes, but I
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Finally, I certainly welcome the greater use of voluntary and community organisations. We worked with many organisations in different health fields, and that is exactly right. However, the funding and support for these organisations needs to be maintained.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the welcome she has given to at least certain elements of the White Paper, and I join her in expressing the hope that this is an area where we can work across the parties. That is because, as the White Paper says, this is very much a matter for all citizens and all elements in society, including industry and employers as well as parliamentarians. However, she asked a number of questions and made several criticisms, so I shall endeavour to reply to as many as I can.
The noble Baroness started by saying that she feels that the White Paper is a little short on strategy. I do not share that view. It makes it clear that we are making a conscious shift of power to local government to draw together public health with the factors that are so influential in achieving good health outcomes. Examples of those factors are housing, transport and education. It is about simplifying, strengthening and unifying national arrangements to reduce red tape and duplication, and to have a clear focus and high priority on public health within central government as well. I believe that the strategy is clear and I hope that, when she has had time to read the White Paper at leisure, she will modify her view.
She referred to the Health Protection Agency and she was right to say that the functions of the agency are, if Parliament agrees, going to be subsumed into Public Health England. The new body will bring together key professionals involved in public health from the national to the local level. It will have a mission to protect and help improve the nation's health and well-being.
She asked about directors of public health in the new system. With the abolition of primary care trusts, directors of public health, employed by local authorities but jointly appointed with Public Health England, will be responsible for commissioning health improvement and some health protection services using the ring-fenced budget to which I referred. We envisage that, through local partnership working, including through the local health and well-being board, directors of public health will be able to influence the wider determinants of health and well-being and improve outcomes for their local population.
The noble Baroness was sceptical about the concept of "nudge". The Government's approach to health improvement is not based solely on nudging people. We accept that the evidence base for applying insights from behavioural science and health contexts is relatively undeveloped. That means that we need to develop the evidence base for that approach, clearly, and that we need to use a wide variety of methods to encourage people to adopt healthier behaviours, not just based on nudges but by continuing to use other effective approaches, such as customer insight and segmentation. As the Statement mentioned, there will always be a role for regulation. However, the Nuffield ladder, which the noble Baroness will see in the White Paper, gives a very good illustration of the menu of options available to us in this context.
The noble Baroness referred to schools, and I note her concerns. At the same time, we have plans for developing the use of school nurses. I see that as a very important part of the vision to ensure that we can have a workforce that is alive to public health issues in the school context. A great deal of work is going on, and I would be happy to brief the noble Baroness on that.
She referred to tobacco, an issue to which we regularly return. I have little, I fear, to add to what I told the House during the Question earlier this afternoon. However, we are considering plain packaging, as I mentioned earlier. The current intention is to ask retailers to cover up their displays of cigarettes so that children are not attracted by the packaging. This is widely accepted as the last form of marketing available to tobacco companies to recruit new smokers. We also want to look at how plain packaging could further protect children from taking up smoking in the first place, and help support people who are trying to quit. It is early days. We cannot say more than that at the moment, but it is something to which I am sure that we can return. On tobacco displays, I cannot add to what I told the House earlier this afternoon. This is still under consideration.
I am glad that the noble Baroness welcomed the concept of the ring-fenced budget. Local authorities will be accountable for the use of the budget. We expect that directors of public health will take the lead in local authorities on the use of the budget. We will be clear about the outcomes that we are seeking, but we will not be prescriptive about how those outcomes are achieved. I think that there will be transparency about the use of the budget through the normal, local, democratic means. More details on the accountability arrangements will be set out in the public health funding and commissioning consultation document, which will be published very shortly.
Finally, the noble Baroness asked me to clarify how we viewed the system as being joined up. We do, I think, view this as potentially a joined-up system. Successful delivery of public health services will require strong links not only from Public Health England at the centre with local authorities, but also between local authorities and the NHS. Joint working will be essential in supporting the collection and provision of the information needed to inform future commissioning, and to enable specific public health services to be
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I look forward, as I hope the noble Baroness does, to a new public health effort. We will doubtless return to this topic when, in due course, the health and social care Bill reaches this House as there are important measures in it on which this service will depend.
Lord Alderdice: My Lords, no one who has listened to and observed noble Lords on the Front and other Benches opposite would think other than that they are passionately committed to the health service and to the health of the nation. However, as they look back over the past 13 years, they would also observe that at the end of that time issues such as obesity, smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, mental health and the increasing disparity in morbidity between people who live in poor areas and better-off areas were uncompleted in terms of what they wanted to see. It therefore does not seem unreasonable to ask whether that was partly because the approach had reached the limits of its validity.
That is why, in welcoming the Statement, I ask my noble friend to address two brief questions. First, as we move towards more local responsibility for provision of public health, and the undertaking of that responsibility by local directors of health and local health and well-being committees, is there a recognition that that transition cannot happen without real input and help from Public Health England and from those experienced in delivering public health? It cannot be adopted at the drop of a hat. Secondly, when it is adopted-and different approaches will be taken in different areas, quite properly and, in many ways, more effectively-is there a recognition that Public Health England will also have a role in liaising with and providing a network among the directors of public health and health and well-being committees so that they can promote health in the way that we all want?
Baroness Northover: I remind noble Lords that we have a very short amount of time and that they should be extremely brief, either with a question or with a comment. They can do either but they should be as brief as possible. I shall try to be as fair as possible in getting around the House.
Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend asked a series of important questions. He has put his finger on how, in many senses, the system will be joined up. He is right to say that Public Health England will be instrumental in supporting local directors of public health in their task. We envisage that Public Health England will create a common sense of purpose and values among a widely dispersed group of workforces. We will develop a workforce strategy with representative organisations and publish that next year. That, I hope, will help to support a smooth transition. At the same time, we do not want to cramp the style of local directors of public health. Much will be down to local decision-making and, in particular, the individuals now employed in PCTs will be looking to transfer
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Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: There is much that is welcome within the report but I have some reservations. When the directors of public health are employed by local authorities, will the local authorities also be responsible for their appraisal? Who will be responsible for their revalidation? Will there be audits of the impact of any interventions? Will there be co-ordination of those audits to see which interventions are the most effective? Will there be research in public health to find the most effective ways of guiding people's behaviour so that they contemplate change? The word "nudge" has been used in the Statement. This goes back to Julian Tudor Hart's work, many years ago, highlighting the inverse care law. It will be really important that directors of public health do not become isolated in a local authority where they find it difficult to bring about change.
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness will see when she has a chance to read the relevant section of the White Paper that local directors of public health will be jointly appointed by Public Health England at the centre and by local authorities. We see that as important because they will be fulfilling multiple roles. For example, the health protection role fulfilled by Public Health England will have to be delivered at a local level and, to that extent, it is important that directors of public health are accountable upwards to the centre. At the same time, in much of their work, particularly on health improvement, local directors will be accountable to their local authority and their local population. There is a dual accountability working here.
On the audit question, we are issuing a paper about the outcomes framework. The way in which outcomes are assessed and audited will be key to ensuring that the interventions and initiatives that are put in place are evidence-based, that they are relevant and that they have an effect. I hope that the noble Baroness, for one, will feed into that consultation.
Finally, the noble Baroness asked about research. There will be two main engines for public health research. One is the NIHR school for public health research, which will consist of leading academic centres of excellence focusing on evaluation and what works practically and can be applied across the whole country. The other will be the policy research unit on behaviour and health, located in the department, the opening programme of which will initially focus on four behaviours; namely, diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption. It is very important that we get closer to what motivates people to change behaviour.
Lord Cunningham of Felling: There is much to welcome in the noble Earl's Statement and I agree with my noble friend Lady Thornton that there are some things to be concerned about. We should be careful that nudge does not become fudge in respect of the implementation of these policies. My question relates to the very substantial reductions in teaching grants to our universities. Has anyone in Government yet done any work on or given any thought to the implications of the reductions in those grants for the training of doctors, dentists and other paramedics in our higher education institutes and other colleges? If they have not, they should do so quickly, because the implications of those cuts could have a very substantial bearing on the number of doctors, dentists and others coming out of our universities in the future.
Earl Howe: My Lords, the training of the workforce will be key-I would not disagree with the noble Lord on that question. This is a matter on which we are focusing very closely. I will need to write to the noble Lord on the specifics of his first question because the figures are not in my brief, but we are clear that, without the necessary workforce to deliver the public health programme on the ground at local authority level, we will not be able to see the improvements that we need. That will be a major focus for my department.
Baroness Browning: Does my noble friend recall in "Dr Finlay's Casebook" the role of Dr Snoddie, the very independent but suitably qualified director of public health, for want of a more modern phrase? When my noble friend comes to look at the qualifications for directors of public health, will he ensure that they have the appropriate qualifications, so that we do not repeat what has happened elsewhere in the health service, with a generation of administrators who override the clinical judgments of those who are more medically qualified to take decisions?
Earl Howe: My noble friend takes me back to happy days watching "Dr Finlay's Casebook". I seem to remember that Dr Snoddie always had an encounter with Mistress Niven, who came down with all manner of complaints and ailments that the redoubtable duo usually diagnosed and dealt with.
My noble friend is correct. We have to ensure that we have the right people trained at the right level to deliver this service and that we do not get bogged down in managerial bureaucracy. Health and well-being boards will be a vehicle for public health, social care, the GP consortia, when they are formed, and the patient organisations, such as HealthWatch, to come around the same table, so to speak-maybe literally-in order to look at the broader health needs of an area and decide on priorities. I see that as powerfully playing into the public health agenda. This will be far from being a process that is bogged down in bureaucracy.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I welcome this document as well as the concept of cross-party working on public health services. I particularly welcome, as the Minister might expect me to say, the references in the document to improving sexual health.
I have a number of questions. On the directors of public health, the Minister talked about them being at the right level. What level is that expected to be within the framework of local government? Unless they have a high status within local government then, unfortunately, they might not be able to influence some of the things that they might want to influence. I have another question regarding the directors. In working with GP consortia, what if there is a difference of view that needs to be resolved? Who takes the final decision? Who has the final say in respect of that?
How is it going to be determined whether an area qualifies for the new health premiums? With regard to ring-fenced budgeting, the aid support grant lost its ring-fencing. Does that mean that it will be in the public health ring-fenced budget or not?
When the independent advisory group on sexual health, of which I was chair, was abolished, we were told that a new sexual health organisation would be established. What will be the process for that and when is it likely to happen?
As I mentioned earlier, it is important to recognise that in part the status of directors of public health will be confirmed by virtue of not simply being appointed locally, but also by being appointed from the centre by Public Health England. That will confer an added status to them. With the dual accountability that I referred to, primary accountability would be to their employer, the local authority, but the Secretary of State would have a backstop power to dismiss directors of public health on the basis of a failure to discharge local authority responsibilities in the area of health protection. Again, while one does not want to dwell on that power, it signifies that this is a person who will be there very much as the representative of the Secretary of State.
The noble Baroness asked what happens if there is a difference of view. Differences of view will arise but the important point to emphasise here is that we want to see them sorted out at a local level wherever possible. That will not always be possible but it should be the aim that health and well-being boards and consortia should decide, in the light of the joint strategic needs assessment and other factors, what the priorities are locally and how the budget is to be spent. It has to be that way: second-guessing from the centre is bound to lead to perverse consequences. However, there will be mechanisms available to ensure that the NHS commissioning board will have a role in trying to resolve these issues and the noble Baroness will see, when we publish the health and social care Bill, that the Secretary of State will have a backstop power in extremis.
She asked about the health premium. We will be publishing a document for discussion on this. We want to hear the views of everybody as to how this should work. Clearly, if a health premium is paid it has to reflect a measure of genuine progress in reducing health inequalities, while recognising that some areas
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On sexual health, we are looking to see what more can be done to increase the awareness of risks, prevent infection and promote access to screening and treatment. The consultation documents, which will be issued shortly, will set out the proposed funding and commissioning routes for public health services, including how comprehensive sexual health services might best be commissioned. I hope the noble Baroness will feed into that.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, the noble Earl mentioned looking at the causes of the causes very early on in his Statement. I think it is now well accepted that a foetus is not protected by either the placenta or the blood-brain barrier from environmental assaults. I am concerned that a lot of the obesity that we see now in young children who run around normally and cannot be described as couch potatoes-although perhaps their diet is deficient-may have originated in the womb from oestrogen-mimicking hormones and by chemicals such as bisphenol A and phthalates. It seems to me that we disregard these factors at our peril and we are blaming people for factors that are beyond their ability to control. Another point is the effect of maternal stress on the foetus. High cortisol levels in the mother affect the child and cause ADHD and educational problems later on in their lives. What is the Minister doing to look at what is happening to babies in the womb and the effects on them in their future life?
Earl Howe: I shall need to write to the noble Countess on exactly what work programmes are in train in that area but she is absolutely right-this is an area that I have taken a close interest in over the years. It is fundamental to understanding both health in childhood and later on in adulthood, and behaviour in children.
We fully recognise that good nutritional status is important at all stages of life. That includes the role of the diet in pre-maternal health, and affects teenagers in particular and the elderly, where there are concerns about malnutrition; I know that is not the focus of the noble Countess's question. The national diet and nutrition survey will allow us to continue monitoring the status of the diet in the UK population and to target interventions where they are needed. I will write to the noble Countess to give her further particulars.
Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, could my noble friend please explain one tiny inconsistency in government policy? Today he announced that some parts of NHS expenditure would be ring-fenced to deal with the problem of obesity. However, earlier in the week the Education Secretary removed ring-fencing on school sports, which was partly designed to tackle the same problem. Am I right about this being an inconsistency, or can my noble friend explain whether I am making a mistake?
Earl Howe: Far be it from me to say that my noble friend makes mistakes. No, he has not misunderstood the situation. The point of the ring-fence is to ensure that the money we supply to local authorities is genuinely used for public health purposes. That is obvious. However, there will be flexibility for local authorities to decide what falls within the public health definition. As long as they can justify their decision that the expenditure is public health-related, they will be free to spend the money accordingly. There may be uses for public health money that involve schools or sport and so on. This, again, is something that we will need to look at when we define how much money there will be-that is being worked out-and in our dialogues with local authorities, to ensure that the rules are absolutely clear.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, in moving Amendment 1, I will speak also to Amendments 3 and 14, which are related or consequential. I have tabled two groups of amendments on this issue in the Bill, both of which deal with problems that follow the Government's limiting of choice of electoral systems and total failure to consult. Amendments 1, 3 and 14 would provide for the establishment of an inquiry for the purpose of selecting a voting system that, following debate in Parliament and consideration by the Government, would lead to a decision by Parliament on the referendum question. Amendments 25 and 26, which come in a later group, would allow Parliament to decide on an electoral system after a referendum had approved an alternative vote system in principle. Although Amendments 25 and 26 are not in this group, I will seek to degroup them when we reach that debate so that we can consider them at a later stage.
At the heart of Amendments 1, 3 and 14 is my concern over the failure of the Government in specifying the optional preferential AV system, which has been decided on without any consultation whatever. The proposed AV system is mired in controversy and has never been the subject of any inquiry or examination. There has been no independent assessment of its impact, nor was the proposed system the subject of any debate in Parliament prior to the Bill. There was not even a full debate in the Commons on its operation. The proposed system is, and always has been, opposed by the Liberal Democrats, whose leader, the Deputy Prime Minister, described it as a "miserable little compromise". The proposed system is utterly inconsistent
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Amendment 1 and the associated Amendments 3 and 14 would establish a committee of inquiry that could then make recommendations to Parliament on an electoral system or family of systems. Parliament could then take a view, with the decision on the preferred system being taken by the Secretary of State, who would still have the ultimate responsibility. The Secretary of State's decision would then be the subject of a debate in Parliament under the affirmative procedure. Opponents of my amendments will argue that such an inquiry would lead to delay. That is true. However, the Government are in a position to set their own timetable. All that matters is that we have a timetable for a time-limited inquiry, which could be agreed either between the parties in this House or between the Government and the parties involved in the debate. If that had happened, much of today's debate could have been avoided. Certainly, it would have been avoided if the Government had adopted such an approach.
If I am honest, criticism can be laid at the door of the previous Labour Government, which introduced without consultation a proposal for the same AV system during consideration of Clause 29 of the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill. Along with many other colleagues, we had grave concerns over how that proposal was handled. I recall that a number of colleagues on these Benches had intended to go as far as opposing that provision in the Labour Government's Bill. With the help of the Cross-Benchers' objective consideration of highly political matters, we hoped that the Government would, at that stage, have thought again. However, the truth is that we are now going down the same route. We are being railroaded into a system that has never been tested in the United Kingdom. The Bill proposes not the classic AV system used for the Australian federal Parliament-which is favoured by most people who argue the AV position but is not on offer in the Bill-but the system used for the Queensland state parliament, which operates a far more limited system.
As I said, the proposed system is mired in controversy. Let me quote at some length from a blog that has been placed on the internet by two professors at the University of Plymouth, who have made a particular examination of the system that the Government are offering. Under the heading,
"But evidence from real elections fought using AV or other preference systems suggests that many voters simply vote for their most preferred party and do not bother to rank any of the other competitors. In general elections in Australia not only is voting compulsory"-
I hope that the House can see where my argument is going. I am saying that what is on offer in the Bill is a system that does not work. That is why we need an inquiry that can consider a wide variety of AV-based variant systems before a decision is taken by Parliament. The blog goes on to say:
We are told that the system proposed in the Bill does not provide for tactical voting, but it does. The Australian experience shows that such systems lead to very heavy tactical voting, as I am about to show. The blog continues:
"However since 2001, and the Australian Labor Party's first 'Just One vote' campaign, the level of people supporting only one party (called 'plumping') in Queensland has been about 60 per cent. In 2009 63 per cent of those who turned out at the state elections voted for just one candidate. In individual constituencies the proportion so doing ranged from a low of 53 per cent to a high of 73 per cent".
Under that system of elections, nearly three-quarters of all electors in particular areas of Australia did not even cast a second-preference vote, never mind all the other additional preferences that they are required to indicate under the other system. The blog continues:
"This behaviour was endorsed by the major political parties who increasingly advised their supporters to vote for them alone. Where parties took a different view (as the Greens did for instance), they were often ignored by voters. For instance, no fewer than 46 per cent of those who gave their first preference to the Greens made no other choice, despite the party advising that second preferences should be given to Labor. Similar behaviour can be found elsewhere in Australia also".
"On a smaller scale, somewhat similar patterns of behaviour can be spotted in Britain amongst a minority of voters on those occasions where electors have had the opportunity to cast more than one ballot at the same contest. ... At the three London mayoral elections in 2000, 2004 and 2008 using the ... Supplementary Vote (SV) system"-
In other words, only 80 per cent of voters in another system, which the Government reject, have used their additional preferences. Under the proposed optional preference system, a far smaller percentage of people might use their additional votes. The blog continues:
"The more such behaviour is replicated in any future UK general election using AV, the more the result will resemble one fought under the current first past the post system and nullify much of the point of any reform".
Amendment 14 would allow for a sensible, considered and informed assessment, examination and debate of different electoral systems. I have drawn attention to the deficiencies in the voting system that has been selected. Given that there are single-member constituency systems in different parts of the world that work, I should like those systems to be the subject of my proposed committee of inquiry, which could inquire into the operation of the Australian AV federal system, first past the post and the Queensland optional preferential AV system, which I have set out to rubbish today. The committee of inquiry could also inquire into the London AV or supplementary vote system and the contingent vote system that is used for the election of presidents in Sri Lanka. The point is that all those systems should be the subject of an inquiry before a recommendation is made to Parliament.
The decision taken during the coalition talks was rushed. No one sat down and said, "Yes, we want a single-member constituency alternative vote system". No one said, "Hang on a minute. From within the family of AV systems, which one should we select?". The coalition just waved the matter through, perhaps on the basis of some recommendation by the Liberal Democrats, who in many areas have not fully considered all the implications of their proposal. I hope that we can change the recommendation in the Bill with the support of the Cross-Benchers, who should, I think, take a more dispassionate and independent view of what is in the best interests than the politicians might take in these matters. I hope that we can have this inquiry and that, as a result, a far more sensible and informed decision can be taken. I beg to move.
Lord Lipsey: My Lords, I think I noted a moment during my noble friend's closing remarks when the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, turned to a closed position. I quite understand when it comes to the detail of voting systems that that is a tempting posture for any man of good sense to take. However, those of us who have devoted many years to the study of these subjects are of course more excited by them.
Lord McNally: My Lords, it has been a long-established practice in this House that Members occasionally close their eyes and lean back to the loudspeaker to concentrate more on the wisdom coming through it. I am shocked that the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, is not aware of that.
Lord Lipsey: We should make sure that the noble Lord's microphone is finely tuned, so that should some noises which indicated to the contrary emit from
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Turning to the amendment, I, as my noble friend knows, do not agree with him on which is the best of the different majoritarian systems proposed as alternatives to first past the post. I prefer the alternative vote; he prefers SV and the London alternative vote, which we will discuss the origins of in a minute. However, I most strongly agree with his fundamental point that this issue has never been looked at.
Noble Lords will remember that I was on the Jenkins committee which proposed AV as part of its solution. I have to say that we had bigger fish to fry and we never considered the difference between various AV systems. We considered SV, but only fairly cursorily. That was perfectly appropriate for a broad committee of inquiry trying to take us to square one in this reform process. It is not appropriate at a time when Parliament and your Lordships' House are considering matters which can fundamentally affect-I do not exaggerate by saying that-the constitutional future of this country.
That we should be debating this today illustrates the sheer folly of plunging into this legislation without pre-legislative scrutiny, as a committee of your Lordships' House has pointed out. If ever there was a Bill crying out for proper pre-legislative scrutiny it was this one. In the coalition's first raptures of love, such considerations were cast aside and as a result they had the unsafe sex whose issue we see in front of us in this Bill.
There are two key issues that need to be looked at properly before we proceed with a change in the system. The first, which my noble friend has referred to, is the two essentially broad variations of AV that exist. In one, a voter must put all the candidates in order of preference. Even if he only really cares about the first two or three, the voter must order them all or his vote is invalid. In the other, the voter numbers as many as he chooses. There is a great advantage to the first system of making them number all preferences or their vote does not count because it means the winning candidate unambiguously gets at least half the votes of their electorate.
That is more than outweighed, however, by voter choice-this is all about voter choice. For some people-me for example-a choice way down the list may be the most important choice I make. If I am faced with a choice between a Welsh nationalist candidate and a British National Party candidate, the order in which I put them is the most important choice for me. I do not want either of them elected, but I certainly do not want the BNP elected. That is a very important choice, so I will be numbering right down my list. Others may, like the people of Queensland, decide to opt for one party. There is nothing wrong with that; it does not cause a problem for the system. That is voter choice being exercised, too. I do not say which way other voters should exercise their choice; I am simply saying they should have the right. Those are two balanced arguments that should be objectively considered.
The second issue concerns the concept of whether SV should be an alternative to AV. SV, incidentally, has been rechristened by Professor Patrick Dunleavy as "London AV". It is important what you call things and this is a credible way of resurrecting the SV system. I cannot object because often when I am talking to Liberal Democrats about the merits of AV I describe it as "STV in a single constituency", which indeed it is. I do not mind using the phrase "London AV", therefore, but it is in fact SV.
The arguments for and against SV and AV are quite well balanced. They can only be assessed by a proper look at the evidence. No objective body has had a look at that evidence. It is particularly strange that the Lib Dems, who are responsible for the AV proposal being before us, do not prefer AV at all. They wanted something quite different-STV. They made no secret of that in their election manifesto. They had not thought very much about what precise form of AV should be put in a referendum and therefore we have this snap decision that is incorporated in the Bill.
I feel much more strongly that we should look at this properly than as to what the outcome of such examination should be. Whatever an independent inquiry comes up with on these issues is fine by me. However, I believe that it is the duty of this House, in its role as a constitutional reforming chamber and the backstop against hell-for-leather attempts at legislation coming from another place, to ensure that such an inquiry is held and made before we rush into this referendum and perhaps put before the British people a system that in due course they will regret rather than, as I hope, welcome.
Lord Deben: My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has done your Lordships a great favour by introducing the amendment so early in our consideration of the Bill. He has brought it to our minds that the problem of proportional representation is that people tend to say, "I am in favour of proportional representation", and only afterwards, when you inquire what kind of proportional representation, does the argument begin.
I suggest, in a non-party-political way, that most of us recognise that AV came into the political discussion because it was hit upon by the previous Government as the form of proportional representation least likely to do them harm and most likely to do them good. I am not criticising them for that: after all, it is the first step that people normally take when they consider an alternative to the first past the post system. They say to themselves, "Which would do me best?". Then they choose the system-and some have to choose a most complicated and peculiar system in order to land more votes for themselves. What is odd about this proposition is that it was put forward by two coalition parties, neither of whom thinks that it will be best for them. It is a remarkable achievement. They have taken on the proposal that the previous Government made because it would be best for them and proposed it to the House on the basis that it would not be best for either of them. I cannot remember a single occasion on which such a proposition has been true.
I admit that I am opposed to proportional representation of any kind. I am very simple about it:
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I am not in favour of the amendment. I want AV on the ballot paper because I want the least satisfactory form of proportional representation that can be presented so that I can defeat it. I am absolutely straight about that: I do not want any of this fiddling about. However, those of us who have views on the matter should be honest. We should say that it is difficult enough to get people to vote-and difficult enough to get people to vote in a way that indicates their preference-under the present system. Some noble Lords have not been elected. I was elected many times and sat in the other place for more than 30 years. What always amazed me was the number of people who found it extremely difficult to follow the idea that you put a cross-or some obvious mark-against the person you wanted. It was quite hard to get everybody to do that. The idea that people will make a choice between the British National Party and Welsh nationalist candidates at number 14 and 15 on a long list is frankly barmy-they will not.
I am sure that, like me, other noble Lords have been asked to vote in an election for a trustees' group under such a system. By the time you have voted for the ones you have heard of, you find it very difficult to know how to distinguish between those of whom you have not heard, those you do not think much of and those you do not know whether you think a little less of than you do of others.
This is the most ridiculous proposal that could possibly be put before us. I worry about the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours. The more people that take it seriously, the worse the situation will be. If we really are having that kind of argument down at 14 and 15 in the list, I do not know how I would campaign. I do not understand what I am supposed to say. I know what I would do; I would say, "Don't waste your vote by voting for anybody else-vote for me". In that sense, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, is perfectly right.
The difficulty for the House is to know how best to save the coalition Government from their position. I have a difficulty because I have never voted for a referendum-and I have no intention of voting for a referendum on this occasion. I think referenda are thoroughly unacceptable in all circumstances. I believe in parliamentary democracy and it is a principle one has to uphold; I have upheld it whether I thought we might win the referendum or whether I thought we might lose. I have always thought it wrong. It was a position my father convinced me of when he pointed
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Lord Rooker: My Lords, I support the demands of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours. I want to put this on the record in view of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, this afternoon. It is quite clear that if the Liberals are not going to participate in the debates in this House, then it is on their head; they will have no cause for complaint about it. My noble friend's amendment accepts the alternative vote; it does not seek to change it. We have amendments later for PR, and I personally guarantee an opportunity for the Lib Dems to vote for STV, whatever time of day it is, as long as I can find another teller. At some time, I will give them the chance to vote for what I know they really want.
The noble Lord, Lord Deben, started off by saying exactly what I have said: those who start the journey from first past the post to something else inevitably stop off at AV. I did it myself. The first time I got more than 50 per cent of the vote was in the fourth election in 1983; I started to wonder. In 1987, again with more than 50 per cent, it felt different. It made me think that there has to be a better system of elections. I was converted to PR by the geographer's book from Sheffield A Nation Dividing? That is where I am coming from.
The first time I ever saw the noble Lord, Lord Deben, was at the referendum meeting in what was later to become my constituency of Perry Bar-1972, I think-when he was supporting the then Conservative Member of Parliament during the campaign. I am not making a point about referendums, or referendum campaigning or participating in them. Whether he voted for it, I do not know.
We have to say to the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, that just because we are going to raise issues, it does not mean that we are trying to scupper the Bill, trying to be nasty or trying to be unconstitutional. At any time, he can get up and make his case. If he does not, then it is on his head. Come the referendum-and maybe come the election that follows-questions will be asked. First, as my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours has said, the claim, which has been made by the leader of his own party, that this does away with tactical voting is simply not true. All the tactical voting goes on to the other preferences. I guarantee that if this Bill becomes an Act and we have an election, there will be some Lib Dem candidate somewhere in the country-and we will be watching-who will put out a leaflet saying "only vote one". It will happen-and it will happen with Labour and Conservatives as well-but it is the Lib Dems making the claim.
The reason the form of AV needs looking at is that the alternative vote has not been used in any public election in the UK, except in the London Assembly
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The second claim, which the leader of the Liberal Democrats made in front of a Select Committee, is that everyone elected will get more than 50 per cent of the vote. Well, it is simply not true. It cannot be true. Fifty per cent of what? Fifty per cent of those who voted in the first part of the election's first preferences, or 50 per cent of those who arrive at the other end after the other preferences have been knocked out? The figures are different. If people choose not to use a preference, so that their vote comes out of the system before the count is finished, how can you get 50 per cent? It is clearly impossible. Only in the Australian federal system, where there is compulsory voting and a compulsion to use all the preferences, can you come remotely near to the promise and commitment of having more than 50 per cent of the vote.
There is a need for some kind of inquiry about the form of AV if that is the route we are going to take. Whichever form of AV we choose, it is not PR. People are constantly saying it is PR; it is a majoritarian system. What form of AV should we have? Let us have a chat about it and look at it before we are accused of misleading the public.
There will be plenty of opportunity to deal with the issues that we will come to later. My noble friend used lots of examples form Australia. In the debate of 24 March I used examples from Canada. Just google "AV Canada". What has happened at the state and provincial elections in Canada is a minefield. Parties with 60 per cent of the vote won all the seats. All kinds of things went wrong with how the alternative vote was manipulated. There is that possibility, which is why we need an inquiry. There will be a slight delay. That does not alter the fact that the next general election could be held using that voting system. The delay need not be of more than 12 months anyway. That is not the issue. It can still be put to the British people. There is plenty of opportunity for that.
My final point, which is not unimportant, is about an issue that always comes up with AV, and which this Bill allows for: why should the second preference of a person who has voted for, say-I do not want to be pejorative-the Greens or the BNP, who have come fifth, sixth or seventh, have the same quality of vote as the first preference of the people who voted for the first two candidates? I have tabled an amendment to deal with that. However, under the Bill as it stands, those people get two votes. Their second vote has exactly the same worth any anybody's first preference. That cannot be fair.
When the time comes to argue this in the referendum, it will be much better for the Lib Dems-I leave out their coalition partners, because they will not support this-if they can point to what they said in Parliament in meeting some of these issues. The TV and media at
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Lord Rennard: I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, will not be surprised to find that his amendment does not find favour with me. I hope noble Lords will generally appreciate the position of many of us on these Benches. We feel a high degree of frustration about suggestions of inquiries, commissions, consultations, deliberations on electoral systems, and suggestions that there should be a referendum for people to decide at some unspecified future date. We have a long history of observing these things, and these electoral systems have been examined by many people over many decades. Many forms of electoral system now operate in this country, including, for example, the alternative vote system. In particular, Scotland operates STV when all its council elections are due but the alternative vote when it has a council by-election. The problems in Australia to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, referred do not appear to happen in Scotland when Scottish voters are using the alternative vote to elect a single councillor. So I would pray in aid what is happening in Scotland and in Northern Ireland as being perhaps a little more relevant than suggestions about problems somewhere in Australia.
It seems to me that the academic evidence generally suggests-and it is the consensus of those who take the closest interest in these issues-that there really are no advantages in the so-called supplementary vote system compared with the alternative vote system and that there are a significant number of disadvantages to it. Principally-and the reason why it is not used by any of the parties using alternative vote in their internal mechanisms-the supplementary vote system has the same problem as first past the post in that you have to try to guess who is near the top of the pile and use your vote tactically. That does not necessarily work, particularly when you have a more than two-party system, and we should recognise that these days we have a more than two-party system-indeed, at least a four-party system-in Scotland and in Wales. For voters to be expected to try to guess which two are in the lead and to use one of their Xs only for one of the two parties deemed to be the biggest is not fair. It is not fair to Green voters and perhaps to other voters in England, and it is not fair in the four-party systems that operate in Scotland and in Wales.
It was not without reason and not without considerable debate that the last Labour Government introduced a proposal for AV in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act in the last Parliament. It was not without considerable debate and discussion and proper examination, I have no doubt, that the proposal for AV and a referendum was included in the last Labour Party manifesto in the general election just six months ago. I am sure that the party has its deliberative mechanisms for forming its manifesto.
In response to this general debate about modes of AV, SV or other systems, and comments that AV does not work, we should bear in mind how widely it is used. It is used by the Conservative Party in electing its party leader and its candidates; it is used by the Labour Party in electing its leader and its candidates; and it is used by the Liberal Democrats in electing our leader and our candidates. It is widely used in many other organisations, including the Church of England and many of the charities.
Voters in this country are used to using 1, 2, 3; it is a very simple and easily understood system. I fundamentally believe that the issue of whether we go to AV now or we stick with first past the post is primarily a question for the voters in this country, which they should have in a referendum very soon and on the most appropriate day.
In my view, too much of this discussion and debate is about which system is supposed to favour which party. That is totally the wrong argument and issue. We should let the voters decide on this issue, and the system should be decided according to which system gives most power to the voter. AV gives more power to the voter than first past the post.
Lord Grocott: The noble Lord stressed heavily the importance of consulting the electorate before a change is made. Is he, with his long experience of Lib Dem organisation, able to confirm to this Committee whether in the course of the coalition negotiations the Lib Dem party was trying to persuade both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party to push ahead with a Bill for AV without a referendum? Can he throw some light on that? It is crucial to this debate.
Lord Rennard: My Lords, I can throw no more light than the books currently in circulation describing the coalition talks; I was not privy to them in detail. However, I understand that the Labour Party proposed that it would proceed with AV, as in its manifesto; and it was conceded by the Conservative Party that it would proceed with AV in a referendum to be held at some point in the future, and subsequently it was agreed that it would be held on 5 May. I do not think that that is terribly relevant. The important thing is which system gives most power to the voters. AV gives more power to the voters than first past the post and we should let the voters choose on that basis.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: My Lords, I will not delay the Committee long because I very much agree with much of what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has said. I would ask noble Lords to be aware of some of the laws of unintended consequences that come as a result of the different models of AV that exist. I should declare an interest in that until last year I was the British High Commissioner to Australia. I have watched the system in Queensland and the federal system with a great deal of interest. My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours set it out very effectively.
One of the unintended consequences of AV is the nature of the deals done by political parties and by individuals. My noble friend talked about tactical voting, but it goes beyond that. Parties-at the national
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There is another way in which these laws of unintended consequences can kick in. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, thinks that we should not be thinking or looking at these issues, but we know that we have parties in this country which operate on the extremes. There is a real danger, which has been seen in Australia with Mrs Pauline Hansen and her party, that the system of preferences can be used to help parties that come from an extreme position.
Lord Rennard: Does the noble Baroness accept that, sadly, under the first past the post system we have had a significant number of BNP councillors elected in this country? With an alternative vote system, all the supporters of parties opposed to the BNP could effectively use their votes to keep out extreme members of the British National Party. That would be a much fairer and more democratic solution.
Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke: I would refer the noble Lord to what my noble friend Lord Rooker has just said about the gradations of voting and the worth of each vote in relation to voting for extreme parties. My point is that we did not have pre-legislative scrutiny of this legislation. We did not have a consultation process. Yes, politics comes into it, but I believe that on both sides of the Committee there is a genuine desire to see a more effective way of ensuring that our country is adequately represented in the Parliaments of this land. That is why I believe that my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours has done this Committee a great favour by introducing these amendments. The laws of unintended consequences could radically alter the nature of the political process in this country.
We must not rush into it blindly. There is still the opportunity for the coalition Government to achieve their dream of getting a referendum on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh parliamentary elections. We will come to that later. But, please, let us not get into a situation where we take decisions that we will regret for a very long time.
Lord Alton of Liverpool: I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Liddell, that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has done the Committee a service by bringing forward this amendment. It demonstrates that there are many views throughout your Lordships' House about the way in which elections should be conducted and that we need to have a moderated and thoughtful debate before rushing pell-mell into any kind of change to our electoral system.
When I first entered your Lordships' House, one of the first issues I raised was when the then new Labour Government supported the party list system for European
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I have another reason why I am opposed to it. It is an over-centralised system that places power in the hands of party elites and caucuses who, in smoke-filled rooms, often choose a list of people. My right as a voter-like the rest of your Lordships, this is one election in which we can participate-is then simply to mark my ballot paper not for an individual, but for a party. I believe that that breaches a very important constitutional safeguard. As a former constituency Member of Parliament-and here I share the thought of the noble Lord, Lord Deben-I cherished the relationship between oneself and one's voters, and the fact that you represented a geographically defined area, somewhere where you could have a relationship with your voters because they lived in a certain area. The representatives would not be simply people from a list that had been determined by a centralised party bureaucracy, and not a system that would militate in favour of extreme groups.
We had that system for European elections. Others have pointed out that we have different systems in different jurisdictions within the United Kingdom, at the local government, devolved and Westminster levels. Surely all this points to the need for a thorough review of the systems already working throughout the UK. Here I am with the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey. I believe that there should have been pre-legislative scrutiny. I said that in the course of the Second Reading debate and in the course of a Question for Short Debate held prior to the general election. I said that we should not be stampeded into any change purely for reasons of electoral calculation. So I would say to my erstwhile friends on the Liberal Democrat Benches that they will come to regret resiling from their long-standing and proper commitment to the single transferable vote system.
I support that system rather than the supplementary vote because it gives the voter the chance to choose between candidates of parties. Inevitably it means that more women and people from ethnic minorities will be elected, and it gives the voter a choice while maintaining a relationship with a defined geographical area. We have used it to great effect in Northern Ireland and Scottish elections. But I do not necessarily expect to convince noble Lords of those arguments today, although if the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, does decide that he needs a second Teller, I would be only too pleased to join him. I say that because if, in the context of talking about multi-choice-an argument that has been advanced throughout these debates-we are going to define in the referendum question a "take it or leave it" issue, either AV or first past the post, we are denying people who have argued for the single transferable vote the opportunity of expressing their belief in that form of proportional representation.
In any event, I do not think that these issues are best decided in a referendum. It would have been far better if there had been legislative scrutiny, and if over the next 12 months we had gone through the due processes. We have been told that we are going to have a fixed-term Parliament of five years, so what is the rush? Surely your Lordships would agree that, in the end, if there is any doubt about the credibility of our voting system, if there is no consensus, and if-after an argument through all the stages of this Bill-it looks as though there is fundamental political disagreement both inside the coalition and between the coalition and the Opposition, how will that place credibility on our voting system, and how will the electorate view that? If people think that this has purely been some piece of cynical political calculation, we will all live to regret it.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, we have had a good and very important debate for precisely the reasons set out by the noble Lord, Lord Alton. Everyone agrees that there has been no pre-legislative scrutiny, no White Paper and no public consultation. What my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours is saying is this: yes, let us have a referendum on an alternative vote system-no doubt he would say that we should have it within a specified period-but, before it, let us work out what the best alternative vote system is. He identifies three systems, or perhaps four. The first is the one used in Queensland, Australia. You do not have to use all your votes; you can use just one. He pointed to the fact that sometimes three-quarters of those who vote do not use anything other than their first vote. He then pointed to the federal system in Australia, where you have to use all your votes. The noble Lord, Lord Deben-I am sorry, the artist formerly know as John Selwyn Gummer-pointed to the fact that that gives rise to difficulties. The third system my noble friend cited is that used in the London mayoral elections, where you identify the top two, and then all the second preferences are distributed between number one and number two.
All of those are alternative vote systems. Which is best? I have no idea. The one that the Government have adopted-I know not why; they have not said-is the one used in Queensland. Is it right that we put before the British people a scheme that the noble Lord, Lord Deben, describes as the worst? He says it is the worst, for reasons I do not properly understand, and he hopes that that will lead to the rejection of the alternative vote system.
If we are going to change the constitution, we need a plausible process, for the reasons that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, gave. There needs to be some thought given to what is the best alternative vote system if there is to be a referendum. The idea that the nation has to accept what was agreed over those five days as the only one is-with the greatest respect to the coalition-arrogant. I understand politics, but people can say no to politics as the reason for something happening.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has thrown a sharp light on the consequences of trying to carry out a constitutional change as a piece of politics, like
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The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): The noble and learned Lord is accusing the Government of not having careful thought and of being outrageous, yet only a few months ago he supported the Labour Party manifesto, which had at its core support for AV.
Lord Rennard: Will the noble and learned Lord tell us which alternative vote system was contained in the Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill, which he supported not many months ago, and why his Government chose that particular alternative vote system?
If we do not have a proper, independent debate-which I believe will carry much more weight with the public-then we have to have the debate here as to which is the right system. It is a distressing aspect of this debate, but inevitably when we raise such issues, instead of the other side engaging with the issues, we get the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, appearing to say to the Cross Benches-I have not read Hansard yet, which I will check-"If you vote in favour of procedural manoeuvre, it'll be 100 per cent elected". What conclusion are we supposed to draw from that? Then the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, appeared to say, "We have debated this long enough. Let us get on with it". Let us either debate the issues, or let us have a commission of inquiry to look into what is the right AV system in the context of a timetable, so that the AV vote will take place, but it will be on the basis of proper information. The Front Bench will support the amendment if the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, puts it to a vote.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, perhaps there should be a word from this side. My noble friend Lord Deben said that we should be grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for introducing the amendment; I agree with him. I thank him for his support because he said that he did not agree with it and, as he is not in favour of referendums at all, that is a bold step. I also thank my noble friend Lord Rennard for his support. The noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, said that it was sheer folly to go down this route without an inquiry. In
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The amendment seeks an inquiry but we believe that on an issue as fundamental as voting reform the public need to be given a clear choice which will produce an equally clear result. For all the arguments that may take place about how AV works, the attraction of the approach that we have taken is that the Bill sets it out in Clause 9 and Schedule 10. Any questions about how AV works or what form of AV is proposed can be resolved by looking at the Bill. That would not be the case with these amendments and the result would therefore be a lack of clarity, voter confusion and scope for misrepresentation about the merits of the various systems during the campaign.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: As I understand the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours-and we should be clear about this-the effect of the resolutions he proposes is that the Bill will then contain one system of AV upon which the public would vote. The noble Lord's points about clarity do not bite.
Lord Strathclyde: I stand by what I say unless the noble Lord can produce further amendments reflecting how he believes the various systems of AV should be explained in the Bill. We have done so. We have done the work and we have explained in Clause 9 and Schedule 10 exactly how it works.
Lord Strathclyde: The noble Lord's amendments seek to determine that crucial matters relating to the referendum should be set out in an order made by the Secretary of State instead of in the Bill. How often have we heard that such issues should be debated during the course of the Bill rather than by using secondary legislation-yet here the noble Lord is arguing for secondary legislation?
The order could be made only after an inquiry had been conducted by the committee of inquiry established specifically for that purpose and would then need to be approved by affirmative resolution. This would inevitably lead to delay. It would certainly delay the 5 May referendum, possibly by a considerable period. If the amendment was carried the Bill would state that there is going to be a referendum on a matter of considerable constitutional significance but it would give no date; nor would it provide any mechanism for settling the date. Having made a firm commitment to hold the referendum next year, we would therefore be in limbo. I cannot imagine that the public would be prepared to accept that.
Quite how the process would work is unclear from the amendments. No timescale is proposed within which the committee of inquiry should report and there is no indication of who should sit on the committee. It is not clear what the extent of its powers would be nor whether its recommendations would be binding on the Government. Not only would these amendments delay a decision being made on the voting system, but they would do so unnecessarily.
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