Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now proceed to Westminster Hall for the purpose of presenting the humble Address which the House ordered on 15 March to be presented to Her Majesty, and that thereafter the House do adjourn during pleasure and do meet again in this Chamber at three o'clock.
The House proceeded to Westminster Hall accordingly, for the purpose of presenting to Her Majesty an Address of congratulation in accordance with the Resolution of 15 March. The Commons also assembled in the Hall for a similar purpose.
We, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, are assembled here today to celebrate sixty years of Your reign. We record with warmth and affection our appreciation of Your dedicated service to Your people, and Your unequalled sense of public duty over the years-service and duty to which You have only recently, and so movingly, rededicated Yourself.
We celebrate too Your stewardship of Your high office. You have personified continuity and stability while ensuring that Your role has evolved imperceptibly, with the result that the Monarchy is as integral a part of our national life today as it was 60 years ago.
At the same time, we record our gratitude for the support which You have received throughout Your reign from His Royal Highness Prince Philip, for in this year of jubilee we celebrate his service too.
This is one of the first of many celebrations to be held up and down the land. In the coming months You and the Duke will travel widely throughout the Kingdom. But today You have come to Parliament, the constitutional heart of the nation, and granted us the privilege of being the first of Your people formally to honour
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While this Hall has seen many historic events, few are permanently commemorated. So we look forward with great anticipation to the unveiling of the stained glass window which Members of both Houses have commissioned in honour of this day. When placed in the window above the great doors, Your Coat of Arms and Royal Cypher will bathe the Hall in colour and be seen daily by Members and staff as they walk through to their offices-and by the many thousands of visitors we receive here weekly, from both home and abroad.
For we must remember that Your Jubilee will be celebrated with joy in Your other realms and territories, and throughout the rest of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth as we know it today is of course one of the great achievements of Your reign and under Your leadership continues to flourish, with a membership of 54 countries. It is still growing. It is a tremendous force for good in the world and we are aware of its special personal significance to You.
Many of us present here today take an active part in the work of the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We work to share our experiences, to learn from one another, and to promote democracy. But our efforts are as nothing compared with those of Your Majesty in the service of Your beloved Commonwealth. Over the years You have visited all but two Commonwealth countries-some, many times-and attended all Heads of Government meetings since 1997. We look on with admiration and pride at the triumphs of some of Your recent tours and it is significant that members of the Royal Family are representing You this year at the Jubilee celebrations being held in all those lands in which You are Head of State.
Your Majesty, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament Assembled give thanks for this Your Diamond Jubilee. We look forward to the years to come and we pray that You and Your realms may enjoy the peace, plenty and prosperity that have so distinguished Your reign.
This great institution has been at the heart of the country and the lives of our people throughout its history. As Parliamentarians, you share with your forebears a fundamental role in the laws and decisions of your own age. Parliament has survived as an unshakeable cornerstone of our constitution and our way of life.
History links monarchs and Parliament, a connecting thread from one period to the next. So, in an era when the regular, worthy rhythm of life is less eye-catching than doing something extraordinary, I am reassured that I am merely the second Sovereign to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee.
As today, it was my privilege to address you during my Silver and Golden Jubilees. Many of you were present ten years ago and some of you will recall the occasion in 1977. Since my Accession, I have been a regular visitor to the Palace of Westminster and, at the last count, have had the pleasurable duty of treating with twelve Prime Ministers.
Over such a period, one can observe that the experience of venerable old age can be a mighty guide but not a prerequisite for success in public office. I am therefore very pleased to be addressing many younger Parliamentarians and also those bringing such a wide range of background and experience to your vital, national work.
During these years as your Queen, the support of my family has, across the generations, been beyond measure. Prince Philip is, I believe, well-known for declining compliments of any kind. But throughout he has been a constant strength and guide. He and I are very proud and grateful that The Prince of Wales and other members of our family are travelling on my behalf in this Diamond Jubilee year to visit all the Commonwealth Realms and a number of other Commonwealth countries.
These overseas tours are a reminder of our close affinity with the Commonwealth, encompassing about one-third of the world's population. My own association with the Commonwealth has taught me that the most important contact between nations is usually contact between its peoples. An organisation dedicated to certain values, the Commonwealth has flourished and grown by successfully promoting and protecting that contact.
At home, Prince Philip and I will be visiting towns and cities up and down the land. It is my sincere hope that the Diamond Jubilee will be an opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of neighbourliness and celebration of their own communities. We also hope to celebrate the professional and voluntary service given by millions of people across the country who are working for the public good. They are a source of vital support to the welfare and well-being of others, often unseen or overlooked.
And as we reflect upon public service, let us again be mindful of the remarkable sacrifice and courage of our Armed Forces. Much may indeed have changed these past sixty years but the valour of those who risk their lives for the defence and freedom of us all remains undimmed.
The happy relationship I have enjoyed with Parliament has extended well beyond the more than three and a half thousand Bills I have signed into law. I am therefore very touched by the magnificent gift before me, generously subscribed by many of you. Should this beautiful window cause just a little extra colour to shine down upon this ancient place, I should gladly settle for that.
We are reminded here of our past, of the continuity of our national story and the virtues of resilience, ingenuity and tolerance which created it. I have been privileged to witness some of that history and, with the support of my family, rededicate myself to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will allow trade associations to make complaints to the proposed Groceries Code Adjudicator on behalf of members who are both direct and indirect suppliers of supermarkets; and, if not, why not.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the draft Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill proposes to allow the adjudicator to consider any information once an investigation has started. The only limitation is on what information it can consider when deciding whether to start an investigation. As drafted, this is restricted to information from direct and indirect suppliers and to published evidence. The Government have agreed to consider extending this to third parties, particularly to trade bodies. Ministers are taking advice and meeting representatives of both suppliers and retailers before making a final decision.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but what evidence does the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have that limiting the powers of the groceries code adjudicator to naming and shaming transgressing supermarkets will have the desired deterrent effect?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the adjudicator's primary role will be investigating complaints and uncovering breaches of the groceries code. Once the breach is uncovered, the adjudicator will be able to use the following remedies. First, it will be able to recommend to the retailer how it should comply with the code. If that is not followed, a further investigation can be launched with a tougher remedy. It can instruct the retailer to publish information on the breach-naming and shaming, to which the right reverend Prelate referred. There is then a reserve power to impose financial penalties, which will only become available to the adjudicator once the Secretary of State has allowed it by order.
Lord Borrie: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that the power of supermarkets is such that there should not be any artificial restrictions on who might be the complainants and what they might complain about? Among the possible complainants would be suppliers such as farmers, through the National Farmers' Union, or other retailers through the British Retail Consortium. Why restrict them in any way from making complaints to the groceries adjudicator if he or she is to have any real power over the exacting power of supermarkets that exists at the moment?
Baroness Sherlock: My Lords, will the Minister explain why these powers for financial sanctions will not be available from day one? Given that the point of setting up the adjudicator was to deal with the findings from the Competition Commission that supermarkets
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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I understand the noble Baroness's position. On balance, we think that it would be better to start with the regime that we have proposed. As I said earlier, and as she acknowledges, we may well have to move on to what she suggests, but we would like to consider it further. One advantage of doing that is that we would have the benefit of the adjudicator's input and experience of deciding on the framework for fines.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, why have the Government been so slow in setting up this office? People have been waiting for it for years, and the Minister sounds hesitant about it even now. How long have people got to wait?
Lord De Mauley: I am sorry to hear that the noble Earl thinks that I am being hesitant. I do not think that it is reasonable to imply that we have been dragging our heels. The process was triggered in 2008 during the previous Government's term of office by a report from the Competition Commission. I would not criticise the previous Government for dragging their heels because, in fact, they were getting on with the business of trying to persuade the grocery industry itself to put in place a process. The industry did not do that. We all want to get this right, which is why we have been through a thorough process of pre-legislative scrutiny-and I think that that is something of which noble Lords generally approve.
Lord Grantchester: My Lords, we all wish to see the consumer get the best possible deal. However, this should not be at the expense of suppliers to the supermarkets; their confidence is crucial if this is to be seen to work effectively. If I might press the Minister again, will he confirm whether the adjudicator will have authority to levy financial penalties, should an abuse of power be upheld against any supermarket? Furthermore, however any resulting fine may be levied, will he confirm that this will not simply disappear to some central agency but rather be paid directly to those businesses deemed to have suffered abuse?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the noble Lord's question is in line with comments from the BIS Select Committee, which said that the arguments on whether to introduce fines from inception are finely balanced. I think that that is fair, and the Government's view is that financial penalties should be kept as a reserve power, as I have said. We consider that the appointment of the adjudicator is in itself important to the effectiveness of the groceries code. The adjudicator already has sanctions available, and large retailers will immediately be conscious that if there is evidence of significant non-compliance and the existing regime seems not to be sufficiently effective, there is the prospect of a swift introduction of financial penalties. As to the noble Lord's last question, as the Treasury Whip I could not possibly say where the proceeds will go.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, I am sure that the House will agree that the question asked by the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, is very pertinent. I thought that my noble friend could have been slightly more robust in explaining the reason for the delay. Can I press him further: if this does not prove to be a satisfactory structure, will the Government be prepared to legislate further?
Lord De Mauley: In fact, my Lords, if this does not prove to be a satisfactory structure and if I interpret my noble friend rightly to be implying that we need fines, that is already in the draft Bill.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Taylor of Holbeach): My Lords, to reduce food waste and prevent it going to landfill, we are helping consumers through WRAP and its "Love Food, Hate Waste" campaign by working with industry via the Courtauld commitment and by aiming to launch in May a new voluntary agreement with the hospitality and food service sector. We intend to work towards our other waste review commitments, including developing the evidence base and exploring the role of incentives in reducing waste and managing it sustainably.
The Earl of Selborne: My noble friend lists a number of perfectly worthy measures, but is it not totally unacceptable that at the moment 16 million tonnes of food waste ends up in landfill-we must remember that it gives off methane, a very potent greenhouse gas? Should we not be looking at food waste as an energy source and encouraging caterers and commercial food interests to get their act together and ensure that none of this waste ends up in landfill?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am grateful to my noble friend for mentioning the catering industry, because the hospitality and food service commitment, which we are pressing across government, is directed expressly at that sector. Ministers in other departments are ensuring that the Government are taking up the commitment, and Members in another place and in this House are working to ensure that Parliament's own catering is signed up to this commitment.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, is right that 16 million tonnes of food waste is way too high and that the potential for energy production is great. The Minister gave a fine answer in respect of catering, but can I press him on the subject of energy production, particularly from
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The noble Lord is right: anaerobic digestion is a very good process for converting food waste. I was trying to emphasise that the most important aspect of food waste is to eliminate it at source, if you can. However, where food waste arises, AD is a very effective method. Indeed, we have an AD strategy plan, which includes a £10 million loan fund to set up new capacity. WRAP offered the first loan of £800,000 to a Wiltshire-based company, Malaby Biogas, in January 2012. Other actions to promote innovation in the AD sector, particularly on a small scale, are very much part of our strategy.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer:My Lords, for those of us lucky enough to have gardens or allotments, the incentive to compost is obviously much greater, but what incentive does the Minister offer to households without either of those to separate out their food waste?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: This is part and parcel of the CLG process of looking for weekly collections. In partnership with local authorities, we in Defra hope to encourage food waste as a separate waste stream. Certainly that has been our policy, and many of the local authorities that are putting in bids to the CLG are doing so on the basis of a separate food waste collection.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, what discussion are Her Majesty's Government having with the devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about co-operation on this matter and learning from each other's experiences?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: In many of these cases, we in Whitehall can learn considerably from the devolved authorities. I am in contact with my opposite number in Scotland. I hope that that helps the noble Lord. Indeed, the department works very closely with the devolved authorities. There is much that we can learn from each other.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, traditionally and historically, food waste went to pigs. It seems extraordinary that millions of tonnes of food eaten by humans one day cannot be fed to pigs the next. Will he look at the restrictions and regulations that prevent this natural, common-sense and historically highly efficient usage of a waste product, and see whether they can be revised?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I thank my noble friend. In fact we are doing just that; Defra has commissioned a desk study, which is being operated by FERA at the moment and is due to report this summer. All noble Lords will appreciate that people have anxieties that we need to assuage. We cannot afford the repeat of the foot and mouth outbreak of 2001, as I think all noble Lords understand.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is the Minister aware that food waste is one of the three main constituents of biomass, which, along with branches of trees and
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Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The Energy from Waste programme is subsidised and incentivised. It is up to local authorities to decide the best channel for their food waste. I mentioned before that Defra sees huge advantages in the use of anaerobic digestion as an efficient method of converting food waste into energy.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: A great deal of work has been done on food marking. Some of those labels merely tell the shops when the product should be taken off the shelves, and it is really more for stock control. Some great strides have been made. The reduction in food waste will depend very much on consumers being aware that the use-by date still means that you can freeze the product and that it is still healthy to eat. By informing the consumers about the practical information that is available to them, we can save people throwing away food that is perfectly healthy.
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, following on from the question of the noble Lord, Lord Laming, does the Minister agree that a great many people now growing up do not understand either how to buy or to prepare food, that often food is wasted because people are driven to believe the sell-by dates that are put on to packaged food, and that they have no mechanisms for understanding how to use their own common sense in discerning whether food is fit for consumption? Will he ask his colleagues in the Department for Education to look into educating pupils better about that matter?
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: I am sure that we could all learn good household skills. It is never too late to learn about some of these very basic matters. I agree with the noble Baroness that a lot of food waste is caused by careless shopping and food stocking. This applies not just within the household but within the commercial and catering trades. That is why we are trying to tackle this problem on all fronts.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will mark Her Majesty the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year by making a commitment to celebrate and increase the United Kingdom's involvement with the Commonwealth.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the United Kingdom is committed to the Commonwealth and is working with the secretariat, member states and associations to modernise this 21st century network and help it realise its extraordinary potential for the direct benefit of all its members, not least the United Kingdom. This Diamond Jubilee year is also a celebration of Her Majesty's 60 years as Head of the Commonwealth. A range of special events is being held across the Commonwealth in tribute. The recently launched Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust fund will benefit all Commonwealth citizens.
Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, today we have had a memorable endorsement of how much the Commonwealth means to Her Majesty, who has done more than anybody else to unify it, and a reminder that it encompasses some one-third of the world's population. Will my noble friend assure us that he will do all he can to ensure that the Commonwealth becomes much more relevant in our deliberations? It is a fast-growing, young market eager for greater involvement with us, without demanding more and more regulation.
Lord Howell of Guildford: I very much endorse what my noble friend says; she is quite right. I am very glad that she puts it in those terms. I am myself convinced that the Commonwealth network today, in both its formal and informal linkages right across the planet, is the key to huge new markets, on which our own prosperity will depend, as well as being the promoter of our values. It is also a very youthful organisation. More than 60 per cent of the citizens of the 2 billion-member Commonwealth are under 25.
Lord Morgan: One of the Commonwealth's truly important and precious links with this country is through higher education. Is it not the case that many Commonwealth countries-for example Malaysia, and also India-find immigration restrictions extremely difficult for them in terms of bona fide students coming to this country? Do they not also resent bona fide students being categorised under immigration policy rather than education policy? Should we not try to amend matters in this regard?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is quite right that educational links are extensive at the university level and, indeed, between schools all over the Commonwealth. He is also right that the visa issue has raised further questions. The aim, as he knows, is to cut out the bogus students, the non-studiers who claim to be students, but greatly to encourage Commonwealth exchange of students-both ways, if I may say so; not just students coming to this country but also students going to the great new technical universities of Asia and Africa which in many cases equal and even excel our own. So there is a need for all this. We are working all the time to see that the visa system, which is necessary, makes the minimum impact in delaying this growing exchange of students, pupils and young people throughout the whole Commonwealth.
Baroness Prashar: My Lords, Her Majesty the Queen said this morning that the strength of the Commonwealth is its people. How vibrant they are was only too evident at the Commonwealth People's Forum in Perth at the Heads of Government Meeting last year. Will the Minister please tell the House whether Her Majesty's Government are planning to support the non-governmental organisations that are working in this country to develop and enable constructive connections between the peoples of the Commonwealth?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I say to the noble Baroness, who herself has played a leading part in the promotion of the Commonwealth network, that that is certainly the aim of Her Majesty's Government. Commentators sometimes overlook that the Commonwealth is not just yet another intergovernmental organisation; it is a gigantic web of non-governmental and professional organisations, institutions, school links and every other kind of professional and interest link, which makes it absolutely unique and provides this country with the most marvellous potential soft power network that we could possibly have.
Lord Chidgey: Does my noble friend recall that at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, at the back end of last year, the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group submitted a report on Commonwealth reform, which was widely accepted? Can he tell us-it is now four months later-what actions have been taken to monitor the implementation of those agreements made at CHOGM so that we can see some real progress, which we all want?
Lord Howell of Guildford: My noble friend is right: the commitments were put forward, and many of them were adhered to, at the Perth meeting of the Heads of Government which I attended, while many others were remitted for further work. The next stage is a ministerial task force to carry those ideas forward. Ideas for strengthening the values and standards of the Commonwealth, as well as strengthening many of its other aspects, will be for the task force, and then later in the autumn the Foreign Ministers of the Commonwealth will meet to implement and carry those ideas forward. Not all of them are totally agreed-in any family there are bound to be some differences-but the broad thrust is to promote and uphold the Commonwealth standards in democracy, human rights, good governance and the rule of law.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: I am grateful, my Lords. Perhaps I may follow the question raised by my noble friend Lord Morgan. Would the noble Lord, Lord Howell-I am sure that he would-remind his colleagues in the Home Office that 60 per cent of those coming in under Immigration Rules are students, and that of those who enrol for bona fide three-year
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Lord Howell of Guildford: The short answer is yes, I am very happy to remind the UKBA and any other authority of those kinds of figures. I am sure that the noble Baroness will not overlook the fact that despite questions having been raised about visas, which I fully admit, there are thousands and thousands of overseas students in this country-an enormous number from non-Commonwealth as well as Commonwealth countries. So our role and performance is not all bad-in fact it is extremely good-but there is always more that can be done. I am very happy to join with those who point out the enormous benefits of getting more and more genuine students to visit this country and to return and benefit our promotion and reputation in the future.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, is it not now clear that we took the wrong road away from the Commonwealth in 1972, as the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, has indicated in her Question, when we joined the project of European integration? Would we not have done better to lead the Commonwealth in free trade and friendly collaboration, and could we not still do so, thus benefiting from the markets of the future instead of being stuck on the "Costa Concordia" that the modern EU has become?
Lord Howell of Guildford: These aspects of being a good member of the European Union and an effective member of a reinvigorated Commonwealth are by no means exclusive; on the contrary, they go together. We can ensure that although our trade may be handled mostly by the European Union, our investment, all our other links and our movements of capital are not so limited by the European Union, and it is through those links that we can maintain excellent contact. At the same time the rest of the Commonwealth is developing its own intra-Commonwealth trade at a fantastic rate, and all these developments benefit the United Kingdom.
Lord Taverne to ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the refusal of some ferry companies and airlines to carry live animals for medical research, what steps they are taking to protect such research.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Government have been actively working with the life sciences community and the transportation sector to broker a commercial solution to provide a sustainable and resilient supply chain. A cross-Whitehall group has been working since January, under the guidance of the Cabinet
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The Government understand the position of the transportation sector and will continue working to secure a way forward that ensures the highest standards in animal transportation and the continuing success of scientific research in the United Kingdom.
Lord Taverne: My Lords, it is obvious that the Government and the companies face a very difficult problem. It is a very serious matter because it is not only a threat to very important research but it is a threat to democracy. If a tiny minority-in defiance of the overwhelming agreement of the public that properly regulated animal research is acceptable-forces major companies to yield to its threats, then it is a triumph for terrorism. Will the Government stress, in their negotiations with the companies, that they too have a social responsibility to play a role in protecting us from terrorism?
Lord De Mauley: My noble friend is absolutely right. The Government are working closely with the sector as a whole, as well as with individual operators. We fully understand the need to have a sector-wide solution which provides resilience and diversity.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: Will my noble friend give assurances about the checks that are made when live animals are exported to be killed abroad or for research? Do they have adequate ventilation? Are they being given water? How long are the maximum journeys? How is this being monitored?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, my noble friend asks a very important question. Inspectors from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency inspect all transport operators and vehicles wishing to transport animals for commercial purposes. Once they are content, they issue an authorisation to the relevant company. This is in accordance with the transport of animals regulations. Home Office inspectors visit UK-based establishments that use, breed or supply the animals. Any welfare problems experienced by animals during transit are recorded by the receiving establishment and would be followed up, as necessary, by Home Office inspectors.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, does the Minister agree on two points? First that, as he said earlier, a sector-specific solution to this problem is essential, so that these companies cannot be picked off by militant animal rights organisations? Does he also agree that, unless we find a solution to this problem, our own excellent medical research and pharmaceutical companies will suffer from anti-competitive practices because they will not be able to flourish in the way that our competitors on the other side of the channel do?
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I am very happy to say that I strongly agree with the noble Baroness on both points. The use of animals in research remains essential to developing new treatments and drugs, improving our understanding of disease and proving the safety and effectiveness of drugs and chemicals before they go forward for human trials.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I know, from my time as chair of Cancer Research UK, of the importance of animal research for human and animal health in the future and of the high standards that exist in this country-but not all over the world-in the use of those animals. Will the Government continue to give a lead, concertedly, across the board, to companies and to researchers, so that we will not be intimidated from doing work that is of huge value to this country and its citizens?
Lord De Mauley: I am extremely grateful to the noble Baroness for making that point. I absolutely agree with her. The Government's strategy for UK life sciences sets out our ambition for the UK to become the global hub for life sciences, bringing together business, researchers, clinicians and patients to translate discovery into real benefits for us all.
Lord Higgins:My Lords, in relation to the question raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Oppenheim-Barnes, would my noble friend also recognise that there are great problems across Europe in relation to the export of live horses for slaughter under the most appalling conditions? Will he pursue that matter as far as possible in the European context?
Lord Turnberg: My Lords, may I ask the Minister about NC3Rs? It was set up by the previous Government to engage in research that reduces the number of animals in research, and replaces them. It works very closely with, and funds, academic institutions and the scientific community, and also collaborates closely with industry. It does great work. Will the Minister ensure that the funding that comes from the Government for it will continue, and if not continue, increase?
144A: Clause 54, page 39, line 29, at end insert "and in either case, the regulated person and the person by or to whom the business is referred, each act in the course of a business carried on for profit"
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Lord Beecham: My Lords, there has been widespread condemnation outside the House, and unanimous condemnation inside it, of the activities of parasitic claims farmers and claims management companies that engage in the process of securing referral fees simply to generate profit. A major objection to the activities of those concerns is that they foster the myth of the compensation culture. People who see advertisements on the streets or in newspapers which invite claims may get the impression that hordes of people are succumbing to the temptation to make wholly bogus claims. In the field of whiplash claims, it is acknowledged that there is some truth in that perception. However, in general terms, as the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, pointed out in his report, there is no substance to the suggestion that there is a widespread compensation culture.
The amendment deals with the position of not-for-profit organisations. We are entirely at one with the Government in seeking to ban referral fees made to commercial organisations simply for the purpose of making profits. However, some organisations-be they charities or membership organisations-receive referral fees from firms of solicitors and perhaps from others whom they appoint to panels on the basis of their expertise and record of service, and whose contributions help those organisations carry out their main purpose. That might be service to members or, in the case of charities, the furtherance of the charitable objectives of the organisation. For example, among the charitable organisations are the Spinal Injuries Association, Headway and Action against Medical Accidents. There are others, too, which receive referral fees and use the proceeds to benefit those whom their organisation was set up to help. Other membership organisations and trade unions do likewise.
When we debated amendments of a similar nature last week, the Minister referred to the main-and understandable-objective of the Government, which is to restrict the cost of litigation. We share that objective. In the case of referral fees, it is perfectly achievable. It does not constitute a cost to the system. If a referral fee is effectively charged to the client, of course that is a cost to the client, and that ought to be avoided. On general costs, costs payable by a losing party to another are either agreed or assessed by the court. Obviously, the court can base its assessment of costs on what the normal tariff would be. I have appeared before the courts many times in 35 years of practice as a solicitor-endeavouring to justify the very modest costs that my firm sought-to explain and justify those fees. In fact, a kind of tariff is applied locally by the courts. In any event, if this were thought to be a danger in the system, it would be possible to allow the courts to deal with any such referral fee, to require it to be disclosed and to make it an irrecoverable disbursement from the paying party. So the question of additional costs can be satisfactorily dealt with.
In last week's debate, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, made some interesting points, one of which was incorrect. She said that the referral fees received by some trade unions find their way into the coffers of the political party with which I and others in this House are associated. That is not the case. Payments
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However, the noble Baroness also referred, understandably, to the situation that arose in respect of compensation claims by miners regarding pneumoconiosis -a whole raft of cases over many years. Many law firms and others spent considerable time and money researching these cases and it was a very long time before they were settled and a scheme developed. The abuse in that case was actually rather different from what we are now debating. It was not so much the question of referral fees; it was the fact that some firms of solicitors-happily, not many-not only were paid by the Government under the compensation scheme but had the effrontery to deduct some payments from their clients. That was absolutely outrageous and many of the firms involved were severely disciplined, and rightly so, by the Law Society. But that is a separate issue from that which this amendment and the whole topic of referral fees address.
There is a world of difference between the use of referral fees by claims management companies and the like-simply to generate profit and at the same time perhaps to promote invalid claims on the off-chance that some of them may succeed-and that by other organisations genuinely endeavouring to assist their members and receiving funds which in turn are used for the benefit of the members or the non-commercial purposes, charitable or otherwise, of the organisation. I beg to move.
Briefly, in response to the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, the evil of referral fees is threefold. First, if the law firm can afford to pay a couple of hundred pounds for each case, then it stands to reason that the case could have been handled more cheaply. Secondly, when work goes to a particular firm of solicitors, it encourages that firm not to compete and not to do its job properly because, no matter what, the work will come to it. The case of the miners to which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, referred and which I described last week did not arise directly from referral fees, but one can see the risk. If a firm knows that 23,000 cases will come its way willy-nilly, why should it try very hard? Why should it not take short cuts?
Thirdly, referral fees arrangements deprive the consumer of choice. The argument for referring consumers to a particular firm is that they would not otherwise know where to go. These charitable organisations, to which the noble Lord referred, could do the job just as well by listing a few firms and helping their clients to go to those firms without expecting money to come their way. As far as I can make out from research on the web-I stand to be corrected-on its web page on legal services the Labour Party says that clients who are members of the Labour Party will be referred to a particular firm of solicitors if they have a problem. If one continues to click through the pages, the firm says
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To make things even worse, referral fees, some of which may well come from legal aid, could be channelled inter alia to a political party. There is no case for referral fees. I encourage the House not to be wooed into any set of exemptions, even where worthwhile charities are concerned, because the bad nature of referral fees spreads throughout the system, regardless of who uses them. I hope that your Lordships will reject this amendment and any similar ones. Now is the time to end the practice of referral fees.
Lord Goodhart: My Lords, I agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, has just said. Referral fees have for some years been a serious problem in almost all circumstances and have caused a great deal of trouble and unnecessary expense. It is not a case where, as the Labour Party has just proposed, it should be treated just as a matter where two firms are in business. This is a matter that requires to be removed.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, in my youth I appeared for insurers and unions, and I did not pay anybody to get those cases. We competed on quality. The competition was there so that unions and insurers would send their work where they thought that they would get the best service, not where they thought that they would get the largest fee. It is insidious for fees to be paid to purchase cases from any organisation, whether it is a union or even the finest charity. It is not right that unions and charities should fund themselves in this way. The noble Lord has made the case from the point of view of unions and charities being funded. One has to look at it the other way round. Why should firms of solicitors or even barristers' chambers-I have heard rumours about this-get work on the basis of how much they pay a person referring cases to them? It is a practice which has to stop.
Lord Monks: My Lords, I support my noble friend in this amendment. Referral fees are one aspect of the Bill that will affect union legal services adversely, along with changes to "after the event" insurance and conditional fee agreements. These three issues will make union legal services much more difficult and expensive to operate. Inevitably, fewer cases will be taken. Last year, unions assisted something like 50,000 individuals with cases. There was no charge on the public purse for that assistance. It was done through people's membership of the union. Many people who were very ill or injured in some way were helped considerably. When this Bill becomes law, essentially, that will become more difficult.
I have checked which unions use referral fees and which do not. Two of the major unions use them and the rest do not. The two which use them do not use them to fund the Labour Party, which is the allegation that is around. As my noble friend explained, the political fund of the unions is completely separate. A separate contribution is made to that. It is registered under the Trade Union Act 1984, which was put
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The suggestion that referral fees are used by unions to fund the Labour Party is totally wrong. The whole purpose of referral fees where they are applied has been to support the expansion of union legal services to make good some of the defects elsewhere in the justice system. I hope that the House will bear that in mind when it considers this amendment.
Lord Martin of Springburn: I declare an interest as a member of Unite. The noble Baroness, Lady Deech, was good enough to say that she had mentioned the problems of referral fees in a previous debate. That debate took place on my amendment. My case was that trade union officers go to places where there has been an accident. Therefore, there is a certain expenditure when those visits are made. There is obvious expenditure and there should be some compensation. The noble Baroness was good enough to mention referral fees and I was deeply impressed by what she said. Therefore, I will not move Amendment 146.
Baroness Deech: My Lords, I should have declared an interest as chairman of the Bar Standards Board, which prohibits barristers from receiving or dealing in referral fees. If I gave the impression last week that referral fees that go to unions go direct to the political party and that is wrong, I apologise. My point is that it is happening in another way. I have not yet been corrected but my research on the internet showed that direct referrals from a party to a firm resulted in the firm paying a referral fee to the political party. Therefore, if it is not happening in one way, it may be happening in another.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, I support the line taken by our Front Bench. Without any question, there are risks with referral fees but they are fairly minimal. The questions that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and others should ask themselves are whether they believe that there will be more of the kind of litigants who at present benefit from the union offering these services, admittedly through using referral fees, especially given what we are doing to legal aid in this Bill; or whether there will be fewer people taking action. My view is that if these changes are put through, the likelihood is that unions will not be able to offer services on the same kind of basis that they have in the past. As a consequence, fewer people will pursue cases and the people who will not be pursuing those cases will be the ones at the bottom of the pile, and not those who are higher up with a fund of money to pursue the law without any trouble whatever. I put those very serious questions to those who are pursuing this line.
I say to the noble Lord who has just spoken that the unions and the firms who do their work will be able to adjust their arrangements. For a start, by not paying the referral fee, the solicitors doing the work will be able to drop their charges to take account of that fact, and the trade unions will be able to adjust their arrangements with their members, although it will not be a major adjustment. The point that the noble Lord reasonably made is capable of adjustment in a way that will enable the abolition of referral fees-which, in general, are extremely deleterious to justice-to be effected.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, this proposal is not in any way union bashing and I am sorry that it has been caught up like that. I was pleased that when the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, opened the debate he joined with the Government in our general desire to ban referral fees. It is of course right that injured people should be able to pursue claims and under our reforms they will be able to do so. Costs will be more proportionate and the damages they receive will be increased.
However, it is wrong for third parties to be able to profit from referral fees for personal injury cases in this way. I found the intervention of the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, last Wednesday extremely powerful and I recommend noble Lords to reread it. The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, is right: it is not four-square with referral fees but it illustrates the danger of sweetheart relationships in this area. The Law Society was quite right-but rather belatedly so-to deal with a great injustice to miners who had already suffered much in their industry.
On the question of political funding, yes, I understand the difference between union general funds and the political fund and that it is the political fund that goes to the Labour Party. However, again, the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, explained that she was referring to the party itself acting as a referee. Even as I speak, I wonder whether this merry thought has occurred to any other political party. I know political parties look for ways to earn funds and, if this has been thought up by the Labour Party, it is, at the moment, within the law. However, we do not think it is right.
I also welcome the intervention of my noble friend Lord Phillips. I do not always welcome his interventions but this time he has put his finger on it: we are not preventing solicitors taking on a case at reduced rates or for free; nor are we preventing solicitors from making donations to charities or other not-for-profit organisations. Charities representing injured people will still be able to offer advice and recommend the best law firms. However, they should do that in the claimant's best interest, not on the basis of what fee they can get for that claim. The amendment would not only allow an exception for charities and unions but for all not-for-profit organisations. I fully appreciate that trade-union, charity and political-party referral fees can be nice little earners, but that kind of relationship is not in the best interests of the consumer.
I say to the noble Lords, Lord Monks, Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe and Lord Martin, that I am well aware of the record of trade unions in legal advice and the help that they give to their members. I have no doubt
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The amendment goes further than earlier proposals. Some claims management companies are currently not-for-profit organisations and others could become not-for-profit bodies in order to get around the ban. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, tabled an amendment that would have made an exception for charities only. This amendment now makes a wider exception which would exempt unions, political parties and not-for-profit claims management companies as well.
We believe that referral fee arrangements are wrong in principle. Under the cloak of support for charities, the amendment would allow payments for the referral of personal injury cases by a wide range of organisations. This amendment would make a mockery of the ban on referral fees, which the Opposition have claimed to support in principle-and I believe they do support it in principle. I really think-and the more I listen to this debate the more I think it-that for the Opposition to press this amendment is simply wrong-headed. I hope that the noble Lord will withdraw the amendment.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, let me make it clear that I do not for a moment charge the Minister-or indeed the Government-with conceiving of this as in any sense aimed at trade unions. It is a by-product of policy. Let me also remind your Lordships that referral fees are only banned-certainly at the moment, under the terms of this Bill-in respect of personal injury claims. For any other kind of arrangement, referral fees are apparently acceptable-not, however, in the context of personal injury claims.
That really illustrates whence this proposal comes from. It comes from the unacceptable activities of those who have perhaps been promoting spurious claims-and we will come at the next amendment to the kind of techniques that some of these firms and outfits adopt to encourage claims in a way that fosters this myth of the compensation culture. That is the genuine motivation of the Government; what they are doing to deal with it goes too far.
I do not recall having jousted in legal terms with the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, 50 years or so ago when we shared adjoining desks at the Honour School of Jurisprudence, but I will joust a little with her, if I may, this afternoon. She first of all asserts that it would be an incentive for firms not to do the job properly. I do not know what possible basis she can have for saying that. A solicitor's job is to do his best for his client. In a sense, there are two clients when one is acting for somebody referred by an organisation. Far from it being the case that there is no incentive to do the job properly, there is a greater incentive to do the job properly when one has a connection with a potential
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The second of the noble Baroness's points which I seek to rebut is that this deprives people of choice. A union member or a member of a charitable or other organisation does not have to use the organisation that is recommended or go to one that pays a referral fee. They have the same choice as anyone else. But they may choose to rely on their own organisation, trade union or otherwise, having established from its experience that a particular firm or firms are capable of carrying out the work. The choice, however, remains with them. The noble Baroness has been on the website and discovered the Labour Party's scheme. Let me tell her and the House how much that scheme has raised: nil, nothing, not a penny. It is about as vibrant as Monty Python's parrot. It is redundant. It is a dead scheme. It has never been activated, so that issue need not distract your Lordships' House.
Before I conclude, I should make one other point in relation to charitable organisations. The ones I have mentioned operate on a referral-fee basis. There are three of them and I think there may be others, although perhaps that is a little beside the point. I liken the process to another aspect which is certainly something that political parties and many charities operate, and that is an affinity card with a bank, where a percentage of one's expenditure when using the card goes to the organisation. In precisely the same way that it could be alleged-I think wrongly-that as referral fees increase costs in the legal system, so by definition an affinity card must push up the costs in relation to financial services. It is an analogous situation.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, drawing on his long experience, can the noble Lord tell us when referral fees first reared their head? I do not recollect them 20 or 30 years ago. Does he know when they began?
Lord Beecham: To the best of my recollection, they have appeared in the past 10 to 12 years. I have not myself been heavily involved in the practice in which I was a senior partner for the past nine years, much to its relief and mine. Having had our debate and despite the pleas of the Minister, I wish to test the opinion of the House.
(c) arranges for another person to provide, for a fee, marketing services by unsolicited SMS text message, unsolicited telephone calls or any marketing in a hospital or other primary treatment centre."
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, first, I declare my membership of the Law Society. As we have discussed both in Committee and on Report, referral fees are one of the major causes of the public's perception that a compensation culture exists in this country. We have heard some powerful speeches across the Benches on the subject of referral fees. My noble friend Lord Thomas called them insidious and I agree. For that reason I strongly support Clauses 54 and 55.
Although there has been some difference of views on the provisions for referral fees set out in Clauses 54 and 55 as they impact on charities and trade unions, generally there seems to be a common view that although these clauses are useful, if they are to catch all the abuses they need to go further-perhaps not as far as the right honourable Jack Straw would want to go in terms of making it a criminal offence, but covering the full range of malpractices. For instance, there is nuisance marketing in personal injury-specifically, advertising in hospitals, cold calling and spam texts; financial incentives to claim; selling contact and case details of personal injury victims without their consents; and auctioning claims to the highest bidder. Mr Simon Burns the Health Minister recently told English NHS hospitals that it was not acceptable to display advertisements for law firms encouraging no-win no-fee compensation claims. That was a firm and wise action, and I commend it.
In our debate in Committee, my noble friend Lord Carlile of Berriew, on the subject of text messaging immediately after an accident without injury even taking place, made a powerful speech in support of extending Clause 54. My noble friend Lord McNally expressed sympathy with the intention behind the amendment and said that the Government would consider it further. I hope that he will tell us today where the Government have got to. Can we expect white smoke on Report or Third Reading or, indeed, a text message? I beg to move.
Lord Beecham: My Lords, I entirely support the amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, is right that this practice is a nuisance. I was half expecting a text message after I told the House about my fall the other day. I thought that eager readers of Hansard in these companies would have solicited my attention or that of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, but so far nothing has happened. However, like many of your Lordships, I receive periodic texts and e-mails from organisations saying that I may not have made a claim in respect of my recent accident or, latterly, about payment protection insurance problems, and the like. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, said, it is an insidious practice and certainly ought to be banned.
Lord McNally: My Lords, this amendment looks to deal with the serious problem of unsolicited marketing, including text messages or telephone calls about personal injury claims. I congratulate my noble friend on raising an issue which, as the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, indicated, annoys and irritates millions of our fellow citizens. I assure the House that the Government have
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Following this issue being raised in Committee, my honourable friend Jonathan Djanogly, the Justice Minister, will meet the Information Commissioner to discuss further how the problem can be addressed. Additionally, the ICO, the Ministry of Justice Claims Management Regulation Unit and other regulators continue to work closely with the telecommunications industry on this problem. Across government, an industry working group has been set up and is due to publish a joint guidance note for consumers explaining the functions of the relevant regulators along with advice on how to make a complaint.
On the particular point about advertising in hospitals, the Government do not support the marketing of such services on NHS premises. There is already an absolute ban on unauthorised marketing by claims management companies. We believe that it is more appropriate that authorised marketing should be dealt with through guidance rather than through regulation. In support of this approach, the National Health Service chief executive has recently written to NHS managers to make clear the position on marketing in hospitals and primary health centres.
I am grateful to my noble friend for raising this issue. The Government take it very seriously and are taking positive action. We believe that the answer lies in greater enforcement and robust action, along the lines of regulations and guidance that already exist. We will continue to monitor the situation and take it seriously, and I hope that in the light of that response my noble friend will agree to withdraw this amendment.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. It very much falls into two parts, as far as I can see, in terms of action by and with the Information Commissioner and action by the Secretary of State and Ministers relating to unauthorised and authorised marketing in NHS hospitals. The bit I find difficult is not that relating to the Information Commissioner; indeed, it is very welcome that those powers are being mobilised and that the Minister, Mr Djanogly, is having the necessary meetings with the Information Commissioner. The surprising part concerns the National Health Service. I think that the view around this House is that there should be no authorised marketing of this kind within NHS hospitals. What baffles me is why that kind of marketing is allowed to persist within NHS hospitals. I am not going to press the amendment today but I very much hope that we can progress further, certainly in pressing the Department of Health to be much more robust than appears to be the case about this kind of marketing.
Whatever the form of marketing which is an arrangement between a hospital and a firm of solicitors -perhaps advertising law firms within hospitals or allowing texting-it certainly falls morally within the
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(1) In section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 (power for certain courts to order losing party to make payment to charity where other party is represented pro bono) in subsection (10) for the definition of "civil court" substitute-
(a) the Supreme Court when it is dealing with a relevant civil appeal,
(b) the civil division of the Court of Appeal,
(c) the High Court, or
(d) any county court;
(a) from the High Court in England and Wales under Part 2 of the Administration of Justice Act 1969,
(b) from the Court of Appeal under section 40(2) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, or
(c) under section 13 of the Administration of Justice Act 1960 (appeal in cases of contempt of court) other than an appeal from an order or decision made in the exercise of jurisdiction to punish for criminal contempt of court;".
(2) This section applies in relation to appeals to the Supreme Court only where the decision, order or judgment that is the subject of the appeal is made or given on or after the day on which this section comes into force."
Lord Pannick: My Lords, this amendment is less controversial than some that your Lordships have been debating on Report. I am very grateful to the Minister for adding his name to it, and I will briefly explain its purpose and effect. Lawyers are often criticised, sometimes in your Lordships' House and sometimes with justification, but noble Lords will wish to acknowledge that a large number of them spend at least part of their time working unremunerated for clients simply because they wish to contribute to
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Section 194 of the Legal Services Act 2007 addresses such cases. It confers power on the court to order a person, normally the unsuccessful party, to pay a sum in respect of the notional costs to a charity prescribed by the Lord Chancellor. The charity prescribed is the Access to Justice Foundation. It then distributes the sums paid to it to voluntary organisations that provide free legal support for individuals and communities. As currently drafted, Section 194 has one defect; it applies to civil cases in the county court, in the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but it does not currently apply to civil cases in the Supreme Court. This is despite the fact that many of the cases in which lawyers act pro bono are in the Supreme Court. This amendment quite simply will remove that defect.
The amendment is also in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith. Unfortunately he cannot be in his place today as he is working elsewhere, although I do not think that on this occasion it is on a pro bono basis. He is, however, the chairman of the Access to Justice Foundation. As Her Majesty's Attorney-General, he was the promoter of Section 194. I pay tribute, as I am sure all noble Lords will want to do, to his tireless work in encouraging lawyers to give of their time to work pro bono. I know that he is as pleased as I am that the Minister has indicated that the Government will support the amendment.
I thank the Minister for considering this issue and for supporting this much needed reform, which I know will also be welcomed by the justices and practitioners of the Supreme Court and by all those clients, and potential clients, who will benefit from the receipt of further funds from the foundation. I beg to move.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury:My Lords, briefly, I support every word of the introduction by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, of this amendment. On behalf of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group, which is sometimes called LawWorks, of which I am founder and president, I wholeheartedly applaud this amendment to Section 194, which can only be beneficial to pro bono.
Lord Bach: My Lords, we congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, from these Benches. I thank him very much for his well deserved tribute to my noble and learned friend Lord Goldsmith. I have to say that I felt a slight tremor of envy when I saw this amendment on the Marshalled List. I have tried throughout the Bill to put forward an amendment that might have the name of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, attached to it, but have failed miserably. The noble Lord, Lord Pannick, makes one attempt and it succeeds.
Lord McNally: My Lords, I will explain. The original amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, did not cut the muster as legal statute. As the noble Lord
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I am also glad to associate myself with the intervention of my noble friend Lord Phillips, who is on a roll today. I commend LawWorks and its encouragement of pro bono work on the part of solicitors, the Access to Justice Foundation and the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith, in this area. We hope that it will increase the stream of funding available for pro bono work. I have great pleasure in saying that the Government accept this amendment.
(a) the Department of Health;
(b) the Department of Communities and Local Government;
(c) the Department of Work and Pensions; and
(d) the Home Office.
(a) the development and implementation of a government strategy ("the strategy") for women offenders and for women at risk of offending; and
(b) review of the impact of government policies on women offenders and women at risk of offending.
(a) the delivery of appropriate and effective services to women in the criminal justice system including in the areas of-
(i) the rehabilitation of offenders;
(ii) sentencing, including youth sentences and the imposition of community orders;
(iii) employment and treatment of prisoners; and
(c) mental health; and
(d) children and families.
Last week was the fifth anniversary of the publication of the Corston report, and I have got to the stage now where I feel that the name on the report is not mine, as I gather that in the Ministry of Justice I have become both an adjective and a noun. However, I acknowledge that reference was made to that anniversary by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in this place, and by the Secretary of State for Justice in the House of Commons. I also acknowledge that last week, on the fifth anniversary, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, held a roundtable discussion on progress and the way forward on the women's criminal justice agenda.
However, central to my report was the call for strategic and structural changes to drive progress on the women's criminal justice agenda. I called for a joined-up response across government to address the multiple and complex issues in the lives of women offenders and-I emphasise "and"-women at risk of offending. Therefore, as far as I am concerned, the loss of a cross-departmental women's unit poses a real risk of returning to policy silos within government departments that will inevitably be reflected locally.
The Ministry of Justice now has two officials left working on women's policy, and they will inevitably focus on women offenders. In future, it is proposed that the funding should be devolved to NOMS-the National Offender Management Service-at regional level, and it will inevitably be probation focused. So NOMS will deal with women offenders. However, women who are at risk of offending do not come, and cannot come, on to its radar. These women will again be lost, as will a real opportunity to tackle their vulnerabilities before they end up experiencing custody and the consequent damage which that entails to themselves, their families and, particularly, their children.
The costs incurred to the public purse by not pursuing prevention are all too well documented. A women's criminal justice policy unit does not need to be resource-intensive. In fact, I am not sure that it needs any resource at all. It does not need to mean cross-departmental officials working together in one place in a team. There are opportunities for creative working, with designated leads from each department working together on the common issues facing women offenders and women at risk in terms of mental health, drugs, housing, family, skills and employment. A policy unit would be cost-effective and represents a way to save money. Without such an approach, money could be wasted as individual departmental pots of money are all spent on the same group of women.
The Inter-Ministerial Group on Equalities is already in place, and I have called for ministerial oversight. I cannot see why that group cannot be used for good effect in helping the Ministry of Justice to drive forward progress on this agenda. The responsibility cannot and should not lie solely with the Ministry of Justice.
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I am sure that many noble Lords will recall the speech of Nick Hardwick, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, on 29 February. I gather that the speech was entitled "Women in Prison: Corston Five Years On". It was a timely reminder that while progress has been made, there is much more to be done. He said:
I could not agree more. That is what is missing. I do not mind people using my name, but I want them to make sure that they reflect what I called for, rather than what it might be convenient to suppose I called for.
I emphasise the need for a written strategy for these women. We currently have a virtual strategy in that government Ministers say that they have a strategy but that they will not publish it. That is no strategy at all. Surely that is meaningless if the Government are serious in their attempt to be accountable and to monitor progress. How can they evidence progress in a transparent way without publishing, at the very least, a framework of intent, supported by a statement of what they are trying to achieve for women with vulnerabilities who are caught up in the criminal justice system?
I fully understand that the Government wish to pursue localism and avoid being seen to dictate from the centre. However, without a strategy as an overarching framework, no one knows what it is about locally or can use it to persuade others of the merits of joined-up delivery. How can women's community projects or probation trusts persuade local delivery partners of the need for joined-up delivery at a local level if there is nothing to indicate that the strategy is in place? The Government's planned programme of work on troubled families rightly intends to provide a clear national steer for local delivery. Why cannot the same be applied to the Government's strategy for women offenders and women at risk of offending? After all, a lot of these troubled families are headed by such women.
What I am seeking is not a costly option; it is a basic minimum requirement to support the Government's stated intent to progress the Corston agenda. It would be neither costly nor time-intensive to pull together a brief strategy that builds on earlier progress, because progress there has been. Without a strategy, how will the Government meet their requirements under the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Bangkok Rules for women. Here, there are ramifications for the Government's standing internationally. I have absolutely no doubt of the Minister's intent to influence policy across government, as the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has said. I also have no doubt that he will rely heavily on his officials to work closely to ensure that that influence results in tangible delivery. However, how much easier it would be for them to achieve that by having to hand a written statement of that strategy and its goals. I beg to move.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I am very glad to have this opportunity to support my noble friend. I had the privilege of serving on the Joint Committee on Human
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I vividly recall visiting Holloway prison with the Joint Committee on Human Rights-I am not certain that my noble friend was the chair at the time-in connection with some work that we were doing. While we were there we got into very good conversation with some of the staff. It is easy to be prejudiced, but for me it is always interesting that in a place like Holloway you find a mix of people in the profession, including some very good, caring people who-for any of us who would want to be seen as humanitarians-are living a very challenging life in the front line of their professional services. I remember-and this was dealing specifically with short sentences-one woman turning on us in exasperation and saying: "I don't think you people know what you are doing. We don't understand what you are doing. These women's lives are a story of chaos, and all we do by having the women in here for a short term is to increase the chaos in their life in terms of their relationship with their children, their relationship with the community of which they are a part, their relationship with life as they have got to live it". Then she looked back a little poignantly and said: "Unless, of course, by having them in here for a few days we relieve them of some of the nightmare of pressures outside".
It is an indictment of us all that we have such an inappropriate, wrong-headed approach towards how we deal with women who may have been caught up in some offence. From that standpoint, it is clear that there has to be an interdisciplinary approach. The problem-the challenge-goes across all sorts of different aspects of life. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, repeatedly reminds us in debates on such occasions, if you are trying to get a change of culture and drive through a new approach, you have to pin down who is really responsible. You have got to have specific arrangements in place to make sure it happens and that it is pursued. This is what my noble friend's amendment is about: making sure that we stop talking about what is wrong, stop talking about what we should all be doing, and start to do it. If that is to happen, it needs a cross-section of people with a specific responsibility for which they are accountable to make sure it is happening. From that standpoint, I warmly commend the amendment and am glad to support it.
Lord Ramsbotham: In Committee, we had two separate amendments on this issue which was, in a way, a commentary on the fact that the vital issue of women in the criminal justice system was not even discussed in Committee in the other place. I am very glad to have
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I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has drawn attention to the need to get something done. Over the years there have been directors of women's policy, women's policy units, women's policy groups, Ministers for Women, Ministers of prisons looking after it, but nothing has happened. Why? Because there has never been anyone who has been the agent for those people, responsible and accountable for overseeing that what is laid down actually happens. I have lost count of the number of times I have said that, but I say it again. The key word "implementation" appears in paragraph (4)(a) of the amendment and the word "delivery" in sub-paragraph (5)(a). With all the wisdom that has gone into this subject from many sources over many years, it is all there. Everyone knows what is to happen. What is lacking now is the drive to get it done. I therefore hope that the Minister will go away from this particular stage and reassure us that this time something will be done to action what is so well known.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, may I first put on record my thanks to the Minister, my noble friend Lord McNally, for a number of changes that he introduced to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act? I will do so because it has some relevance to the amendment that we are debating, which will assist many women to break the revolving-door syndrome of reoffending. There has been a near-100 per cent increase in the women's prison population in the past 20 years. The Government will find that the single initiative on the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will help reduce the women's prison population.
I am attracted to at least one element of the proposal contained in the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston: namely, the importance of the Government publishing a strategy to improve the treatment of women in the criminal justice system. When we debated this in Committee, my noble friend Lord McNally said that the Government's strategy had been set out by our honourable friend Crispin Blunt in a speech on 20 January. That was a good start, and I certainly welcomed that speech.
My noble friend the Minister then set out a series of measures that the Government were taking to improve the position of women in the criminal justice system. The measures included the provision of resources for diversion schemes for mentally disordered offenders; piloting drug recovery wings in women's prisons; giving women prisoners access to the work programme on release; developing intensive alternatives to custody for women; improving access to the private rented sector for women offenders; and developing support for female offenders who have suffered domestic abuse. No one in their right mind could object to these important and welcome developments.
The occasional speech needs to be crystallised. The published strategy document would start by setting out the Government's overall objectives: for example, to reduce women's offending-here I mention the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act; to reduce the unnecessary imprisonment of women; to ensure that every probation
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Since we are all interested in outcomes, the strategy document would then set out the measures that the Government are taking to achieve each objective. Annual reviews would be published, assessing progress against each objective of the strategy. This would enable all concerned with the treatment of women to see that the Government had a thought-out, comprehensive strategy to improve the treatment of women in the criminal justice system. It would also enable the Government to be held to account for progress on each objective of the strategy. Very importantly, it would enable this to be done on the basis of accurate information about the measures that the Government were taking to improve the position.
Far from making life more difficult for the Government, this would help increase appreciation for the range of excellent work that is under way to tackle the injustices suffered by women in the criminal justice system. I therefore hope that the Minister will respond positively to the amendment, and in particular that he will agree to the publication of a strategy on women's offending, followed by annual updates on the progress being made towards meeting each objective of the strategy.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, perhaps I may crave the indulgence of the House; I was not here for the start of the debate on the amendment. Unfortunately, noble Lords moved a bit fast and by the time I got back the debate had already started. I hope that I will be allowed to say a few words as my name is on the amendment.
I start by saying that in no way do I question the Minister's commitment to reducing the number of women in prison, or to extending support in the community for women who need help rather than punishment. However, I question the Government's ability to make that happen within the present structure. In Committee, the Minister said that,
This simple and no-cost amendment would provide a model to overcome what is clearly a deficit. It would provide the Government with a strategy for women offenders and women at risk of offending, as well as reviewing the impact of government policies on this vulnerable group. It would also be a driver for local policy to provide co-ordinated and effective work to ensure that women offenders receive the right support to stop their offending behaviour. It is a tried and tested model and it works.
The backgrounds of many women offenders are certainly multifaceted. I will not go into the details as I am sure noble Lords have already heard them. If the Government are genuinely serious about trying to reduce reoffending, we need a holistic solution from
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There is no question that progress has been made in recent years, and many extremely committed individuals within and outside the Prison Service have been working tirelessly, but it is essential that the momentum is maintained. The responsibility for that is firmly at the feet of the Government. However, it cannot be achieved by tinkering around the edges, but only by having a well co-ordinated strategy and integrated alternatives to custody via an expansion of the network of community centres. Essentially for the Government, this would save money, which could be used elsewhere.
This year the Government will be reporting to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women-CEDAW-on progress that has been made since the last CEDAW report five years ago, when the committee welcomed the measures that had been taken but expressed concern about there still being too many women in prison. In their report to CEDAW this year, the Government state:
"The UK Government is committed to diverting women away from crime and to tackling women's offending effectively. It broadly accepted the conclusions in Baroness Corston's March 2007 report ... and is supportive of reducing the number of vulnerable women in prison".
However, they are going to have to prove that, by the policies and structures that are in place, because at the moment that sentence lacks viability. Contributions from organisations that work in this field will show that that is the case.
If the Government are, as they say, serious about reducing the number of vulnerable women in the criminal justice system, the structures must be put in place to ensure that the needs of these women are prioritised, not marginalised. Only by addressing the issues strategically and monitoring the outcomes of the work effectively will we see a real reduction in the number of women in prison and the level of reoffending.
I do not for one moment question that the Government accept the seriousness of the situation, but I hope that they accept it in the context of this amendment, which will make a great difference by changing the position we have now. I hope that the Government will feel that they can accept this amendment. If they feel they cannot -although I would have great difficulty understanding why not-perhaps they could agree with the principle behind the amendment, of the need for a co-ordinated structure, and come back to us with a new amendment on Report.
Lord Wigley: My Lords, I support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, which will see the establishment of a women's justice policy unit to review the treatment women received when
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In Committee, I supported an amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, which called for courts to have regard for the effect of sentencing on dependants when sentencing women. I referred to the admirable work that the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, and her influential 2007 report have done to raise awareness of the particular problems facing women in the penal system. Women tend to fall into crime for specific reasons and, it is often claimed, are penalised more harshly than men.
The effect that prison has on women is more taxing. As the report by the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, points out, prisons were designed for men and thus the conditions are particularly unforgiving for women. For example, recent figures suggest that 37 per cent of women prisoners have attempted suicide, 51 per cent have severe mental illness, 47 per cent have a major depressive disorder, and 50 per cent have been subject to domestic violence and 33 per cent to sexual abuse. Developing a specific strategy to ensure that women in the penal system receive more appropriate services is fundamental if these appalling statistics are to be improved.
That the unit would tackle the problems which often give rise to women offending is welcome. It is a venture which would limit the number of women who end up in contact with the justice system in the first place. This is particularly important when we consider that, according to the Government's figures, 54 per cent of women who are imprisoned are reconvicted within 12 months, rising to 64 per cent if the sentence was shorter than a year. To tackle offending and to limit reoffending, it is vital to eliminate the problems which cause women to fall victim to this vicious cycle of crime.
I am pleased to see that the unit would review the delivery of services relating to children and families. In Committee, we discussed the effect that sentencing can have on dependants. Some 66 per cent of female prisoners have children compared with 59 per cent of men. The Howard League for Penal Reform estimates that only 5 per cent of female prisoners' children remain with the family when their mother is incarcerated compared with 90 per cent of male prisoners' children. Clearly sentencing has an undeniable and often disastrous impact on women's families. For that reason, more than most, the implementation of a unit to oversee and review strategies for women in the justice system would be a positive improvement, not just for these women, but for society at large.
Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I want to make a very brief point in support of my noble friend Lady Corston. She talked about how we cannot leave the issue of women in the criminal justice system to the Ministry of Justice alone. My noble friend Lord Judd made the case for an interdisciplinary approach. Many women get caught up in the criminal justice system because their crimes are crimes of poverty. Women are more vulnerable to poverty than men, and many women in this country are experiencing poverty. They have to manage poverty while looking after their
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Baroness Stern: My Lords, this amendment does not ask for much. It is indeed modesty itself. It asks for a focus, a group of people in the Ministry of Justice whose job should be to carry forward the excellent policies that the Minister told the House about in Committee. It makes it clear that the Ministry of Justice cannot do this on its own and calls for the Ministry of Health, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office to be involved-a point that has just been ably made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. It makes it clear that they should report to a ministerial group and that there should be an annual report.
This amendment is not a criticism of the Government's work so far, nor of that of the previous Government. It is recognition that this is a particularly intractable problem. Efforts are made by many people, and the situation gets a little better, but then it reverts. The Minister will know, because he has just kindly answered a Written Question that I asked, that the Chief Inspector of Prisons said of the Keller unit at Styal prison that it constitutes,
Ministers have said that before. This is not politically contentious. There is wide agreement about what should happen but sadly it does not change or it changes at the margins-one aspect improves while another deteriorates.
That is why there is wide support among those who are concerned with this issue for a statutory framework, a strategy, a focal point and an annual report that will allow Parliament to see if at last we are moving forwards and seeing improvements that last. I very much hope that the Minister will support this modest proposal.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I, too, welcome this proposal. All of us have been talking about this area for so long, it is not true. The point about action now, which was made by various speakers, is entirely right. My noble friend Lord Wigley has quoted a number of horrendous figures, which I will not quote again, but the fact that 5 per cent of women's children stay in the family home should be enough to indicate just how disastrous the effect of imprisoning women is on family life and on the futures of those children.
I very much hope that the actions already begun by this Government, and those started under the previous Government, to do much more to keep women out of prison will continue, which is entirely the right way to
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Without overemphasising absolutely everything about this issue, I hope that all departments will come together. I want to see good examples of what can happen in a women's prison, but I also want to see it as an example of what would be effective for a number of men as well, particularly young offenders. I hope that the Minister and all those involved in this issue will treat it with urgency.
Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: My Lords, I add my wholehearted support to what the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, and everyone else around the House, has said. There has been no dissent. How could there be? It struck me that the proportion of women in the prison system is roughly similar to the proportion of children. Those are our two most vulnerable groups and the groups for whom we do least well by and least well for. They are the most vulnerable and the most needy.
It is very nice to see the noble Lord, Lord Warner, in his place, because the previous time we worked together-I imagine that we are together on this-we were fighting to save the YJB. I remember saying then that we must not allow ourselves to think for one minute that children are small versions of adults. Their needs are so different. Women are not other versions of men. Their needs are also extremely different. When the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, was quoted as saying that these prisons were all designed for men, she was quite right; women were in no one's mind. They suited, and that was where they were coming from. To imagine for one minute that we could stick women into similar institutions and do them any good was absolutely insane.
If we ever get to what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested and have someone who is in charge of and leads the way in policy, organisation, delivery and practice for women, I hope that that person will be a woman.
Lord Macdonald of River Glaven: I rise even more briefly to support the amendment. I do not know of a single lawyer, prosecutor, judge or prison officer who does not believe that women's prisons are full of people who should not be there and, worse, who are being further damaged by being held there. The scandal is that we have all known this for years. Ministers know it, but nothing is done about it. The amendment is a modest proposal in the right direction, and it has my wholehearted support.
Prompted by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, perhaps I may, with some trepidation, remind the Minister of the Youth Justice Board-not to score any points off him but to make the point that that body was set up to produce focus over a continuing period of time and to bring a range of agencies together to focus on the need of that particular group of offenders.
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Baroness Gale: My Lords, I join noble Lords all round the House in supporting the amendment. There has been not one word of disagreement, and I am sure the Minister has listened carefully to what noble Lords have had to say on this issue.
I believe, as does my Front Bench, that the amendment can help to focus a national debate on the needs of women in the criminal justice system more effectively over the coming years, whatever Government are in office. My noble friend Lady Corston referred to what the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick, said a few months ago. Two of the words he used to describe the state of the women's secure estate were "aghast" and "ashamed". I am sure that everyone who has spoken and has any knowledge of the subject would agree with those words.
In my view and that of many of my noble friends, the secure estate is too often no place for women. The majority of women in detention have not committed violent crimes. They are mothers, and each year more than 17,000 children are separated from their mothers because of imprisonment. Many of these women are victims themselves: one in four women in prison was in local authority care as a child; nearly 40 per cent left school before they were 16; over half have suffered domestic violence; and one in three has suffered sexual abuse.
I do not believe that anyone who has read the 2007 report of my noble friend Lady Corston has not been impressed by her recommendations-as my noble friend said earlier, it is now five years since the report was presented-by the examples she gave, by the intellectual force of her arguments and by the way in which these could be translated into effective solutions. We did not do enough to put those solutions into practice but we did make some progress. We continue to listen carefully to what my noble friend Lady Corston says on these matters because of her great experience in this field.
The Women's Criminal Justice Policy Unit in the MoJ will help to bring her recommendations to life. It will provide a safe and collaborative environment within government and across departments for real joined-up thinking on these matters.
To deal with women's needs in a holistic way-their health and social welfare needs and how local authorities, the Home Office and other bodies could work to keep them out of crime and out of jail-there is a need for all government departments to work in this collaborative way because the needs are so great and the challenges so important. The results would certainly be more beneficial, not just for the woman involved but for her family and the society that she comes from.
With this great agreement that women should not be in prison-every report that one has read over the years has said the same thing, and all Governments agree-I would hope that this amendment could be put into action. I pay tribute to my noble friends Lady Corston, Lady Gould and Lord Judd and the noble
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Lord McNally: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, said that she had discovered over the years that she had become not only an adjective but a noun as well. I told her last week when we met that she was well on her way to becoming a national treasure-something I would not wish on anybody. Her report was certainly a landmark report. It is required reading for me and I listen carefully whenever she speaks and when other experts in the House speak on this subject. I also listen carefully to criticisms such as those recently made by Nick Hardwick and repeated today by the noble Baroness, Lady Stern.
I should like briefly to mention our response to those criticisms, and particularly to his criticism of the Keller unit. This is being reviewed and a number of recommendations have been suggested. The potential for the provision of updated facilities to supplement or replace the Keller unit is being reviewed by the National Offender Management Service. However, the majority of recommendations have been actioned, including the development of healthcare and support, including mental health, first aid, training in positive behaviour, support methods, the presence of a registered mental health nurse seven days a week, structured therapeutic programmes provided by mental health occupational therapists and a co-ordinated approach to the clinical review of patients. There is also the introduction of a programme of structured intervention on a daycare basis that is accessible to the residents of the Keller unit. Steps have been taken to ensure the timely sharing of records between mental health and primary care teams. The new governor of HM Prison Styal is currently reviewing the role of the Keller unit, alongside the development of other specialist accommodation in the prison to meet the needs of women with a range of complex problems. The review will continue, and the prison is currently bidding for funding to establish a therapeutic unit.
I emphasise from this Dispatch Box the importance I attach to a strategic and coherent policy addressing the problems of women at risk and the problems of women in prison and on release. The noble Baroness, Lady Gould, and the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, gave us the statistics that underline the importance and urgency of this matter. As the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, mentioned, I had an interesting and informative meeting with Peers and stakeholders last week on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the Corston report. The noble Lord, Lord Judd, paid tribute to the long-term interest of the noble Baroness in these issues. My interest has grown with every month that I have been in office, every visit I make and every meeting I hold. As has been said, we have too many women in prison and we intervene too late.
However, I do not believe that a women's justice policy unit bringing together officials from several government departments, as proposed in this amendment, is necessary. That approach was tried a few years ago, but I understand was discontinued after a year or so. I can reassure the House that there continues to be a dedicated resource to women offenders within the Ministry of Justice. However, rather than co-locating staff from other government departments into the Ministry of Justice, officials now work closely with a wide range of rehabilitation reform policy leads in those other departments who are best placed to address the needs of women offenders in their policy areas, including health, employment and homelessness. These close working relationships across departments help to ensure that the needs of women offenders are embedded in cross-government policy-making.
As I explained in Committee, this cross-government approach receives strong leadership from the Minister for Prisons and Probation, my honourable friend Crispin Blunt, who works closely with his ministerial colleagues, in particular the Minister for Women and Equalities and the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities. The amendment suggests that the policy unit would report and be answerable to an interministerial committee. I do not believe that we need any additional interministerial governance for the women's agenda. The Inter-Ministerial Group on Equalities, on which Ministry of Justice Ministers sit, has responsibility for driving forward the Government's equality strategy, including strategic oversight of issues affecting women. Departments also work together through the Cabinet Committee on Social Justice and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System.
Finally, let me assure noble Lords that officials are already delivering effectively the functions envisaged for the new policy unit. As I explained in Committee, we already have and are delivering a strategy for women offenders. This ensures that women will benefit in key areas such as mental health, drug recovery, tackling violence against women, troubled families and employment. It recognises the important role of women's community services, as well as the good work by NOMS to implement many of the recommendations in the noble Baroness's report. We also actively consider gender equality as required under the Equality Act 2010. We are committed to monitoring progress on achieving key outcomes for women offenders in all areas of our approach to rehabilitating offenders. For example, in setting out our plans radically to reform criminal justice through improved punishment, payback and progression of offenders, we have looked very carefully at how these reforms will impact on women, and have given a clear commitment that we will take into account the different profile of women offenders in achieving this, including the reasons underpinning their offending. I believe that there is effective provision to ensure that the Government are held to account for progress against this agenda.
The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, gave us a long list of titles and initiatives, but he also pointed out that nothing has happened. What we need is what the noble Lord referred to: a drive to get it done. I believe that this is what the Government are doing-a drive to do practical things. In Committee, I undertook to
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I have listened carefully to this debate. It has been an excellent debate, and I think it will read well outside. I honestly do not believe it is a matter on which the House should divide. I am not in a position to accept the amendment and, therefore, if the noble Baroness does press it, I shall ask my noble friends to vote against it. I would rather urge her to withdraw it in the spirit in which this debate has taken place.
I have said that we will publish a strategic document. It will be a short document setting out our strategic priorities for women. It will be a live document and will be updated. I believe that goes some way towards what the House has been asking for. I believe also that what we are doing in practice meets the demands that have been before the House today. In that spirit, I urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.
Baroness Corston: My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords on all sides of the House who have spoken in support of this amendment. I am grateful to them for highlighting the profile of the women about whom we talk. They are poor, they are mothers, they are mentally ill, they are alcoholics, they have very little education, and they have no life skills. They are in prison for an average of 28 days, at the end of which they have lost their homes and children and generally do not get either back. It is a huge social issue, and this is the place where it can be resolved.
I have to say that the Minister is badly advised. One of the reasons progress was made from 2007 was because a women's criminal justice policy unit was established, and because there was an interministerial group run by Maria Eagle, who harried officials, organisations and NOMS to make sure that this happened. On her watch, more than 30 so-called Corston women's centres were set up across the country to reduce women's offending, with spectacularly wonderful results.
To say that there was not an interministerial group is not right. Nor is it right to say that there was not a unit, in that I know that the people working in that unit from different departments made things happen. Indeed, collocation of staff from different agencies in youth offending teams and the Youth Justice Board was the key to getting agencies to work together. If you do not have that nationally, it will not be reproduced regionally and locally.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, who I think of as a friend, said, you can make progress but you can quickly revert. All I say to the Government is that quick reversion is what will happen. I am sorry to sound so passionate, but it is because I feel passionate. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
(1) The Lord Chancellor shall, by regulation, promote arrangements to ensure that each Probation Trust provides adequate information about community sentencing provision to all magistrates in the area for which it has responsibility.
(a) guidelines for liaison between magistrates and Probation Trusts;
(b) a reimbursement scheme for magistrates expenses under paragraph (a); and
(c) such other provision as the Lord Chancellor thinks appropriate."
I am bringing back these amendments following the discussions on them in Committee, both because I believe them to be very important and because the amendment expresses a view shared by noble Lords from all around the Chamber without a single voice of dissent. They were views expressed by people of such knowledge and distinction that there was an obligation to try once more to persuade the Government of the importance of this case.
First, I thank those noble Lords who have added their names to the amendments, in particular my hero the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, who was also poised to add his name to the list but was not allowed to do so. The Public Bill Office informed me that my list was already full-four names were all that were allowed-so my list has lost a little of its potential lustre. I regard the noble and learned Lord as being on my list in spirit if not in fact, and for that I am extremely grateful to him.
Although technically these are amendments they are in fact proposed new clauses, which do not amend but rather underpin the central objectives of this part of the Bill: to reduce the prison population and develop the use of alternatives to custody, and so reduce reoffending. I am a wholehearted and paid-up supporter of the Bill in these key respects, and I have worked all my life to promote the same objectives. They were also, of course, the core objectives of the Government's policy as set out in the Green Paper. I regard these clauses as enabling ones, which ensure that the Government will achieve their objectives-and without which their
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In addition, the magistracy and the probation trusts, the organisations about which I speak, need these clauses as well. They are unequivocally in support of them because they know that if they are to be enabled to achieve their objectives, which are in line with the Government's own, they too need them. I pay tribute to all the work that they do in their different ways. The magistracy is the bedrock of community-based justice-the representatives of our communities across the land, delivering justice locally. They are hard-working and dedicated, sustaining the peace of the realm within the law and all selfless, voluntary and unpaid. I was a magistrate once and I know how much it takes, in terms of not just time but care and effort, to try to get things right for the victims and the offenders, and for justice to be done. Their task becomes ever harder over time, as our society becomes more complex and difficult to navigate for so many.
By the same token, the work of the probation service has become ever harder but ever more necessary and valuable. As patterns of offending change and prison numbers rise, it has to provide the courts with pre-sentence reports, carry the challenging responsibilities of MAPPA and support offenders in the community, while facing more uncertainties about its own future as yet another review of its work and role is under way, causing anxiety all around. I have also been a fellow social worker-a childcare officer in my far-off youth-and my admiration for the work of probation is boundless. I also declare an interest as a patron of the old Probation Association. I know how much we all need those people, as they work at the interface of the courts and the community, protecting us as they work to reduce reoffending and meet the challenges of offenders.
These are the people who actually deliver the programmes that magistrates need, and they too are solid in support of these proposed new clauses. They know that statutory liaison is necessary to bring about the understanding by magistrates of the intricacy of what is provided in the community for the courts. From the distance of politics or non-penal worlds, it can perhaps be difficult to understand the subtleties of the relationship between these two organisations. The world of the courts is and must be at a certain remove from the day-to-day reality of the world of those who transgress and break the law, but that is where probation also operates. Good and valuable relationships can of course be, and often are, developed between individuals in both worlds. Yet you cannot conduct a system of professional interaction based on the arbitrariness of personal relationships. We discussed at Second Reading examples where we know that good liaison between probation and the magistracy frequently occur. However, we cannot deliver the sort of high-quality, highly professional service we need on that basis alone without communication and co-operation becoming uneven and patchy to the extent that we have seen happen since 2000, when the statutory basis for the relationship was abandoned. All high-quality, professional service must have a high-quality, professional structure within which to work. This is what these professionals want and it is what our communities need.
The magistracy has roughly 29,000 members and probation trusts nearly 12,000 probation officers and probation service workers, though these are slightly old figures-about 18 months old. These are dynamic institutions doing difficult, highly skilled, professional work, where change is an essential part of the progress. They must have a basic statutory basis on which to conduct their business and keep up to speed with each other. To leave it to a voluntary local effort is simply not in the nature of these national bodies. It is important that all magistrates-not just some eager ones-know what their local probation service is doing. Such is the pace of change that contact must be regular in order for everyone to be up to speed. Both parties in this area agree with that. For sentencers, this is important to be able to make properly informed disposals. Custody should never be used because a sentencer is not aware of a programme or a service which could have been a better alternative. This is sometimes tragically still the case today. While the pre-sentence report and information leaflets give a flavour, there is absolutely nothing to match or beat seeing and talking to the providers and the offenders. Quite simply, seeing is believing. This is not rocket science.
How right he is. Where do we start? We start with the sentencers themselves, whose use of them will justify and develop confidence. As their own confidence grows, the more they learn. My noble friend also said that he was not aware of any obstacles to magistrates making regular visits. He is quite right; there are no obstacles. However, we need more than a mere desirable aspiration; we need a requirement, if all concerned are to understand the importance of visits and keeping abreast of current provision. I referred to the senior presiding judge's recently revised protocol in Committee, which sets out voluntary arrangements for probation trusts, courts and magistrates. However, I am told by the Magistrates' Association itself that, even where relations are very good, the involvement of all magistrates is "rarely achieved" and "aspirational".
Lastly, magistrates' expenses have in the past been a thorny issue. Expenses stopped in 2000 when liaison ceased to be statutory. I have already referred to the extraordinary and voluntary commitment of time, effort, skill and responsibility-on every level-of magistrates to their role on behalf of us all. These visits represent training over and above their duties and commitment. It seems petty and short sighted in the extreme to begrudge a bus or train fare, or petrol, to go and learn about a programme, which, if understood and then used, will save the community that proportion of the annual £40,000 cost of each prison sentence and will significantly increase the chances of reducing reoffending at a fraction of the cost while making our communities safer. That is an achievement which I think goes beyond price. My noble friend the Minister told us in Committee that Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service was "looking at" this issue, which
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I believe that this proposed new clause is what the Bill needs really to succeed in its admirable core adjective. I know that my noble friend is expected to make no concessions beyond those already agreed but I also know that it is possible to keep her heart and mind open to argument-otherwise, what are we all doing here? My case is that this simple new clause is not an amendment to anything already in the Bill but would add something which endorses it and ensures that what it stands for is achieved: namely, a safer, more civilised society with less reoffending as a result of less imprisonment and more community disposals. I commend the new clause to the House.
Lord Judd: My Lords, I am very glad to support this amendment. The noble Baroness speaks with real experience because she has done a lot of front-line work in precisely this sphere in trying to bring the probation service and others together with magistrates and, indeed, judges. She is to be commended for that. She speaks in this House having done that.
I am glad that she took the opportunity to say a few words about the probation service. In my younger life, the probation service was one of the hallmarks of a decent society. It was a service in which people either had real, relevant experience of life and brought that to the service or had a good, sound, broad education to a high level and were able to bring that perspective to the work which they did. Ideally, it was a combination of both those things.
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