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House of Lords

Tuesday, 15 May 2012.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.

NHS: Risk Register


2.36 pm

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they consider the time will be right to publish the NHS risk register.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper and, in so doing, I declare an interest as chair of an NHS foundation trust and as a consultant and trainer on the NHS and health issues.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the transition risk register will be published when the balance of public interest favours disclosure. We will continue to be open about risk. Last week we published a document containing information on all risk areas in the register, along with a scheme of publication for future review and release of information on risk.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Earl for that because he said that it would be published when the balance is in favour of the public interest. Can I take him back to the judgment of the First-tier Tribunal, which concluded that risk registers,

“would have provided the public with a far better understanding of the risks to a national institution”,

on which millions depend? Surely the public interest and parliamentary scrutiny actually depended on that risk register being published, and it should have been published when the Bill was in this House.

Earl Howe: My Lords, we do not agree with that. We have, as I have mentioned, published a document setting out a summary of all the risks in the register and the mitigating actions associated with each category, but we resist publishing the risk register itself at present. It is essential that officials are able to formulate sensitive advice to Ministers, making frank assessments and using direct language, without the fear of causing unnecessary embarrassment for the Government or damage to their area of policy. That is the essence of the reason.

Lord Naseby: Is my noble friend aware that there is nobody more passionate about the NHS than I am, but that a great many people outside want civil servants and other advisers to Ministers to point out the whole

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extremity of risks in any policy, whether it is policy A, B or C? At the end of the day, they expect Ministers to look at those risks and take appropriate decisions. Against that background, therefore, the strategy that my noble friend is following is understood outside by the ordinary public. It may not be understood by the lobby groups; nevertheless, it is the public whom we serve.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend, and he is right. The risk assessment process, carried out by civil servants and detailed in these registers, is an integral part of the formulation and development of government policy. It is in the public interest that this process be as effective as possible. We are clear that where policy is sensitive, that necessitates confidentiality.

Lord Martin of Springburn: My Lords, I take it that the decision that was made was a government decision, which was collective. I recall that the Deputy Prime Minister, before he became Deputy Prime Minister, was very keen on transparency. Was he therefore comfortable about the withholding of this information? If the noble Earl does not know, perhaps he could come back and let the House know.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the decision to exercise the veto, which is a decision provided for under the Freedom of information Act, was made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. However, he would not have been able to exercise the veto without the collective approval of the Cabinet, and that approval was secured.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, last Thursday I asked the Minister a question that he answered in part. The part that he did not answer was whether the transitional risk register drew to the Government’s attention the risk that patients would have to wait longer to see their GP. Speaking as someone who uses the NHS and as part of the British public, I fear that the delays are getting longer and will continue to do so. Could he please now answer the question about whether or not this was in the risk register?

Earl Howe: I acknowledge that I did not answer that question and apologise to the noble Lord for not having done so last week. The whole issue of stakeholder support is one that the risk register addresses, as he will see from the document that we published. I do not recall the specific issue of waiting times to see one’s GP arising in the risk register for the simple reason that, although I acknowledge that it is currently a problem in some parts of the country, particularly London, that is not a direct result of anything that the Government are doing in our reform programme.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, would my noble friend decline to take lessons in these matters from those who supported former Prime Minister Blair in not publishing a full and frank assessment of the intelligence reports on which he committed this country to a war?

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Earl Howe: My noble friend makes an extremely good point because there are sensitive matters that any Government will inevitably wish to keep confidential if good government is to be maintained.

Lord Peston: My Lords, it is trivially obvious that all decision-making—

Baroness Jolly: My Lords—

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, there is time, and we have not yet heard from the Liberal Democrat Back Benches.

Noble Lords: Order!

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peston, for resuming his seat. Naturally, only one person should be on their feet at one time. There is time, although we have now wasted a little more of it, so perhaps we might hear from the Liberal Democrat Benches and then from the noble Lord. We have had two questions from the Labour Benches.

Baroness Jolly: My Lords, risk registers are a tool to inform policy-making, so is the department currently working on a risk register for the implementation of the social care Bill, including the risks around the failure to reform the funding of social care?

Earl Howe: In answer to that characteristically helpful question from my noble friend, the department will put in place thorough programme-management arrangements as it takes forward the draft care and support Bill and plans for its implementation. That will include monitoring and assessing risks as they arise, to ensure smooth passage through to implementation.

Lord Peston: My Lords, I repeat what I said last time: it really is about time that the Liberal Democrats recognised that they are part of the government side. Everyone is getting quite fed up with this demand to be treated separately.

Is it not trivially obvious that all decision-making involves risks and therefore the Government’s refusal to publish this register would cause a reasonable person outside to come to the conclusion, much as the Minister might dislike this, that the Government really are trying to hide something that was damaging to them?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I cannot answer for those who see something suspicious in what the Government are doing. All I can say is that we are absolutely clear that the circumstances in this case were exceptional. The FOI request from Mr Healey was made at a particularly sensitive time when the need for a safe space for civil servants and Ministers was especially high. The Freedom of Information Act was drafted specifically to allow for the ministerial veto. It is not just about the specific content of the risk register; it is also about preserving risk registers in general as frank internal working tools in the interests of good government.

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Police: Misconduct and Corruption


2.45 pm

Asked by Lord Maginnis of Drumglass

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when it is appropriate for the Home Office to intervene directly in matters of police discipline and incidents of police corruption, and whether current delegated arrangements are proving adequate.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, the police are expected to maintain the highest standards of professional behaviour at all times. Where there are allegations of misconduct or corruption, the most serious cases are investigated by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. As the name suggests, the IPCC is independent of the Government and the police to ensure that investigations are impartial. The Government do not intervene in any individual cases. The Government consider that these arrangements are adequate.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass: My Lords, does it not all boil down to the fact that the coalition Government have no real concept of hands-on responsibility or of timely decision-making and believe that by delegation they can wash their hands of responsibility? Are the Gary McKinnon and widow Hofschroer cases, respectively awaiting justice for 10 years and three years, not examples of a Government who could not care less?

Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a number of points. First, I make it clear that this is not just a matter for the coalition Government; it is a matter that goes back to the 2002 Act which brought in the IPCC. I think all sides of this House agree that there should be an Independent Police Complaints Commission and that it should be independent. It can be independent of government only if government cannot intervene. It would be quite wrong for my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to intervene in individual cases. It would surely undermine the IPCC’s independence if she tried to second-guess its decisions. The noble Lord went on to mention two cases. Gary McKinnon has nothing to do with any allegations of police corruption because his case is purely about extradition. The case of the Hofschroer family is, as the noble Lord knows, a matter that has gone to the IPCC. It is a matter for it to produce its decision and if those involved in that case do not like that decision, they can then take the appropriate action in the courts.

Baroness Doocey: My Lords, the revelations that senior Metropolitan Police officers accepted inappropriate hospitality have led to the Met setting up a monthly register that now lists all gifts and hospitality that police officers have accepted. Do the Government agree that all police forces should be required to set up such a register and to publish it monthly?

Lord Henley: My Lords, I welcome what the Met has done. I think it is something that other police forces should consider doing, but that is a matter for

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them to consider. As I said in response to the original Question and the first supplementary, I believe that complaints should be dealt with in the manner that they are; that is initially by the police and then, in more serious cases, by the IPCC. I do not see a case for the Home Secretary intervening.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, in the light of the Minister’s reply to the noble Lord, Lord Maginnis of Drumglass, and knowing that police commissioners will be elected, when will it be appropriate for an elected police commissioner to intervene directly in matters of police discipline and incidents of police corruption?

Lord Henley: Despite the fact that the noble Lord was involved in the passage of the Bill, he has not quite understood the role of police and crime commissioners. I think he might go back to the passage of that Bill and have a look at it. As I have made clear, the right to complain about what the police are doing and to make inquiries will remain as it was under the 2002 Act, as passed by the previous Government.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, I was a junior Minister in the Home Office more than 40 years ago. In many cases that did not call for draconian statutory intervention on his part, the Home Secretary used the Inspectorate of Constabulary as a subtle conduit to convey the disapproval of the Home Office and sometimes something harsher than that. Does any such institution operate currently?

Lord Henley: My Lords, my right honourable friend can make use of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary; that is still there. However, the important point, which the noble Lord ought to remember from his time, although things have become more independent since, is that people can make complaints to the police but, if they want to ratchet them up thereafter, such complaints should be made to an independent authority. That is why, in 2002, legislation was changed under the previous Government to bring in the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It must remain independent. If my right honourable friend can second-guess what the IPCC does, it will very quickly cease to be independent.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, police corruption is loathsome and must be rooted out. In many years of going around the world, I have come across many police forces and seen some pretty appalling things. To get the balance right, does the Minister not agree that in this country we are generally very fortunate in the standard of our police forces?

Lord Henley: My Lords, we take any allegations of unlawful or inappropriate behaviour or corruption very seriously, as we ought to. However, the noble Lord is quite right to emphasise the very good story that we have to tell about our police in this country. That is why I was very pleased that, as the noble Lord made his intervention, he seemed to receive support from all sides of the House.

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Democratic Republic of Congo


2.51 pm

Asked by Lord Chidgey

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what has been their response to reports that state-owned mining assets in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have been sold over the last two years to offshore companies for less than one-twentieth of their commercial value.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we share the concerns about the DRC mining sector and the mis-selling of state-owned assets. We continue to press the DRC Government to improve governance in this area. The Secretary of State for International Development raised this with President Kabila when they met in March. The UK is funding the PROMINES programme, which aims to strengthen transparency in the mining sector. We also support the international efforts to set standards for all extractive industries.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Does he share the widespread concern over the legitimacy of transactions that involve companies quoted on the London Stock Exchange and UK Overseas Territories such as the BVI? The Chancellor has turned his attention to these with regard to stemming personal tax avoidance but does not appear to have looked yet at corporate tax avoidance. Will the Government support the call by the DRC opposition parties for a full inquiry into the extent of what appears to be very widespread corruption in this field?

Lord Howell of Guildford: We share the concern about corruption and the need for major companies to observe the highest possible standards in their performance. The instruments through which this should be done are the EU transparency directive and the work of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is excellently chaired by Clare Short and is currently planning to set up a strategic working group to look at extending EITI standards to require a much closer look at issues of the kind that my noble friend has raised.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the extraordinarily rich deposits of minerals that are held in the DRC should be a blessing but have become a curse as marauding bands and the DRC’s neighbours have plundered those resources, leading to conflicts that have taken the lives of between 5 million and 6 million people, many of them children? Does he know that at present it is estimated that 40% of those working in the DRC’s mining industry are children? When the DRC review of mining practices takes place this year, will he use the extensive leverage that the Government have through their aid programme to ensure that at least children are removed from the mines and protected in the future?

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Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Lord is on to an excellent cause and a very good concern. Our view is that the PROMINES programme, which now will be launched in October and for which we have high hopes, will raise the standards and control better all activities of mining, including artisanal mining of the sort which employs children. That programme includes explicit activities to address the issues of child labour, including supporting initiatives to enable the artisanal mining subsector to comply with supply chain diligence standards which are increasingly being applied—for instance, in connection with the OECD due diligence guidance. We see the PROMINES programme as the avenue through which to increase the pressures and to overcome the appalling deprivations and dangers which are evident particularly for children in this sector.

Lord Triesman: My Lords, I accept of course that there are a number of transparency conventions in Europe and on a world basis, some of which have been useful in dealing with topics such as the illicit mining of diamonds in the past. Given the difficulties that have just been described, particularly in relation to children and the lack of transparency in supply chains, would there not be a good case for company reports in the United Kingdom to be candid and be required to say how transparency issues have been dealt with so that the legitimacy of their operations would be clear to everyone?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes, that is exactly the kind of proposal that Clare Short, as chair of the EITI, is examining in her strategic working group. Of course, not every company and certainly not every country has signed up to the EITI. Those that have are required to make certain reports, although those reports do not cover all the issues we are discussing now. Her idea, and that of the EITI, is to see whether the requirements for standards for signatories to the EITI can be increased and, obviously, for other countries—and the DRC being a candidate country—to sign up to the whole initiative.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, as I understood the Minister’s reply to my noble friend’s supplementary question, the rules of the EITI do not at present require candidate countries or full members to disclose accounts of the sales of mining assets. Will my noble friend press not only for sales to be disclosed but for countries that are candidates or full members to publish due diligence reports identifying the purchasers and verifying that they are fit and proper persons to comply with the EITI rules, and ensure that the rules are amended for that purpose?

Lord Howell of Guildford: I repeat that this is exactly what the EITI initiative proposes. Incidentally, this body was set up in 2002 by the previous Government. It has been a considerable influence and success, although it has a long way to go in certain areas. These are just the sort of proposals for an extended authority of the EITI that will be considered by the strategic working group. That aim should certainly be supported by the Government and all Governments who are full members

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of the EITI now. We recognise the need also for candidates to be required to move to higher standards in order to become full members.

The Lord Bishop of Wakefield: My Lords, related to the questions we have just heard, how are DfID’s funds allocated to government programmes in the Democratic Republic of Congo being used to ensure that the DRC Government tackle corruption and non-transparency in the mining sector? Is the Minister’s previous answer related to that or are there other questions to be asked about transparency and corruption?

Lord Howell of Guildford: There is a lot more to be said because this is a major subject. DfID programmes are in operation. They are under review and therefore I cannot give a precise up-to-date answer on the size and specific focus of programmes. Generally, the aims behind the DfID programmes are to decrease corruption and to improve the social and educational conditions, and, thereby, conditions in the mining sector generally.

Lord Davies of Coity: Can the Minister tell the House the extent to which the Government believe that British companies are involved in the offshore companies that are involved in this expertise?

Lord Howell of Guildford: We know that British companies are involved in the DRC and we know that certain deals have been made—some of them reportedly far below market prices. We support the EU transparency directive, and I urge all companies listed on the FTSE 100 to observe the highest possible standards and disclose their activities in the way we would expect of responsible companies. That continues to be the position.

Israel: Palestinian Hunger Strikers


3 pm

Asked by Baroness Tonge

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Israel concerning the hunger strike taking place among Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, the Government have followed closely the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners. In the past week we have raised our long-standing concerns over Israel's extensive use of administrative detention and the treatment of Palestinian prisoners with the Israeli Vice-Prime Minister, the Israeli Foreign Minister and the Israeli national security adviser. We welcome the Egyptian-brokered agreement, which has brought an end to the hunger strike.

Baroness Tonge: I thank the Minister for that reply and the Government for their efforts on the prisoners’ behalf, but this is Nakba Day—the “day of catastrophe” for the Palestinians, when the state of Israel was

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created—and I think that we should congratulate most of all those Palestinians who have reminded us of the power of peaceful resistance. The Minister will remember, however, that Israel reneged on its promise to ease the inhumane regime in its prisons after the release of Gilad Shalit. In fact, conditions got worse. Will the Minister therefore ensure that the seriously ill hunger strikers are given proper medical treatment immediately outside prison, and will he try to press for the new prison regime, which is still keeping administrative detention, to be monitored by an independent body such as Physicians for Human Rights-Israel?

Lord Howell of Guildford: As my noble friend knows very well from her expertise, these are very early days. We have only just heard about the deal being reached. Although it is true that it does not cover the ending of administrative detention for all but only for a limited number, it seems—together with the new arrangements for family visits from Gaza and the ending in most cases of solitary confinement—a very constructive move. We will be watching closely, as no doubt will the entire international community—and certainly the Palestinian authorities—to see that the deal goes forward. I shall look into the particular points that my noble friend raised. It is early days, and we do not quite know exactly how the arrangements that have been announced will affect the kind of categories that she described.

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Government congratulate the Government of Israel on their apparent intention to improve prison conditions? At the same time, will they urge the Israelis to end administrative detention, especially as far as it concerns democratically elected representatives?

Lord Howell of Guildford: Congratulations are certainly due to all parties concerned, and indeed to the Egyptian authorities that brokered the deal. As long as it can hold—and those who have all the details will know exactly what is implied—it sounds good news, and congratulation is in place. As to extending the proposal to the ending of all detention, that may be a phase that we could see in future. It is the sort of thing that we will certainly continue to raise, but first let us see the details of this new deal and hope that this is a foundation and open path for better things, including possibly even the reopening of negotiations.

Lord Turnberg: My Lords, will the Government encourage the Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table in view of the recent offer by Mr Netanyahu?

Lord Howell of Guildford: That would be very good. The noble Lord is right—Mr Netanyahu wrote to Mr Mahmoud Abbas, and there is an exchange. Let us hope that the deal that we are talking about and other developments—as well as developments in the internal pattern of Israeli politics, which are not for me to comment on but are very interesting—together begin to provide the basis for a return to the negotiating table for both sides.

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Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, is my noble friend advised whether it is the Government’s view that the new coalition in Israel, which includes the Kadima Party, makes less likely the risk of a lunatic attack on Iran?

Lord Howell of Guildford: The Government’s view is that we are watching closely to see whether there are going to be any changes. It is the comment of an analyst rather than an outside Government that the change in the party structure inside Israel obviously appears to reduce the powers of some wings of its political spectrum and to increase the influence of others, but so far, although we are watching carefully, there is not much sign of change. However, we will continue looking at the matter very closely indeed.

Lord McAvoy: The Government are to be commended for the moves that they have made this week in helping to bring about a resolution of the current dispute. Does the Minister agree with me that it is comparatively easy to imprison a few thousand people but that it is not easy to imprison a whole nation or a whole people? Does he agree that if the Israeli Government decided to stop building more illegal settlements, the Palestinians would come to the table?

Lord Howell of Guildford: I do not know enough about precise cause and effect but I certainly agree with the noble Lord that the settlements issue is a really sore point—a really poisonous one, if you like. We regard the extension of the settlements as illegal and settlement activities that press into Palestine as unhelpful and illegal. I agree with the noble Lord that if that were to stop, it would certainly open some of the doors to a negotiation.

Lord Palmer of Childs Hill: My Lords, the history of the Middle East—

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, we have gone beyond 30 minutes.

Mental Health (Discrimination) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision about discrimination against people on the grounds of their mental health.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Marine Navigation Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision for marine navigation.

The Bill was introduced by Lord Berkeley, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

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Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Further Provisions and Support for Victims) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.07 pm

A Bill to make provision for human trafficking offences and exploitation, measures to prevent and combat human trafficking and provision of support for victims.

The Bill was introduced by Lord McColl of Dulwich, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Extension of Franchise (House of Lords) Bill [HL]

First Reading

3.08 pm

A Bill to make provision for Members of the House of Lords to vote at elections to the House of Commons.

The Bill was introduced by Baroness Gould of Potternewton on behalf of Lord Dubs, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

Standing Orders (Public Business)

Motion to Agree

3.08 pm

Moved by Lord Strathclyde

That the standing orders relating to public business be amended as follows:

Standing Order 64 (Sessional Committees)

Leave out “Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee” and insert “Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee”.

Motion agreed.

Automatic Enrolment (Earnings Trigger and Qualifying Earnings Band) Order 2012

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

3.08 pm

Moved by Lord Freud

That the draft order be referred to a Grand Committee.

Motion agreed.

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Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001 (Amendment) Order 2012

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

3.09 pm

Moved by Lord McNally

That the draft order be referred to a Grand Committee.

Motion agreed.

Greater London Authority Act 1999 (Amendment) Order 2012

Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Regulations 2012

Motions to Refer to Grand Committee

3.09 pm

Moved by Earl Howe

That the draft order and regulations be referred to a Grand Committee.

Motions agreed.

Arrangement of Business


3.09 pm

Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it may be of help to the House if I give an indication of an advisory speaking time today. If all Back-Bench contributions were kept to seven minutes, the House should be able to rise at about 11.30 pm tonight.

Queen’s Speech

Debate (4th Day)

3.10 pm

Moved on Wednesday 9 May by Lord Cope of Berkeley

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty as follows:

“Most Gracious Sovereign—We, Your Majesty’s most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament”.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): My Lords, it is my honour to open this, the fourth day of the debate on the gracious Speech. At the outset, I express my sadness that I shall not be faced across the Dispatch Box in future debates on Ministry of Justice business by the noble Lord,

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Lord Bach. I was very much helped by his advice when I took over from him at the ministry two years ago and we have had a very constructive relationship in the two years since. However, that sadness is tinged with pleasure that my new oppo will be the noble Lord, Lord Beecham. I think that we had already fully bonded during the passage of the LASPO Bill, but I very much look forward to working with him in the time ahead.

I am fully aware, and the House will understand, that noble Lords will not try to cover the waterfront in their contributions today but will prefer to concentrate on their areas of particular interest and expertise. That is fully understood and will greatly benefit the quality of the debate as a whole.

The gracious Speech makes it very clear that the Government’s number one priority is to repair the nation’s finances and to set the economy on the road to sustainable recovery. Financial stability and economic recovery are not ends in themselves. That is why our debate today offers noble Lords the opportunity to voice their views on the kind of society that we want. The gracious Speech announces a number of measures on care and support, on children and families, and on pensions which will shape how we make use of economic recovery in a fair way. In parallel with those issues, we will also cover matters which come more directly within the ministerial responsibilities of my noble friend Lord Henley at the Home Office and of myself at the Ministry of Justice.

I am particularly proud that the Defamation Bill, which started life in this House as a Private Member’s Bill initiated by my noble friend Lord Lester, is part of the gracious Speech. When it receives Royal Assent, it will join a cluster of significant reform measures on the statute book that bear his imprint. The Government, of course, committed in the coalition agreement to review our libel laws in order to protect free speech. I do not think that we are alone in thinking that the law in this area is not currently in the right place. When NGOs and reputable scientists can live in fear of being sued or when wealthy foreign citizens use British courts to silence campaigning newspapers, something is not quite right. A rebalancing is needed so that, on the one hand, freedom of speech and legitimate debate cannot be held to ransom while, on the other hand, people are able to protect their reputation against unfounded slurs.

I hope that the Bill’s measures go a long way towards striking this balance, building on the fine work of my noble friend Lord Lester. They include the creation of new statutory defences of truth, honest opinion and responsible publication on matters of public interest, and the extension of the circumstances in which the defence of privilege is available, including to peer-reviewed material in scientific and academic journals. The potential for trivial claims will be reduced by the introduction of a requirement that a statement must cause serious harm to be defamatory. The Bill will introduce a single publication rule, which will provide protection against repeated claims against the same publisher in relation to substantially the same material. It will also seek to ensure that we have an appropriate libel regime for the internet, by enabling

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complaints about allegedly defamatory material to be resolved directly with the author, and giving greater protection to website operators and other secondary publishers who act appropriately.

The Bill has had the benefit of extremely detailed and helpful scrutiny in draft by a Joint Committee of both Houses. I pay tribute to my noble friend Lord Mawhinney for the valuable report that his committee produced and to all those who responded to our public consultation. That has helped us to bring forward proposals which, I believe, provide reform where it is needed most and where legislation can make a real difference.

Also within my personal area of responsibility is the Trusts (Capital and Income) Bill. The Bill is being reintroduced into this House under the procedure for uncontroversial Law Commission Bills. It will simplify and modernise the law of trusts in England and Wales by abolishing antiquated rules and removing administrative burdens for charity trustees in particular. In short, it will help to keep trust law up to date for the benefit of the numerous people who are affected by trusts. I hope that this will be seen as a sign that the Government appreciate the work of the Law Commission in updating our laws and are willing to use the fast-track procedures introduced by the previous Government to progress more useful Law Commission work through Parliament.

Beyond those two specific Ministry of Justice measures, our debate today covers three main areas: helping vulnerable children by removing the barriers to them getting support; continuing with structural reform of our state pension system to ensure that people can rely on it while taxpayers can afford it; and protecting the public through reforms to security and justice, without sacrificing our freedoms.

First, we are bringing forward a children and families Bill that will help all parents and remove some of the barriers that prevent those who are more vulnerable fulfilling their potential. Under our plans, parents will be able to take more flexible leave. Mothers will be able to return to work earlier and transfer their maternity leave to help both parents share the burden of childcare. The Bill will also deliver a step change in help for our most vulnerable children. We want to reform the assessment of and provision for children and young people with special educational needs and those who are disabled. Any family whose child has special educational needs knows what a struggle it is to get adequate support. We want to give more choice and control to parents of children and young people with learning difficulties.

We also want to introduce significant reform of the adoption system to reduce endemic delay. It is right that more children are placed in stable, loving homes with less disruption to their lives and we are going to tear down the bureaucracy and red tape that gets in the way.

As well as providing more support for children and more support for parents, we also want to do more to ensure that ordinary people can look forward to security in old age. We have already taken significant steps towards that by increasing the basic state pension by £5.30, the biggest cash increase ever, and restoring the

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link with earnings. However, we need to do more to give those currently in work greater certainty about what level of income the state will provide in retirement, remove some of the complexity and disincentives that discourage saving and ensure that the system remains affordable.

We intend to bring forward measures during this Session that will entail a fundamental reform of state pensions. The single-tier pension will simplify the current complex and outdated pension system and will provide much clearer incentives for people to make provision for their own retirement. Reforms to the state pension age will ensure that state provision keeps pace with fast-increasing life expectancy. These changes will mean that the state pension system remains sustainable for current and future generations.

Just as we will be doing more to help vulnerable children, we will be bringing forward a draft care and support Bill to provide better support to vulnerable adults. It will modernise care and support law to ensure services are focused on people’s needs; put people in control of their care; and consolidate existing law by replacing provisions in more than a dozen Acts with one single statute. The draft Bill will be subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. I am well aware that the House is not short of experts in the area of social reform, and I look forward to their contributions during the debate.

The measures outlined in the gracious Speech are flagship reforms that will enhance the quality of life of our people. However, quality of life is best assured within a framework of public safety, security and freedom. It is these matters in the gracious Speech to which I turn. The Crime and Courts Bill will protect the public and modernise the justice system. It will do this partly by improving the way in which it is organised, and partly by opening up a closed world.

I turn first to protection. England and Wales have 43 police forces, which usually do a superb job. However, a great deal of serious and organised crime occurs on a scale, and using methods, that puts it beyond the reach of individual forces. It could be cyber-enabled fraud or child exploitation, gangs organising the drugs trade, human trafficking or economic crimes. The Government propose to establish the National Crime Agency to tackle these threats better. This is a step change in our response that will target serious organised and complex criminality, and strengthen policing at the borders. A modern, state-of-the-art agency, operating independently but accountable to the Home Secretary and through her to Parliament, is the next step in structural reform, and the national corollary of the enhanced local focus that police and crime commissioners will provide.

The Bill also adds to reforms to the criminal justice system that the Government began in our first two years. Community sentences are an important part of our penal system, but the current framework does not command public confidence. In the Bill we will legislate to ensure that community sentences punish more effectively and rehabilitate more fully. Consultation is now under way on a new top-end community sentence. Just as we have tried to make prisons more effective at

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reforming people, these measures seek to make community sentences more effective and more respected by offenders, victims and the public.

The Bill also looks at modernising our courts system. Proposals include establishing a single county court to speed up civil claims, and a single Family Court to end the unacceptable delays in family justice that were identified in David Norgrove’s review. It also opens up the system in a different sense. I believe that the UK has the finest judiciary in the world—one of unrivalled quality, integrity and wisdom. However, no one can rest easy when the demographic make-up of our leading judges, despite progress in recent years, remains far removed from that of modern Britain. The Bill brings forward proposals to increase the number of our judges, especially senior ones, who are women or of ethnic-minority origin, without sacrificing the key principle of selection on grounds of merit. For example, we will introduce measures to facilitate part-time working in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court, and to allow positive action to promote diversity where two candidates are of equal merit.

Finally the Bill extends the principle of transparency by removing the legal barrier to the broadcasting of court proceedings. Initially we will allow the broadcast of advocates’ arguments and judgments in the Court of Appeal. It is small step, but one that I hope will help demystify our courts somewhat and make the principle of open justice more meaningful.

As with our social reforms, I believe that the Crime and Courts Bill has the potential to be a great reforming measure. I look forward to guiding it through the House in harness with my noble friend Lord Henley. We start the journey on 28 May with Second Reading.

Finally, I turn to two measures in the gracious Speech that have already been the subject of controversy: I refer to the proposals for closed material proceedings in the justice and security Bill and the proposals for updating the law on communications data under the draft communications data Bill. I expect these proposals to undergo scrutiny in both Houses, and not least in this House, where so much direct experience in these matters resides.

I am well aware that if economic recovery is the Government’s number one priority, defence of the realm remains, as it always is, the first responsibility of Government. In times past that has most often meant making sure our Armed Forces were equipped to undertake military tasks against a defined enemy. In the 21st century, threats come in many different forms and from many different sources. It is essential that the various arms of the state have the powers and ability to meet such threats. It is equally necessary for our justice system to be able to administer justice in a way which is fair for all.

To achieve that, we need informed and balanced debate. That is my hope and the Government’s intention. However, if the approach to these proposals is in similar vein to the editorial in Saturday’s Guardian, which talked of,

“secret justice and a licence for electronic snooping”,

which could “slowly strangle private life” and change,

“the very nature of the courtroom”,

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then the kind of forensic examination of these proposals which I hope and expect Parliament to conduct will be lost in a tsunami of overhyped hysteria.

Given their responsibilities, the Government are entitled to have their case heard; for it is a recurring challenge for Government and Parliament to provide the protection that the citizen needs and expects without putting at risk the very liberties which make us a liberal democracy. It is an ongoing dilemma and it is right that whenever the Executive have proposals in these areas, they should be exposed to the most thorough parliamentary scrutiny.

The Government’s case is that, far from preventing the courts and judiciary seeing the evidence, the justice and security Bill seeks to enhance scrutiny of actions undertaken on behalf of the Government. At the moment, where an individual brings a civil claim, sometimes making serious allegations about the activities of the British state and its agencies, the intelligence services have no way of presenting their evidence in court without putting their methods and agents in danger. The consequence is that the Government fold their case, cases go unheard, rulings are not made and justice is not done. It is hardly an ideal situation for those who want to see respect for the rule of law.

What we propose means that many safeguards will apply. In particular, a judge will always take the final decision over whether closed material proceedings are needed and whether individual pieces of evidence may be heard in closed court. The interests of the individual will be represented by a special advocate, and the press will be able to report freely on the open part of the proceedings and any allegations made by claimants. At the same time, we will strengthen the independent and parliamentary bodies responsible for overseeing the security and intelligence agencies, to make them more effective and more credible.

We will extend the powers of the Intelligence and Security Committee, as well as broaden the remit of the Intelligence Services Commissioner and the Interception of Communications Commissioner. The Government hope that when Parliament comes to consider this Bill, it will weigh the evidence and find that these proposals are carefully crafted to address a challenging problem for any democratic Government with proportionality and good sense.

Let me turn to the communications data Bill. This measure too has been subject to much misleading comment. It is not about looking at what people’s e-mails say or listening in to phone calls or creating some kind of Big Brother database. At the moment, records are kept by phone companies about the calls that their customers make. This information has been used by the police and intelligence agencies for years, as a vital resource to identify where a suspect has been and when. To be clear: this is not about the content of the call, just the fact that it has been made.

What the Bill proposes is that the same data are available in the future as in the past. It is not about enhancing the power of the state or changing the balance of freedom. It is an adjustment to stay roughly where we are. However, we have heard the concerns that have been raised and want to get this right. That is why we are publishing this Bill in draft for pre-legislative

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scrutiny. As well as a Joint Committee to consider the draft Bill, the Home Secretary has invited the Intelligence and Security Committee to scrutinise the provisions that relate to the work of the intelligence and security agencies. This is precisely because we want a wide and full debate, and we look forward to receiving the committees’ reports.

Today’s debate covers many serious matters, and I do not envy the task of my noble friend Lord Henley in crafting his reply. I have never hidden my opinion about the need for this House to reform itself, but neither have I hidden my respect for its collective wisdom and experience. Both today and in the months ahead we will be discussing matters on which the collective wisdom and experience of this House will be called on to the full, and I look forward with genuine interest to the contributions of all who are to take part in the debate.

3.30 pm

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, it is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord McNally, and to open this debate on behalf of my colleagues on these Benches. We face a significant challenge in this debate on the gracious Speech, which will cover in a single day all the issues that really matter to ordinary people in this country: education, children and families, crime and policing, law and order, health and social care, welfare and so on. Indeed, I think the public could be forgiven for questioning why so many of the issues of domestic importance have been crammed together into just one of the five days of debate on the Queen’s Speech, with so many noble Lords understandably wishing to speak, when we have had four days on constitutional reform.

The challenge to cover so much ground would be daunting were it not for the fact that the legislation proposed in the Queen’s Speech, as we have just heard, has so little to say about the big issues facing the country and the desperate circumstances of many families. At a time when the Government’s economic policy is pushing the country back into recession and when two years on, growth has yet to appear, the Government have offered in the gracious Speech little hope to small businesses, families and elderly people, or to our future generations of children and young people. Where is the British business bank or high speed rail? Why is there only a draft Bill on social care when reform is so urgently needed? Where are the measures for growth to ease the pressures on families and businesses?

The Government would have us believe that they have put children and families centre stage in this legislative programme, but we now understand that the children and families Bill will not be completed before the end of this Parliament. Is that the case, and if so, can the Minister tell us why the Bill has to be carried over and what that says about the Government’s real priorities? Welcome as the limited measures in this Bill are—I shall comment on them specifically in a moment—they fall woefully short of addressing the serious consequences for many families of the current global economic climate and the deliberate policies of this Conservative-led, Liberal Democrat-supported

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Government. We will scrutinise closely the measures in the children and families Bill when it comes before your Lordships’ House. In principle, we welcome the individual measures to improve adoption and services for disabled children and those with special educational needs. We support an enhanced role for the Children’s Commissioner for England and increased flexibility for parents sharing parental leave. These proposals all build on progress made by the Labour Government.

The devil, as ever, will be in the detail. The Prime Minister seems to be fixated on adoption when he should really be concerned about permanence for children in care. Adoption is not the only or even the best solution for many children. Above all, adoption must be about finding suitable parents for children, not about finding children for would-be adopters. That is one reason that while the number of adoptions has fallen over recent years, the number of residence and special guardianship orders has increased, especially through kinship care by family or close friends. Yet faced with huge budget cuts, local authorities are not able to offer the financial support that grandparents and other family members need in order to be able to offer a permanent home to children in their families. We want to see the Government focus also on kinship care and ensure that family members who take in a child are properly supported.

We also support measures to improve the assessment and provision for disabled children and children with special educational needs, but we will want to see the Government’s plans and resources for training the teachers and other specialist professionals that will be needed. We on this side will await with interest the proposals to strengthen further the role of the Children’s Commissioner, but she must continue to be able to safeguard children’s rights and be an independent champion for children and young people.

It was the Labour Government who introduced big improvements to maternity leave, as well as paternity leave and the right to request flexible working—against strong opposition at the time, I seem to remember, from the Conservatives. We completely get the social and economic arguments in favour of parental leave and flexibility so of course we will support the next steps in extending such policies, but we want these to be real opportunities for fathers as well as mothers. It is no use fathers having the right to request flexibility if the culture in an organisation deters men from even asking or is likely to refuse if they do.

However, are not the Government’s proposals on shared parental leave, welcome though they are, completely at odds with their sustained attack on women’s employment, help with low pay and childcare and the early years provision that many families need to keep their heads above water? How do the Government’s limited measures square up against the scale of the crisis facing so many families? It is not surprising that the public have concluded that the Government are completely out of touch with the lives of ordinary people. At a time when families are facing dwindling incomes and rising prices, growing unemployment and cuts to vital public services, this Bill does nothing to address those real and urgent issues.

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Of course, the mantra from the Government is that there is no alternative—that they are dealing with the economic mess left by the Labour Government. That contention is as untrue as it is politically bankrupt. They know that the economic crisis was caused by the banks and, as we see today, it is all too obviously global. They know they have choices about how quickly they cut the deficit and the priorities—and the people—that they protect along the way.

It is no great surprise to see the repeat of some Thatcher policies by this Conservative leadership, but the public expected the Liberal Democrats to stand up for ordinary families, the disadvantaged and public services. I remember well how many times they pressed us when we were in government not to spend less but to spend more, to go further and faster in repairing the damage to families and communities after 18 years of Conservative government. It is very sad indeed now to witness the Liberal Democrats not only reneging on their own promises but colluding with the worst instincts of their Conservative partners: cutting the 50p tax rate for the wealthy at the same time as imposing benefit caps that will mean poor families being shipped out of their communities, miles away to places where they know no one and have no support, with children and young people prised out of their schools and away from friends and family.

The cumulative effect on families of the Government’s actions has been devastating. Rising employment among women has been one of the keys to rising living standards for many families over the past five decades—not any more. In two years, this Government have reversed that trend and women’s unemployment is now the highest for 25 years. Cuts in childcare benefit, child support, tax credits, services in Sure Start children’s centres and other key public services are taking a terrible toll on family life.

The Liberal Democrats claim that quietly, behind the scenes, they smooth the jagged edges of Conservative policies. But so many times the public have been marched up to the top of the hill by the Liberal Democrats—on education, welfare reform and, most famously, health—only to be marched right back down again with no real change. Only recently, on the topic of careers advice for young people—which is of great importance to me and is surely of critical importance with so many young people chasing jobs—so assured were the Liberal Democrats by the Minister that the department’s guidance to schools would deal with their concerns that they would not join other noble Lords in supporting their own, very sensible amendment when it was pressed. That guidance has just been published, with no requirement placed on schools to employ qualified advisers or to provide any face-to-face advice to young people.

It is the impact on young people of this Government’s policies that concerns me most of all. By common consent, youth unemployment is at crisis levels, with more than a million young people now out of work, with long-term youth unemployment two and a half times greater than only a year ago, with only 7% of 16 to 18 year-olds getting one of the much heralded apprenticeships last year, and with the educational maintenance allowance scrapped and tuition fees trebled.

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Young people are now stuck between a rock and a hard place. There are fewer jobs than at any time in the past 20 years, while the cost of staying in education has soared and financial support for those most in need has been abolished. At the same time, support services and youth services have been disproportionately hit by local authority cuts to clubs, activities, youth programmes, libraries and leisure centres.

I truly believe that we are risking a lost generation of young people, repeating the legacy of the 1980s and 1990s, with all the same long-term consequences for young people, their families and communities, and indeed for the whole of society. That would be a tragedy, and it is a tragedy that we on these Benches will do all we can to avert. I know that there are those on the Liberal Democrat Back Benches who care as deeply as anyone about what is happening. I hope that some of them will be able during this Parliament to make common cause with others across your Lordships’ House to act in the interests of young people. On the evidence of this Queen’s Speech, however, this Government, far from taking the bold action necessary to protect children, young people and families, are doing nothing that is relevant to the needs of the nation and the demands of the time.

3.42 pm

Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, as the Minister forecast, with the time available, I shall concentrate on only one issue. It will not surprise your Lordships to learn that that issue is imprisonment.

I entirely accept that the Government’s No.1 priority in this whole legislative package is costs. In that regard, I am very concerned about the costs of imprisonment. If you have, as was the position last week, 87,212 people in prison, at a cost of £37,573 per prison place, the total cost is well in excess of £3 billion. I suggest that a great deal of that is wholly unnecessary because those people need not be there.

I note that the gracious Speech mentioned that the Government’s legislative programme would focus on economic growth, justice and constitutional reform, which is entirely understandable. It also stated that,

“my Government is committed to reducing and preventing crime”.

I was very glad that, although for the first time in many years a separate criminal justice Bill is not forecast, there is a criminal justice system element in the Bill that the Minister mentioned. I look forward to taking part in that.

In considering the costs of imprisonment and its impact on the prevention of crime, or the prevention of re-crime which is the role of the Prison Service, I shall draw attention to five limiting factors which should be considered carefully if they are not to inhibit the Government’s ability to deliver what they want.

First, I refer to an interview given by Sir David Latham, the recently retired and excellent chairman of the Parole Board, which was reported in the Times on Monday. He said that the Secretary of State for Justice believes strongly that the country cannot afford to keep on jailing more and more people, that he has a desire to stop people being put in prison as much he possibly can, and that he has been frustrated in not being able to persuade the Cabinet to do the things

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that he wanted to enable the prison population to stabilise and decrease. I could not agree with that sentiment more.

One aspect of that, which we debated during our debates on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill and which brought it into stark relief, is the issue of indeterminate prisoners: people not knowing when they are likely to get out. There are 6,017 of them at the moment—a considerable number—and a lot are already over tariff. If, at £37,000 per year, you have people who need not be there, you now have the added burden that some are suing for compensation because of the delay in their release. The country is having to find £300 for over six months and £1,200 for over two years, and there is likely to be an increase of 30% in such claims during the coming year. That can hardly be a sensible cost. It must inhibit the ability of the Prison Service to do what the Government say they are committed to doing—preventing re-crime.

The second issue was introduced in the recent Act: the victim levy of 40% imposed under the Prisoners’ Earnings Act. Interestingly, today the Chief Inspector of Prisons has published his report on the inspection of HMP Standford Hill, a resettlement prison in Kent where sending people out to work is an absolutely key part of the resettlement process. He said:

“The levies deducted under the Prisoners’ Earnings Act”—

40% of the prison wage, deducted as pay back to victims of crime—

“had begun to mean … that prisoners could no longer afford to meet the travel costs of getting to work, which meant they lost the work and the resettlement opportunities”.

That ought to be thought through carefully. The imposition is affecting the ability of the prisons to do what the Government want.

I also refer to the recent reports on two prisons in the prison newspaper, Inside Time, this month: HMYOI Brinsford, where young offenders are held, and HMP Durham. In each, the reports said that one area of concern is the lack of time out of cell. In Brinsford, one-third of the young men are locked in their cells during the core day and in Durham prisoners spend 16 to 20 hours a day locked up two to a cell designed for one. I mention that because if they are locked in the cell doing nothing, nothing is being done to resettle them.

However, with regard to what is possible in resettlement, a report just published by the Prisoners’ Education Trust, which surveyed 500 prisoners from 81% of the prisons in the system, said that, when applying for a course in the education department, you are put on a waiting list but not told that you are on one, how long the list is or where you are on it. One man said that he had been on the list for two and a half years to do a health and safety course. I am sure that that is not true everywhere but it is a cautionary tale. If education is a vital part of resettlement and preventing re-crime, surely it is important that this aspect is looked at.

Finally, I mention the issue of women, which has been raised many times in this report. Women in Prison has recently reported that of the 43 recommendations in the admirable report of the noble Baroness, Lady Corston, seven have been implemented, there has been some progress on 18 and no progress on another 18.

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I do not want to be a Jonah about this because I believe passionately in the rehabilitation revolution and that it is perfectly possible for prisons to do more to help the Government achieve their aim of reducing and preventing crime. However, they must be enabled to do so and that means that, before legislation is introduced, the impact assessment of what is proposed is carefully looked through. In this case and in this Session, that should include careful post-legislative scrutiny of what has been introduced to see that it is fit for purpose to do the job for which it was designed.

3.49 pm

The Lord Bishop of Oxford: My Lords, there are two aspects of the gracious Speech that I would like to comment on with regard to education. One is the proposal to improve provision for children with special educational needs. I am very pleased to have heard the announcement today on that subject. There is great need for reform in that area. As the Green Paper so eloquently demonstrated, it is a cumbersome system and does not deliver the individualised support that young people need and that schools and colleges want to give.

Wonderful work goes on, of course. I was in a church school in my diocese the other week where they teach and look after a child with, I am told, the most extreme special needs of any child in the county. He has two full-time carers. What impressed me was not only the quality of that care but the way that the teachers spoke about receiving a lot more than they give in looking after that special eight year-old. As we know, a society is judged by the way it values its most vulnerable members.

Today’s announcement will have widespread support. There is a real opportunity to make a difference to the lives and opportunities of many children and young people with additional needs. Many noble Lords will have experience of children with special needs in schools. I ask the Government also to remember the 300,000 learners in FE, sixth forms and apprenticeships who have learning difficulties. More than half of them have support costs of no more than £2,500, so a modest investment can make a real difference.

I also support the intention to simplify the assessment process. It is at present too bureaucratic and too disjointed. We need integrated budgets between health, education and skills, social care and the Department for Work and Pensions. The new children and families Bill is eagerly awaited.

My other point is about higher education, which is of course vital to our national life, educating about 45% of our 17 to 30 year-olds. Massive changes are going on. We have had the trebling of tuition fees, a new and untested core and margin method of recruitment, a changed funding system with money following the student and no central funding for the arts and humanities—and lots more happening. Those are far-reaching changes, but there is no mention of higher education in the gracious Speech. The once anticipated higher education Bill is nowhere in sight.

Last June, the White Paper, Students at the Heart of the System, was published. I was very pleased to see the commitment to widening participation, constant

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improvement in the quality of teaching and the importance of the student experience—all very good things. I remain uneasy about one fundamental point which I detect in the changes. That is a view of higher education in many ways alien to the tradition of, for example, Humboldt, Newman, Robbins or Dearing. Put simply, it is an instrumentalist view. Universities are there to serve the economy. Students are to go to university to help them get jobs. Those are important matters, but that is a disappointingly narrow approach to what education is about at its most transformational. There is nothing about the excitement of learning, nothing about feeding the human spirit, nothing about a community of learning at the heart of society, nothing about the university as a place where society can reflect on its values and goals.

The Diocese of Oxford has seven universities within it, somewhat surprisingly. I can name six of them but I always forget the seventh. I look to them not only to serve the economy—they must do that—but to help the country to think, to reflect and to be self-critical in the right sense. In the Times Higher on 1 March, David Willetts said that the higher education White Paper initially had a chapter on the value of the university and its wider purpose, but it got cut out. A sight of this lost gospel would be most helpful.

There are massive changes going on in higher education, yet no mention of it in the gracious Speech and no suggestion that Parliament might review the impact of the current changes in, say, a year’s time. Nor has the Government’s response to the consultation on last year’s White Paper been made public. Is the House to be denied the opportunity to debate what is happening in our universities?

3.56 pm

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, the topic which I propose to discuss certainly was not touched on in the gracious Speech, but it could and should have been raised at any time. It is a very simple proposition, which may surprise the House: British weights and measures are in a mess. We have litres for petrol and fizzy drinks but pints for beer and milk. We have metres and kilometres for athletics and the Ordnance Survey but miles per gallon for cars. We have the metric system for school but still have pounds and ounces in the market. Certainly, this muddle matters. It increases costs, confuses shoppers, leads to serious misunderstandings, causes accidents, confuses our children’s education and, quite bluntly, puts us all to shame.

This is even a constitutional topic because about 800 years ago, Britain’s first charter of human rights that dealt with constitutional matters—I refer, of course, to Magna Carta—proclaimed that there should be only,

“one measure of wine throughout our whole realm … and one measure of corn … and one width of cloth” ,

and so on. Long before then and ever since, every civilised society has recognised the need for one set—and only one set—of standard measures. By contrast, we have managed to come near to recreating Disraeli’s two nations—divided between, on the one hand, a metrically literate elite and, on the other, a rudderless and bewildered majority.

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How did we get into this uniquely confusing shambles? It is because we have been dithering about it for some 150 years. As long ago as 1862, a Select Committee of the House of Commons unanimously recommended the adoption of the metric system which had swept across Europe and elsewhere. In 1904, the House of Lords voted in favour of a Bill to the same effect and, remarkably in a way, in 1965 the decision was finally taken—in response to requests from the CBI and others, and after long and widespread consultation—to go metric over the following 10 years. It is important to understand that that decision had nothing to do with our relationship with our European partners. It was our own decision on our own case, taken eight years before we joined the European Community.

How did we manage to end up in this very British mess? It is because successive British Governments have lacked consistency, candour and courage in implementing and presenting a policy which was, at the outset, rightly supported by a broad majority of all those who had given the topic serious consideration. It was the first Wilson Government who launched the process in 1965, and the Heath, Wilson and Callaghan Governments who carried it on. The whole operation was handled, without significant controversy, by a broadly representative commission: the Metrication Board, which, in its final report in 1979, was able to suggest that the change was by then almost complete. In the Heath Government I had been, as Britain’s first Minister for Consumer Affairs, responsible for the metrication programme. By 1979, however, I had myself become a penny-saving Chancellor of the Exchequer, and as such I readily accepted the decision to abolish the Metrication Board, which claimed to have completed the process.

So where should we go now? We simply cannot afford to go on crippling ourselves with acceptance of the present mess, and it certainly would be madness to go backwards. No one is now so foolish as to argue that we should actually move away from the rest of the world. The only solution is to complete the changeover to metric as swiftly and cleanly as possible. To sustain our present imbroglio would continue consumer confusion, perpetuate safety hazards and obstruct business efficiency.

I could have presented the case in this way: the most glaring omission from the gracious Speech is the lack of any reference to the need to complete the modernisation—and metrication, of course—of our system of measurement. Measurement is fundamental to industrial production, consumer protection, health and safety and science and education. The policy of all Governments since 1965 has formerly been to change gradually from imperial to metric units, while continuing the option for consumers to continue using imperial measurements if they wish. However, there has been no further progress of any kind since the year 2000. Metrication has got stuck. As a result, we remain in a muddle of metric and imperial measurements, with some people using one system and others using the other, with all the resulting incomprehension, conversion errors and additional costs, giving the impression to visitors, especially in this Olympic year, that we are a nation living in the imperial past.

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A particular recent concern, for example, was the failure of the Department for Transport to seize the opportunity to improve road safety by requiring all imperial-only height and width restriction signs on bridges over highways to be replaced by signs in dual metric and imperial units. That would be a simple thing to do and would cost about £500,000. If it were done, it would probably have huge financial benefits of over £2 million as a result of savings and reduced bridge strikes by metric drivers of foreign lorries on imperial roads with bewildering signs.

I urge the Government as a whole and the country across the board to resume the long drawn-out process of conversion to the metric system, begun in 1965. We should seize on opportunities for progress as they arise and make proper preparations for bringing us comprehensively up to modern international metric standards—a simple proposition that we have neglected for far too long but which we should courageously, carefully and swiftly undertake as soon as we can.

4 pm

Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, I thank the Clerks and the Whips Office for arranging for me to speak now in the debate and for my noble friend Lady Thornton to speak later.

I want to address the vital issue of social care because, as we all recognise, the situation has long been at crisis point, and it needs real action in this parliamentary Session and by this Government. From these Benches we echo the consternation and deep frustration expressed by virtually all stakeholders—the voluntary sector and older people’s organisations, staff professional associations, trade unions and care providers —at the fact that, instead of the comprehensive Bill that we had been hoping for in this Session, what will be before us some time in the as yet unspecified timetable will be a draft Bill addressing only one, albeit important, aspect of the action that is required and, most worryingly, failing to address the key area of social care funding for the future. This is indeed a missed opportunity, a huge let-down. It is especially frustrating for those of us in the House who pointed out on many occasions during the passage of the Health and Social Care Bill that it was not much of a social care Bill, with its predominant focus on NHS structures, competition and institutions, and that there were no measures or solutions to address the growing social care crisis.

The mantra in response from the Government that it would be dealt with in the spring social care White Paper has certainly not been translated into the promised draft Bill. It is also worth reminding the House that my noble friend Lord Warner, in his usual constructive and helpful way, even put forward an amendment that would have enabled the Government to show good faith and take powers in the Bill to facilitate the implementation of the Dilnot report in whatever direction the hoped-for cross-party consensus would take it. Of course, the amendment was defeated, as were others that would have helped redress the complete NHS/social care imbalance in the Bill. They included having a tighter and binding definition of how NHS and local authorities were to promote the integration of health and social care services and

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providing health and well- being boards with real teeth and powers and the authority for final sign-off of the vital CCG commissioning plans. These measures would have reinforced in legislation the requirement for real collaboration and funding of local services to make the best use of resources across the NHS and in social care.

David Cameron committed to introducing legalisation,

“to establish a sustainable legal and financial framework for adult social care”,

which is another broken promise. The Health Minister, in his response to the debate in this House on the Dilnot report, stressed that,

“this is not an issue that we will shy away from”.—[

Official Report

, 24/11/11; col. 1194.]

That is precisely what the Government have done by not committing themselves to a comprehensive Bill and a timetable for the implementation of reform.

Of course, the implementation of the key recommendations of the excellent Law Commission report of 2011 in the draft Bill will be supported by these Benches, even though it will mean dealing with only part of the picture. The commission report was a landmark report and its translation into legislation will help simplify what it called an “often incoherent patchwork” of 60 years of social care law,

“incomprehensible to all but a small legal fraternity”,

as the Guardian put it last week.

We on these Benches support the modernisation of the legal framework for care and support. Setting out what support people can expect from government and what action it will take to help them will allow them to plan, prepare and make informed choices about their care, but it will not lead to the major improvements in availability, consistency and quality of care that we know is so desperately needed. Throwing into the Bill the laudable extension of personal budgets without dealing with how social care is to be funded to address the current £1 billion shortfall and the demand in the future will, I fear, raise expectations that cannot possibly be met.

Reform of social care must deal with the interrelated issues of long-term funding which allows for people to plan for the costs of retirement, improved quality of care through integrated health and social care commissioning, and the desperate current funding shortfall which has intensified the underlying mismatch between funding and demand still further. The failure to address these issues as a whole results in the twin evils of a growing number of people on low incomes who are no longer eligible for state support and too many people using too large a proportion of, or all of, their own assets to meet the costs of personal domiciliary care in the home or residential care.

We must not forget that there is no long-term solution to the social care time bomb that does not address the workforce issues: the low pay of care workers; training; quality of care; staff numbers; and commissioning which provides for home visits long enough to enable staff to provide the personal care and support that frail older people or people with long-term health conditions need to maintain their

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independence. We know that recent reports on personal home care, such as those from the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Age UK have exposed horrendous problems that deprive older people of dignity and respect. The vast majority of care staff and social workers do a good job and want to do a good job. The reality is that, all too often, it is just impossible.

I have stressed before that as a carer of a disabled adult stroke recoverer, the local agency care we receive is of high quality and the care workers show real empathy, respect and understanding of their client’s needs and of my role as the carer. Our local experience of care is the standard and best practice for which we must aim across the country, but it will not be achieved without tackling current and future funding issues.

As we know, Labour initiated cross-party talks on the Dilnot recommendations on social care funding and these are in progress. Labour is genuine and serious in its commitment to meaningful discussions and negotiations that unlock the Government’s malaise and lead to real change. We know that tough decisions are needed and that doing nothing is not an option for older and disabled people and their carers, the economy and the future of the NHS. The current system is at breaking point. It is unfair and inefficient. It results in fewer and fewer people getting the help that they need and ever mounting additional costs to the NHS and the taxpayer when people end up in hospital or residential care when they do not need to.

I hope that the Government will think again about their decision not to address the Dilnot issues in the White Paper and forthcoming Bill. David Cameron must fulfil his promise and engage personally to give the cross-party talks the backing and momentum that are needed to enable legislation in this parliamentary Session. Burying their heads in the sand and hoping that the problem will go away if Ministers deny that it exists often enough, or blaming cash-starved local authorities for the huge cuts that they have had to make as a result of current funding reductions and increasing demand will not do. Nobody is fooled. It is the Government’s responsibility and they must act now.

4.11 pm

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, the first two years of the coalition Government have seen some valuable steps towards a fairer criminal justice system. The new Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act abolishes the discredited and unjust IPP sentences, legislates to reduce unnecessary remands in custody and contains much needed reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act. Over the past two to three years, we have seen a welcome reduction in the number of juvenile offenders in custody. Indeed, the number is currently the lowest since the Youth Justice Board started collecting figures. The Government are developing a determined strategy to divert mentally disordered offenders from the criminal justice system into medical and social care. They are consulting on proposals to make restorative justice a more central part of the criminal justice process.

However, many serious challenges remain. The prison system still faces serious overcrowding. Today, 82 out of 132 prisons hold more prisoners than they were

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built for, and 19,000 prisoners are held two to a cell designed for one person. This country has 156 prisoners for every 100,000 people in the general population, compared to 109 in France and 87 in Germany. Prison overcrowding produces inhumane conditions and increases the risk of self-harm and suicide. It also increases crime because it makes it harder for prisons to provide rehabilitation programmes for all their inmates, thereby increasing reoffending on release.

I do not wish to sound alarming but we should take note of the comments made by the chairman of the Parole Board only yesterday. Far too many offenders are still sent into custody for short sentences and are released after no more than a few months in custody. These sentences serve very little purpose. They are too short for sustained rehabilitation programmes but long enough for offenders to lose their jobs and homes, which makes them more likely to reoffend. On release, most of these prisoners do not receive supervision by the probation service and their reconviction rates are much higher than those for other prisoners. Most of these offenders would be better dealt with by supervision programmes in the community. All in all, our system still does far too little to prevent crime and rehabilitate offenders. We need to rethink an approach that wastes such a high proportion of resources on punitive custodial measures that produce high reoffending rates.

A great deal remains to be done to eliminate racial discrimination from the criminal justice process. Indeed, in some respects the position of minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system is now worse than it was when the Stephen Lawrence inquiry reported. The disproportionate use of stop and search is even more extreme and the proportion of the prison population that is made up of racial minorities is now higher than it was in the late 1990s. Further research is required to see how the criminal justice system has produced this anomaly.

What should we do to improve the position? The Government could legislate to make sentencing guidelines take into account the capacity of the prison system. These guidelines should scale down the number and length of prison sentences except for the most serious crimes. Prison should be removed as an option for low-level, non-violent crimes. Courts should be prohibited from using prisons, except for dangerous offenders, unless they have first tried an intensive community supervision programme, which my noble friend Lady Linklater has repeatedly advocated in this House.

We should also legislate to keep restorative justice at the forefront of the minds of sentencers to help ensure that it becomes a central part of the criminal justice system. We should do that by making restorative justice one of the statutory purposes of sentencing and enabling courts to include specific restorative justice requirements in community orders. We also need to prevent the community sentences supervised by the probation service from being used for low-level offenders with little likelihood of reoffending.

When probation service resources are scarce, it is important to concentrate them on work with the more serious or persistent offenders, particularly those who would otherwise receive ineffective short prison sentences. One way to achieve that would be to increase the use

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of fines for lesser offences. The Government should introduce a “day fine” system, which would relate fines more precisely to the offenders’ means. That could help to make fines a more credible punishment for offenders of all income levels.

We should take steps to reduce the imprisonment of people who have breached community supervision—for example, by missing appointments or being late back to probation hostels. We should do that by introducing a graduated scale of punishment for breach of supervision, with prison being used only when less severe penalties have first been tried. We should introduce tighter statutory restrictions on sending young offenders into custody. For example, we could copy the example of Canada which, in 2002, introduced legislation restricting the use of custody for juveniles and produced a reduction of more than 30% in the number of young people sent to custody. We should place a clear statutory duty on all criminal justice agencies to adopt numerical targets for reducing racial disproportionality in their operations.

Most women we send to prison are neither violent nor dangerous and they have few previous convictions. But they have a high rate of mental disorder, a history of abuse, addiction problems and personal distress arising from separation from their children. As we have repeatedly advocated—and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for this—we should establish a women’s justice board to set standards for resettlement and rehabilitation, mental health services, family contact and culturally appropriate support for foreign national women in our prisons.

A women’s justice board should also set targets to reduce the use of custody for women. There is overwhelming evidence of the importance of providing practical help for offenders in order to reduce reoffending. Getting offenders into jobs reduces their likelihood of further offending by between one-third and one-half. Providing accommodation for offenders reduces reconviction by at least one-fifth. Drug rehabilitation programmes cut the volume of reoffending by up to 70%.

We should commission voluntary organisations to provide a national resettlement service for short-term prisoners who currently receive no supervision or support on release. A strategy on these lines would help to concentrate resources on the measures most likely to protect the public by rehabilitating offenders and reducing reoffending. They would build on the encouraging start made by the coalition towards the achievement of a fairer and more effective criminal justice system.

Recently, I chaired the inquiry by the Magistrates’ Association into summary justice, which should be bedtime reading for all those involved in the role and functions that magistrates should perform in a modern society. I have put in for a short debate and look forward to putting the inquiry’s proposals to the Minister before long.

4.19 pm

The Earl of Listowel: It is a privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, particularly after his comments about the reduction in the number of young people in the youth justice system and his call for a similar system for women—a women’s justice board—to

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focus on their needs. Not only have they had the experiences that he describes, but many of them have been in the care of the state, which has often not provided them with the care that they needed. I support the call of my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham for further work on the Corston recommendations. It is so disruptive to children’s lives when they are taken into the secure estate.

I rise to speak to a matter omitted from the Queen’s Speech. I want to share my concerns with Her Majesty's Government about the lack of professional capacity in our children’s homes. I take this opportunity to encourage the Secretary of State, the right honourable Michael Gove MP, to give thought to developing a strategy for the professionalisation of staff in children’s homes. Professionals who come into contact with children’s home staff are unanimous that the quality of staff is highly variable and that staff often show little understanding of children’s needs. That is the view of the social workers and child mental health professionals to whom I speak.

The front page of the Times on Wednesday last week read as follows:

“A nation’s shame: Nine men are found guilty of sex grooming crimes against vulnerable young girls after a trial that has exposed the shocking scandal in Britain’s children’s homes”.

Andrew Norfolk, the journalist, goes on to write:

“Hundreds of girls in children’s homes are being sexually abused by organised networks of men, The Times reveals today. England’s children’s homes, which care for 1,800 girls, have recorded 631 incidents of girls being sold for sex during the past five years, including 187 in the past ten months”.

I am most grateful to Mr Norfolk and the Times for the extensive and careful coverage that they have given to the horrific exploitation of these vulnerable children. On page six of that day’s Times, Jenny Pearce, Professor of Young People and Public Policy at the University of Bedfordshire, said:

“You’re talking about poorly trained, poorly supported staff working with some of our most vulnerable children and young people. That combination is an ideal setting for an abuser to exploit”.

It seems clear that the Times successfully identified a systemic problem with our children’s homes, which needs to be remedied as soon as possible. We need to move to a professional cadre for our children’s homes as soon as possible if we are to minimise future risk of harm, sexual and other, to these our most vulnerable children.

In his report of the 1990s on children living away from home, Sir William Utting wrote that the best safeguard for children is an environment of overall excellence. I am concerned that we may be failing in our duty to these children by forgetting his words.

Why do these children need such care? These are often children who have experienced multiple failures of foster placements. They have therefore generally experienced abuse in the family and then been further harmed by being passed from pillar to post. They are normally the older children with longer histories of neglect, who are physically more difficult to manage. The Office for National Statistics in its 2004 survey found that 69% of children in residential care had a mental disorder and that the majority of these disorders

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were conduct disorders, which are particularly hard to manage for carers. That compared with about 40% of disorders in foster care and 10% in the general children’s population. A head of a child mental health service department put it to me that the profile of these children in these children’s homes is very little different from that of children in psychiatric units. In the latter, children are cared for by nurses who are managed by doctors; in the former, they are cared for by staff qualified to national vocational qualification level 3, who are managed by those qualified to be level 4 managers. There is a world of difference in the capacity of those staff.

On the continent, residential care is a far more popular option, with about half the children in care in residential settings. Staff are also generally more highly qualified. In Denmark, 90% of staff have a degree-level qualification. The continentals choose to have the most highly skilled qualified staff caring for their vulnerable children. In this country we have made the opposite decision. Because our children’s homes cater for only about 8 per cent of the children in local authority care, the needs of our children in residential care are significantly higher than those of such children in France, Germany or Denmark, yet our care staff are much less well qualified. We choose to place our most vulnerable children with our least qualified workers.

Lord Northbourne: I am most grateful to the noble Earl for giving way. Does he agree that a considerable number of children’s homes do not fit the description he has given, and that their qualified staff look after the children extremely well?

The Earl of Listowel: I agree with my noble friend on that point. For instance, there are some exceptionally good therapeutic communities in this country and some very good examples of practice. The difficulty is that the quality is so variable. These vulnerable children deserve a consistently excellent quality of care from their carers.

Gangs of men meet former residents of children’s homes and use those girls or young women to “hook into” the young women in those homes. It is very hard for staff to resist that. We need to have the very best staff in children’s homes to prevent these cunning, wily gangs of men gaining access to these children; and not only gangs are involved.

There has been progress in skilling-up staff. Ofsted inspections report improved performance. There are some very good homes and therapeutic communities and many residential care staff work the hardest they can in the interests of these children. I agree with my noble friend in that regard. Regulations have been tightened and there is the prospect of further strengthening of regulations over the next year, yet I fear that a fundamental problem will not be addressed unless a clear strategy for professionalising staff in our children’s homes is introduced as soon as possible. Therefore, I beg the Government to give consideration to developing such a strategy to bring this about. There is great expertise in this area in this Chamber. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

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4.27 pm

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I rise to speak on a subject that I, for one, am glad is not included in the gracious Speech. For 650 years, magistrates have been part of the fabric of this great country and summary justice has been administered by a service of well trained volunteers giving up many hours on a weekly or fortnightly basis. It is a valued contribution to the smooth running of the country and a service which has evolved and improved over the passing years. It is therefore to be treasured and must never, at the whim of any Government, be tinkered with but modified only after much reflection.

Magistrates have been with us since 1361—a long time by any standards. Throughout this time, the system has maintained the same level of service and commitment to society while, even in the 30 years I was privileged enough to be involved with it, making changes as needed around the edges, such as occurred in one of my own personal, very trivial examples. When I was first appointed, women magistrates always wore hats in court. I found this difficult as the only hats I had were the ones worn for dressy occasions. When we plucked up the courage to ask the chairman why we wore hats, he replied that he had no idea as it added nothing to our work in the court, so from that moment on in our court hats remained at home.

The advent of the 21st century and the need for financial constraint has concentrated minds on the future of the administration of justice. I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Dholakia was a leading member of the Magistrates’ Association, which has produced an in-depth study inquiring into the role of magistrates and the future delivery of summary justice. This report is well researched and to be welcomed, and will now be genuinely considered.

Of course, the magistracy must be valued for the contribution that it makes, and it is paramount that society has confidence in its administration. I think that those tests are currently passed with flying colours. However, I have one aching concern. It has always seemed to me that summary justice is served best by local people who know the area—people who live there and are respected citizens. Nowhere was this better evidenced than in the manner in which the magistracy responded to the riots last summer, some magistrates even sitting through the night when required. This was local people dispensing local justice at a time of real need, resulting in speedy action on cases. I worry that if many more courts are closed, this local element will be lost.

The magistracy must of course continue to be responsive. For instance, I was very interested in an article in the Times of 8 May this year hinting of proposals to allow magistrates to sit in community centres. It was suggested that magistrates could sit alone but I would have to be convinced of this, as I believe that a Bench of two or three magistrates carries greater strength and acceptability, and in addition is certainly less stressful for a magistrate.

So I am pleased that this key subject was not included in the Queen’s Speech. I hope, however, that after careful consideration and much consultation with those within the magisterial service we will be presented

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with a set of proposals that ensure that our justice system continues to be the envy of the world and allows magistrates to serve our country with distinction for another 650 years.

4.31 pm

Baroness Billingham: My Lords, this is Olympic year, so I scanned the Queen’s Speech with eager anticipation. Just for once, I hoped that sport would take centre stage, for it plays a crucial role in all the topics in today’s debate. Of course, I was disappointed.

I wish to speak on a major sport that I believe is under threat. That sport is tennis, and I genuinely fear for the future of the game. I do so with a heavy heart, for this has been my chosen sport and that of my family.

I was absolutely delighted when Roger Draper was appointed as chief executive of the Lawn Tennis Association in 2006. We met Roger Draper and heard of his wide-ranging plans to promote British tennis to the full, building a national tennis centre to facilitate that development. I hosted a reception in the House of Lords and he pledged that Britain would have five players in the top 100 by the end of 2008 and, at the same time, that every school child, by the age of eight, would have held a tennis racquet. We were delighted. However, none of that happened.

There was another juggling of the figures in 2008 when it was announced that Britain would have five players in the top 100 by 2010. There were two. By now, alarm bells were ringing. Everyone knew that the LTA was one of the richest governing bodies in the world with some £60 million being poured into its coffers every single year, none of it with any strings attached. The press and the tennis public were losing patience. News trickled through that huge sums of money were being spent on coaches. More worrying was the allegation, never denied or confirmed, that Roger Draper was paid £400,000 per annum on a six-year contract with bonuses on top—no transparency and no accountability.

It was around this time that Gerry Sutcliffe, the then Minister for Sport, asked me to review the LTA. I with nine colleagues, many of them from this Chamber and the Lords and Commons Tennis Club, formed a panel. The members were absolutely outstanding and excellent. We had only a very short time, with just three weeks to go before the general election. We held hearings and wrote a report that was highly critical. We were shocked at the performance of the LTA, given its resources and freedom of action. We could not believe its strategy, which was to put all effort into elite performance and so little into school, club and grass-roots tennis. What really incensed us was that the Government had made a direct contribution to tennis of some £26.8 million over a four-year period through Sport England. There was absolutely no indication or account of how that money was spent, and we could find no benefit.

All our misgivings became reality. The profligate LTA continued to infuriate the British press, the public and anyone who had an interest in tennis. Failure followed failure. At last, Sport England, which distributes funds from government and lottery sources, found its

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voice. In April of this year, it announced that it would cut £530,000 from tennis because of a fall in participation figures. The drop of almost 30% in two years was dire and the funding cut fully deserved. So this is where we are today. The LTA is a total shambles, tottering from one broken pledge to another, and the British and the world's press are aghast at the huge cost and pathetic results of six years of mismanagement. It is pitiful.

If you think I am but a single disgruntled observer, perhaps I may share with you the views of others who are far more knowledgeable and who confirm my misgivings. The nation's tennis writers have long run out of patience. They watch every twist and turn of the LTA and its CEO. I can find no support in the newspapers for them. Here are just a few headlines from dozens over the years. The Guardian said:

“LTA suffers major embarrassment: the LTA receives almost £60 million per year, when will British tennis see some results?”.

The Daily Mail said:

“Lame Duck Draper must go. He was supposed to save British tennis but now it’s worse!”.

The Daily Telegraph said that after five years and £250 million there is “still no progress”. But perhaps the strongest criticism over the past six years has come from Neil Harman of the Times. He has followed and written about every twist and turn, every inexcusable failure of an organisation that is wealthy almost beyond belief. Tim Henman, the former British No. 1, and not a person given to confrontation, said that,

“the lack of contenders is just not good enough”,

and that,

“I lament the failure of the present system”.

Meg Munn MP made a timely intervention in a Commons debate some time ago with the horrifying statistic that the number of tennis courts has declined in the past 10 years from 33,000 to only 10,000.

So, what can be done? I call on Hugh Robertson, the Minister for Sport, to set up an urgent review and inquiry into British tennis. He must insist on transparency of all expenditure and salaries, especially given the fact that the LTA receives public money—taxpayers' money. This money must be ring-fenced in order to ensure that grass-roots tennis projects are properly funded. He must insist on freedom of information from the sport's governing body and call on the board of the LTA to face up to its responsibilities. All this must be done urgently. In less than eight weeks’ time, millions of tennis lovers in the UK will sit down in front of their televisions, some for a whole fortnight, and watch every ball struck at Wimbledon. They have a right to expect more success from the game they love. Unless he intervenes, the Minister could be accused of allowing one of the oldest and most distinguished sports to decline into obscurity. The entire tennis world is looking on in disbelief. The Minister can and must help to put this right.

4.38 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford: I am very sorry to hear of the woes of the LTA and Sport England. I confess that I was a little disappointed not to hear from Her Majesty congratulations to the Welsh national rugby

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team on winning the triple crown and the grand slam and good wishes on going to Australia shortly, where no doubt the reputation of British sport will be restored.

In the field of law reform, I very much welcome the Defamation Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, referred. The Bill is based on the tireless and persistent work of my noble friend Lord Lester, and I hope that it will dispel the chilling effect on freedom of speech of an overworked and out of date branch of the law. I hope that it will also end libel tourism, whereby our courts are used to determine disputes about the reputations of people of whom nobody has ever heard. People come here from abroad to litigate on these matters.

There is one Bill that I look forward to with some interest. The gracious Speech stated that legislation would be introduced to strengthen oversight “of” the security services. I wondered whether it was a typo and the Bill would set out to strengthen oversight “by” the security services; the wording seemed curious.

I will look with considerable care at any provisions that are designed to extend closed proceedings to civil cases by the use of special advocates. The vast majority of the special advocates who currently appear in criminal immigration cases are wholly against such an extension, and no satisfactory solution has yet been devised or put forward in this sensitive area. In civil cases it is not acceptable that a judge who decides a case between parties—very often a claimant is suing a government department—should be shown secret information that is never disclosed to the claimant and which he cannot answer in any way. It is quite wrong that a judge should have such information on which to base his judgment. It is not like a criminal case, where the jury makes the decision; in a civil case it is the judge. That is a very important distinction and I shall pursue that Bill with considerable interest.

It would be too much to expect that the Home Office would be without another of those heavy Bills that we are accustomed to wading through. I suppose that it must employ the Bill teams that it has accumulated over many years. The Crime and Courts Bill is a standard model. The National Crime Agency is proposed as an overarching agency to encompass the various agencies that already exist. We might hear something in the Bill about architecture; perhaps that phrase will come to us in due course. The Serious Organised Crime Agency has just reached its sixth birthday; it is only an infant. It merged the National Crime Squad, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the National High Tech Crime Unit, the investigative and intelligence sections of HM Revenue and Customs on serious drug trafficking, and the Immigration Service’s responsibility for organised immigration crime. The Assets Recovery Agency, too, was made part of SOCA in 2008. The Serious Fraud Office escaped the overarching conglomeration, and it seems that it will escape again. We shall want to know: did SOCA fail? If so, why? What does the new overarching agency, which takes in all these bodies and has cross-government contacts, promise—except more employment?

No doubt somebody—if not the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, then another noble Lord—will put forward an amendment with an overarching mission statement that crime is bad and should be prevented, and I look

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forward to discussing the independence of the director-general and wading through the mire of functions and priorities, arguing about relationships with independent police forces, establishing frameworks and the hierarchies that we so love and that will tell us who is boss. We have the entirety of Schedule 3 to play with on this issue. I remember a World War II poster that some other noble Lords may recall: “Was Your Journey Really Necessary?”. It went along with “Careless Talk Costs Lives”, with a spook lurking behind every hedge. Is it necessary to introduce a National Crime Agency only six years after SOCA was brought into being?

The changes to bring county courts into a single county court and establish a single family court are, on the face of it, acceptable, but there is really only one test: does it improve or hinder access to justice? The whole point about county courts is that they were established in every county so that people could go to them and use them; similarly with family courts. A quick remedy can be obtained from a magistrates’ court in a family matter, which may take much longer in the Courts Service.

As for diversity in the judiciary, there is always concern. The test must still be simply one of merit in appointing judges. The diversity which arrived at the Bar in the 1970s is working its way through to the Bench in all areas and that concern, I hope, will become something of the past.

As for televising court proceedings, it so happens that last week I was lying on my back in the dentist’s as he was poised with his drill and I had all sorts of things in my mouth. He told me that he had to go to court as a witness in a case. He had never been to court and he was extremely apprehensive. I thought: “Apprehensive? My God, at least they are not going to drill into the nerve in your teeth to extract evidence from you!”. However, that just shows how little even the educated public understand about the way the courts system works. I welcome a limited introduction of television into courts. Like your Lordships’ proceedings, I think they will be viewed in the early hours of the morning by anoraks or people who cannot sleep, because the arguments in the Court of Appeal are not really much of an entertainment.

The gracious Speech was criticised by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, as being the thinnest of Queen’s Speeches and wholly irrelevant to people’s lives. There was nothing on growth or jobs, he said. Well, just look at the number of Bills that are there. The Government should be focused now on competent administration and on bedding down the changes that have already been made in the fields of education, welfare, health, legal services and the rest. These decisions have been made; now is the time to make the decisions work, by proper administrative action.

4.47 pm

Lord Adebowale: My Lords, I rise to add my two-pennorth to this veritable cornucopia of subjects this afternoon. We have moved from tennis to defamation, to children in care, the criminal justice Bill and weights and measures. It is a fascinating encyclopaedia of issues, which shows the expertise available in this House. I shall refer to the draft social care Bill. I thought hard

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about whether I should contribute to this ritual of debates on the Queen’s Speech, mainly because it does seem such a ritual. However, a friend of mine who has had her welfare services cut asked me, “You are a Member of the House of Lords. What are you going to do about it?”. I struggled to give a response. This individual is quite wise. She actually watches House of Lords debates, which says something; but then she can because she has the time. I said, “I do not know really. It is a bit of a struggle”. So she said, “You spent all day talking about House of Lords reform, and less people are interested in that than whether they will be able to afford any health and social care. Get up there”. So here I am. I am getting up here because there is a problem. I am all for House of Lords reform, but more people care about whether they are going to get any care.

The Government made a promising start in tackling the huge amount of work needed to reform the social care system. Before I go on, I should declare an interest as the chief executive of Turning Point, which is a social enterprise in the health and social care sector. The Dilnot commission marked a good start in that it understood the,

“urgency of reforming the system of social care”,

a phrase that was in the coalition agreement published in May 2010. Setting up the Commission on Funding of Care and Support showed that the Government accepted that tackling the funding crisis was to be an imperative part of their work. Andrew Dilnot’s work was praised by many, and his report and recommendations were published almost a year ago. However, the Government are yet to publicly outline their response. They have remained quiet on funding. A White Paper on social care and a progress report on funding are therefore still eagerly awaited and anticipated by those who work in social care.

But the wait is most acute for those who are suffering in the current system. The draft care and support Bill, no doubt a fascinating read for many before a roaring fire, is a positive move towards reform, but it has been met with a lot of disappointment because it fails to mention or use the F-word—funding. Proposals on funding will be brought forward separately from the White Paper, and it is now even possible that a new funding system will not be fully in place until as late as 2025. The Treasury may be unhappy about the £1.7 billion per year that the Dilnot proposals would cost, but these changes are critical to the lives of those in need of care, as they are to their relatives, who still face uncertainty over timeframes and funding issues. The system is creaking as demand increases, so the question of funding needs to be addressed urgently for the short, medium and long term.

I was one of 78 signatories to an open letter sent to the Prime Minister earlier this month organised by the Care and Support Alliance. It warns that the system is chronically underfunded and that, without reform, too many old and disabled people will be left in desperate circumstances, struggling on alone and living in misery and fear. The need for a clear consensus on a new funding settlement is also the number one priority set out in another letter to the Prime Minister that I signed in March—I have been signing a lot of letters

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to the Prime Minister of late—as co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on People with Complex Needs and Dual Diagnosis. Other signatories were the chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Ageing and Older People and those groups with an interest in carers, dementia, disability, Down’s syndrome, housing and care for older people, learning disability, ME, MS, Parkinson’s and social care.

Everyone knows that reform will be expensive, but I agree with the Local Government Association and insist that it is worth paying for. There will be those who argue that we cannot afford it, but the reality is that we cannot afford not to. Local authorities are starting to feel the weight of extra responsibilities from social care to public health, while simultaneously their budgets are growing smaller. Now is not the time to stall progress. The LGA has also recently warned that the need to plug the current gap in care funding would be at the cost of other public services for vulnerable people. It is clear that this extra money is needed as the social care system is already in crisis.

While a large proportion of spending goes to support older people, it is important to remember that many others are in need of a comprehensive and well funded social care system. Indeed, at Turning Point we support many people with complex needs that range from alcohol dependency to mental health, learning disabilities and so on. Strongly linked to the need for social care funding is the need for integration and personalisation. My work in looking at the benefits realisation of integrating services shows that when they are integrated, for every £1 spent, a saving of £2.65 is made on delivery. The Department of Health-funded Partnerships for Older People Projects focused on health, well-being and independence promotion and prevention. They saw a 47% reduction in overnight hospital stays and a 29% reduction in A&E visits. There were also reductions in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and out-patient appointments, resulting in a cost reduction of £2,166 per person. The clues to the model for the funding of social care are in place. According to London Councils, better integrated services that support people with long-term conditions could also result in savings of £2.7 billion annually.

The current system is out of date and can fail on quality, varying widely across the country—not just in the case of children’s services, as has been mentioned by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel. We need an integrated and personalised system allowing older and disabled people and their families to participate and live with dignity and independence. The eligibility and assessment system needs improving as part of this process.

I know there is sympathy and desire on the part of the Government, but it has become increasingly difficult to believe that they understand the necessity of reform as a matter of urgency, two years on from the Dilnot commission. The same level of determination and the same amount of time as have been devoted to House of Lords reform need to be focused on the lives of thousands and millions of people who will need health and social care, and the same level of urgency is required in the area of health and social care finance that was put into the efforts to push through the Health and Social Care Act.

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4.56 pm

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, I rather agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken: it is a little curious that we should have had to use two days of precious parliamentary time to point out to the Government the folly of introducing such an ill thought-out piece of legislation to replace your Lordships’ House. I am going to use my brief moments on another commitment in the gracious Speech—that to,

“establish the National Crime Agency to tackle the most serious and organised crime and strengthen border security”.

That at least is something about which the entire electorate mind a great deal.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, in questioning whether we really need to reorganise the Serious Organised Crime Agency, SOCA, which only started work in 2006. I had the opportunity on 28 March of visiting SOCA with EU Sub-Committee F, which does home affairs, and I was pretty impressed with what I found there. I noticed that the committee’s report on the ELMER money-laundering database had had quite a considerable influence on the practices and what SOCA was actually doing about that, but I do not have time to cover that now.

What I really want is to focus on “strengthen border security”, and to talk about the UK Border Agency. Border security is a crucial element in the defence of the realm and therefore of the highest importance. Every year some 80 million people come in and out by air, 11 million by sea and about 16 million by the Channel Tunnel. However, border security is actually one of Whitehall’s biggest failures, not just under the present Government but going way back—at least to June 2006 when the now noble Lord, Lord Reid, with all the authority of the Home Secretary, publicly denounced the immigration department of the Home Office as “not fit for purpose”. Since then, things have got worse, much worse. The civil servant in charge at the time was of course promoted to be Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence.

Over a period of years, I have documented, through Written PQs, the failures of the UK Border Agency. Let me make it clear that the UKBA is not underresourced. It employs over 20,000 people. The problem is in the management of those resources. I have met Mr Rob Whiteman, the new chief executive, and I think that given a free hand and political support he could be quite effective.

I have four criticisms of the UK Border Agency. First, it has proved grossly incompetent. We have all seen the recent shambles of the queues at our airports. The much vaunted e-Borders system has cost £357 million in the four and a half years to October 2011 and is still only partly operational now: only just over half the people who go in and out of the country are covered by it, and it is not expected to be fully operational until 2015. The Home Office could learn a thing or two from Mr Ken Livingstone. Whatever else you think about him, he introduced his e-congestion charge system and it worked extremely well from the word go, and that must have been every bit as big.

The previous Government also scrapped exit checks, which it is said cannot be reintroduced until 2015. Well, if you do not have exit checks, you do not know

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who is meant to have gone out of the country, so it is a shambles. There are huge gaps in the monitoring of passports.

Secondly, the border force is undisciplined. Others may have seen a report in the press of an incident during the shambles. Angry crowds had gathered and eventually a posse of immigration officers walked in to fill empty desks. Not surprisingly, people who had been waiting for more than an hour gave them a slow handclap. What happened? They walked out again. What arrogance. What insensitivity.

Thirdly, the border force is luddite. The much vaunted iris recognition system has been seen as a threat to immigration officer jobs and is now largely abandoned. Hong Kong has had a superb e-border agency system for more than 15 years. The United States, which I visit quite often, also has a system which works very well.

Fourthly, and most serious, the UK Border Agency is deeply and systemically corrupt. The British government machine has always had a well deserved reputation for integrity, yet in the past six years more than 25 members of the UK Border Agency have been sent to prison for the serious offence of misconduct in public office. They were not minor offences. I will give just half a dozen examples: in March 2008, a Mr Uzoma John-Ayo was sentenced to nine years; in September 2009, a Mr Ali was sentenced to five years; in March 2010, a Mr Quarco was sentenced to nine years; in April 2010, a Ms Eworth was sentenced to six years; in November 2011, a Mr Shoyeju was sentenced to seven years; and in December 2011, a Mr Rammakrishnan was sentenced to eight years. Those are big sentences; they were not sent to prison for little things. If that has happened in one agency, it is appalling.

What should be done? I would be delighted to give the Minister my detailed ideas, but here are one or two for starters. The UK Border Force, which was in March separated from the UKBA, should be put under the operational command of a senior, three-star, retired military commander. I saw Mr Brian Moore, currently in charge of the border force, being interviewed on television recently and I am afraid that I was not impressed. That is probably unfair, but it is necessary to have in command somebody who is really good.

Secondly, the profile and screening of those recruited to the UKBA and the border force should be reviewed urgently. I suggest an emergency review of the integrity of existing staff. Next, the staff should be subject to the same disciplinary system as the police and should not be allowed to take the sort of industrial action which they have taken and which they quite often threaten. Finally, a fresh management team should take a grip on the e-Borders system, integrating it fully with the passport system to secure our borders. I am glad that the Home Affairs Select Committee of the House of Commons is looking at the borders system. I hope that we will co-operate closely with it and that the Government will do something serious about it pretty soon.

5.03 pm

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, in 1997, pensioners were among the poorest in society, while future pensioners were not saving enough. Our response

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to the former, pension credit, took existing pensioners out of poverty but, perversely, made it not worth saving for pensioners still to come.

If, 10 years ago, I could have foreseen the proposed new state pension, the raising of retirement incomes, the removal of means-testing and the making it safe to save, as well as the rollout of auto-enrolment, with NEST bringing even the low-paid into pensions, I would have been thrilled. Pensions would have been sorted, finally.

Details remain to be finessed. They include legacy issues for the state pension; transfers; caps; and, above all, thresholds for NEST, because, perversely, the more you raise tax thresholds, be it to £10,000 or even £12,000, the more people, 1.4 million of them and mostly women, you take out of auto-enrolment. They are the very people for whom NEST was designed. More widely in the pensions field, we could strip out normal essentials from DB schemes such as indexing and spouse’s benefits, cutting their costs in half and thus ensuring their survival. Or we could develop hybrid schemes, sharing the risk. Given that there are 54,000 DC schemes, we could respond to the NAPF’s call for super trusts.

However, despite the splendid work of Steve Webb, I no longer think that we have pensions sorted. They are fine for higher-rate taxpayers with parallel savings in ISAs and property who can absorb risk and wish to smooth consumption between work and retirement. Though I am delighted by the proposed pensions Bill, no one today would invent pensions for the low paid, especially women. As the IoD said in its recent Roadmap for Retirement Reform, pensions are,

“part of the problem, rather than part of the solution”.

That was the IoD. Just think—for a decent pension you need: a full-time job for 40 years; that job in a world of steady interest rates, inflation, employment and longevity; to contribute young, enough and throughout; to manage the investment and disinvestment risk; and, for those 40 years, not to touch it because you have other savings. Not one of those propositions fits the low paid.

We could not design a poorer fit for poorer women if we tried. Women are in and out of the waged labour market, interspersed with caring for the young and increasingly for the old who, because they are living longer, take a woman out of the labour market for longer at just the point when she should be building her own pension. Her work is part time and low paid. Half of all women face divorce, losing their home, health, money and partner. She is at high risk. It is key that her working years are more perilous than retirement. She has no accessible savings to smooth those risks but cannot touch her only savings—her pension. She can use her pension to build a conservatory at 62 but not to save her home from repossession at 42. That is mad and cruel.

Why is more money going into ISAs than pensions, despite there being no tax relief or employers’ contribution? The answer is access. We should stop shoehorning low-paid women into structures devised by well-paid men for other well-paid men 50 years ago. We need combined savings and pensions schemes: the lifetime savings accounts—LiSAs—of David Willetts;

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the combined ISA/pensions of Michael Johnson of CPS; or the early access to the 25% tax-free lump sum called for by Steve Webb and me.

Finally, we spend £30 billion a year on tax relief, half of which goes to the wealthiest 10% who least need help to save. That same £30 billion would buy a state pension of £20,000 a year for every couple in the land. Some £7 billion goes in higher rate tax relief alone—shamefully left untouched in an austerity Budget which halved the benefits for disabled children. That £7 billion would fund Dilnot twice over and, if ring-fenced, could redistribute from pensioners in their 60s to pensioners in their 80s, from wealthier pensioners who were higher-rate taxpayers to poorer pensioners who never had that advantage. It would do that in wise, decent and publically acceptable ways. We all talk the language of personal responsibility, reducing the role of the state, and about the need of the poor who are in debt to simultaneously save for their retirement. Pensions work only for the well-off who do not need them. For the lower paid, their working lives are too fragile and insecure for such a lofty perspective.

We have to rethink tax relief; rethink savings products, so that we can smooth risk across an entire life; revalue women’s work as increased longevity increases their caring work and their risks; and rethink the contributory state. Pensions would be a good place to start with all that.

5.10 pm

Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames: My Lords, I shall use my time to welcome the commitment to introduce legislation to protect freedom of speech and to reform the law of defamation. I was a member of the Joint Committee on the draft Defamation Bill under the excellent chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Mawhinney, who guided us and the many witnesses who gave evidence to us courteously and patiently but always incisively through some difficult areas.

Not only will the Bill implement the commitment in the coalition agreement mentioned by the Minister to revise our libel laws to protect freedom of speech, it will build on the firm cross-party consensus on the Joint Committee, which produced a unanimous report in favour of reform. The driver of reform is a general and justified view that the present operation of the law on defamation inhibits free speech.

There are a number of areas of particular concern. The first is that libel litigation—or, more insidiously, because it cannot be statistically measured, the threat of such litigation—can be and is frequently used to stifle discussion and legitimate criticism: the so-called chilling effect. The second is that the present threshold of seriousness for cases is far too low, which adds to the chilling effect, threatening scientific and academic debate in particular. The third is that the cost and complexity of defamation proceedings present insuperable obstacles to people of modest means who are therefore unprepared to risk or resist libel proceedings even when they are in the right. Fourthly, as my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford mentioned, recourse to the English courts, or the threat of such recourse, has encouraged potential claimants to bring or threaten proceedings in this country which are not in fact

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suitably at home in this jurisdiction. On the other side of the balance between free speech and reputation, there is concern that the same obstacles that inhibit freedom of speech are faced by individuals of modest means who are themselves defamed and have no chance of invoking the law to assist them to protect or recover their reputations.

The chilling effect is addressed in several of the provisions of the Bill published in the House of Commons last week. The raising of the threshold for bringing claims by the serious harm test; the honest opinion defence; the single publication rule; the privilege for peer-reviewed academic or scientific statements; and the new statutory defence of responsible publication in a matter of public interest will do much to reduce the chilling effect, helping to prevent frivolous or trivial claims being brought or threatened which inhibit free discussion.

I add one point here. It can be and has been argued, particularly in relation to the serious harm test and the responsible publication defence, that the common law was improving already and that the courts have been rejecting more trivial cases and have developed the Reynolds defence of responsible journalism. The argument continues that therefore codification in statute is unnecessary and—which is worse—that codification stifles the development of common law. However, that argument misses the essential point, which is that making the law accessible does not mean making it accessible to lawyers. Members of the public should be able to look at the law simply on the internet and get a clear idea of where the law stands from statute, not have to go to their lawyers to get a detailed analysis of the way the law is moving in the light of recent cases.

The cost and complexity of defamation proceedings needs to be addressed. The Joint Committee report went into some detail on this, and the Government’s response has been sympathetic. The restriction of jury trials to exceptional cases will go a long way towards making early resolution more achievable. The promise to introduce a more effective early resolution procedure involving the determination of meaning and the narrowing of the issues together with more effective case management, strengthening of the pre-action protocol and greater encouragement of mediation and other dispute resolution procedures should all help to reduce costs. However, one has to accept that going to law in defamation cases is never going to be inexpensive and that a great deal of work will be required to make the law more accessible in this area, over and above these statutory reforms.

One reform that I believe should be universally welcomed is the introduction of a general power in the court to order an unsuccessful defendant who loses defamation proceedings to publish a summary of the judgment against them. That answers the criticism that you cannot order a defendant to make an apology that is plainly forced and insincere, but recognises that the defamer who is successfully sued can and should be obliged to play some part in the vindication of the person who was defamed.

The Bill attempts to tackle internet defamation in a novel way. This is an area where legislation is very difficult. The Government have not accepted precisely the scheme suggested by the Joint Committee but I

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firmly believe that we are right not simply to admit defeat and say that it is all too difficult to strike a reasonable balance on the internet between permitting freedom of expression, on the one hand, and allowing those who are defamed an opportunity to have offensive and defamatory material taken down, on the other. The provisions for notices of complaint in the Bill and for website operators to have an opportunity to respond to them seem to be a sensible attempt to strike that balance. I look forward to debating those provisions, and others, in the Bill in due course.

5.17 pm

Baroness Morgan of Huyton: My Lords, I want to speak briefly about a couple of aspects of the gracious Speech. In relation to the first, I should declare an interest as chair of Ofsted. The Government’s intention to improve the rates of adoption will be widely welcomed. It is both common sense and humane to want to place as many children as possible in warm and stable families, so that they can grow up with security and love. The new proposals will build on the recent introduction of scorecards, reflecting a range of measures relating to the speed of placements.

We know that placing children with families before the age of two increases the chances of a successful outcome. In particular, changes in family law should really help to speed up the overall timeframe. Ofsted carried out a recent survey report, looking in detail at 90 cases. This strongly highlighted the delays that can take place in court proceedings. One case that was examined showed what can happen. In this case, a judge ordered an independent social work assessment of a grandmother who had already been assessed as an unsuitable long-term option by the local authority, with the support of the guardian. The independent social worker’s recommendation in favour of the grandmother was rejected by the court and the care order was eventually granted, after a further unsuccessful appeal. By this time, the child was over three years-old and the additional assessment had lengthened the process by more than 10 months.

Having emphasised the need for a speedier process, it is of course important to recognise the trauma of a failed adoption. The key outcome is the life-changing opportunity of a permanent family. Children do not need the perfect family, according to a list of prescribed requirements, but they need the right family. These are tricky issues but there are no excuses for not trying to improve the life chances of some of the most vulnerable children, and there are examples around the country of excellent practice. The differential performance around the country is indeed very marked. I know that Ofsted will be keen to play its part by focusing more in inspections on the importance of minimising delay, and that the wealth of experience and knowledge around this House will be immensely important in scrutinising the proposed legislation when it is published.

I also welcome the review of the provision of special educational needs, but the devil will be in the detail. In 2010, Ofsted produced an in-depth report, A Statement is not Enough, which showed that inspectors found that many pupils would not be identified as having special educational needs if schools focused on improving teaching and learning for all. The review also found

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that the current system is focusing too much on statements of need and checking that pupils are getting additional services, and too little on how much this support is actually helping children progress. The review recommended that schools should stop identifying pupils as having special educational needs when some of them simply need better teaching and pastoral support, and there should be more focus on evaluating the quality and effectiveness of services for children with special educational needs. The then Chief Inspector said:

“Although we saw some excellent support for children with special educational needs, and a huge investment of resources, overall there needs to be a shift in direction. With over one in five children of school age in England identified as having special educational needs, it is vitally important that both the way they are identified, and the support they receive, work in the best interest of the children involved. Higher expectations of all children, and better teaching and learning, would lead to fewer children being identified as having special educational needs.

For those children with complex and severe special educational needs, schools often need the help of health and social care services. All these services should be focused on the quality of what they are doing, and how well young people are doing as a result. At the moment too much effort is going into simply checking that extra services are being provided”.

This all stands true now. A proper overhaul of SEN identification and provision is clearly needed. Like others, I look forward to seeing the full proposals and discussing them further.

I wish I could be quite as positive about the Government’s intentions affecting those in the later stages of life. Like many others today, I am deeply disappointed by the Government running away from facing up to the challenges posed by the funding of social care. The establishment of the Dilnot commission was a brave and proper act by the coalition Government, but they are now failing to follow through on it. Yes, it will be tough and there will be some bad headlines, but we all know that fundamental change is needed. This weakness is particularly odd when the need for change is recognised by health providers, local authorities, charities and the public. Indeed, I think the public are ahead of us on this; they know that you cannot get something for nothing, but they want certainty and security. They want to be able to plan for old age and the support that they may need in future. They quite simply do not understand why the Government will not get a grip and lead from the top, forcing everyone around the table to get a cross-party solution. Yet, bizarrely, the coalition Government put a priority on Lords reform instead—a weird way indeed to expend political capital in challenging times.

Under an ancien regime I shared a room in No. 10 with my good friend, now the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, then PPS to Tony Blair. I was political secretary. Bruce used to put questions of policy through his “How will this go down in the Dog and Duck?” test; me through chatting in the playground. I doubt that Lords reform would crop up in either venue, but I think that social care would.

5.23 pm

Lord Jordan: My Lords, in the present circumstances, for a Government to be business-friendly is a necessary objective. However, such a goal is not just about

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regulatory simplification and limiting inspections. It must also be about ensuring that companies can get access to the right sort of help and advice that they need to survive and prosper.

I want to reflect for a moment on the help that small businesses need so that they can avoid costly accidents and losses due to work-related ill health. A start has been made with the registration of health and safety consultants but much more is needed, particularly in helping to co-ordinate the contributions of all the bodies, including the private and voluntary sectors, that can help firms to understand their risks and implement appropriate preventive measures. The Health and Safety Executive, which has had to cut back its telephone information line as part of its budget reduction, would be ideally placed to draw together safety groups, trade associations and unions into this kind of national safety effort.

The whole question of health and safety is vital. It is not a burden on business, as some Ministers are wont to regard it, but a vital protection for both people and businesses alike. Its importance links directly to other key themes in the Queen’s Speech: support for hard-working families and bearing down on crime. We owe a duty to support all members of the workforce to ensure that they return home to their families safe and sound at the end of each working day. We must also bear down on the relatively few unscrupulous employers whose failure to obey the law that protects their employees’ lives and limbs is indeed a crime.

We welcome the reassurances from the DWP Minister, Chris Grayling, that nothing will be done to reduce protection for workers in risky industries, but he undermined that commitment by continuing to suggest that health and safety laws and regulations have been interfering with investment and jobs. This is contradicted by Professor Ragnar Lofstedt, who in his very competent review of health and safety law for the Government said clearly that there is no evidence of that. He said that the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act and its subsidiary regulations, whose requirements are qualified by reasonable practicability, were broadly fit for purpose. In the end, he managed to identify only fourteen outdated or redundant pieces of health and safety law that could be got rid of, mainly because the matters they covered were dealt with by existing statutes. It is therefore quite misleading to suggest, as the Minister did recently at a business forum, that by getting rid of such gems as the Celluloid and Cinematograph Film Act 1922, the Gasholders (Record of Examinations) Order 1938 or the Gasholders and Steam Boilers (Metrication) Regulations 1981 the Government are somehow relieving industry of a colossal amount of red tape. In all these cases, because of Section 1(2) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act, the same, if not more stringent, requirements remain in place.

Indeed, what evidence is there that any of the measures being repealed ever interfered with investment and job creation? There is none at all. Of course we must speak out against those petty bureaucrats who overinterpret every requirement, but it is time to stop demonising all health and safety. Good health and safety is very good for business. Yes, we must continue

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to improve our statutes, but it is quite wrong to suggest that complying with the present legislation is damaging employers’ profits.

If we want to talk about the real cost of health and safety to business, let us talk about the cost to business and the nation of not having it. In 2010-11, in addition to fatalities due to work-related accidents, of which there were 171 in Britain, and not including an estimated 600 deaths due to work-related road accidents, many thousands of people died before their time due to past exposure to hazardous agents such as asbestos and other cancer-causing substances. Twenty-two million days were lost due to work-related ill health and 4.5 million days were lost because of workplace injury. The annual cost to society of workplace injuries and ill health, excluding cancer, was estimated by the Health and Safety Executive at £14 billion in 2009-10. The cost of workplace accidents is enormous, with each fatal accident costing our society about £1.5 million and each reportable injury costing £17,400. Over the years, many thousands of individuals and their families have had their lives shattered by workplace accidents and ill health. That is why the case for maintaining sensible measures to control risks to health and safety is so important, and why quite frankly it belittles Ministers who stoop to talk of health and safety having gone mad.