8.41 pm

Lord Collins of Highbury: My Lords, this year marks the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty's reign. Over these 60 years, we have witnessed incredible progress in science, medicine, technology, working conditions, healthcare, education and equal opportunities. However, it is a sad reflection on our society that progress on living longer becomes something to fear. My noble friend Lord Warner was absolutely right when he wrote in yesterday's Times:

“Living longer should be a matter for celebration, not concern. We are a civilised society with enough wealth and assets collectively to fund a decent social care system. Let’s get on with it”.

The coalition agreement committed the Government to an independent commission on social care to report by July 2011, enabling legislation in this new parliamentary Session. Dilnot delivered but the coalition has not. We have a commitment to publish draft legislation on reform of social care law, with no commitment to introduce a Bill on reform of care funding in this Session. As we have heard today, our care system has reached breaking point, yet we appear to be even further away from addressing the fair and sustainable solutions offered by Dilnot. This will cause terrible hardship and distress for older and disabled people.

It will also affect the economy. More than £1 billion has been cut from local council budgets for older people’s social care since the Government came to power and the system has now reached breaking point. At a time when government Ministers are asking people to go out and grow the economy, 1 million unpaid carers have had to give up work, or reduce their hours, because the support that they need to look after family members is not available or is too expensive. That is what Governments can deal with to produce growth. The cost to the economy of carers being forced to give up work or reduce their hours is £1.3 billion every year through lost tax and pension contributions, and the increased costs of unemployment, income or care-related benefits. There is nothing to stop the Government, if they are serious about social care reform, committing to legislation in this Session that will include funding reform as well as wider policy and legal reform.

Another area where we have witnessed incredible progress over the past 60 years is in the field of equal opportunities. I was therefore disappointed that the modest proposal for equality in marriage between straight and gay couples was not included in the gracious Speech. As I said before in the House, I am proud that across all political parties there is a consensus that respects the right of lesbian and gay people to celebrate their relationships. It reflects an understanding of the inherent worth of a loving relationship between two people of the same sex.

My husband and I have taken every opportunity given to us to celebrate our 16-year relationship on an equal footing in our civic society. The first came

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in 2004, with a civil partnership ceremony conducted under the auspices of the GLA when Ken Livingstone was mayor. We had to do that because, unfortunately, this House had delayed civil partnership legislation. On 21 December 2005, the first day possible, we legally tied the knot in Islington Town Hall—and I will say, for the benefit of some noble Lords, that council staff not only understood their statutory duty to carry out the law of the land but made our day really special.

Rafael and I therefore welcomed the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to equality in marriage—but he must not backtrack now. The attempt by some Conservatives to blame the equal right to marry for their election results is wrong, and for the Prime Minister to give in to them would be a betrayal of all those who oppose discrimination.

The Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Phillip Hammond, said at the weekend:

“But I think the government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to the people in this country—not just the short-term things but the long-term things as well”.

Well, Mr Hammond, my marriage is not a short-term thing. My commitment to my partner is not a short-term thing. Legislation on equal marriage does not prevent the Government prioritising jobs, growth or family finances. It is the coalition’s economic policy that is preventing that.

8.48 pm

Baroness Barker: My Lords, this is the 13th Queen’s Speech that I have been present for in your Lordships’ House. In the first Queen’s Speech debate that I took part in, the key issues that were exercising the House were the royal commission on the funding of long-term care, and reform of this House. It is always difficult to find a theme in such a disparate debate, but I have detected a similarity between Lords reform and social care. Both problems have been analysed for decades, and whenever a Government put forward a proposal for reform, there is an instant queue of people seeking to pick holes in and criticise the proposals—and the people in the queue are the ones who support the reforms.

The proposals on social care in the gracious Speech are an important step forward for families as they work out how best to support their older relatives. I point out to noble Lords that increasing numbers of older people in our society will have dementia. They are also a test for Parliament as a whole. Reform of social care is an issue that previous Governments did not resolve in times when there was far less pressure on public finances.

In the debate on 24 November last year, there was a great degree of consensus in this House, reflecting the consensus among the relevant charities, that the Dilnot report and the Law Commission provided the way forward to reforming social care. However, we should pause for thought. I read in Community Care on 11 May an article by Mithran Samuel. He said:

“Public understanding of the social care funding system remains problematically low with the effect that too many people believe services are free when they are anything but”.

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Mr Samuel went on to say:

“I’ve spotted a couple of pieces in the national press recently that have inaccurately described the system of means-testing care in England … Both pieces claimed that people with assets of £23,250 or less do not have to pay for care at all, and that the Dilnot commission report last year proposed increasing this threshold for, in effect, free care to £100,000. However, this is wrong—£23,250 is the threshold above which people must pay the full cost of their residential care; it doesn’t apply to community-based services, and the threshold below which people do not pay for their care is £14,250”.

Andrew Dilnot’s proposal was to extend the system of charging up to £100,000. So a great deal of work needs to be done to convey the complexity of the system as it is now, and there is a far greater need to expand understanding of exactly what the Dilnot proposals are among the media, never mind the general public. I hope that parliamentarians from all parties and none, and voluntary organisations, will take the opportunity which the draft legislation gives us to increase their understanding over the next year as we focus on these issues.

Last Session, we went through the Health and Social Care Act. In January this year, the King’s Fund, closely followed by the NHS Future Forum, published reports on integration of health and social care. Both called for developing integrated care to have the same priority over the next decade as reducing waiting times did for the previous Government and they urged that government policy should set a defined date for delivering integration. I agree with that. In their response to our debate, will the Government say what progress has been achieved? The issue of continuing health care and NHS criteria is important to people who are knowledgeable about social care and it is a critical point at which health and social care systems come to bear on the lives of individuals. I hope the Government will take the opportunity of the draft legislation to address that point.

A number of key issues are identified by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, in a report in March 2012, called Crossing the Threshold. It points up the issues which need to be decided before the Dilnot proposals—or anything like them—can be implemented. These are issues such as clarity and consistency on assessment of care needs, and eligibility, in particular how publicly-funded social care can be better integrated with universal services. A key question which has to be answered is how needs would be assessed fairly alongside the operation of a practical cap. I put those forward as somebody who knows about social care, not in an effort to delay the implementation of what I think are two very important reports. I put them forward as issues which this House has to discuss and agree over the course of the next year if we are to get to the settlement which we all wish to see.

I welcome in particular the Law Commission’s proposals on safeguarding vulnerable adults. For too long, older people have been vulnerable to abuse and local authorities have been powerless to intervene on their behalf. In particular, I welcome the removal of the existing power under Section 47 of the National Assistance Act to remove a person from their home. It is a power which has long been in existence and contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

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It was described by one of my colleagues in Age Concern as the power of a local authority to remove a vulnerable person from insanitary conditions which might harm them to sanitary conditions which would almost certainly kill them.

The proposed draft Bill will, I hope, be subject to scrutiny by both Houses. There is considerable experience both here and in another place which is relevant to that. My colleague Paul Burstow in another place has worked hard to bring us closer than we have ever been before to settling what for decades has seemed to be an intractable issue. Families need certainty about what the costs of social care will be and they also need to be certain that they will have access to high quality and suitable services. We on these Benches support the proposals which have been put forward. We do not wish to wait longer than is necessary to see the implementation of the Dilnot report. That is why we will wholeheartedly support this. For myself, I do not want, in another 13 years’ time, to be considering yet more reports saying that social care is not working and that there is a need to reform this House. The issues are before us. We should take them forward and make sure that the proposals are implemented with due care and in detail.

8.55 pm

Baroness Lister of Burtersett: My Lords, I welcome the statement in the gracious Speech that the,

“Government will strive to improve the lives of children and families”.

To this end, like my noble friend Lady Massey of Darwen, I look forward to the strengthening of the powers of the Children’s Commissioner so as to,

“champion children’s rights and hold government to account for legislation and policy”,

to quote the Department for Education. I hope that this means that in the future, when the commissioner publishes a critical report drawing attention to the way in which a Bill such as the Welfare Reform Bill undermines children’s rights, the Government might pay more attention.

Also welcome is the promise of measures to,

“make parental leave more flexible so both parents may share parenting responsibilities and balance work and family commitments”.

Things have gone quiet on exactly what these measures will be since they were first proposed a year ago in the Consultation on Modern Workplaces, so perhaps the Minister could, when he winds up, tell the House when firm proposals will be published. What was most encouraging to me about this document was its acceptance of the case for a period of parental leave reserved for fathers on a “use it or lose it” basis, which the Nordic experience shows can increase fathers’ involvement in the care of their children. I hope that rumours that this proposal could be dropped are unfounded.

International experience has also shown that, unless the payment provides adequate wage replacement, it is unlikely to be economically viable for most fathers to take leave. At present, under a quarter of fathers in the UK take up their paternity leave entitlement. Moreover, if the commitment to shared parenting is to extend to low-income families, there needs to be a rethink on universal credit, which promotes the opposite

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by increasing the disincentive for second earners to work, along with a rethink on financial support for childcare, a point made by my noble friend Lady Hughes of Stretford.

However helpful the measures set out in the gracious Speech might be, there is no acknowledgment that the best way in which government can improve the lives of children and families generally is by ensuring adequate financial support, especially in the face of growing evidence of hardship. For instance, there has been a huge rise in the numbers turning to food banks. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has projected a big increase in child poverty, which will only partially be offset by the impact of the introduction of universal credit, and there is evidence that it is families with children, especially lone-parent families, who are the biggest losers from the cuts announced so far.

If the Government genuinely want to improve the lives of children and families, perhaps I may suggest that they should reverse the three-year freeze on child benefit. Inflation-proofing child benefit would do more to help the lowest-income working families than the proposed increase in tax allowances. The money goes direct to the person caring for the child and therefore is more likely to be spent on the child. Also, the Government should drop the widely criticised plan for means-testing child benefit, described only today by the Institute of Chartered Accountants as “seriously flawed”.

I suggest that the Government reverse the change in working tax credit rules that has meant a significant loss for over 200,000 of the “strivers” and “hard-working people” whom the Prime Minister prayed in aid six times in his speech in the debate on the Address, and for whom the advice to seek additional hours is a cruel joke in the current labour market. I also suggest that the Government call a halt to further cuts in social security, signalled in the Budget, which even the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions is now resisting, as did a number of his predecessors in the 1980s, some of whom now sit in your Lordships’ House. I hope that they might add their voices to those arguing against further cuts in social security, which will make life that much harder for families and children.

On a slightly different tack, and echoing my noble friend Lord Collins of Highbury, I hope that the silence on equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians does not mean that this has been filed away as too controversial. This is a matter of justice—a value highlighted in the gracious Speech—and it was to the Government’s credit that they appeared to be willing to build on the progress made by the previous Government in this area. Perhaps the Minister can tell your Lordships’ House what is going to happen when the consultation on this has ended. I hope that he can provide reassurance that this is not being filed away as too controversial and difficult.

In an earlier debate on the Address, the noble Lord, Lord Laming, reminded your Lordships’ House that the recent Hansard Society audit of political engagement drew attention to a public increasingly disengaged from and disenchanted with formal politics and government, and in the recent elections people were saying that politics has no connection with their lives.

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It is difficult to see what there is in this Queen’s Speech to reconnect them to the political process, which surely we must all regret.

9.01 pm

The Earl of Clancarty: My Lords, I want to talk about the arts and the cultural sector, but to get to that point I feel that I have to talk about something else first, something that is in the way and which I have to get past: the economic policy of this Government, which in the last two years has cast a shadow over almost every topic that gets debated in Parliament.

Like a growing number of people, I do not believe in the austerity measures. Why do I say this? I am not an economist. I studied economics for one year at undergraduate level and I probably learnt three things: first, that there are many different economic policies; secondly, that there is much argument about which policies actually succeed—if any; and, thirdly and most importantly, that no economic policy can be separated from political intent. Austerity is no exception. It is not a politically neutral measure, although this Government have done a pretty good job so far of convincing the public that austerity is the only way and has nothing to do with ideology.

I do not agree with the political intent behind austerity measures. Many economists also do not believe that austerity works, and indeed see this measure as perverse, eccentric and historically discredited. The views of these economists, including Nobel prize winners such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, have not until now been championed enough—although I think that the tide is turning—because the parties in power in Europe have not been sympathetic; nor have they yet been championed enough by the Opposition in our Parliament, who have yet to state that they would reverse the cuts.

The arts, the cultural sector and the creative industries are precisely the areas in which this country should be investing for growth, and we should be reversing the cuts to do so—cuts, I should say, to an investment that has always been small by Treasury standards. To their credit, the previous Administration appreciated that such investment effects cultural growth, social regeneration, improvement of the environment and economic growth, and gave the arts a prominent place in their 2010 manifesto.

The Arts Council has this month released a guidance document for arts organisations to carry out their own economic impact assessments, which, through the case studies featured, prove the point of such organisations’ worth—yet again. I do not believe that organisations should be doing this, as too many are struggling enough with their finances anyway. But the two-year-old case studies of Anvil Arts in Basingstoke and of the AV Festival in the north-east gave results that stunned even local people. For example, in 2010 it was assessed that Anvil Arts contributed £6.2 million per year to Basingstoke’s economy, more than a fivefold return on the borough council’s investment.

The arts community has always known of the strong multiplier effect of the cultural sector, which politicians with any nous would pick up on. Yet, strangely for a Government who profess a desire for economic recovery,

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the arts have suffered an enormous demotion politically in the past two years. As the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, pointed out, there is no mention of the arts or the creative industries—or innovation for that matter—in the Queen’s Speech. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, that there is no sense of strategy for the arts and culture. It is almost as though, in the past two years, the arts have become invisible as far as the Government are concerned. The cultural sector almost failed to appear in the national planning policy framework. Only a strong campaign prevented that. It was for the sector a big fall from grace from being, under the previous Administration, one of the four pillars of sustainable development.

Worst of all, one only needs to go on to the Lost Arts website to see the roll call of those arts organisations that have been drastically cut, are on the brink of folding or have now gone under, all as a result of cuts to state funding. Those organisations include Durham City Arts, now closed; the Theatre Writing Partnership, based in Nottingham and formed more than 10 years ago, which will close next month; Croydon’s Warehouse Theatre, which may well close; and Museums Sheffield, which has had to make a scandalously large number of redundancies—45 altogether. The list goes on and on.

This is a Government who neither properly appreciate the significance of long-term support for the arts nor understand the state’s crucial role at the grass-roots level or the preservation of our cultural history. If this Government were taking a long-term view, they would not have introduced the levy of VAT on approved alterations to listed buildings, nor would they have effectively capped charitable giving, which will have a hugely detrimental effect on the larger, more established organisations. I hope that both these measures will be reversed and that the Minister will respond on them.

The Government have, quite correctly, launched a very smart advertising campaign abroad leading up to the Olympics and Paralympics—the GREAT campaign —but it is an irony that, at the same time, they have so drastically reduced funding to the culture that the campaign is promoting.

This is a Government who react most when the short-term commercial possibilities of the creative industries are right in front of their nose. Tax breaks to investors in the form of the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme are clearly welcome, although Steve Karmeinsky of City Meets Tech points out that there need to be tax breaks also for the start-up companies in which investors have an interest.

Robert Redford was quite right to slap David Cameron down for calling for the funding only of “commercial” cinema. Sundance, which, as we know, has been launched as a festival in the UK, was set up on the opposite premise: from the point of view of the film-makers. To make a general point, artists do the work that they do and then an attempt should be made to find audiences. This is a necessary risk at the level of the individual artist and the individual company. Yet paradoxically perhaps, at the larger scale—to take the sector as a whole—it is, as I have described, no risk at all to invest; it is absolutely the opposite. If we continue to cut the grass roots, to threaten arts education and

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to continue with local authority cuts to the arts, music and libraries, the mainstream also will be become fundamentally damaged—the commercial cinema and the commercial theatre, which are fed by the grass roots. This Government should give long-term support to the arts and cultural sector to promote cultural growth and help to kick-start this country’s economy. That is a plan for growth.

9.09 pm

Baroness Berridge: My Lords, I wish to speak briefly this evening about relationships, but, no, I am not about to delve into the excellent proposals to speed up adoption or improve contact with absent parents. I want to talk about public confidence in two essential institutional relationships, between the security services and Parliament and between Parliament and the judiciary.

The justice and security Bill aims to improve parliamentary oversight of the security services. I think it has found its time. There is concern and confusion about the accountability of the security services in our democratic society. I was intrigued to read the following comments only last weekend:

“By their very nature the world’s top intelligence agencies are a law unto themselves”.

MI6 is among those named.

“Yet it would be wrong to assume that within the intelligence world there are no laws”.

I was relieved to read that.

“It is governed by its own strict set of rules”.

This view of the security services having only their own internal regulation is not from the blogosphere or Twitter but Richard Beeston, foreign correspondent of the Times. The position was correctly outlined in the Reith lectures by the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, who said that,

“ultimately the Service is answerable to the law and the courts”,

and that it was the security services who pushed the Government for their existence to be put on a statutory basis.

Also recently, in response to questions from journalists concerning the basis for the police investigation into MI6, the commissioner felt that he needed to respond, “It is the law”. I find the need to re-assert this basic fact quite troubling. Her Majesty’s Government are clearly alert to the reputational issue, as it forms part of the argument underpinning the proposals in the justice and security Green Paper that secret courts are needed, where one party to the proceedings is excluded for part of the time. The argument is that without secret courts the Government cannot defend claims such as those from people who alleged that the British Government were involved in their rendition to Guantanamo Bay as the Government cannot produce such evidence in open court.

It is important to remember that the reputational issue arises in a context of declining trust in our institutions generally and matters which cannot be blamed on court process. I am referring of course to the tragic case of MI6 employee Gareth Williams—so utterly terrible for his family. It was also concerning for the public to hear of MI6’s failure to hand over evidence to the police investigation and to report his

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absence from work for over a week. It is a necessary part of oversight for the public to know such issues and I hope that the inquest into this death, as well as the recommendation from the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, have lead Her Majesty’s Government to drop the proposal for inquests to be held partly in secret. Most of all, I hope that the discussion of oversight of the security services will be a platform for informed debate and awareness of the accountability of our security services.

Secondly, the Leveson inquiry is dealing with the issue of how you fit the power of the modern media into a traditional separation of powers model. What are the appropriate boundaries between media and politicians? A not wholly dissimilar issue concerning the relationship of the judiciary and the legislature arose when the Joint Committee on Human Rights considered the Green Paper. I am extremely privileged to serve on that Joint Committee. Our 24th report outlines the response to the justice and security Green Paper, and page 16 says that the Green Paper,

“redefines the meaning of a ‘court’ for certain purposes, and in our view it would be beneficial to parliamentary scrutiny of such a measure if it could be informed by judicial views on a matter which goes to the very nature of the judicial function”.

Although this might sound rather novel, it is not completely without transferable precedent. The judiciary as a group responded to the Green Paper on legal aid. Also, as I was looking at previous humble Addresses to see if there was any kind of standard to be adopted—there is not—I found the speech from the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, outlining what happened before proposed changes to custody periods for life sentences were introduced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003:

“Before the law was introduced, and under the guidance of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Falconer, a meeting was held at the Middle Temple, where nearly all those who were playing a leading role were present to discuss the proposals”.—[Official Report, 27/5/10; col. 147.]

In that case, the Lord Chancellor knew the judiciary’s view but I do not know whether the meeting was in private or whether there was an appropriate channel for the legislature as a whole to know these views.

The present Lord Chancellor gave evidence to the Joint Committee that he has spoken to the Lord Chief Justice and two High Court judges, thereby performing the role of conduit of some judicial views to the Government. What about Parliament? I agree with my noble friend about the utter integrity of our judiciary. As the Green Paper’s proposals are for a change in the courts, not so much a change in the law, I felt that without representative views from the judiciary, I lacked a piece of the jigsaw properly to perform the role of parliamentary scrutiny.

Finally, like my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford, I found some of the words in the Ministry of Justice’s outline for the Queen’s Speech on this Bill interesting: allowing courts to consider all material relating to the case, even when national security prevents that information being made public. How can you as a claimant put all your material before the court if you are not a part of the proceedings? To be a little technical, how can you bring your rebuttal evidence if you have not heard the evidence you are to challenge?

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I fear that a more accurate statement is: allowing courts to consider all one party’s material relating to the case. It is worrying that the one party to which I refer will normally be the Government. There is a healthy tension and balance between a defence and security service perspective and the legal and civil liberties perspective. The issues in the Green Paper involve human rights, national security requirements and common law principles of what is and, importantly, what is not a fair trial.

That is a difficult balance with no perfect solution, but the issues are immensely important. In the months ahead, I look forward to seeing your Lordships’ House at its very best as guardian of the constitution and the civil liberties of our citizens.

9.16 pm

Lord Winston: My Lords, the right honourable Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, the other day made a very important point when he argued about the disparity between children going to private schools and those going to state schools and the difference in our society afterwards. I have a solution which the Government might be interested in listening to. It does not need legislation, but it would be important to consider something of the kind.

Over the past 12 years, the Science and Technology Select Committee has held two inquiries into science in schools. I had the privilege of chairing one 12 years ago. Throughout our inquiry, we found very clearly that the things that really inspire children into science are, first, inspirational teaching and, secondly, good practical work. As it happens, over many years, the level of laboratory experience in schools has got poorer and poorer. That is not due to any particular Government; it has happened because of a lack of funding. At present, more than 30% of state schools have laboratories which are inadequate for the purpose.

We have immense possibility in British universities, where there are extensive plant, experts and laboratories to be used. Two or so years ago, we set up at Imperial College in London a reach-out laboratory to which schools from underprivileged parts of London could come in daily to get practical experience. The place is not run by academics but by a schoolmaster whom we employ. All five sciences will be available to children who come in: mathematics, engineering, chemistry, physics and, of course, biology. During term time, underprivileged schools come in; during the holiday time, the gifted and talented children come in. Currently, the occupancy is between 80% and 85%.

We are doing that as a research experiment. I have two PhD students considering the outcomes. We are measuring four different aspects of what is happening. First, we are looking at the children who come in over a long period—the next 10 years—to see what happens to them, not just what exam results they get but what their aspirations are. Secondly, we are anxious to follow the teachers to see whether their experience in our laboratory changes the way that they teach, and the opportunity that they have to go back to university to be, if you like, researchers in residence once again. That seems powerful. Thirdly, we are looking at what

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works best: what messages work best, how you follow that up with electronic learning, and so on. Everything in the laboratory can be recorded and televised.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, we are measuring the impact on the undergraduate and postgraduate students who come in during this exercise and act as role models for these children. So far, although we do not have solid metrics, the indications are really overwhelming. The wealth of enthusiasm that these children show in wanting to come back on leaving the laboratory is outstanding. Teachers seem to be changing how they teach in schools and, as a Russell group university, more and more of our undergraduates want to consider teaching rather than going into the City. We are even starting to initiate a four-year course in physics which, for its last year, will be a teacher training course in physics from Imperial College, in conjunction with another university.

This kind of initiative cannot work unless it is funded but it is not so difficult to fund. With a bit of charitable money, widening participation money and a lower payment from schools than it would cost them to do practical work in their own laboratories, we can fund this activity. We are now branching out to attract the private sector to do work in satellite laboratories around London, in private schools, and more and more we are getting interest from industry. Rolls-Royce has been particularly helpful. Just recently, the BG Group, a massive group with interests in energy, has agreed to fund primary schoolchildren in this laboratory. We are currently going from about six years old up to 18, and we are extremely encouraged not only by the support from the university but by the immense support from schools. The difficulty is actually to get enough schools going in because we are so crowded most of the time.

As I say, this cannot work unless it is rolled out properly but we are already starting to go into partnership with Southampton University. Cambridge is showing an interest and we are doing one on astronomy with Bradford, down the line. We have an indication that Bristol will be interested; King’s College is helping us with the evaluation; Sheffield Hallam University is involved as well. As we increase our impact, more and more universities want to adopt many of the methods that we are undertaking.

I must tell your Lordships that it is really the most wonderful experience. If you think about it, it is blindingly obvious. Most of all, it prevents that major gap between school and university so that universities stop becoming a place to which you cannot aspire. It changes the nature of how children think about universities. That is also really important in career guidance because we can help there, too, with our specialist teachers who obviously help our major schoolmaster. We have specialist teachers in each subject: if it is robotics, we have a robotics expert and if it is biology, I might be dissecting a rat, for example. We can get all these children to have hands-on experience. I finish by telling your Lordships a remarkable thing that a child aged seven said to me the other month, having travelled an hour and a half from Redbridge to South Kensington. As he left the lab at 4.30 in the afternoon—still not wanting to go—he said, “You know, I have learnt more today than I have in my whole life”.

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9.23 pm

Lord Clement-Jones:My Lords, I am tempted today to talk about a wide range of policy areas arising: particularly, given my interest in autism, the forthcoming special educational needs, children and family Bill, which is so welcome and was heralded in the Queen’s Speech and in the update given today; or indeed the media and Lord Leveson’s inquiry; or the question of tax relief for charitable donations, on which I agree so strongly with my noble friend Lord Grade and the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh.

However, we are in an exceptional year for heritage with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, for sport with the London Olympics and for culture with the London 2012 festival. Last week, I visited the Olympic park. All around it there are signs of new investment such as Westfield Stratford City shopping centre and Inter IKEA’s investment at Sugar House Lane. After the Olympics, we can expect Lend Lease and London & Continental’s international quarter, Qatari Diar’s East Village and many other exciting projects stimulated by the superb new transport links and the initial Olympic park investment benefiting a huge number of residents of east London. This will have been a huge achievement for all those involved.

That area of London of course forms part of the wider “Tech City” and focuses on the creative industries, digital technology and the cultural industries. It has attracted both large and small business and may well be living up to its description as Europe’s Silicon Valley. I particularly welcome the announcement of a new tax credit for animation, video games and TV drama in the recent Budget.

There are, however, certain misconceptions in considering the future of our creative industries that need to be addressed. First, there is the belief that copyright in this country is inhibiting innovation and that reform will somehow deliver a massive increase in our creative industries’ output, a view held by Professor Hargreaves and, it seems, the IPO. By contrast, the approach of Richard Hooper in laying the ground for the new proposed digital copyright exchange, by engaging with creators and the creative industries, seems to have been wholly constructive. In particular, his early thoughts about improving the licensing of copyright in establishing the ownership of rights and in some cases improving the availability of repertoire have been welcomed by all concerned. However, the Government should think very carefully before attempting to implement the bulk of the other Hargreaves recommendations, such as those on orphan works and extended collective licensing, without addressing issues surrounding moral rights of attribution and the embedding of metadata.

Beyond that, consumers need to have good access to digital creative content, but the Government seem to have changed their mind about a fair share-out of the under-1 gigahertz spectrum under the long delayed 4G auction. They also seem to be ignoring issues relating to interference with digital TV signals. With regard to fibre, we in the Communications Select Committee are discovering that serious thought needs to be given to how to ensure access to trunk networks and dark fibre for small local operators.

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We have a massively delayed Green Paper that is due to set out the framework for a new communications Bill. With the advent of internet-enabled television and YouView, policy decisions need to be made as a matter of urgency. The key question is what regulation of internet video material streamed through television is appropriate to protect young people from harmful content as we watch a mixture of linear and on-demand viewing from many sources.

It is clear that, as a co-regulator, ATVOD has learnt from its first years of operation and is anticipating the future regulation of broadcast internet material that may be necessary. Ed Richards, the CEO of Ofcom, flagged this up as a major issue in his speech at the Oxford Media Conference earlier this year. Even though we may have different regulators for different media, we still need a new set of common principles that will apply to the regulation of internet, broadcast and theatrically exhibited material. This is exactly the kind of framework that a new communications Bill needs to address.

Then there is the implementation of the Digital Economy Act. Of course I welcomed the outcomes of the Newzbin2 and Pirate Bay cases but, now that the Act has been judged to be valid under European law, why can we expect implementation of the initial obligations code under the Act in only 2014? In addition, as PhonepayPlus, the regulator, says, there will be a growing convergence in payment mechanisms over the next decade for digital content, and we need to make sure that the regulatory framework is right and the consumer is protected.

A major concern of many in the creative industries and cultural area has been the lack of assertion of our phenomenal talent and skills in that sector abroad. I welcome the activities carried out by UKTI and in particular the appointment of the new intellectual property attachés in China, India and Brazil. Like the noble Earl, Lord Clancarty, I welcome the great campaign promoting the UK abroad in the creative area, but normally the British Council exists on a shoestring.

The House was very supportive of my Live Music Bill earlier this year and it passed into law in the previous Session. It is not often that, as happened on 20 January, a Bill emerges unscathed from the Commons when 63 other Private Members’ Bills failed. It will make a significant difference to our young musicians, in particular, and I look forward to the revised guidance that is due and to the Act coming into effect in October.

9.30 pm

Lord Truscott: My Lords, the National Health Service in its current form is unsustainable, unsatisfactory and urgently in need of reform. We are paying more for our health services, yet becoming unhealthier as a nation. Britain’s political parties are aware of the health challenges, but none is prepared to tackle the NHS’s long-term lack of sustainability head-on for fear of being crucified by the electorate, yet the result of this failure of political nerve will inevitably lead either to further cuts, rationing and declining public health under Conservative Governments or to effective bankruptcy under the Opposition.

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The challenges are well known. Britain is among the worst in Europe for heart disease, and Glasgow is the heart attack capital of the world. As many as a quarter of a million Britons will die from alcohol abuse over the next two decades, while smoking causes over 100,000 deaths annually. Meanwhile, the UK has the highest levels of obesity in Europe, with one in four British adults being labelled obese. The cost to the NHS of obesity-related illnesses is expected to increase to £2 billion by 2030. By 2035, spending on diabetes, the majority of which is wholly avoidable and linked to diet, will cost the NHS £16.8 billion. Add to that an ageing population, with both sexes living to an average age of 87 by 2030, and this country is facing a health crisis of monumental proportions. The current younger generation will be the first generation in modern history to live shorter lives than their parents, although they will have the burden of paying for them, if they are lucky enough to have a job.

The NHS employs more than 1.7 million people, just under half of them clinically qualified. The NHS is the biggest employer in Europe. In fact, only the Chinese People’s Liberation Army and Indian Railways employ more people. The NHS already costs the general taxpayer over £106 billion a year, and that bill may triple by 2025. As much as I like and respect my current NHS GP, Dr Victoria Muir, our National Health Service is not delivering for the British people and the existing model, paid for from general taxation, is unsustainable.

There needs to be a fat tax levied on the purveyors of cheap, so-called fast foods, which are costing the rest of us so dear. It will not be penalising the poor; by saving their lives, we will be doing them a favour. In an ideal world, people would voluntarily change their lifestyles, but we all know simple invocation does not work. We need compulsory healthy cooking lessons in schools and the imposition of a minimum 50p per unit on alcohol, as recently proposed in Scotland. While avoiding the pitfalls of US Medicare and of Americanising our health services, we should move to a comprehensive social insurance system of health funding, retaining the principle of universal care at the point of need, but where people are also encouraged to take responsibility for their own lifestyle choices. The present health system guarantees that, however feckless the individual, the general taxpayer will pick up the tab.

Our current health service is an unfair lottery, where patients get not what they need, but what the NHS tells them it can afford, and where preventive care is either poor or non-existent because it is not seen as a budgetary priority. The best drugs available should be prescribed, rather than those deemed affordable by the NHS. This can be achieved by adopting a continental-style health insurance scheme, which would not only improve the quality of choice and care but empower patients, rather than commissioning GPs, to choose where and when they are treated, and by whom.

9.34 pm

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, I will focus my brief remarks on those elements of the Government’s programme that relate to higher education.

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What is most striking is that there is so much missing. Last year’s

Students at the Heart of the System

White Paper promised us a higher education Bill in this Session. That has not materialised, although the Government have said that we may see a draft Bill in the new year.

My first anxiety centres on funding. In the 2010 spending review, the average cut in departmental expenditure was 11.7%. BIS did considerably worse than the average, suffering a 29% cut. In 2012-13, that translated into an 18% cut in recurrent funding to HEIs. For most institutions, this will be more than offset by the increase in income from tuition fees, but this year’s Budget made it clear that there are further cuts to come. Departmental budgets will be cut by an average of 3.8% a year between 2015 and 2017. Therefore, it seems inevitable that the cuts will need to be bigger than they were last time. However, the political climate is much more difficult now. Those cuts that might be regarded as having been more straightforward have already been made. The question for universities is whether BIS will again face a larger-than-average cut and, if so, how that will translate into university finances.

The proportion of university funds that comes from the state will fall to around 40% following the shift to higher fees this September. Nevertheless, universities are still highly dependent on public funding for research, as well as for supporting high-cost subjects and activities such as widening participation. If university budgets were to be targeted for hasher cuts in the next spending round, what else could be cut? The research budget and the all-important science ring-fence that protects it could start to look vulnerable. Universities can make an excellent case that cutting back on research that drives innovation and inward investment in the UK is economically suicidal. Universities are essential to the Government’s core purpose of—in the words of the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in opening this debate—“sustainable recovery”. Therefore, I look to the Minister’s reply for reassurance on the Government’s commitment to research funding.

My second anxiety is about the impact of student numbers in the private sector. This matters because at the moment a growing number of private higher education providers have access to public funds via student loans but remain largely unregulated. These private providers will not be subject to the £9,000 fee cap, financial scrutiny by the Higher Education Funding Council or, for example, oversight by the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. From September, students at such institutions will be able to access loans of up to £6,000 if their course is one of those that has been designated—to use the jargon—for student support. I have no objection to this. However, I note that because of the delayed introduction of the higher education Bill, the Government will not be able to control the student numbers on such courses.

Those numbers are, at present, relatively small; there were around 6,000 full-time students in 2009. However, applications are growing rapidly, partly because of constraints on student numbers in the publicly funded part of the sector. We do not know a great deal about enrolment in private providers because they do

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not provide data to HESA, but it is known that the Government spent around £33 million on loans to students in these institutions in 2010-11. With the maximum loan to students at these institutions almost doubling to £6,000 in September, we know that expenditure will increase to somewhere in the region of £100 million without factoring in any significant expansion.

I fear that, in the absence of the higher education Bill, there will be no means of either controlling costs or protecting student interests. For that reason alone, the Government should act swiftly, either to impose a moratorium on the designation of courses for student support or to enable those measures that are necessary to bring private providers into line with other institutions. In his reply, will the Minister tell me how the Government propose to control expenditure on loans to students at private institutions, given that they cannot control numbers?

Finally, I should briefly like to mention the communications Bill, which we are told to expect in draft next year. This Bill would, among other things, implement the recommendations of the Hargreaves review and introduce new copyright exceptions for research activity, such as text and data mining. That is important because our copyright regime currently prevents academics from making use of technology to search and compare published research. Many of our competitors in other countries do not face the same restrictions, which places the UK at a distinct disadvantage. Freeing researchers to use the potential of this technology will, I believe, deliver real benefits to UK research. Hargreaves’s proposals were entirely sensible. I welcome the fact that the Government have agreed to adopt them and I look forward to the relevant legislation being introduced.

9.40 pm

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, the Dilnot commission report on the funding of social care states:

“We should be celebrating the fact we are living longer and that younger people with disabilities are leading more independent lives than ever before. But instead we talk about the ‘burden of ageing’ and individuals are living in fear, worrying about meeting their care costs”.

I hope that the draft Bill will allow the Government to take an imaginative and forward-looking approach to the way in which we support those providing care so that we do it in a way that is fit for the modern world in which people now live.

Carers UK, in its report Growing the Care Market, sets out the costs of failures in social care and the economic opportunities of stimulating the care market. It has been estimated that 1 million people have given up work or have reduced working hours in order to care—in other words, about one in six of all carers. Figures published recently from the London School of Economics show that the public spending cost of carers giving up work to care for ill or disabled people is £1.3 billion each year in lost tax revenues and additional welfare payments. That is an enormous cost for not having got the system right.

A Carers UK survey of more than 4,000 carers found that 31% of working-age carers gave up work in order to care or reduced their working hours because

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local care services were unsuitable—they were too expensive, inflexible, unreliable or of poor quality. The peak age for carers is between 45 and 65, a time when people tend to be at the peak of their careers, their knowledge and their experience. Carers often have multiple responsibilities. If they give up their work to care, their experience is often lost in the long term from the workforce because when they try to return they may have difficulty in regaining a job.

The lack of adequate social care has a knock-on effect on healthcare. Very often, healthcare delivery is suffering because social care cannot be put in place. Patients do not come out of hospital as rapidly as they could because care packages are not in place or have broken down, or the additional supplement in care that they need cannot be provided within the resources of social care delivery. The scheme Employers for Carers, set up through Carers UK, recognises that a good system of care and support should be part of being a good employer. There are some interesting and innovative examples of supporting and providing leave arrangements for the workforce. Centrica British Gas found that special leave arrangements for carers delivers a bottom-line return of about £1 million a year.

There is also interesting experience from abroad. The Work and Care Act in the Netherlands provides a right to various forms of leave for working carers, with paid emergency leave of typically one day, short-term carer’s leave, which is reimbursed at approximately 70% of pay for a maximum of 10 days, and provision for long-term care leave. Poland has provision for short-term leave of up to two weeks a year with financial compensation at 80% of the average monthly wage over the previous 12 months.

In France, family care leave was introduced in 2006. There is an entitlement to unpaid leave if the carer is looking after a disabled relative or dependant. There is another leave option called family solidarity leave, which is available to employees to care for a relative with a life-threatening or terminal illness. There is also the opportunity for leave entitlements based on the working hours reduction, whereby leave can be accumulated over time up to 24 days, which can then be taken later on if people need it to provide care for a family member. In Canada, too, legislation allows carers leave from employment when they are caring for a relative who is terminally ill—this is called compassionate care benefits.

These measures are all operating in different healthcare systems and areas, but it is interesting to see that in different parts of the world the problem of carers and the need for families to be able to provide care has been looked at—and the solutions may in some ways be adaptable to the UK experience. Whatever we do and whatever emerges, it must be portable, so that if a person moves nearer their family their care is not jeopardised, and it must involve the person and their family in the assessment of care and provide information on how the family can access support and help.

Much care is provided through the voluntary sector. I welcome the Government’s statement that they will bring forward legislation that will decrease the burden on charities, enabling them to claim additional payments

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on small donations, because charities at the moment are finding it difficult to continue to meet their care obligations. That will be an important and positive part. But we also have a large number of unpaid volunteers who provide important care.

On a completely separate note and topic, I commend the Government for facing up to the problem of alcohol abuse and its related economic and social damage to the fabric of society. The proposals on minimum pricing are welcome, but a price that is a permanently fixed tariff will be diminished in effectiveness by inflation over time. I therefore urge the Government to consider a minimum price linked to another independent mark of cost of living expenses, which can then keep pace with alcohol prices over time and is consistent across the four nations of the UK.

At today’s cost of living indices, a 40p minimum unit price is projected to result in 1,180 fewer deaths and 38,000 fewer hospital admissions annually, whereas if it were set at the proposed Scottish level of 50p the projections of benefit rise and are more than doubled to almost 3,000 fewer deaths each year and 92,000 fewer hospital admissions.

9.47 pm

Lord Black of Brentwood: My Lords, I would like to address the impact on Britain’s media businesses of the legislation in the gracious Speech. I declare my interest as director of the Telegraph Media Group and draw attention to my other media interests in the register.

As noble Lords will be aware, these are not easy days for Britain’s newspaper and magazine industry, which is part of a publishing sector that employs 250,000 people. The inexorable, quickening pace of profound structural change in the industry, arising from the growth of digital media and the fracturing of audiences and advertising, combined with a very deep recession, has placed media businesses under serious commercial pressure. Then there is the long shadow cast by the Leveson inquiry and the menacing calls from some of the witnesses who have appeared before it for ever tighter restrictions on the media at a time when, commercially, they need much less regulation, not much more, if they are to survive. For some businesses, we should be in no doubt that survival really is a challenge.

Against that background, a number of measures outlined in the gracious Speech, with one exception I shall come on to, provide a rare glint of sunlight to pierce the May gloom. If not quite three cheers for the Government, there will certainly be two from the hard-pressed business of journalism. The loudest cheer will be for the excellent news that we are finally going to have a Defamation Bill to reform our oppressive and antiquated libel laws, which for far too long have had a serious chilling impact on reporting and investigation across the media. Like the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, I hope that it will succeed in ending the scandal of libel tourism. We need to ensure that this Bill really will create the new, robust and workable defences needed to protect investigative journalism in the digital age of the 21st century. I am sure that the chances of that will have been greatly increased as a result of the careful scrutiny given to it by the Joint

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Committee so expertly chaired by my noble friend Lord Mawhinney, to which the Minister has already referred.

Key to the legislation will be a trio of tasks: first, to ensure that court action is restricted only to cases where the most serious and substantial harm to an individual’s reputation truly is at issue; secondly, to reduce the complexity and hence the cost of proceedings; and, thirdly, to give the Reynolds defence real bite by ensuring that there are strong practical defences to provide protection for legitimate investigative reporting. In order to deliver real change, it will be vital that the Government maintain a constructive dialogue with all the different parts of the media during the Bill’s passage. My noble friend Lord McNally has already shown himself to be a willing and constructive listener. There will be improvements to explore as well as potential pitfalls to avoid, in particular any extension of courts’ powers to dictate what goes on a newspaper’s front page. I know that newspaper publishers and editors at national and regional level stand ready to assist.

Another cheer is for the Crime and Courts Bill, which will introduce cameras into some courts. It is now nearly a quarter of a century ago that regional and national newspaper publishers took part in the very first working group to look at court broadcasting. This shows that perseverance pays. All those with a commitment to open justice and the public’s right to know will now hope for a swift rollout from Court of Appeal cases to the sentencing remarks of judges in the local Crown Court. This would help enrich online court coverage, particularly for Britain’s regional press for which this issue is very important, and rapidly increase public understanding of the work of the courts. I am sure that this legislation will be a great success and I hope that Britain’s media companies, along with the Society of Editors which has also worked very hard to bring this about, can on the back of it persuade the Government and the judiciary that responsible coverage of whole trials, with suitable safeguards, should not now be indefinitely delayed.

So hearty cheers for those two Bills, but there is not one, I am afraid, for parts of the justice and security Bill which point in the opposite direction to the openness of the Crime and Courts Bill. Proposals for the extension of closed material proceedings barring press and public from access to hearings and evidence in some civil cases brought against the Government open up the prospect of secret justice rather than open justice. I will not go too much further just in case my noble friend accuses me of being swept away in the tsunami of overhyped hysteria, but there are some serious issues here, as my noble friend Lady Berridge mentioned. Indeed, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has already expressed deep concern about the paucity of evidence in the Green Paper which foreshadowed this Bill to justify the proposals and its failure to consider the impact of such a radical departure from long established principles of open justice on the media’s ability to report matters of public interest. I am sure that we will have important debates in this House on this vital issue, as we will on the draft communications data Bill, which has a potentially serious impact on the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

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I do not want to trespass onto tomorrow’s economic business but I also commend the commitment to introduce the enterprise and regulatory reform Bill. Many local newspaper businesses in particular, like many of the creative industries, which are often small-scale start-ups, continue to suffer from the burdens of bureaucracy and red tape. I agree with my noble friend Lord Grade: let the bonfire of regulations begin. I believe that this Bill may do something to get the flames going. I hope that ways might also be found to speed, simplify and cut the costs of the frankly Byzantine processes that local newspapers have to go through to change ownership. At the moment, too many local newspapers are still closing because of the fear of the burdens and cost of a Competition Commission referral. This Bill would be a good place to start wholesale reform of the system in a way that would be of real value to local communities up and down the country. It would be a real policy for growth.

There is a great deal to be welcomed in the gracious Speech for those of us who have an interest in freedom of expression and in the protection of investigative journalism. I hope that the Defamation Bill, in particular, can now make speedy progress through Parliament as the changes within it cannot come a moment too soon.

9.54 pm

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am very pleased to take this opportunity to speak on the gracious Speech and I do so partly with my new hat on. From about now, I shall be the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities on these Benches, and it is about equalities that I intend to speak today.

First, I pay tribute to the health team on these Benches, including my noble friend Lord Beecham, whom I was privileged to lead for two years. I assure them that I shall be with them in spirit, and occasionally in body, as and when required by the new shadow Minister, my noble friend Lord Hunt, ably supported by my noble friends Lady Wheeler and Lord Collins. Of course, I need to add that the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and I have been opposite each other for more than four years. Although we have done battle over some issues, I hope that I have always treated with respect his knowledge and forensic questioning, and certainly I could not have had a more charming and able opposite number. I look forward to working with the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, with a similar good relationship.

I intend to limit my remarks to three matters: equal marriage, the fact that the Government’s comprehensive spending review failed the equality test in some significant areas, and today’s announcement concerning the outcome of the Red Tape Challenge and reform of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. I regard these matters as perfectly relevant to our debates on the humble Address either by their omission or due to the effect of government policies or legislation.

One of the many things not in the gracious Speech was a commitment to follow through on the consultation on equal civil marriage and to bring forward legislation in this Session. Appeasement of Conservative Back-Benchers seems to have been unkindly suggested. Indeed,

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Craig Whittaker, MP For Calder Valley, in his blog on 8 May warns the leader of his party that he will vote against equal marriage because he believes that it will lead to polygamous relationships. He says that in British Columbia there were major attempts to legalise polygamy through the courts using the precedent of same-sex marriage. Of course, Ms Nadine Dorries can always be relied upon. She says:

“Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin”.

She goes on:

“The policy is divisive, unpopular with the public, is tearing the Conservative Party apart”,

and then in somewhat contradictory fashion she says,

“and will influence absolutely no one in terms of the way they vote in the future”.

I can see why David Cameron might not wish to expose some of the more eccentric views of some of his Back-Benchers in this debate but, as Trevor Phillips, the respected and retiring chair of the EHRC, said on “The Andrew Marr Show” on Sunday, the truth is that, because there is policy agreement across the main parties, we should “get on with it”. We managed to get the Equality Act through Parliament at the end of the previous Government’s term largely through cross-party co-operation. The Liberal Democrat Benches, the Conservative Benches and the then government Benches worked together to get through those parts that we could agree on. Surely equal marriage must be a candidate for such expedition. Certainly we on these Benches would welcome such a move.

The consultation closes on 14 June. Depending on its results, the Government could easily commit to having a draft Bill in Parliament in the autumn and have equal marriage on the statute book by the time of the next Queen’s Speech. How wonderful would that be, and why not?

Yesterday’s report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission shows serious shortcomings in the Government’s approach to meeting their responsibility to assess the impact on equality of their policies—in this case, the public spending cuts. The Equality Act set out specific duties on all public sector bodies to assess the impact of their policies by gender, disability status and ethnicity. As figures emerged that around 70% of the additional burden from tax credit changes, benefit cuts and changes to public sector pensions in the spending review and emergency Budget would fall on women, unsurprisingly doubts emerged about whether this duty was being taken seriously by the Government.

It seems from the report that Ministers were in such a rush to make cuts that decisions were being taken without stopping to make sure that their impact was being properly analysed. So while in six of the nine areas that the commission examined in detail it believes that the basic requirements of the duty were met, it points out that the Government often cited insufficient data as a reason for not examining the gender impacts of cuts, an assertion challenged by the Institute for Fiscal Studies among others. The Home Office—the Minister for Equality's own department—is particularly singled out for criticism as providing,

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“no data or analysis on the potential impact of the Home Office's measures on race, gender or disability equality, to take into consideration when deciding the Home Office's settlement”.

That is a remarkable statement.

In three key areas—the introduction of the household benefit cap, the impact of cuts to the bus service operators grant and the abolition of the educational maintenance allowance—the commission was,

“unable to establish whether or not the decisions were in full accord with the requirements of the duty”.

For example, the gender impact of the household benefit cap was listed as “unknown”, despite the fact that subsequent analysis revealed that 60% of those affected would be single women and just 3% single men. I could go on.

Notwithstanding the Government’s inability to provide statistics, the House of Commons Library’s research showed that of nearly £15 billion cuts in tax, benefit and pensions announced in the emergency Budget, spending reviews 2011 and 2012 and the 2011 Autumn Statement, 74% of that—£11 billion—is being shouldered by women. That might possibly explain why the Government were having such trouble attracting women to their cause.

I turn to the announcement that we had today. The Home Secretary told the media that she has the EHRC under control through her response to the outcome of the Government's equalities Red Tape Challenge and the reform of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. My honourable friend the shadow Equalities Minister, Kate Green MP, said that at a time when many people across the country are losing their jobs and feeling financially squeezed and are increasingly worried about poverty, it is disappointing that the Government have chosen to continue watering down those provisions in the Equality Act that are intended to protect and support those who face discrimination and disadvantage. She is correct. I ask the Minister whether it is the Government’s intention to cut further the resources available to the EHRC and, if so, by how much. I specifically want to raise the Government’s proposed framework for the EHRC, which seems to see it reporting to the Home Office rather than directly to Parliament. Can the Minister confirm whether that is the case? I shall be happy to receive a letter on that.

I am old enough to remember the destructive work of the previous Conservative Government in this regard. I can remember the Equality Commission having its funding and powers cut. I can remember the Commission for Racial Equality finding itself under attack. It feels as though the salami slicing of resources and powers that went on then may be going on now. I am afraid that the warm words of Theresa May, Lynne Featherstone and the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, saying how much they are committed to the equalities agenda—I know that they are—will only amount to something if they are judged by their actions and by the outcomes of discriminated groups. The test will be if people, individuals, groups, organisations, public bodies, businesses and employers understand their responsibilities, rights and duties and if people can easily access information and advice about discrimination and be supported to take action. I think that I have just written my own job description and I look forward to it.

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10.03 pm

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, it is after 10 o’clock; I am speaker number 57; I am on camera, as all of us have been; and the sky has not fallen in—as it has not over the many years of debates being broadcast from this and another Chamber. That may be enough for now on cameras in court save to say, in answer to the concern that counsel will play to the gallery—and this may be a risky observation—don’t they always?

In this House it is not just what you do but how you do it that matters. I am looking forward to seeing how the Government have responded to pre-legislative scrutiny —much mention has been made of the Defamation Bill—and how they have built on that sort of scrutiny. I am also pleased that we are starting on a new way of looking at how legislation that was passed a while ago is working.

The Queen’s Speech does not deal as much with the way Parliament does things as with what the Government plan to do, but I will mention one other aspect of the “how”. In no way is this aimed at our new Chairman of Committees, whom I welcome to his office. Indeed, I think that he may have sympathy with the point that the governance of our House is outdated. I use this opportunity to make the simple point that all our officeholders, not just the Lord Speaker, should be elected by their peers on the basis of a job description and a fixed term of office—instead of just emerging.

From the Government’s programme, on the issue of governance, the oversight of the security and intelligence agencies will present us with a challenge. How do we ensure good governance when access to the subject matter is restricted? It will be difficult to achieve public trust without complete transparency. I do not diminish the importance of the new National Crime Agency, but we will be debating it at Second Reading of the Crime and Courts Bill in less than two weeks.

To readers of Hansard looking for a mention of their own area of interest, I say that time constrains us. To those who say that reform of the House will crowd out everything else, I say that there will be a direct correlation with the number of times that we politicians feel the need to repeat the arguments. I understand, incidentally, that we have one day to cover so many subjects, compared with two days on constitutional issues, because the Opposition requested two days of debate on the constitution.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I have to set this canard straight—or whatever the expression is. Perhaps I have to shoot the canard and set the record straight. The Government came forward not just with a suggestion but saying that there would be two days of constitutional debate and that the other days would be apportioned as they are now. The Opposition said, “No, we do not think it is a good idea to have two days of debate on constitutional reform”. However, the Government chose to do that; it was not at the request of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.

Baroness Hamwee: The House heard what the noble Baroness said. I was informed by somebody very close to the decisions. If it is a question of setting the canard straight, do I say “quack”?

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The Government have a lot to deal with that will not be solved by legislation. That point was raised by a number of noble Lords; it was never going to be a panacea. Conversely, I congratulate the Government on the steps they have taken in the Ministry of Justice to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

One matter that is more often the subject of secondary legislation and rules is that of immigration, and the huge issue of the values and attitudes that underlie it. However, legislation will not address the two issues that I now mention. One is the problem of delays by the UK Border Agency. Here I am talking not about queues but about the issuing of visas—something that businesses find immensely frustrating. Nor am I talking about what many of us regard as the inappropriate inclusion of students in immigration totals. The Government are concerned that to exclude them would be fiddling the figures; our concern is that their inclusion distorts the real picture.

Sometimes legislation is needed, and I am disappointed that there is no Bill on the presumption of death of people who are missing. It was not until I saw the work of the charity Missing People that I came to understand how many practical and financial—leaving aside emotional—problems there are for families. The Justice Committee made recommendations and the noble Lord, Lord Boswell, has brought forward a Private Member’s Bill.

It is right that there is no Bill but that there will be pre-legislative scrutiny of provisions covering access to communications data. Scrutiny means testing the evidence, and parliamentarians need public debate between experts on both technology and security. We cannot turn back the clock. Perhaps I should be talking about technologies in the plural. Certainly we have moved on—not just from when we communicated by letter, but from when the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act was passed. We must not miss this chance to re-examine what is in place now to ensure our freedoms under the rule of law, which includes revisiting RIPA. I might also revisit the issue of legal professional privilege. It does not take a crystal ball to predict that the use of closed proceedings will get a thorough scrutiny too, although I hope that when we see the Bill it will be less—I search for an adjective—extreme than what was, after all, only a Green Paper. I noticed, however, that last week the Home Secretary talked in the Commons about,

“proposals to deal with the limitations of the current court rules which do not allow sensitive intelligence evidence to be heard in civil proceedings, even where it is of central relevance to the case”.—[

Official Report

, Commons, 10/5/12; col. 177.]

That is not so. It is not the rules of court, it is the security services which withhold the information. Parliament is—and should be—in the business of protecting our freedoms in the complicated society which is the 21st century. Society changes, challenges to freedoms may change, but the freedoms themselves are millennia old. At the start of the service on the first night of the Jewish festival of Passover, which is about freedom, the service describes it thus:

“Freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression, freedom from hunger and freedom from want, freedom from hatred and

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freedom from fear, freedom to think and freedom to speak, freedom to learn and freedom to love, freedom to hope and freedom to rejoice”.

That is still entirely relevant.

10.11 pm

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, being the last Back-Bencher to speak, I thought I would talk about an issue that was not actually legislation in the gracious Speech; there was a statement of intent that the:

“Government will continue to work with the fifteen other Commonwealth Realms to take forward reform of the rules governing succession to the Crown”.

This is interpreted to mean that the eldest child, of either sex, would inherit the Crown and there would no longer be a ban on Roman Catholics inheriting. I suggest that this is not before time. The Prime Minister has also been quoted as saying that he will introduce legislation before the next election, so there is clearly not much hurry there.

Given that today’s debate includes legal issues, I thought it would be useful to suggest that this legislation should be extended to clarify the status and role of the Duchy of Cornwall. I raised this briefly during debate on the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill, for reasons I will explain later. The main issue to be resolved is whether the Duchy is a private or public body, something in between or outside the law completely. As a representative of the Duchy claimed at a hearing of the First-tier Tribunal of the General Regulatory Council, which I quoted,

“the Duchy is not democratically accountable in any meaningful sense”.

I believe that it is time that it was. I have since uncovered a further list of rights, duties and obligations that the Duchy still has. Some are effectively dormant, some are used occasionally and some rather more frequently, but there is the threat of use and a lack of democratic accountability on all these counts. I shall quickly list them. One involves the harbour authority of the Isles of Scilly, which includes the right to create by-laws and breaching them would be a criminal offence, which would be rather odd if a private person was able to do it. The Duchy is a major landowner in much of Cornwall. Some say it is a good landowner, some say otherwise, but that is no great surprise. What is missing is the leaseholders’ ability to get enfranchisement or be able to buy the freehold of their property. If they were council tenants they would have been able to do that for years, but you cannot do that with the Duchy. The Duchy also has the right to Crown immunity. I understand that between 2003 and 2008 it made some £43 million in capital gains and did not pay any capital gains tax on that sum.

I turn now to more interesting issues. The Duchy has the right to any whale, sturgeon or porpoise that gets landed in the county. I am not sure whether the present Prince of Wales would exercise that privilege, and quite right too. The Duchy is the Receiver of Wrecks, and again, why is this different in Cornwall? It also has the right to the gold and silver mined in the county. It is interesting to note that apparently the Crown Estate is challenging this right. It is not the Government and it is not the Royal Family challenging each other; perhaps there is an argument for putting them all into one pot.

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The Duchy owns the foreshore and fundus in Cornwall, so if you want to play on the beach or use a ferry, you have to pay a sort of tax to the Duchy. I believe that it is proposing to charge those people who want to use metal detectors on the beach £50 to do so. That is not done anywhere else in the country, so why should Cornwall be able to do it?

The next two things are much more difficult. Bona vacantia and escheat concern treasure trove, something that we all understand. Basically, it means that the Duchy has the right to ownerless property, goods and treasure. Is that a right for a private individual or a public body? There is also an obligation to meet part of the costs of the head of state—something we have debated often enough—and to submit accounts to Parliament. There is a right to be consulted on and give consent to Bills that affect the private interests of the Prince of Wales. That, too, is a good one.

No doubt there are many more of these issues, but the most important one is that the Duchy has the right to be represented by the Attorney-General. It would be nice to be represented by the Attorney-General at no cost. This is really why I tabled an amendment to the legal aid Bill because it is unfair that people who have a dispute with the Duchy have to provide for their own costs while the Duchy can use as much of the state legal machinery as it wants. Again, that is pretty unfair.

What should be done about this? There is a Bill in the Queen’s Speech which I mentioned earlier. At the moment we have the Duchy of Cornwall owned by Prince Charles as if it was his private fiefdom. It does not have any democratic accountability. Its tenants are left effectively without any means of making complaints because they know that if they do so, they will be treated rather badly. Why should an unelected body not only have such powers, but go on to claim that it is not even a public body at all, as it has done? It is as if it sees itself as sort of floating above the riff raff as it is not democratically accountable in any meaningful sense.

I suggest that it is time to modernise the Duchy and put it on a modern footing, or possibly dissolve it. The problem of revenue for Prince Charles could be solved through the Crown Estate because this year the Government have introduced a new law which says that the Royal Family should get 15% of the Crown Estate’s revenue. I did ask whether the Crown Estate has a forward budget and I was told it does not, but as it is to get a slice of all the revenue from the windmills that are being put up around our coast, I think that there is probably plenty of money around. I suggest that Duchy tenants should be allowed the right to buy their houses or properties as if they were council tenants, which in any case would be good revenue for the Treasury. Most important, the Duchy should not have Crown immunity and we should not need to ask permission to promote Bills that affect the Prince of Wales’s private interests. Moreover, the free legal services of the Attorney-General, although very nice, should be abolished. All these things are pretty important in order to bring the Duchy into the 21st century.

It may even be best to transfer all the residual rights to the Crown Estate and abolish the Duchy completely. Land could be handed to the local council. Would it

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be nationalised or was it nationalised already? That is a debate we can have, but anyway it could be done on the basis of localism, with surplus going to the Treasury. The harbour of the Isles of Scilly could be transferred to the council, or turned into a trust port, with enough land to help it. There is an awful lot to do and a lot of uncertainty about all this, and it is very unfair on people who are trying to do business or take action against the Duchy that there are all these things stacked up against them. I hope that the Government will look at this and take it forward.

In closing, I must challenge the statement by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace of Tankerness, in his response to me in that debate in January, when he said it was for the courts to decide whether a body is a public authority. He might be right if it is just the Human Rights Act we are talking about, but I suggest that it is for Parliament to decide and it is for the Government to start this process. I hope they will soon.

10.20 pm

Lord Beecham: My Lords, I begin by joining the noble Lord, Lord McNally, in his tribute to my noble friend Lord Bach, who has given 14 years of most distinguished service on both the government and opposition Front Benches. It was a particular pleasure for me to work with him on the Legal Aid Bill—about the only aspect of that which gave me pleasure. Your Lordships will recall the famous declaration of the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, that, “Every Prime Minister needs a Willie”—so does the Labour Front Bench. We will miss him enormously. I also pay tribute to my noble friend Lady Thornton, who has done a remarkable job, both in government and in opposition, particularly over the many months during which the Health and Social Care Bill was debated in your Lordships’ House.

Today we have at last moved on from the seemingly interminable debate about Lords reform which has so gripped the popular imagination. However, the Queen’s Speech—though, as ever, gracious—might be thought to suffer by comparison with “The King’s Speech” in terms of both its content and dramatic impact. True, there is at least one feature in common: the leitmotif of “The King’s Speech” is a monarch with a stutter; the background to the Queen’s Speech is a Government in charge of a stuttering economy. The difference is that the King took steps to deal with his problem. The Queen’s Speech betrays little evidence of a Government with the will or capability of doing likewise.

In a recent debate, I briefly entertained the noble Lord, Lord Henley, with a reference to Dickens. As it is Dickens’s bicentenary year, I will draw on him again for it seems to me that this Government increasingly resemble the theatrical troupe in “Nicholas Nickleby”, with the Prime Minister as Vincent Crummles and the Chancellor as the “Infant Phenomenon”.

It is as instructive to consider what is not in the Government’s programme as it is to ponder what is. As several of my noble friends and indeed other noble Lords have pointed out, there is nothing on social care beyond a limited draft Bill. There is nothing likely to make a significant difference to the economy and job creation. The noble Lord, Lord Grade, is wrong if he

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believes that we are more heavily regulated than our competitors. In the light of his rather reactionary views about these matters, he might consider adding the prefix “retro-” to his surname.

Those are not the only areas in which the Queen’s Speech is lacking. There is nothing to tackle the growing housing problem, forced marriage or media ownership, despite the urgings of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. The cry there is, “Wait for Leveson”, although his inquiry’s brief does not run that far. I suspect that we might as well be waiting for Godot, and the same goes for legislation on lobbying, much talked about but by no means visible.

What chiefly characterises the Government’s programme, legislative and otherwise, is its underlying ideology, resting as it does on an aversion to public services and an almost unquestioning espousal of the merits of the market, privatisation and, increasingly, payment by results—although I hope for the sake of Ministers that that rule will not apply to them.

Alongside these dogmas, we see also the fragmentation of local government and local accountability, with councils and, for that matter, parents being completely sidelined in education and accountability being directed upwards to the Secretary of State. Talk of freeing schools from council control is specious: it is many years since councils controlled schools. What we are seeing, to the growing dismay of the teaching profession and others, is an unseemly, competitive scramble rather than the co-operation of the whole education service in the interests of the whole community.

Similarly in policing, as my noble friend Lord Mackenzie reminded us, November will witness, at a cost of £70 million, the election of 41 police commissioners controlling 11% of council tax in England but at a remove from local authorities. Turnout in the recent local elections was disappointingly low. How many people will turn out in a cold and damp November to vote for this new and unsought-for position? I note in passing that there will apparently be no turnout of Liberal Democrat candidates, as they profess now to oppose the creation of the posts for which they voted when the legislation was passed.

In the matter of voter participation, how will the Government ensure that, under their electoral registration Bill, the fears of the Electoral Commission about a significant drop in registration are not realised? This is especially important given the pending boundary review and the frequency of future reviews.

Let us at least, however, celebrate the inclusion in the gracious Speech of the worthy Groceries Code Adjudicator Bill, which will be for ever more the talk of Tesco.

In the realm of crime and justice, there are five Bills. Reform of the law of defamation is welcome, as many of your Lordships have commented today, especially since it will bring, one hopes, an end to libel tourism. We need to ensure that access to redress is available to victims of limited means, and we will want to examine what is meant by “serious harm” to reputation, not so much for companies and corporate bodies as for individuals who may feel that they have been defamed. Similarly, moves to reduce reoffending and encourage

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effective community sentences will also receive our support, though we will wish to ensure that the punitive aspects do not outweigh the constructive.

However, just as the Labour Government might legitimately be held to have laid greater stress on being tough on crime than on the causes of crime, so the Crime and Courts Bill should not stand alone. What is needed is a recognition that early intervention and the involvement of many agencies of government, local and national, will be required if the indicators and predictors of offending, ranging from poor literacy and numeracy skills to early parenthood, unemployment and the high prevalence of mental health problems and personality disorders, are not to continue damaging lives and communities. This requires the kind of whole-system approach advocated by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Leigh, in relation to health and social care. In addition, it is time to address the problems implicit in the disproportionate number of defendants from black and minority ethnic communities being denied bail or sentenced to imprisonment compared to other defendants tried for comparable offences and with comparable backgrounds.

We will also support proposals—although one listened with care to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher—to make it an offence to drive under the influence of drugs. That seems a very sensible measure, although what she said today will need to be very carefully considered.

The justice and security Bill raises serious issues and will need careful scrutiny. The notion of secret trials or inquests, referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Berridge, or of evidence given without the possibility of rebuttal, would be a major departure from our traditions, not lightly to be undertaken. In the words of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Kerr, in the Supreme Court, to be truly valuable,

“evidence must be capable of withstanding challenge. I go further. Evidence which has been insulated from challenge may positively mislead”.

While the protection of the public is paramount, it is necessary to maintain and, where appropriate, reinforce judicial and independent scrutiny of the security and intelligence services so that the rights of the individual are not impaired without the most thorough scrutiny and the most cogent reasons.

In relation to closed-material procedures, the Government's proposals go further than in any other country surveyed in their Justice and Security Green Paper, including the USA. We understand that part of the rationale for the Government’s proposals lies in fears that the US may be less disposed to share intelligence information without them. The recent experience of the US over the underpants bomber and the dissemination of information—which undoubtedly they wish had not been disclosed, though it had nothing to do with this country—makes that claim worthy of the most careful exploration.

I endorse and welcome the concerns expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, on these matters. I echo his doubts about the proposed national crime agency and there being single court systems. I also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Seccombe, on the difficulties that may be occasioned in the perception

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of local justice with the closure of magistrates’ courts. I share her reservations about single lay magistrates sitting and taking decisions.

As ever, the Opposition will do their duty in scrutinising this and other legislation, improving it where possible and opposing it where necessary under the rubric which I have voiced before and make no apology for repeating: “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue”. Of course, we will hold the Government to account for their sins of omission, too. We invite other Members to join us in so doing.

10.31 pm

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, I rise as the 60th speaker in this debate and the House will be grateful that I am the last. The House will be even more grateful that, when I looked at the list yesterday, it looked as though there would be 76 speakers in the debate. At that point, I did my sums and worked out that I could devote something of the order of 20 seconds to each speaker. That has presumably increased by some marginal amount but not much. I make that point purely to make it clear that I cannot devote that much time to every individual speech. I hope that, where appropriate, I will be able to write and respond to the points that have been made.

As always, it has been a very wide-ranging debate. We have covered quite a number of different departments —the Department for Education, DCMS, my own department the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Work and Pensions. I think I have been associated with virtually every one of those departments at one time or other, with the exception of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. I hope that I can still respond to some of those points.

As always, considerable expertise has been shown by noble Lords from all sides of the House. I will pick out one or two examples. We were very grateful for the contribution from the noble Lord, Lord Warner, who served on the Dilnot commission and comes with his experience as a former Health Minister. We look forward to the help, advice and constructive criticism—and, no doubt, unconstructive criticism—that he will give in due course as various bits of legislation go through. Turning to the Cross Benches, again I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Adebowale, who comes with his experience as chief executive of Turning Point. I offer him my thanks for the various trips that he has arranged for me to see some of those organisations. I particularly remember one—I think it was in Manchester. If it was a Thursday it must have been Manchester; it was that sort of visit. I am grateful to him for doing that.

Turning to my own Benches, I am glad as always that my noble friend Lord Colwyn brought his experience as a dentist, of dentistry and the NHS and dentistry. Turning to my noble friends on the Lib Dem Benches, I was particularly grateful to have two eminent QCs in the form of my noble friends Lord Thomas of Gresford and Lord Marks of Henley-on-Thames offering their advice on some of the Home Office and Ministry of Justice Bills. My noble friend Lord McNally and I certainly look forward to their very helpful advice and constructive criticism on the Crime and Courts Bill,

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no doubt on the communications data Bill in due course, the justice and security Bill and the Defamation Bill. I think I can say on behalf of myself and my noble friend that if we do not get as much support as we should have on those Bills, we will send them off to help out on the Trusts (Capital and Income) Bill. I think that they will find that somewhat drier a matter to deal with.

As I said, we have dealt with a whole range of points. I want briefly to touch on some of the points that do not really relate to the Queen’s Speech but deserve passing mention. I start by dealing with the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford and echoed by others, including the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick. They regretted that there was no higher education Bill and that there have been delays in this area. The right reverend Prelate and others will have to accept that there have been competing demands, as there always are, for space in the legislative timetable. The White Paper is out, and we hope to publish our response to the consultation, to use a ministerial word, shortly—or in due course. I hope that noble Lords will bear with me for that.

We had a very interesting intervention from my noble and learned friend Lord Howe of Aberavon on weights and measures. I have to say to him that, although it has been dragging on for some time, I think that we would wish to take the people with us on that. If one looks at the metric martyrs and others, I am not sure that we have quite convinced the rest of the population of the merits of proceeding in the direction he wants us to go in.

We had an interesting intervention from the noble Baroness, Lady Billingham, on funds going to the Lawn Tennis Association. I regret to see that the noble Baroness is not in her place. It offered an interesting parable about how some public money gets spent without due checks and balances. I was shocked when I heard what she said was happening and how much money was going out. I was encouraged to hear that, as I understand it, Sport England will now be looking for greater use of payment by results, which the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, will no doubt regret. Proper checks on how government money is spent strikes me as a much better process than handing over £26 million a year—or perhaps it was £26 million over four years—with no proper audit.

We had a whole range of other interventions. We had very useful ones from my noble friend Lord Stoneham and the noble Baroness, Lady Hollis, on pensions. No doubt those are matters that we can look at in due course under the pensions Bill, which will be one of those carry-over Bills that will extend into this Session.

We had interesting interventions from the noble Lords, Lord Laird and Lord Maginnis, on police corruption. I reject the complaints that they are making. I think that there might be individual cases of corruption, but, as I made clear at Question Time, we have adequate processes to ensure that they are checked by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The important fact is that that commission is independent. I repeat that for us within the Home Office to try to second-guess what it was doing would undermine it.

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We have ranged wide over many things. A number of questions have been put which I hope to deal with largely by correspondence. I want to get on to a number of particular points that have been raised.

If noble Lords can remember that far back, I start by going back to the introductory speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, when she complained that we are not dealing with the issues that matter. I think there is quite a lot here that matters and that we have to do. I have to remind her what we have achieved over the past year—over the past two years, because we have had a lengthy Session. She might not like all of what we have achieved, but I take her back to the reforms that we have made to the police with the police and crime commissioners; the health reforms that, sadly, my noble friend Lord Howe has had to leave but which are seared on his soul, from his having taken them through this House; the welfare reforms achieved by my noble friend Lord Freud; the reforms we have made to education taken through this House and another place; and the LASPO Bill and other reforms to criminal justice. I also give an assurance, as a reminder of the point which I think my noble friend Lord Dholakia made, of the reduction in the number of young people we have seen who are in detention.

Perhaps I might start by saying a word or two about the children and families Bill and its timetable, because that was a point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, and others—including, I think, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey—who were concerned about it having a carryover slot. The noble Baroness then implied that it was not even going to be fit to go on the statute book until the end of this Parliament. In fact, it is only carried over for one Session. I remind her that carryover is a process introduced by the previous Government and one which, ever since it was introduced, all Governments have found convenient for the better management of Bills. We believe that that Bill needs a carryover slot because keeping it to the second Session would not have allowed enough time for the valuable learning and evidence from the special educational needs local authority pathfinders to be incorporated into the legislation. I give an assurance that there will be independent evaluation reports in spring—at the end of this year and in March 2013.

On that same children and families Bill, there was a faint feeling that we were fixated with numbers on adoption. Again, the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, made this point but it was echoed by my noble friend Lady Walmsley and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton. I have to say that while we are starting with adoption, we have not lost sight of other important matters. Adoption is the first and, we believe, the most pressing priority at this stage but the Government want all children for whom adoption is in their best interests to be adopted without delay—as long as it is, I stress, within their best interests. The introduction of special guardianship orders may have an impact on numbers being adopted, and we have commissioned further research to understand that.

If I may, I will move on to the care and support Bill. I start off by reminding the noble Lord, Lord Warner, who accused my noble friend Lord McNally of not mentioning it in his introductory speech, that if he

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looks carefully at that speech he will find that the Bill was mentioned. I invite him to do that. This Bill has been brought in draft and we recognise its importance. What we feel to be important is simplifying and clarifying the care and support legislation; we do not want to miss this opportunity. We believe it is an important objective in its own right and will make a difference to all those who need care and support, and who work in providing these crucial services. The draft Bill will be a key step towards delivering the Government’s vision, which will be set out shortly—I am afraid I have to use that word again—in the White Paper on care and support. As to the precise timing, I am afraid that I cannot take the noble Lord and others of your Lordships any further at this stage. However, publishing it in draft will give all those with experience and expertise, of which there is a great deal in this House, an opportunity to get things right.

Perhaps I might address the point about funding which I think was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Wheeler. As regards funding, we recognise the pressures which the system faces as part of the spending review and we allocated an additional £2 billion per annum by 2014-15 for social care, including an unprecedented transfer from the National Health Service to social care support joint working. We know that in the longer term, however, we need a sustainable and affordable solution and we want a social care system that is a partnership between the state and the individual.

The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the question of equal marriage. I start by offering an apology to him and to my noble friend Lord Grade: I missed their speeches because one has to take some time out in the course of an eight-hour debate. The noble Baronesses, Lady Lister of Burtersett and Lady Thornton, also raised the issue of equal marriage. We recognise the strength of feeling on this issue and are committed to enabling same-sex couples to have civil marriage, and we are consulting on how to do that. That is something that my honourable friend in the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone, has made quite clear. We also recognise, though, that it would not be right for any religious organisation to be forced to conduct same-sex marriages as a result of those proposals.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, made clear, the consultation closes on 14 June, and we encourage those who have not yet done so to come forward with their views—they have three or four weeks. We know that this is an issue that people feel strongly about, which is why we want to hear from anyone with an interest, but the consultation proposals relate only to civil marriage ceremonies. We believe that a couple who want to get married and move on in this way should not be denied the right to marry just because of their sexual orientation.

I turn to the Crime and Courts Bill, which received a degree of criticism from my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford and others. There was as always the usual criticism of the Home Office; that is something that we have come to expect and which I think we can live with. I am grateful that there was at least some support, from the noble Lord, Lord Dear, for the creation of the National Crime Agency. I welcome his support for the provisions that will enable that agency,

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working with other law enforcement agencies, to ensure that there is an effective national response to serious and organised crime. As he says, these provisions will be critical for the future success of the NCA.

As for the noble Lord’s particular remarks about Section 5 of the Public Order Act, I ask again that he be patient for a little longer. It is a complex issue, and we have to give careful consideration to the views expressed in the 2,500 responses that we have had to the consultation. We believe that the NCA will be able to build on SOCA’s strengths but will be distinctly different. The threat from serious organised crime is changing and criminals are constantly adapting to evade detection using the latest technologies to commit crimes that harm individuals, communities and the economy. The NCA will be different from SOCA and will have to address those threats. It will also take a leading role in changing the way that the whole of the law enforcement landscape works together, and will be able to say just how law enforcement agencies operate across the piece.

I note my noble friend Lord Marlesford’s criticisms of the UK Border Agency and UK Border Force, and we will listen to them most carefully. He has taken considerable trouble to go to see UKBA and inform himself of what it is doing. Obviously there is more that we can do, and we expect the highest standards of UKBA and the rest of the Border Force staff. We hope that the majority carry out their roles with appropriate professionalism and integrity. We will listen to the suggestions that my noble friend has made and look forward to improving the way these agencies work. However, I have to remind noble Lords that we have, in effect, two conflicting desires to keep together here. One is to make sure that we maintain the security of our borders and the other is to make sure that everyone can get through immigration with appropriate speed and without having their journeys disrupted, as has happened on some occasions in recent days.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, raised a number of points, and there is one I want to deal with. It is about giving the police the right to strike. When I look at the changes being proposed by Tom Winsor, I see that we currently have a very outdated pay system that was designed some 30 years ago and does not reflect the skill and professionalism of the service. The proposals in part 2 of Tom Winsor’s report would reward hard-working officers in some of the toughest jobs. We are going through the very proper process of considering and consulting on those proposals, but police officers cannot strike and we do not think that it is right that they should strike, and that is not going to change. The police are a civil emergency service, and it is vital that that service is able to discharge its duty to protect the public and keep the peace.

The noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, touched on drug-driving, as did, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, and others. I accept that this will be a difficult matter to get right technically. I think the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, spoke about that while offering his support. This is a matter that we will have to consider very carefully when we get to that Bill because there are technical matters relating to how

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you test for drugs, which the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, touched on, how much should still be in the body and whether it has an effect, but all those matters can be considered in due course.

We are grateful for the varied and interesting points that have been raised in the debate in relation to the Defamation Bill by my noble friends Lord Marks, Lord Grade and Lord Black of Brentwood, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, and others. As my noble friend Lord McNally indicated in his opening speech, our core aim in introducing this Bill is to reform the law so that it strikes the right balance between the right to freedom of expression and the protection of reputation. As all the points that have been raised illustrate, there is a wide range of views on exactly what that balance should be and how individual issues should be dealt with, but I think that when we get that Bill we will have an interesting and informed debate on the subject as it proceeds through the House.

Finally, because we have had a long day and it is time that we rose and left things for another day, I shall just say a word or two about the Olympics. This subject was scarcely raised during the debate, other than, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston. We are now down to fewer than 100 days until the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. I think we can all say that we are on track for a great Games. The project is on time and on budget. Test events and readiness exercises are taking place repeatedly and, as I understand it, the athletes are also in training.

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The focus of the Government and everyone involved is to deliver a safe and secure Games for London, the United Kingdom and the whole world to enjoy. Home Office-led activity is there to safeguard and secure the Games and remains firmly on track, but we do not want these Games to be the security Games; we want the security to be as low-key as possible while maintaining the highest possible standards. Safety and security funding for the Games has been protected and we believe it is an appropriate investment in the safety and security of the public and our international visitors. The terrorist threat that we face today is real, but we have planned to a threat level of “Severe” to ensure that the greatest possible flexibility exists.

As I said earlier, it is very challenging for me to do justice to a debate of this sort. I appreciate that I have answered a mere tithe of the questions that have been raised and I recognise that many other points will be raised. I will certainly make it my role to ensure that I respond, where appropriate, to all the questions that have been put forward.

More importantly, I certainly look forward to discussing the various Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Department for Work and Pensions and other Bills that are coming to us in reality or in draft. I look forward to vigorous debates on all those measures announced in the Queen’s Speech. I commend the programme to the House.

Debate adjourned until tomorrow.

House adjourned at 10.56 pm.