Earl Attlee: My Lords, the Government are aware that night noise continues to be a concern for residents around Heathrow. We have extended the current night-time flying regime at Heathrow for two years until October 2014 and will begin a review later this year on its replacement. In considering a new regime, it is important that we take care to strike a balance between noise disturbance and the economic benefits of night flights.
Baroness Kramer: My Lords, local residents are woken from 4 am onwards not because of capacity issues at Heathrow but because of limits on departure schedules at other airports. If the Government will not commit to eliminating night flights, will they at least undertake to negotiate with the relevant countries for a timetable that is gentler for residents under the flight path in this country? Will they also negotiate with the airlines to get them to commit to put the latest, quietest aircraft on these routes? I understand that none has yet committed to doing so for early landings.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, my noble friend makes a number of points. She referred to aircraft coming from distant countries. It is important to remember that if we insist on a later arrival time in the UK, a plane may have to leave the Far East later at night and that may cause a problem there. My noble friend talked about quieter and noisier aircraft. A quota system takes into account the noisiest aircraft, which cannot fly until later in the day.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, can the Minister give an assurance that, when the Government conduct their assessment into whether to allow more night flights, they will take into account the economic disbenefits, as well as the effects of sleep deprivation and other social effects of night flights, set against the economic benefits that may come from having more planes arriving earlier?
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, is the Minister aware that more and more flights from Scotland are being cancelled by airlines so that they can free up slots for other destinations? Is it not about time that the Government stopped dithering and made a decision to go ahead with a new runway at Heathrow?
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that the noise problem is not confined to Heathrow Airport? There are considerable problems with noise over Stansted Airport, for example, and I declare an interest as a supporter of the Stop Stansted Expansion campaign. Can he say whether the Civil Aviation Bill, which is shortly to be introduced in this House, will take any account of this issue and whether it will contain any provisions for strengthening the regime that limits night flights?
Earl Attlee: My Lords, as currently drafted, the Bill does not say anything about night flights, although the noble Baroness might tempt me with an amendment. It is important to understand that the problem of Heathrow is much greater than that of the other two London airports. Some 228,000 people are affected at Heathrow, whereas at Gatwick and Stansted the figure is only between 1,000 and 2,000, so the problem at Heathrow is much more serious. However, all three London airports have noise controls imposed by central government.
Lord Bradshaw: The work that I have done on the Civil Aviation Bill has shown me that there is a lot of spare capacity at Stansted, Luton, Gatwick and Birmingham, an airport which I am just about to visit. The release of that capacity is dependent on improved surface connections to all four airports. I urge the Minister to look into that before we try to put everything into Heathrow and so get some of the traffic spread out because it is not all hub traffic.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Foulkes described the circumstances arising out of his question, such as the slotting of aircraft. The Minister replied to the issue of the slots but he never replied to the point about the dithering over the decision, for which the Government are responsible, about the third runway at Heathrow.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Minister may or may not be dithering about Heathrow, but the Government have certainly dithered on the aviation Bill when environmental issues have cropped up in relation to airports. Will he take note of the fact that we will use the opportunities provided by the aviation Bill to examine thoroughly the Government's position
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the Care Quality Commission, as regulator of health and adult social care services in England, is responsible for providing assurance that all care home operators, whether in the public or independent sectors, meet regulations that set essential levels of safety and quality.
Baroness Bakewell: I thank the noble Earl for that Answer, but it does not quite meet the background that has arisen since 30 April, when the private equity firm Terra Firma acquired Four Seasons Health Care, which is the largest elderly care provider in the UK. Given that equity firms often favour a short-term business plan model, and in the light of the collapse of Southern Cross, would the Government consider a "fit and proper person" test for care home ownership?
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am aware that this idea is circulating. Recent events have taught us that intelligence about the market and scrutiny of providers should be better. However, we are not convinced that a "fit person" test is necessarily the right approach. Having said that, we will be setting out our proposals shortly and we will consult on those, so there will be an opportunity for the sector to input its views. We should bear in mind that anyone who registers with the CQC as a provider of care must by law be of good character and have the necessary experience. The provider is also required to notify the CQC of any convictions or cautions against them and of any voluntary insolvency arrangements involving them.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the greatest inhibitors of long-term, consistent care is funding for individual placements? I speak and declare an interest as the president of Livability, which delivers long-term care for some elderly and a large number of younger disabled people. The great difficulty is ensuring that local authorities will commit to funding in the long term at an appropriate level.
Earl Howe: The noble Baroness is of course right, which is why it is so important that we reach what I hope will be a cross-party consensus on the future funding of long-term care and social care generally. We have committed to legislating as soon as we possibly can on that subject.
Lord Elton: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the delivery of a caring and efficient service is dependent not only on training but on character? Is it not true that throughout the health service, and not merely in this area of welfare, there has been a sad departure from reliance on something which was fundamental to the hospital service when it was invented: tender loving care? When will there be an insistence that the right sort of people are admitted to the profession of caring for the elderly and the sick, as well as on proper training?
Earl Howe: My noble friend makes an excellent point. I expect he knows that in the selection process for nurse training, greater emphasis is now placed on the applicant's suitability as a person to undertake caring duties. As regards healthcare assistants who may not be qualified, it is of course up to the employing organisation to make checks of that kind. We believe that to be a variable practice. We need to focus on that issue more than ever.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, why does the Minister not reply directly to the question of my noble friend Lady Bakewell? What, in principle, is wrong with a "fit and proper person" test to apply in these cases?
Earl Howe: My Lords, as I made clear earlier, there is already a test for those people who are in charge of a care home. The CQC has procedures to verify the acceptable status of such people. Furthermore, there are very strict rules under the Financial Services Authority regulations, which require company directors to pass a "fit and proper person" test. We are not sure what added value might be conveyed by a further test, as the tests are already there.
Baroness Tyler of Enfield: My Lords, given the very great anxieties experienced by care home residents and their families on this issue, what steps are the Government taking now to prevent another Southern Cross situation arising, in both intelligence gathering and strengthening the regulation and oversight of the sector?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the Government are working with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Care Quality Commission. We are gathering greater intelligence on the social care market
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Lord Elystan-Morgan: My Lords, perhaps I may raise a technical point in relation to a situation that exists under the Companies Act where a company is threatened with financial difficulties. The noble Earl will be aware that under the Act, to continue trading is a serious offence if there is a danger-not just a certainty-that the company will not be able to meet its financial obligations. Successive departments in successive Governments have properly intervened in the interests of patients. They were probably committing a serious criminal offence. Will the Minister look at the situation so that the law may be relaxed in the interests of patients and of the community in general?
Earl Howe: The noble Lord made a very good point. As he will know, there are existing oversight and regulatory frameworks, with the CQC regulating the quality of care and support services and local authorities overseeing local providers. The point made by the noble Lord is a major part of why the Government are engaging with the sector, as I described just now to my noble friend. The main point to stress is that under the existing system no one will be left homeless should a provider fail. In an emergency, local authorities have a duty to provide accommodation to anyone, whether they are publicly funded or self-funded, who has an urgent need for it.
Baroness Wheeler: My Lords, this summer the Care Quality Commission is conducting thematic inspections of dignity and nutrition in 500 care homes with nursing provision. Does the Minister agree that these will be vital in providing evidence and guidance to ensure improved standards of care? Will he assure the House that these inspections will go ahead despite the commission's increased responsibilities and workload resulting from implementation of the Health and Social Care Act and other government policy initiatives?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right; this is very important work. I am led to understand by the CQC that the programme is due to proceed as planned. We will place a great deal of reliance on its findings. In the light of recent distressing and unfortunate stories about the absence of dignity in certain care settings and the shortcomings in care quality, it will be important to learn lessons from the CQC's programme.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is the cost to the National Health Service of international health tourism, and whether the Home Office has
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, estimated written-off debt for NHS treatment provided to chargeable overseas visitors in 2010-11 was £14 million. However, this will include debts for visitors requiring unexpected treatment as well as those actively seeking NHS treatment to which they are not entitled. On 21 May, the Home Office announced the introduction of pre-entry screening for tuberculosis for long-term migrants from countries with high TB incidence. The department and the Health Protection Agency worked with the Home Office to review current arrangements.
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: That is a considerable increase. In his Written Answer last year, the noble Earl gave the figure for the previous year as under £7 million, so the amount has doubled. I do not know whether the £14 million includes the previous £7 million, but obviously the amount is growing. In the same Written Answer, he said that the Home Office was now consulting. On screening-for TB, for example-does the visa application ask applicants to declare any pre-existing medical condition, as is the case in many overseas countries?
Earl Howe: My Lords, the Home Office, with our agreement, drew up a list of high-risk countries where TB was prevalent. In those countries, if someone seeks a visa to come to this country for six months or more, they will have to undergo TB testing. Questions on other medical conditions are not relevant in this context. We do not screen for other things. TB is an exceptional case because it is an airborne disease and poses a public health risk.
Lord Kakkar: My Lords, what assessment have Her Majesty's Government made of potential future health tourism from eurozone countries facing imposed austerity measures and cuts to their own local healthcare provision?
Earl Howe: The best answer I can give the noble Lord is that this entire area of health tourism is one which we in the department are looking at extremely closely. A review has been carried out by officials and Ministers are considering the recommendations flowing from that. It is a complex set of issues but clearly the context to which the noble Lord rightly refers will need to come under the spotlight.
Earl Howe: My Lords, we are in constant contact with our counterparts in the devolved Administrations. The policy adopted in England need not necessarily be replicated in those Administrations but we seek to keep officials in those parts of the country fully informed as we go forward.
Baroness Boothroyd: My Lords, when I travel abroad on holiday, which I am happy to say I do quite often these days, I have to carry health insurance and it is quite expensive. Because of my age and various other problems I have to take it out each time I go on holiday. I will not tell you how many times a year that is. What happens in reverse when people come here on holiday? Is it required of them to carry health insurance in case they have any problems here?
Earl Howe: The rules are complex, depending on whether the person is from the European Union, where certain rules apply, or from other parts of the world. There is no mandatory requirement for people to carry health insurance unless there is a transparent medical need when they enter the country. For example, a heavily pregnant woman might be asked to produce proof that she could pay for treatment if giving birth was likely. There are clear rules for NHS trusts where a patient who is chargeable presents. The trust must seek either to secure payment before treatment or to bill the person immediately afterwards.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, in answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, the Minister rightly described the situation as it currently is. Is the Department of Health doing any study into the disaster that would happen in terms of healthcare between Scotland and England if Scotland were to separate from the rest of the United Kingdom? If it is not doing a study, why not?
Earl Howe: My Lords, were that situation to occur, the issues arising from it would be little different from the issues today in that health is already devolved. However, I cannot speculate on whether there would be a different policy on immigration in Scotland compared to south of the border as we are really not in that territory yet.
Earl Howe: My Lords, it is incumbent on NHS trusts when a patient presents directly to them to ensure that the person in front of them is entitled to NHS care, and they have various means of doing that. However, primary care in this country-care delivered by GPs-is not subject to any checks of that order.
Earl Howe: My Lords, the answer is no because the entitlement to NHS care is and always has been dependent upon an ordinary residence test, so that the mere possession of a UK passport does not necessarily indicate that a person is ordinarily resident.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, the Treasury keeps all tax policy under continuous review. The Government are aware of the initiatives on the taxation of carrier bags in the devolved Administrations and will be interested to see the evidence of their effectiveness and administrative costs.
Baroness Parminter: My Lords, each year we use 6 billion plastic bags in UK supermarkets. Does the Minister recognise the success of the taxation schemes in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Wales which have resulted in a 90% drop in plastic bags and have raised revenue to help deal with the environmental problems caused by these icons of a throwaway society?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I have learnt a lot about plastic bags over the past couple of days. As I am sure my noble friend knows, there is a voluntary scheme in this country which has reduced the use of single-use bags by some 45% across the UK. The first evidence of how the Welsh scheme, which started on 1 October last year, will come out imminently. Scotland is about to issue a consultation document about possible charging for carrier bags which we will look at, and it is intended that the Northern Ireland scheme will come in in April 2013. I think it is as yet a little early to see what has happened in the devolved Administrations.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: The Minister says that it is a little early to see what has happened in the devolved Administrations, but surely the evidence from Wales is already clear. When one goes to a supermarket, one pays 5 pence for a plastic bag, and there has been a very substantial reduction in their purchase-I heard that it is 70% rather than 90%-as a result. Are we now in touch with the Welsh Assembly Government, who have got there first?
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that over the past six years the issue of plastic bags has decreased by some 40% and that 4 billion fewer bags are used now than six years ago? More recycled plastic is used in the bags that are produced so that the use of virgin plastic has reduced by 61%. Is it not right that a lot of supermarkets have quite sophisticated schemes for encouraging their customers not to use plastic bags? When my wife and I shop at a branch of Sainsbury's in west London, we are given a credit if we bring our own bags.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend that progress has been made. We would like to see more progress, of course, but all that has been done without a minimum charge or any form of taxation. The Government encourage all these initiatives.
Baroness Deech: Will the Minister extend his concern to the equally wasteful and annoying practice of sending out parliamentary mail in plastic bags that are very difficult to open, not to mention the plastic bags you have to use for little bottles of liquid when going through airport security? However, the mail coming from Parliament is especially wasteful of plastic.
Lord Dubs: Is the Minister aware that he must be the first Treasury Minister in history who seems not to want the money when there is pressure for a tax? The fact is that the voluntary scheme is useful, but does he not agree that taxation could significantly reduce the number of plastic bags in use, thereby saving the environment and perhaps giving the Treasury some more money?
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the amount of plastic we are saving from the shops has been overtaken by plastic bags that purport to collect clothing for various charities? Have the Government looked at this? They are very useful for recycling in rubbish bags but I am sure it is another unnecessary use of plastic.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, when my noble friend is considering this matter-bearing in mind all that has been said and the dramatic diminution in the use of plastic-will he also bear in mind that for many people shopping is quite difficult and hazardous? Even if you are only on a very modest diet of bread and butter, butter and bread have gone up a very great deal and it is a little hard for many people to have to pay increased amounts for the things they really must have to live, and then pay again to put it in bags to take it away because they cannot carry it all by hand.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, this is true, although I note that as early as 1997, Waitrose introduced its "bag for life" scheme; for 10p it sells a bag that is replaced free of charge when it is worn out. There are imaginative schemes out there that supermarkets are taking on which will not incur large costs for the consumer.
Baroness Corston: My Lords, the Minister referred to the scheme in Wales and implied that it would be very difficult for the Government to make an assessment because the scheme is quite new. What assessment has the Treasury made of the success of the scheme in Ireland? That scheme is probably eight years old and has been spectacularly successful. Dealing with the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, people take in their own shopping bags. There has been a great public information campaign and preparation, and a 90% reduction.
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, we take all the evidence into account. As we have heard in this interesting discussion, there has been a very significant reduction right across the UK without compulsory measures. We will look at the evidence from Wales and the other devolved Administrations when it comes in.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Howell of Guildford): My Lords, we are outraged by the appalling events in Houla and have condemned these in the strongest possible terms. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs has made clear that we are working with international partners to make the Annan plan work. This aims to bring an end to the violence and drive forward a political process in Syria.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I share the outrage expressed by the Minister. The massacre was appalling and deplorable, and it is difficult to find words to express the revulsion at the slaughter of vast numbers of innocent people, including 49 children and 39 women. UN condemnation is welcome but it is not enough. What is the Government's assessment of the potential changes in policy by the international community following the clear change of position by the Russians, both at the UN and in discussion with the Foreign Secretary?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The noble Baroness is quite right that words are difficult and certainly condemnation alone is not enough. She speaks about the change in the Russian position. It is perfectly true that Russia has joined in condemnation of these revolting events-as all civilised and responsible nations must do-but the question goes beyond that, to whether the UN Security Council is prepared in a united way to take a variety of further actions, including referral to
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My right honourable friend is in Moscow and has had discussions this morning with Mr Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister. Various views have been set out by Mr Lavrov, and discussion continues internationally about exactly what happened and precisely who is to blame. But we are quite clear that the Annan plan, requiring an immediate laying-down of weapons on both sides and action by the Syrian Government to withdraw their heavy weapons and tanks from all the areas they have been bombarding, is an essential step to taking this forward. The key is to get agreement in the United Nations Security Council, and the key to that is what my right honourable friend is working on at this moment.
Baroness Falkner of Margravine: My Lords, can my noble friend tell the House whether there is any discussion within the Security Council, and indeed with the Syrian Government, to increase the number of UN monitors from 300 to potentially significant figures so that they may be able to carry out their tasks effectively?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Yes. My right honourable friend spoke to Kofi Annan over the weekend and they discussed increasing the size of the monitoring mission. It is just about coming up to its initially agreed 300 but there is certainly further discussion of whether a more effective and larger commission could be developed.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, I do not know whether the Minister has seen an interesting article by Patrick Seale in today's Guardian. First, can the Minister give the House the Government's assessment of the amount of financial and other assistance being given by the Gulf countries and other members of the Friends of Syria to the rebels or terrorists-call them what you like-with the aim of bringing down the Syrian Government?
Secondly, can the Minister please give the House an assurance that any assistance that the British Government are giving, and have been giving, to any faction in Syria is being given exclusively through the United Nations and international organisations?
Lord Howell of Guildford: I have indeed seen the article by Patrick Seale that the noble Lord mentions. It is very difficult to answer precisely because we do not know the amount or nature of the assistance that countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar are giving to the rebels. There is also the question of the suitability of the recipients. Are they people who will continue to protect human life, or will they promote further terrorism and destruction? There are real doubts on this matter, as the noble Lord will well know with his expertise in the area. Non-lethal assistance is being given to civilians and the Syrian rebel forces on humanitarian grounds at the moment. It is going ahead through non-governmental international organisations and the agencies of the United Nations.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, the situation in Syria is certainly very complicated. I read recently an account of very harsh treatment being meted out to Christian communities in Syria by forces other than government ones, whether you call them rebels or terrorists-I am not certain. Can my noble friend say whether these reports are true?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Again, I have to tell my noble and learned friend that it is very hard to come by precise records of exactly what is happening, who is committing these atrocities and to what extent they are intertribal activities by Alawite villagers against others. All these things are possible and they may well have happened. I cannot give a clear answer to my noble and learned friend except to say that there are many different cross-currents and many different groups who fear for their future whether Assad remains entrenched, rebel forces take over or the country descends into civil war. The future of groups such as the Christian communities is challenged by any of these eventualities; so, too, is the future stability of Lebanon.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, Syria is likely to go into a civil war, as the Minister has said. We have been involved in the bombing of Libya and went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. To what extent do the Government believe that we have helped the people of those countries by our involvement?
Lord Howell of Guildford: The obvious answer is that each one is a completely separate and different situation on which one has to make a sensible judgment. The Government and I believe, as I think most people do, that the intervention in Libya to prevent hideous massacres-although we are now looking at another hideous massacre-was constructive and led to a new start for Libya which we hope will lead to democracy, liberty and freedom. I could stand at this Dispatch Box well beyond your Lordships' patience and analyse the prospects of leaving Afghanistan in a better condition than it was when it promoted al-Qaeda and the horrors of 9/11. I could say the same about Iraq. It is now free of one of the worst killers of the Middle East but it had to pay a very heavy price. All these are separate issues and we have now to look at Syria to see what can be done. The willingness for the allies together-we have to act together as no single country can do this-to mobilise military might on a massive scale is obviously not there, not least because it is not clear exactly who the enemy are and where the sources of instability are coming from.
Baroness Hussein-Ece: My Lords, given that Turkey is on Syria's doorstep, perhaps I may ask about the role that it has tried to play in the past year in bringing about a solution. What support is being given to Turkey to play a more prominent role and to prevent a potentially explosive situation whereby it could be dragged into a war with Syria?
Lord Howell of Guildford: We are in close touch with the Turkish authorities, which face some difficult dilemmas. They are taking a lot of Syrian refugees
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Lord Richard: My Lords, to clarify the position, will the Minister say that the Government are satisfied, first, that a massacre took place; secondly, that the deaths that occurred in that massacre were of the order expressed in the press; and, thirdly, that those deaths were caused by Syrian government forces with the connivance or indeed at the orders of the Government in Damascus?
Lord Howell of Guildford: Frankly, the word "satisfied" is difficult to put into this context; it is very difficult to be satisfied precisely. General Robert Mood, the head of the UN mission, has said that the situation and the circumstances are still unclear. What is almost certain, and what we are ready to accept, is that horrific killings took place. There is clear and incontrovertible evidence that dreadful things were done. Children were slaughtered, perhaps by bombing and artillery fire but also by shots in the head, throat-cutting and other horrors. One has to analyse who on this planet can be so uncivilised and evil in intent to do these terrible things. We cannot yet be satisfied that the situation is clear; if I said that we were, I would not be believed.
A Bill to provide for oversight of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service, the Government Communications Headquarters and other activities relating to intelligence or security matters; to provide for closed material procedure in relation to certain civil proceedings; to prevent the making of certain court orders for the disclosure of sensitive information and for connected purposes.
That it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the Green Paper on Parliamentary Privilege presented to both Houses on 26 April (Cm 8318) and that the committee should report by 31 January 2013.
That it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on the draft Enhanced Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures Bill presented to both Houses on 1 September 2011 (Cm 8166) and that the committee should report on the draft Bill by 9 November.
That it is expedient that a joint committee of Lords and Commons be appointed to consider and report on any draft Communications Data Bill presented to both Houses in the course of this Session and that the committee should report on any draft Bill by 30 November.
The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Henley): My Lords, the Crime and Courts Bill represents the next stage of our reform of the justice system. Last Session, we legislated to strengthen public accountability of local policing by introducing directly elected police and crime commissioners and by bringing forward reforms to reduce reoffending and put the legal aid system on a sustainable path. However, we need to do more to protect the public and to improve further the efficiency, responsiveness and transparency of the justice system. This Bill is directed to those ends.
Part 1 will establish the National Crime Agency. Organised crime costs this country between £20 billion and £40 billion a year. It manifests itself in street corner drug dealing, in the trafficking of men and women forced into modern-day bonded servitude or prostitution, in the online sharing of horrific images of sexually abused children and in cyber-enabled scams that deprive people of their life savings. With some 7,000 organised crime groups operating in this country, we need a more effective response if we are to tackle the human misery they inflict.
The question-why do we need a new agency when the Serious Organised Crime Agency has only been operating for six years?-has quite rightly been posed. I pay tribute to all those working in SOCA. They have had many successes and have earned a high reputation in their dealings with overseas law enforcement agencies, but the threat posed by serious and organised crime is changing and our response needs to adapt and evolve if we are to counter the threat effectively.
The National Crime Agency will have a wider remit to tackle serious and organised crime at the borders, fight fraud and cybercrime and protect children from sexual exploitation. For the first time, the agency will produce a single, authoritative intelligence picture on organised criminal gangs and their activities that will provide the basis for a co-ordinated national response.
Working in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, the National Crime Agency will prioritise resources and ensure a joined-up approach to the activities undertaken at the local, national and
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The National Crime Agency's relationship with police forces and others will be based on a partnership, with the mutual exchanges of information and the provision of two-way operational support. Importantly, however, the Bill provides that the director-general should, in exceptional circumstances, be able to direct police forces in England and Wales to undertake a specific task, for example to take action against a particular criminal gang based in the force area.
I fully expect that this power will be rarely used, but it is a necessary back-stop to underpin the strategic policing requirement that supports chief officers and police and crime commissioners in effectively balancing local and national priorities.
In addition to its core crime reduction and criminal intelligence functions, Clause 2 enables the Home Secretary to confer counterterrorism functions on the National Crime Agency. With the creation of this powerful new crime-fighting agency, it is sensible that we build in flexibility to confer on the NCA counterterrorism functions if, in the future, there is a compelling case for doing so. This is not the time for a review of counterterrorism policing. For the present, we need to focus on delivering a safe and secure Olympics and on firmly establishing the National Crime Agency in fact as well as in law. I recognise that any decision in this area should be subject to particularly careful consultation and scrutiny, and that is why we have made this order-making power subject to the super-affirmative procedure.
The National Crime Agency will be headed by a director-general, operationally independent but accountable to the Home Secretary and, through her, to Parliament. The director-general will first and foremost be an operational crime-fighter, and for that reason the Bill provides a mechanism for the director-general to be vested with operational powers.
Given the breadth of the agency's remit, including its central role in leading the operational response to serious immigration crime and preventing the importation of drugs and firearms, the director-general and NCA officers will in appropriate cases need to be able to exercise the full suite of powers of a police, immigration and customs officer. In all cases, this will be subject to proper training.
As a law enforcement organisation operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it is essential that the agency remains operationally effective at all times. We cannot be faced with a situation in which public safety is put at risk by operational NCA officers taking industrial action. NCA officers who are designated with operational powers will therefore be precluded from taking strike action in the same way as police officers are. Our preference is that we can reach a voluntary no-strike agreement with the NCA staff and their representatives, and in that event the statutory no-strike provisions can be put into abeyance.
The provisions in Part 2 will further our reforms of the courts and tribunals system so that it is more responsive to the needs of users, more transparent to the public in how it operates, more representative of
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Responsiveness to users is the driving force behind the creation of the single county court and the single family court. The current structure of 170 geographically and legally separate county courts, some dealing only with routine civil cases while others also handle more complex areas of the civil law, is both confusing to litigants and an inefficient use of resources. There is a similar confusing set of arrangements for dealing with family proceedings, with different types of cases being dealt with in the High Court, county courts and magistrates' courts.
County court users will be able to issue their claim at the court that best meets their needs. That may still be their local court, but equally it could be the nearest to where they work or where waiting times are significantly shorter. It will enable the court estate and the available judicial resources to be utilised more efficiently to facilitate the quicker resolution of cases across the board.
Similarly, the creation of the single family court will make it easier for users to navigate their way through the system, and enable cases to be allocated to the appropriate level of judiciary without the need to transfer proceedings to a different level of court, thereby reducing costs and delays.
Our proposals to introduce greater flexibility in the deployment of members of the judiciary seek to secure a similar outcome in improved efficiency. The deployment of the judiciary is properly a matter for the Lord Chief Justice and the senior president of tribunals. The Bill does not change that, but it affords them greater flexibility by expanding the list of judicial office holders who are capable of sitting in each court or tribunal. Such flexibility will enable the available pool of judges to be used to best effect, thereby further contributing to the quicker resolution of cases.
Our judiciary has a worldwide reputation for integrity and independence. This, in no small measure, is down to the process by which judges are appointed. That process was the subject of significant overhaul with the passage of the Constitutional Reform Act and the creation of the Judicial Appointments Commission. Those reforms have led to increased public confidence in the appointments process by making it more independent and transparent, but after six years of operation it is right that we take stock of the new regime to see where we can make further improvements.
One such area relates to judicial diversity. Progress has undoubtedly been made over the past decade. Ten years ago, little over 10% of judges were women and around 2% were from a black or other minority ethnic background. Today those figures are 22% and 5% respectively. That is welcome progress, but we need to do better to ensure that the judiciary fully reflects the communities that it serves.
Of course, further legislation on its own is not the answer, but there are some useful measures that we can and should take to promote greater diversity. In particular, the Bill will facilitate greater opportunities for part-time working at the most senior levels of the judiciary by providing for the statutory limits on the number of High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court
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We are also taking the opportunity to achieve a better balance between executive, judicial and independent responsibilities in the appointments process. The Lord Chancellor has a legitimate role to play in ensuring the efficiency, effectiveness and integrity of the appointments process as a whole. This does not mean that the Lord Chancellor needs to have a hand in all judicial appointments. Accordingly, the Bill transfers to the Lord Chief Justice and the Senior President of Tribunals the Lord Chancellor's responsibilities for the appointment of some judges below the High Court.
However, when it comes to the appointments of the president of the Supreme Court and the Lord Chief Justice, we believe it is right that the Lord Chancellor should have a meaningful role in the process, given that the holders of both these offices have a significant influence on the administration of justice. We do not consider that this change will politicise these appointments. They will continue to be made solely on merit, and the Lord Chancellor will be one among five or more on a selection panel. Furthermore, where he sits on the panel, the Lord Chancellor will lose his current right to reject the panel's recommendation.
Fines are the most common form of sentence imposed in the criminal courts, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all sentences. As with other non-custodial sentences, the public must have confidence in this form of disposal. Significant improvements have been made in the enforcement of fines in recent years, but we need to do more. This is why the Bill provides that, where an offender defaults on the payment of a fine, the additional collection costs fall to the offender rather than to the taxpayer, thereby providing an added incentive to offenders to pay their fines on time.
As I have indicated, it is vital that the law-abiding public should have confidence in all non-custodial sentences. While there are some good examples of effective community sentences that reduce reoffending, all too often such sentences fail to command public confidence as a punishment. That is why we are consulting on proposals to improve the effectiveness of community disposals, including ways of ensuring that there is a clear punitive element in every community order. The current consultation runs to 22 June. Subject to the outcome of that consultation, I give notice to the House that the Government will bring forward amendments to the Bill in Committee as part of the next stage of our sentencing reforms.
Lastly, this part also contains an important provision that will help to increase public understanding of the justice system. Most members of the public have no direct personal experience of what goes on inside a courtroom. Their perceptions will be derived from TV dramas that more often than not give a distorted view of reality. Allowing the broadcasting of judicial proceedings will help to demystify the workings of the justice system and increase public confidence. Of course, there is a balance to be struck between increased transparency and the safeguarding of the proper administration of justice. To this end, we want to start
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Part 3 of this Bill makes two changes to the immigration appeals system. First, we are removing the full right of appeal against the refusal of a visa to visit family members in the United Kingdom. No other category of visit visa attracts a full right of appeal, and in the Government's view it is a disproportionate use of taxpayers' money. Moreover, the family visit visa appeal right no longer serves its intended purpose. It is very expensive to administer, costing around £29 million a year, and has lengthy processing times, taking up to eight months to conclude an appeal. In many cases appeals are successful because new evidence has been submitted by the applicant. If an applicant has new evidence in support of a visa application, we believe that the proper course is to submit a fresh application and not to seek a new decision through the appeals system.
Part 3 also removes the in-country right of appeal in cases where existing leave has been cancelled in line with a decision to exclude a person from the United Kingdom on the grounds that their presence is not conducive to the public good. A decision to exclude a person on such grounds is taken personally by the Home Secretary on the basis that their presence in this country presents a risk to national security or public safety. It is anomalous that in such cases the excluded person should be able to enter, and remain in, this country pending the outcome of an appeal against the cancellation of their leave. The current arrangements undermine the intended effect of the exclusion decision, and the Bill will rectify this. We are not removing this appeal right, but in future it will be exercisable from outside the country.
Finally, Clause 27 introduces a new, specific offence of drug driving. Figures for 2010 identified impairment by drugs as a contributory factor in nearly 1,100 road casualties, including some 50 deaths. We also know from studies that the extent of the road casualty problem is a lot greater than these reported statistics suggest. We need to do more to tackle this scourge and to protect road users. There is already an offence of driving while being unfit through drugs, but there are few convictions because of the requirement to prove impairment. The new offence is modelled on the analogous drink-driving offence, where it is not necessary to prove impairment but simply that the driver had a concentration of alcohol in his or her body above the prescribed limit.
A person will be guilty of the new drug-driving offence if found to have in his or her body a concentration of a specified controlled drug in excess of the specified limit for that drug. The maximum penalty will be the same as for the analogous drink-driving offence: namely, in the case of a person driving or attempting to drive a vehicle, six months' imprisonment or a £5,000 fine, or both, and disqualification from driving for at least 12 months. The new offence will, we believe, make a significant contribution to road safety and is one that has been widely welcomed by road safety campaigners.
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Baroness Smith of Basildon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation of the Bill. I have listened carefully to his comments and there is much in the Bill that we can support in principle. It is the Government's flagship crime Bill, brought to your Lordships' House as one of the early Bills of the Government's second Session, and yet it is both disappointing and deficient. We are now seeing increases in crimes, including a 13% increase in personal acquisitive crime, the cutting of 16,000 police from our streets and budget cuts of 20% when Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and the Audit Commission have both warned that cuts of over 12% were unsustainable and would lead to a worse service. Here we have a Bill that, as its top headline, changes the architecture of how we tackle serious and organised crime. It is not enough and is a lost opportunity to tackle the issues that the public tell us hurt them most. I have to say to the Government that making such major changes at a time of such deep and unprecedented financial cuts increases the risks in making those changes.
We broadly welcome the creation of a National Crime Agency but there are significant points of detail that the Bill either fails to address or raises issues that give cause for concern. I wonder whether the Bill has been introduced before it is really ready and before the detail has been worked out by the Government. The Government have had two years to work out the detail of their proposals but have brought forward a Bill which may be worthy in principle but lacks the detail that underpins those principles. I will give two examples of that. The Bill is in three parts. The whole of Part 1 establishes the National Crime Agency, which is essentially a reorganisation of existing organisations established by the Labour Government, with a few changes. The Bill makes provision for the National Crime Agency framework document which will deal, to quote from Schedule 2,
Basically, that is everything it does and how it will be done. However, that framework document, which is the basis for the whole operation of the NCA, will not be available until the Report stage in your Lordships' House. It will not even be available for our deliberations in Committee. Why? It is not good enough that we will not have this information for our Committee stage.
Again, that is wholly inadequate. Why is there no further information or detail? It is because the Government have not yet completed their consultation on this matter, so this clause cannot be taken sequentially, but
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After two years in Government it is hard to understand why this information has not been made available to your Lordships' House. I suspect that the timing of the Bill has been partially driven by clauses within it that provide for the abolition of the National Police Improvement Agency, when its dismantling is already taking place before the legislative changes have been made. I hope that Ministers will take these concerns on board and look at ways in which they can improve this situation. We would be happy to discuss these issues further with them. However, as I have said, there is much in the principle of the Bill that we can support, but there are significant points of detail that we will want to probe further in Committee.
First, I will raise the issue of governance and accountability of the NCA. Obviously, we want the NCA to be successful. After all, the Labour Government set up the bodies that will comprise the bulk of its work: the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and the National Police Improvement Agency. However, there is a lack of clarity in some areas and there are also significant changes that require explanation and some justification from the Government.
What we know of the governance issues, given that we do not have the framework document, is weak. The legislation provides that the police and crime commissioners can be consulted, but do not have to be consulted, in setting the strategic priorities of the NCA and the NCA's annual plan. It is not clear what that will mean in practice and what regard, or what weight, the director-general of the NCA or the Secretary of State will place on the collective opinions of the PCCs.
The PCCs have to ensure that the chief constable co-operates with the NCA. But what will happen when the NCA priorities conflict with the PCC plans, and PCCs have not had the opportunity to make a contribution or feed into the strategic priorities of the NCA, or if they have fed information in and it has not been taken on board? How will any such conflict be addressed and resolved?
The Government have made it clear, through the Policing Protocol Order 2011 and the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, that the new PCCs are responsible "for the totality of policing" in their area, that they are publicly accountable, and that they have the power to discipline and even remove a chief constable from office. I can understand why it could be desirable, in certain circumstances, for the NCA to have the power of direction over chief constables. However, it is a major and significant change, and the Government have to explain why it is necessary and in what circumstances.
I listened carefully to what the Minister had to say in his comments, and he referred to this being used in extreme or exceptional cases and only within the police
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Until now, the Government have shouted from the roof tops about the power and importance of localism. We even had a Localism Bill, which your Lordships discussed in the previous Session. However, this new power of direction is a distinct and deliberate step away and departure from that principle. I am still very unclear how this will work in practice. I am not convinced that the legislation is adequate to deal with the competing pressures and competing accountabilities between the centre-the National Crime Agency-and the local-the police and crime commissioners and the chief constables. The Government have a duty to ensure that this legislation does not increase the risk of unnecessary conflict because of a failure properly to define accountability and roles, including that of the PCCs that they have introduced.
I should also like to address the issue of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. CEOP is highly regarded and highly successful. Ministers will be aware of the concerns that absorbing CEOP, first, into the Serious and Organised Crime Agency and then into the NCA, could dilute its effectiveness, which led to the resignation of the CEOP chief executive. His fear was that CEOP staff could be drawn away from child protection work and deployed in other areas of policing activity, possibly because of shortages of resources or staff or a perceived emergency in another area of policing. There was also a related concern about how the pioneering multi-agency approach that CEOP had developed, bringing in valuable assistance, including funding, from private sector bodies and children's charities, might be jeopardised.
When this was first announced, the Home Secretary and Ministers expressed strong support for CEOP and reassured those raising concerns that this would enhance rather than dilute that work. Those assurances were widely and gratefully accepted. In Committee, it would be useful to examine whether the Government's view has moved on in any way since CEOP has been part of SOCA and also look at whether CEOP has maintained the high level of skills and expertise that have made it so highly effective and regarded. It could also be helpful to look at the wider responsibilities related to missing persons and human trafficking.
On the abolition of the National Police Improvement Agency, to which I referred a few moments ago, again the agency is highly regarded and undertook a whole range of functions, some of which have taken a long time to develop and get right. Given that range, there is logic in bringing some of them into the National Crime Agency, alongside SOCA and CEOP. I confess that I am not yet entirely clear how all the different functions of the NPIA will be carried out under the new arrangements. It would be helpful if a complete analysis of this was provided to your Lordships. Understandably, we will seek some clarifications and assurances in Committee to ascertain exactly what Ministers are seeking to achieve and whether total
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I want also to raise the overarching concerns about funding, staffing and skills. Ministers have provided an indication of funding and have previously said that organisations coming into the NCA will bring their funding with them. However, that is the funding after the spending review and there is no reference to funding the new responsibilities and duties of the NCA. On skills, I have already mentioned the concerns around CEOP as an example that some expertise within the agency could be diluted. We want the NCA to be successful and able to bring together and co-ordinate intelligence to make tackling serious and organised crime more effective. We will look at this in more detail to seek assurances that the funding is adequate for the tasks and additional responsibilities. We will also look for assurances that the new body will retain the skills, expertise and experience of specialist staff and ensure that it is not spread too thinly across different areas.
If Ministers can help on this point, I would also like information about the role of volunteers in the NCA, particularly as, following the Olympics, the Secretary of State will have the power to bring terrorism investigations into the NCA. If, as expected and as the Minister indicated, the Government bring forward such legislation, a number of issues will need to be addressed. The Minister acknowledged that in his comments. There is an understandable fear and concern that any agency that includes terrorism within its brief could find itself diverting resources from other areas to finance that work. The Government will have to consider very carefully how this would be managed if they want to pursue that.
My final point on Part 1 is about freedom of information. As with its main predecessor body, SOCA, the NCA will be exempt from freedom of information legislation. However, the additional functions taken on from the NPIA and the UK Borders Agency were not previously exempt from FOI. This is a significant extension of the exemption, for which I am sure the Government will be able provide proper justification and explanation.
Part 2 of the Bill deals with the court system and judicial appointments. It probably raises fewer concerns and is less likely to attract discussion outside the legal profession which deals with these issues and is well represented in your Lordships' House, including by my noble friend Lord Beecham. I have already expressed the concerns about Clause 23 on community sentences. However, there are other issues that we will want to probe further and seek reassurances on. I look forward to hearing from the expertise on these issues in your Lordships' House. My noble friend Lord Beecham will say more about these issues when he winds up for us at the end of the debate.
I turn briefly to Part 3 of the Bill. Clauses 24 to 26 deal with immigration. I want to say something specifically about Clause 24, which, as the Minister indicated, removes the full appeal rights in family visit
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In 2011, the Chief Inspector of the then UK Border Agency looked at entry clearance decisions where there is currently no full right of appeal; that is, those decisions that are currently subject to the limitations that are sought in this Bill for family visit decisions. In 33% of the 1,500 cases he looked at, the entry clearance officer had not properly considered the evidence. The Government must prioritise better decision-making on first-round applications. It is unfair to demand that applicants make a fresh application as an alternative to an appeal if so many applications are turned down for reasons that are no fault of the individual.
The other issue in Part 3 is drug-driving. This is a very important area, as the Minister indicated. It has our support in principle, but this is, as he has acknowledged, a complex and difficult area to get right. The proposal is to look at this issue in the same way as drink-driving in that a certain level of drugs would be an offence even if there were no problems detected with driving. I was struck by and interested in the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, in a speech on the Queen's Speech just a couple of weeks ago, about the complexities of this area. Clearly we will want to debate this further and seek assurances from the Minister about how this could be put into practice in an effective way.
In conclusion, as I said at the beginning, this is a disappointing Bill, light on detail and confused in places, but I am confident that it will benefit from the scrutiny and advice of your Lordships' House. I hope that the Government will be willing to listen and take on board comments and amendments made during the progress of the Bill to ensure that we fully address these issues in order that we may have an effective crime-fighting and justice system.
Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, yesterday I was asked-as we are so often-how we inform ourselves when we have to consider government proposals. I explained the range of sources, including interest groups and organisations which brief us-lobby, in the best sense of the term. On that basis, although it is obviously not the only test, this Bill presents us with some issues to probe and some where the probe may become a challenge. It gives us the opportunity to seek to deal with issues which are not included-as usual-or where the flesh is not yet on the bones and the bones as well as the flesh will be significant. There will also be a lot that is genuinely interesting. The Bill has provoked comparatively little opposition, but lest Ministers think that this means a quiet life, I also explained to my questioner that Members also bring their own experience, expertise, curiosity and judgment.
My questions about Part 1, on the National Crime Agency, come from curiosity as much as anything, and from a concern that, however much one supports a proposition-especially if one supports it-one needs to be satisfied that it will work well. I am particularly interested in the governance of the NCA, its relationship with other players in the policing landscape, and its powers. From what I have heard over the past few weeks and months, it seems that there has been much good will so far in the work to establish the NCA. However, the tasking arrangements, the powers of the NCA to impose requirements on police forces and other agencies to undertake specific activity, need clear and probably detailed structure. It is often easier to find consensus over a principle than the particular detail.
We spent a lot of time in this Chamber and elsewhere in the last Session discussing chief constables' operational independence when dealing with the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act. It seems to me that there are similar issues of accountability, transparency and cost, as well as the possibility of clashes over priorities and how to do things as between the NCA and police forces.
The underlying rationale of the reorganisation is that crime does not come neatly pigeonholed and that organised crime of all sorts impacts at all levels-international, national and local. Therefore, it is understandable that there are concerns about the role of police and crime commissioners, who have responsibility for the totality of policing in their area. These governance issues need a clear structure.
There is obvious concern-and the noble Baroness mentioned this-that CEOP in particular should not be fettered by being brought into a new agency. The Government have said that it will retain its operational independence and that that phrase is not just a formula. The Government acknowledge CEOP's innovative partnerships and mixed economy of staff from different disciplines. However, the culture in our policing service is very strong, so determination will be needed to preserve CEOP's identity. The hope must be that the imagination that CEOP has shown is far from being muzzled but is a source of inspiration beyond that command. How its governance, retaining external partners, can be effective is bound to be an issue, as is how the NCA as a whole sets its priorities.
CEOP is, in the jargon, a brand and so is SOCA. Those who have worked on drugs issues, in particular, tell of SOCA's worldwide reputation-I have heard Colombia mentioned-and that is among the good guys, so presumably it has quite a reputation among the bad guys too. That must be preserved.
I can understand the links between SOCA and economic crime but I confess that I am not hugely clear about the remit of the Economic Crime Command-or, rather, in this context how it will operate. Does ensuring a coherent approach to economic crime across a range of agencies need a separate command? Why is the Economic Crime Co-ordination Board to remain, and why is the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau to be left with the City of London
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I would certainly go along with the argument, which I have heard deployed over the police-that if something is working well it is best not to disturb it. However, I am not sure how logical that is in this particular context. I am puzzled, too, about why the National Cyber Crime Unit is not a command. What is the significance of the structural difference?
I turn from the largest part of the Bill-although of course the word count and the length of the schedules can be misleading-to the shortest, at any rate until Clause 23 is replaced. I am delighted at the prospect of a serious concentration on non-custodial sentences. They are often much more effective, by which I mean that they reduce reoffending, address an individual's underlying addiction or mental health problems, and do not cause collateral damage to the offender's family or indeed to the offender, and of course they are much less expensive. Therefore, there are excellent economic and social reasons for having them.
I had not known that there is increasing recognition of the effectiveness of community sentencing. The Prison Reform Trust, among others, reports this. I add to that Peter Oborne's support in the recent Community or Custody report under the auspices of Make Justice Work. I question whether there is such a lack of confidence in community sentences as is feared. Peter Oborne was brave-and, I think, accurate-in saying that political correspondents,
Although I am very conscious of the knowledge and expertise of all the speakers who will follow, I shall express one area of concern and perhaps tread on some toes. My concern is how the proposed punitive element may play out, and whether extended curfews and complex restrictions will themselves lead to a breach of orders with the imposition of sanctions-imprisonment-that will undo all the good. Community sentences must not be a soft option. That is important for victims as well. Restorative justice is not a soft option for the offender or the victim but it is deserving of development. We must all have had the experience of suddenly-shockingly-seeing something through another person's eyes. One thing that a community sentence, or any sentence, is not about is humiliation. It is footage of defendants in the United States in shackles that prompts both that comment and my caution about having cameras in court. I said in our debate a couple of weeks ago that the sky had not fallen as a result of the broadcasting of Parliament. However, that does not mean that I am an enthusiast for unrestricted filming in court. I heard what the Minister said today, as he has on previous occasions. Probably what is most important is that the judiciary retains control.
One provision that is not in the Bill-I do not know whether we can squeeze it past the Long Title-is reform of the Public Order Act. Do I have a right not to be insulted? I do not believe so. More importantly, if you insult me, should the weight of the criminal law
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Another issue which it may or may not be possible to edge in past the Long Title is a matter that my colleagues in the Commons raised-the anomaly regarding the citizenship of children born overseas to an unmarried British man. The law changed to confer British citizenship on such children born after 2006, as the use of DNA progressed, but not for those before born before that date. However, that issue would not command the time that we will certainly give to the immigration issues raised in the Bill. I doubt that the powers of immigration officers will pass this House unchallenged, particularly the investigative powers.
As for the provision on family visas, I would simply observe at this point that if making a fresh application is better for the applicant-rather than appealing, as the Government seem to argue-then leave it to the applicant to choose. What seem to be at issue, at the heart of all this, are the standards, training and supervision of the service.
I thought that we might have a year without a new criminal offence. Driving under the influence of drugs is, of course, to be condemned. Although our debates will probe whether objective testing is possible, whether there is a variable impact on different people, whether there is more variation with drugs than with alcohol and how prescribed and over-the-counter drugs-which almost always seem to have warnings about not driving or operating machinery-fit in, that does not mean that we condone drug-driving. What about the new psychoactive substances, with or without a temporary ban in place? I note, of course, that the offence of driving while impaired is not being repealed. There is quite a lot to investigate there.
I look forward to our debates on the single county and family courts, given the knowledge that noble Lords can bring to bear on this issue. My only contribution on it-my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford will probably deal with it-is to have enjoyed reading the impact assessment which describes the policy options as "do nothing" or "do everything". I also look forward to our discussions on diversity in the judiciary. We have come a long way since my first interview for articles as a solicitor when, having asked about women in the firm, I was told, "We are very broad minded. We have a Nigerian girl working in the basement".
The most cheering thing I have heard on the proposals is that provisions for part-time working will be significant, because of the significant number of women in-or potentially in-the judiciary who are of an age to which this will be significant. I am very happy that that myth in my own thinking has been busted. This is a Bill on which I will want to attempt only a small amount of busting of my own.
Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, I hope the House will forgive me for beginning with Part 2 and then moving to Part 1. My late brother, Michael Havers, had a dream in the 1980s of a unified family court which he discussed many times with me. In 2012, I
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A single family court, however, is the framework or the scaffolding, and it will be important to scrutinise with care the inside of the building and which of the other Norgrove recommendations-all of which I support-are taken forward. The single point of entry will provide a gateway for the direction of cases to their most appropriate tribunal within the hierarchy of the family courts. This will give, I assume, the responsibility for distribution of the family work to judges, district judges and justices' clerks. This will also give the administration of family justice something of the excellent proposals which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf, provided in his seminal report on access to justice in the civil courts in the 1990s.
We would hope, therefore, for greater flexibility in the deployment of judges, improved performance, and more efficient and swifter disposal of cases. I must warn the Government that that desired result may not be so easy to achieve when spouses, partners and parents are fighting their emotionally charged family disputes before judges and magistrates without lawyers, as there will very likely be greater delays and a great deal of clogging, particularly before the district judges and the family magistrates.
A single family court will create the opportunity for a stronger focus on the child's best interests, welfare and also rights; I remind the House that children also have rights. There is an opportunity for a long-overdue dialogue between family judges and directors of social services, both at national and local level, which is very much supported by the Norgrove report. I encourage stronger emphasis on judicial training and judicial case management, and that the training of social workers include directors of social services who are not trained as social workers. If judges can be trained-and they are-so senior social workers, up to and including directors, can perfectly well be trained too, particularly when they come from the education field. All this will be needed to meet the increasingly demanding work of the family court.
The Magistrates' Association has a certain concern that, with the reorganisation of the family court, there will be a lesser role for the family proceedings court. I hope that the Minister will give the much needed reassurance when he responds, as they are a crucial part of the family justice system. There is also the requirement for a limitation on the number of days that a family magistrate is allowed to sit in the family proceedings court. I recommend, as indeed the Norgrove report does, that that inhibition be removed, as it inhibits not only flexibility but the continuity of the magistrates' panel hearing repeat hearings from the same family.
I am delighted by the repeal of media access in the 2010 Act. That is really good news. As far as I could see, it was absolutely incomprehensible. Even the press thought it was not going to work. I recommend that any future legislation on publicity in family courts should have in mind that children have views and ought to be consulted. Older children have already
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I support the flexibility of part-time working for judges. It will undoubtedly help women to come back into the judicial process when they have had families. In 1970, when I was first appointed as a district judge-in those days, a registrar-such a thing was inconceivable. However, I wonder a trifle how the listing officer will deal with a long, complicated care case or a long criminal trial if the judge sits only three days a week. The jury may want to sit four or five days a week. Therefore, there will be certain problems for listing officers, but in principle the idea is excellent.
I strongly support diversity when-and only when-it equals merit. It will be very important that women-particularly those from ethnic minorities-who may not be able to bear the strain of the judicial process are not placed in a position where they may find themselves failing because there has been too much enthusiasm for diversity and not enough for merit. This is very important. I have a vivid recollection of a woman judge many years ago who was a very fine pianist. She should have remained a pianist.
I turn now to Part 1 and the National Crime Agency, which I welcome in principle. However, as the co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and as a trustee of the Human Trafficking Foundation, I have several concerns. In responding to a question after the Queen's Speech, the Prime Minister talked about repelling modern slavery. It is not quite so simple, although I commend him for wishing to do so. He may not be aware that 80% of those who are trafficked in this country come here legally and do not know that they are being trafficked until they are caught up in labour exploitation, debt bondage or prostitution. For instance, there was a case in Newton Abbot or Totnes in the West Country of a girl who came in entirely legitimately expecting to be a masseuse, having been trained by her mother. She did not understand that "masseuse" in some areas of this country does not mean what it meant in eastern Europe. She found herself in a brothel in Totnes, from which she was brave enough to escape. Therefore, we cannot repel them all at the border. I hope that the National Crime Agency will be able to bring to bear a very much more sophisticated approach to deal with traffickers in this shocking but extremely lucrative trade.
I am glad that the Minister referred to trafficking. I share the concerns of the noble Baronesses, Lady Hamwee and Lady Smith, about CEOP. It has just written a letter dated 25 May, which typically I have left behind in my room here in the building. My recollection is that it sets out in some detail all the work that CEOP thinks that it is going to do. There is not a single word about the trafficking of children, which is crucial. I am very concerned about it not being in this two-page letter. Children who are trafficked must be part of CEOP's remit. I understood that they were, so I was very surprised by this omission.
I also want to ask the Minister about the UK Human Trafficking Centre in Birmingham. Will it be in the National Crime Agency? If not, who is going to gather the data? If the data are not going to be gathered there, what work will the centre be doing? I visited there and it is doing excellent work so I hope that it will be encouraged and not just disappear. If it is not going to be continued, then a national rapporteur or an effective equivalent mechanism is crucial. I suggest to the Government that the current equivalent mechanism is by no means an effective one, by any objective view. The restructuring of the National Crime Agency needs to include a dedicated unit with centralised focus on human trafficking, particularly on the trafficking of children.
Lastly, I have had some dealings with SOCA personnel embedded in various British embassies, particularly in different parts of Europe, and have been very impressed with the work that it is doing, including work on human trafficking. I hope it will continue this admirable work under its new title of the NCA but I would like to be assured of that. Overall, I welcome Parts 1 and 2 of this Bill.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Birmingham found himself down to speak both here and in the Grand Committee. Notwithstanding his character as a Lord Spiritual, he did not feel that was possible and he also felt that he had more to contribute in the debate in the Grand Committee. I therefore have to fill his place in the sense of taking it, although not in the sense that he would have fulfilled it at as a Lord Spiritual. I also wish to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for the work of the noble Lord, Lord Bach, as a Minister in the Department of Justice and also as a spokesman on legal matters in Opposition. I very much appreciated his support and help and all kinds of particular qualities that he had. I am delighted his place has been taken by the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, with his great experience as a member of the legal profession, making him well able to understand the problems that beset it.
I intend to single out one or two items. Immediately after me the noble Baroness, Lady Jay of Paddington, who convened the Constitution Committee with its very detailed consideration of judicial appointments, will speak. I do not, therefore, intend to get too deeply involved in that position. The noble Baroness will no doubt raise questions about some aspects of the recommendations which do not seem to have been fully reflected in this Bill so far. I want to start by talking briefly about the television provision in Section 22. This is not a new problem and during my term of office it became a very important issue. At that time the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, who was then the Lord President of the Court of Session in Scotland, issued a practice note as a result of which the television authorities took a great interest in televising a number of cases in Scotland-something of the order of eight altogether. It was pretty obvious to me that they were interested in setting that up in places other than Scotland and in due course that
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The Government proposals aim to open up the courts to television on the basis of orders made by the Lord Chancellor with the approval of the Lord Chief Justice. I would suggest that, in the vast majority of cases, the arguments and the decisions of the Court of Appeal will not attract the immediate interest of our public, whereas sentencing remarks will attract great interest. One has only to look at the print and other media to see that sentencing has a much bigger impact than arguments in the Court of Appeal. Occasionally, of course, a judgment from the Court of Appeal, particularly if it surprises the media, is given a good deal of attention, but I would venture that it would be wise to bring forward arrangements for broadcasting under the proper conditions appropriate to sentencing remarks instead of leaving them, as it were, to the end, which I gather from what I have seen so far is the suggestion.
The other matter I want to mention briefly in connection with television is that the exposure of the Houses of Parliament to television does not seem to have promoted a tremendous increase in the avidity with which the public enter into politics. I do not know the reason for that, although I could guess, and some noble Lords may have the advantage of me in that.
The next matter I want to mention is one that the Constitution Committee has certainly considered, and on this occasion I am going into its area to raise the issue of diversity. I believe that it is extremely important that there should be a sufficient amount of diversity within the judiciary as a whole to make it look reasonably fair in terms of job opportunities for all sorts of duly qualified people in the community. I think it is fundamental not to go down the road that people must be tried by those who belong to the same community as them; that would be completely inimical to justice. On the other hand, diversity in the sense in which I define it is highly desirable, and I believe that progress has been made. The statutory recommendation is that where two candidates are of equal merit, the consideration of diversity should be allowed to prevail. The occasions on which two candidates are of absolutely equal merit are likely to be fairly scarce, but the emphasis put on diversity in this statutory provision, although it may not strictly apply all that often, will help those who
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There are one or two other matters I want to mention. In the clauses dealing with judicial appointments, paragraph 4 talks about a "non-legally-qualified" member, which might be a little ambiguous. Of course, it goes on to define it by saying that if you hold or have held certain judicial appointments that disqualify you for the House of Commons, you are not non-legally-qualified, and if you have ever practised or been qualified as a lawyer, you are not non-legally-qualified. This helps to emphasise the distinction between lawyers and judges that some lawyers are keen to make. I do not intend to pursue that, but later in the schedule you find that the Lord Chancellor can define a lay person by order after consulting the Lord Chief Justice. What is the difference between a lay person and a non-legally-qualified person, if any, for the purposes of this appointment?
That is rather an aside. I notice that the Lord Chancellor is to take responsibility for a good number of civil appointments. There may be a question over whether it is any longer appropriate to call him the head of criminal justice-I think he should be the "head of justice", and have thought that for a while.
The other matter I want to mention briefly is the family court. As the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, has said, this has been some time in coming. It was very much opposed in the 1980s, as I recollect, and when I was asked to create legislation in connection with the Children Bill, it seemed an opportunity to get something done in this area and get it past the Treasury, which was the obstacle in earlier times. At that time, the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, had just produced her report on the situation in the north-east, which in effect recommended a family court. Of course, I could not go the length of having what we have now in this Bill, but by amendments introduced by the Children Act I was able to create a system in which all the levels were available for family justice. This Bill does it in a different way. Apparently mine was good enough to last for 33 years or so-I hope that this one will last for much longer.
Finally, I think the proposals for the county court are to do with questions of jurisdiction. The question I ask is: in what sense is this universal court for the whole of England a county court? There are a lot of counties in England.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble and learned Lord. He is right to predict that I will focus my contribution on Part 2 of the Bill, specifically those clauses and schedules that deal with judicial appointments.
As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, said, the Constitution Committee-which I have the privilege of chairing for another parliamentary Session-has just issued a major report on this subject, following a lengthy inquiry last year that lasted several months. During that inquiry, we took evidence from a wide range of serving and retired judges, lawyers, academics, politicians involved in the process of selection, and the Judicial Appointments Commission. Over this period, the committee has also had a very productive dialogue with the Government, and both the Secretary of State, Mr Clarke, and the noble Lord, Lord McNally, gave oral evidence to us.
The Government took considerable notice of the Constitution Committee's recommendations during their formal consultation on the Bill and last week responded in detail to the report, which the Secretary of State described as a valuable and timely contribution to the debate. The committee is grateful for this response and welcomes the fact that so many of our recommendations appear in the Bill before your Lordships today.
The essential premise of our report was to ensure that the judicial appointments process remains independent, open and transparent-as has been mentioned already today-and produces a judiciary that reflects the society it judges. We were concerned that even in 2011 only 5% of judges were from minority groups and only 22% were women. The Minister has rightly said that this is an improvement but we felt that it needed to go further. Frankly, the judge who inhabits a courtroom in England and Wales is still stereotypically a white male from a fairly narrow social background.
The Constitution Committee felt that it was enormously important to emphasise the need for faster moves towards greater diversity in future appointments. Apart from the difference that this would make to the profession, this is vital to maintain the public's confidence in the judiciary. I therefore join other noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon in very much welcoming the Government's decision to seek to introduce flexible working in the higher courts. As the Minister has said, the provisions of Schedule 12 make possible for the first time the appointment of judges at the highest level-I emphasise, at the highest level-on a part-time, salaried basis. As the Constitution Committee noted in its report, the introduction of flexible working of this nature must help to increase the number of women in the higher courts, as has happened successfully in other professions such as medicine, for example. It was interesting that the chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission reflected the views of many of our witnesses when he told us:
Having it, he said, "would be transformational". We have to hope that he is right, in spite of some of the practical problems that have rightly been raised by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss.
Schedule 12 also introduces the so-called tipping or tie-breaker provision for judicial appointments to increase diversity within the judiciary. At present, the tie-breaker provisions, which are explicit in the Equality Act 2010-we
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We may all agree, as has already been mentioned this afternoon, that this situation may arise relatively rarely but the Constitution Committee felt strongly that, although judicial appointments in England and Wales must continue to be made on merit, they should also continue to be based on principles that enable the adoption of the tie-breaker provision in the equality legislation. I hope that now the Bill has done this, it will not only provide a strong legal statement about the importance of diversity but, more directly, will lead to changing practice without undermining-I emphasise this-the essential merit principle.
However, it is disappointing that the Government have not placed the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice under a statutory duty to have regard to the need to encourage diversity in the pool of applicants for judicial posts in the same way as is now required for the Judicial Appointments Commission. Such a duty, which the Constitution Committee recommended, would help to ensure that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice properly recognise and fulfil their leadership roles in promoting judicial diversity. Improvements in diversity will occur only with decisive and persistent leadership. Although I do not doubt the commitment of the present holders of these offices, a statutory duty would ensure a real and lasting commitment to change in this field. It would also enable those two senior judges to account for their actions in encouraging diversity. The Government's response to this proposal by the Constitution Committee is sparse in its reasoning and I suspect that we may return to the question of a statutory duty to promote diversity later in the Bill.
The Government have also said, again disappointingly, that they are not minded to relax the operational restrictions on government-employed lawyers applying to become judges. I suggest that this is probably an unnecessary restriction. There is after all a clear public interest in ensuring that high-quality lawyers are not discouraged from entering the government service just because they may now never be able to progress later to the judiciary. It is also clear from the personnel data about government lawyers that they are, as a class, more diverse than other branches of the legal profession, so it seems logical that opening up their judicial career prospects would be likely to improve the general diversity of the judges.
Overall, I hope that the Government will, as their response to the Select Committee report suggests, give greater weight to the work of their own judicial diversity task force. Evidence to us from the previous advisory panel suggested that some earlier proposals had been sidelined. The noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, who I am glad is speaking today and who chaired the panel which reported in 2010, told us that,
The Bill makes a number of alterations to the structure of a judicial appointments process. As the Minister has already said, the Lord Chancellor's powers to appoint judges below the level of the High Court are to be transferred to the Lord Chief Justice. Similarly, the Lord Chancellor's role in appointing judicial members of tribunals is to be transferred to the Senior President of Tribunals. Both these changes are welcome, as they will promote the independence of the judiciary from the Executive and, I suspect, increase public confidence in the appointments process by more accurately reflecting the realities of judicial appointments at a lower level. I also welcome the decision to end the anomalous position whereby the President of the Supreme Court chairs the panel which appoints his successor. This was certainly something that the Constitution Committee felt was important.
There are other structural changes which are in the Bill and give cause for concern. In terms of constitutional principle, the most significant is the decision to allow the Lord Chancellor to sit as a member of the selection panels for the Lord Chief Justice and President of the Supreme Court. I have two concerns about this. First, in spite of what the Minister said, the inclusion of the Lord Chancellor on the selection panel risks the politicisation of the process, which would clearly run contrary to the principles behind it. Secondly, the Government propose to balance the inclusion of the Lord Chancellor on these selection panels with the removal of his current power to reject the decision of those panels. It would clearly be damaging for the fairness of the process if a member of the panel also had a veto over it. However, it raises the prospect, at least in theory, of the Lord Chancellor being outvoted on the panel and thus finding himself faced with a Lord Chief Justice or President of the Supreme Court with whom the Executive did not feel able to work. The Government may need to think again about this proposal, to which I am sure we will return in Committee.
Finally, I note that the Government have rejected the Constitution Committee's suggestion to create a differential retirement age for judges. We propose 75 for the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices, and 70 for all the others. The reason behind this proposal is that we thought that the change would ensure that while the most senior judges, where proven judicial quality and experience are at a premium, would continue to work to the later age, more posts would become available earlier at the lower levels. The evidence to us suggested that expanding opportunities in lower tiers of the judiciary would encourage diversity, particularly those who did not follow the traditional career paths. This may well be another area that we return to later in the Bill.
I am very grateful to the Minister for agreeing to discuss the detail of the Bill further with the Constitution Committee before the House begins consideration in Committee. This once again demonstrates the great importance of your Lordships' Select Committees in scrutinising and trying to improve legislation while a
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As I have already mentioned to the Minister, I apologise to him and the House as I may not be able to be here when he gives his wind-up speech. Unfortunately, I had already agreed to an evening engagement which I could not postpone at the last minute when the date of this debate was agreed. Looking at the long list of very distinguished speakers, I suspect we may not reach the end of it before I have to leave. However, I have apologised to the Minister and I apologise again to the House. I look forward very much to the next stages of this extremely important Bill.
Baroness Doocey: My Lords, I broadly welcome the Bill, but I have some concerns about Part 1. My greatest concern is how the Bill will affect the battle against child trafficking and I endorse all the comments made in this area by other noble Lords.
It is not clear to me where responsibility will sit in the proposed new set-up or how the NCA will address the trafficking of children as part of its remit. The information available suggests that responsibility will be split between two separate operational commands of the NCA and child trafficking will not be a primary duty of either of them. If this assessment is correct, the Bill will create a very unsatisfactory situation. The ideal solution would be the establishment of a single, child-focused operational command within the NCA, whose specific remit is to deal with all child-related crime, including all forms of child trafficking and child exploitation.
I would like now to turn to budgets. The NCA will have a wider reach than its predecessors, yet it is proposed that the NCA will be delivered within the budget of its precursor organisations. This is to be achieved through effective prioritisation and smarter use of assets. But the NCA will be a major new organisation, which will require considerable IT support and equipment for it to be effective. I have great difficulty believing that this can be achieved within existing budgets.
I very much welcome the proposal to establish an intelligence hub within the NCA, but it will not be effective unless it is properly resourced, staffed with real experts, and equipped with state-of-the-art information technology. Efficient IT must play a key role in the NCA. However, most existing police IT systems are incompatible, antiquated and require the endless keying and rekeying of the same data. Given that the intelligence hub will be central to the functioning of the NCA, and that IT will be central to the functioning of the intelligence hub, it is absolutely essential that IT systems facilitate easy access to electronic intelligence. So we need to know how the Government propose to resolve the issues around the interoperability of the various IT systems.
The Bill is unclear about the relationship between the NCA, chief officers and police and crime commissioners. In particular, the directive powers of the NCA, especially directed tasking, appear to conflict with the statutory responsibilities of PCCs for the
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The NCA will have considerable powers, so formal scrutiny, investigations and inspections must be rigorous and transparent. The NCA will be subject to investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission and to inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary. The Bill proposes that the IPCC will treat any wrongdoing in the NCA in the same way that it treats ordinary police forces. Although the IPCC may implement any of four modes of investigation, in practice, in most cases, it opts for supervised investigations, which effectively means the police force investigating itself. The IPCC justifies this policy on the grounds of limited resources.
The NCA will have far greater powers than an ordinary police force. It therefore follows that any wrongdoing must be independently investigated, so that the public can have confidence in the processes and procedures. Likewise, the proposal that HMIC will arrive at an agreed framework for inspections with the NCA is unsatisfactory. There also need to be unannounced inspections to help maintain public confidence.
At least some, and perhaps most, NCA officers will have operational powers, but NCA officers do not necessarily need to have held operational powers previously. There is also a proposal to appoint volunteer officers, similar to special constables. I very much welcome that, because I think that it will enhance the agency, but there will be a significant need for training for both full-time officers and volunteers. This training will need to be done on a one-to-one basis rather than by officers sitting in front of a computer, so it will cost a lot of money. Will the new professional police body be responsible for organising training for the NCA, or will training be split between various providers? If the latter, how will consistency be maintained?
How will the culture and benefits of employees who come from significantly different backgrounds be brought together? How will police terms and conditions be aligned with those of the security services or Customs and Excise? If one employee has a larger pension, does it follow that another gets higher pay? If there are differences in pay and benefits between NCA employees, that could cause internal problems, but if the employees are all on similar benefits, there could be disparities with the organisations from which they are drawn. That could lead to perverse incentives at one end of the equation or the other, with either a glut or a drought of employees with particular skill sets.
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, my first impression on seeing this year's helping from the Home Office is one of great relief because it is, at least by recent comparison, relatively short and uncontroversial. There is also relief because it contains only one new offence: driving with drugs in the bloodstream, whether or not your driving is impaired by the presence of drugs. That brings drugs into line with existing law on alcohol and is to be thoroughly welcomed.
I also welcome Clause 17, in so far as it favours the creation of a new, unified county court. Surely, the explanation for the name rests in the jurisdiction, not in the fact that the court will be based in individual counties. I hope that we will not lose the name "county court", despite the unification of all county courts.
I was less certain, I am bound to say, about the family court, for a reason which I shall explain, but having listened to the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, I find that I am completely convinced by her argument. Let me just explain the danger I foresee. That is that the unified family court may prove to be a step towards combining the High Court and the county court generally-in other words, a unified civil court. That has long been favoured in Whitehall, but it has long been resisted in the Strand-at least by some of us. Why? The reason is that it may tend eventually to diminish the role of the High Court judge. In my view, the High Court judge is the key to the whole judicial structure, and if he should come to be regarded as just another judge, as it were, just another rung on the judicial ladder-this is certainly how it looks from the list on page 115 of the Bill-the structure would indeed be threatened. It would be a step towards a career judiciary such as they have in France, which I would greatly regret. In the end, in my view, it would affect the quality of our highest judiciary. When the noble Lord replies, I hope that he will at least reassure me that there is no intention of creating a unified civil court, at the moment at any rate.
If I may say so, that seems to me a masterly statement of the obvious. What else could the court consist of but its judges? As to the number of such judges, we are told that it is not to exceed 12 full-time equivalent judges. For the first time in our history we are going to have part-time judges sitting in our most senior court. There would seem to be no limit to the number of part-time judges who might be so appointed. We could have 24 half-time judges, or a mixture of full-time judges and part-time judges. I am bound to say that this is a development I would deeply regret. I wonder whether the interest in flexible-time working and so on justifies such a vital change in our most senior court.
Moreover, why is there a sudden need to provide for an overall reduction in the number of judges of the Supreme Court? Back in 2005 we chose the number 12 because that was the number of serving Law Lords. Is the suggestion that the current judges of the Supreme Court do not have enough to do and therefore the number should be reduced to 11 or 10? Surely anybody who looks at, or even glances at, the weekly law reports can see that they have more than enough to do-indeed, they are too busy rather than not busy enough-yet there is the suggestion that their number might be reduced.
Is the explanation, perhaps, that we do not have enough money to pay for 12 judges? That seems even more inconceivable, yet no other reason is given in the Explanatory Notes for the need now to reduce the number. Indeed, the extraordinary provision in Schedule 12 says that there is a problem about having "exactly 12" Supreme Court judges, almost as if we could afford 11 and a half judges but not 12. I am bewildered by the whole of this part of the Bill, and I hope that we will have an explanation and that it will be fully explored in Committee.
I turn to diversity, which is covered by Part 2 of Schedule 12. How we can get greater diversity among our judges, particularly in our higher courts, has been a problem for as long as I can remember. My recollection is that when we considered these matters in 2004 in the Select Committee, we spent more time on diversity than on any other single issue. Everybody agrees that we should have more diversity and that selection should be on merit. It is very easy to say that. Then along comes Sir Colin Campbell and others who, I remember, argued in 2004 that merit does not mean what one thinks-it is just a threshold. Once one passes the threshold you can take all these other matters into account, including diversity. One finds exactly the same argument advanced before the Constitution Committee by Professor Cheryl Thomas, at paragraph 95 of its report. In 2004, we rejected that argument out of hand. That is why one finds "solely on merit" in Section 63(2) of the existing Act, which entirely meets that argument whenever it is to be advanced. I find myself therefore entirely in agreement with paragraph 97 of the Constitution Committee report-I am glad that it said what is in that paragraph-which also said that "solely" should mean what it says.
However, the Government now come along with the bright idea that two candidates could be exactly equal in merit. What then? Does that give us a kind of loophole in which we can aim for diversity? I remember the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, being asked in 2005 what would happen if two candidates for the High Court were of exactly equal merit. She laughed and simply brushed it aside, saying that if ever that time were to come at least she would not have to decide it. In truth, it is not a problem at all because, at any rate for the higher courts, it is not possible to imagine that two candidates in real life will be exactly equal. I therefore find myself in entire agreement with the views expressed in the Constitution Committee by the noble Baroness, Lady Neuberger, and by the noble and learned Lords, Lord Phillips and Lord Judge. It is
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Lord Lea of Crondall: I have been following the noble and learned Lord most carefully and apologise for intruding on this discussion among the experts in the field. I find the logic of what he has just said impeccable but is he happy that 80% of judges went to public schools, which represent 7% of the population of this country? He can fob it off on to somebody else but is he happy about that?
Lord Lloyd of Berwick: Of course I am not happy. I am as unhappy as anybody in this Chamber at the existing situation but we are trying to find a solution. All I can say to the noble Lord is that things are slowly getting better. We have put in provisions saying that it should be the duty of the appointments commission to search out, by widening the pool in which it looks, to find candidates who would be the best. I entirely agree with the noble Lord but I fear it is simply a question of time until we get a reasonable number of black people and white ladies among the judges. What worries me is that the Government are finding some way of trying to satisfy public opinion by saying that, in these circumstances, they can choose to make the Supreme Court more diverse. In fact, it is not going to happen. It is simply wishing away the problem as if it did not exist. If I had to describe the answer which they have given, I would have to say that I find it thoroughly trite.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, first, I apologise to the House and to the Minister for popping out earlier to speak about sewage in the Moses Room, although I suppose I could rephrase that better by saying, "to speak in the Moses Room about sewage".
I will make a few remarks this afternoon about border controls, in Part 3, and the problems that are being experienced, such as the delays faced by people coming into this country. It is interesting that the Bill contains three pages about the power of immigration officers but fails to address completely the fact that there are not enough of them. The latest news on Heathrow is that the MoD police have been drafted in, along with clerks-anyone to reduce queues-but I do not know whether they will have the powers conveyed on them by this Bill if it sees its way through both Houses.
The morale in the Immigration Service is said to be at rock bottom, which is really not very surprising when you have the combination of a 25% staff cut imposed by this Government and a requirement for all passengers to have a full check rather than using the risk-based approach. I suggest that one, two or even three hours of delays, as is reported, is pretty bad for business. I am talking not just about the operators, who I will come on to, but about those who do or want to do business in this country.
The Government argued that cutting the top rate of income tax was essential to keeping big business here. Other people have argued that a third runway at
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I give just three examples of where this seems to be going wrong. As I mentioned, at Heathrow, which has had the most publicity, BAA confirms, according to the Sunday Times yesterday, that the queues were up to three hours long at passport control in April. If you have just flown from Paris, Brussels or somewhere else within Europe that takes less than an hour, to be held up for another three hours is probably not very good.
I hope he does not suffer the same face as his predecessor, Mr Brodie Clark, who quite rightly spoke out against the problems and had to resign. It clearly is not working and clearly needs more people.
The second example is Eurotunnel. I talked to someone from Eurotunnel the other day, and there was something in the media about a week ago about the queues of cars going into the terminal at Calais being so long that they were blocking the motorway. The French motorway police phoned the company and said, "We're going to send everyone to Dunkirk or back to Paris unless you sort out the queues". Eurotunnel's only way of sorting out the queues is to send the trains off to the UK half empty, because the immigration people cannot process the people in the cars fast enough. If this went on, it would have a serious affect on Eurotunnel's business. That is not the fault of the Immigration Service but of Ministers. Do they care? The same thing will probably happen to some of the airlines.
Finally, there is the question of Eurostar. There has been a lot of publicity about that recently. For many years, passengers from Brussels going to Lille were asked to go through British passport control in Brussels. They objected; why should they have to show their ID cards or passports when travelling between two Schengen countries? Our immigration people in Brussels put in something so that if you had a ticket to go to Lille you did not have to show your passport. Of course, pretty quickly those who wanted to come here illegally found that the best thing was to buy a ticket to Lille and stay on the train to get into this country.
Then the French Government threatened the British Government and Eurostar, saying that unless they sorted out this problem they could not run any trains at all, which was not very helpful either. Now, if you come to London, you have to show your passport in Brussels and then again in London. We are back to one or possibly two hours' delay when you get to St Pancras: again, a problem if you have come for only a short time and were only on the train for an hour or
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The Government have to come up with some solutions pretty quickly. Eurostar announced in the last day or two that it wants to run trains to Geneva, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. Are we going to have outposts of British immigration in every city that these trains want to stop at, checking people's passports? That does not seem realistic. We have to come up with solutions. I have one or two to put to the Minister and the House.
One short-term solution is to go back to a risk-based solution by which those who are most likely to be in need of full passport control get it and the others can get through. Secondly, it is a minor detail but if every passenger has to stand behind a red line and then walk five or six yards to the immigration officer, that adds probably 25% to the processing time. Why must you have a line five yards away? Everything is done on a computer reader now. Frankly, one yard away would be perfectly all right.
The Government then have to staff-up to ensure that there is a maximum delay for travellers, except in an emergency. My first thought would be 15 minutes coming from the EU and 30 minutes from outside. This should be combined with a risk-based approach. I do not know how many noble Lords have been through immigration recently, but there are these iris scanners now. They actually take longer than the scanner that looks at your passport; they are both very slow. There must be a quicker way of doing that.
For the through-rains, the only solution, and a perfectly acceptable one, is to do the checks on the train between Lille and Ashford if the train stops at Ashford. You can have hand-held devices to look at passports and any other ID cards that you might need. The trains that Eurostar uses at the moment each have two jails. They are quite nice jails. They are aluminium-lined and with nice hooks so that if you are in handcuffs you can presumably be hooked up to the ceiling. That means that people cannot run away when the doors get opened at St Pancras, and they can be sent back on the next train.
I know that the Minister will reject my final suggestion, but what would really happen if we joined Schengen? Would it be all that different? Why do we go through all this? That is probably a step too far, but something has to be done. It is getting chaotic, and getting worse. We will look real idiots at the time of the Olympics. Besides the Olympics, there are people trying to go about their daily business who we want to live and work in this country. They are getting seriously put off. I look forward to the Minister's comments when he comes to reply.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I will confine my remarks to two clauses in the Bill: Clauses 1(1) and 23. I raise Clause 1(1) because I suspect that I am not alone in being somewhat confused about the Government's direction on policing. On the one hand, we have the
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I remember being particularly taken by the memorandum of dissent tabled by Dr AL Goodhart, of Oxford. It was logical and to my mind entirely sensible. In essence, he said that he was convinced that it was essential to establish a centrally controlled police force that was administered on a regional basis. He believed that all these Royal Commissions, ministerial committees and other inquiries would continue indefinitely until necessary steps were taken to introduce a rational and efficient system of government for the police that does not currently exist. How right he has been. Since 1962, there has been a continual dialogue about the governance of the police. It is still not resolved and I do not believe that this proposal resolves it any further.
Dr Goodhart acknowledged that the commission recognised that in modern conditions a certain amount of joint action on the part of various police forces was essential. Hear, hear to that. I had examples when I was serving in the Army. You could not follow a drug trail through England because some counties did not have drug squads and therefore you could not follow them. I realised that all was not well then, and although there have been patch-ups since then I do not believe there has been proper co-ordination.
That is something that we have been privy to recently. The public not accepting something was not an argument against setting up a national police force. However, he says very clearly that responsibility is meaningless unless it includes the power to direct.
One thing worries me about this proposal for the National Crime Agency, which I support because it is a national directive and in principle I am right with it. We are left unclear about it because the protocol that accompanied the appointment of police and crime commissioners said that they were,
Why "may"? Surely the Home Secretary is responsible for the strategic direction of policing anyway. There should be no "may" about it. If there is "may", I suspect that there will be even more confusion.
I wonder about these two-way tasking arrangements and how the director-general "may" task police forces and other law enforcement agencies to carry out specified activities. Who is accountable to the public for all this? I suggest that unless this is ironed out so that the roles of the National Crime Agency and police and crime
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At first glance, one wonders why that is necessary. There are already non-custodial sentences for people aged 18 and over, and hundreds of thousands of them are issued and served every year. Of course, the clue is in the statement that the Minister made about the consultation document that is due to be concluded on 22 June and which he said might result in amendments being tabled in Committee.
I detect some confusion between the Bill and the Explanatory Notes. The Bill talks about offenders aged 18 or over, and while that is strictly true of children it does not differentiate between them and young offenders, whereas the Explanatory Notes talk about "adults", although 18 to 21 year-olds are not regarded as full adults, certainly in the prison system. We have a wealth of evidence in front of us, most recently an admirable document published last week by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance, which talks about ways in which young offenders, particularly the 18 to 25 year-old group, should be looked after, and it is this group that I hope we will be able to focus on during the passage of the Bill.
I am very disturbed that the word "punishment" should appear so often in the Bill. I once had a discussion with Michael Howard-now the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Lympne-when he was Home Secretary. He castigated me for saying that prison was punishment and not for punishment. I said that I thought I was speaking in accordance with the policy of his Government because I had heard the phrase uttered by the noble Lord, Lord Brittan, a previous Home Secretary. He said, "I couldn't disagree with you more", so I asked, "What sort of prisons do you expect me to find when I inspect?". He said, "Decent but austere with a positive regime for tackling reoffending based on opportunities for education and learning job skills". I said, "Where's the punishment in that?". He replied, "I think we'll resume this conversation some other time", but we never have. That, to me, has always reflected the confusion in the rhetorical reference to punishment without really thinking through what it means. The punishment is the sentence awarded by the court. If you add punishment later, you will encourage the people who administer the sentence to say that inflicting
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I shall not go into all the details of the possible community sentences that could be introduced for this group because countless examples of how they work, how much cheaper they are and how much more effective they are can be found in masses of documents. The examples include Rethinking Crime and Punishment, a programme chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, in which I had the privilege to take part. It has listed just how effective these things are. Examples are coming out of people's ears, so why do we need to go through it all again? It is proven and we ought to get on with it.
When people say that the public have no confidence in a community sentence, I have often thought that one thing wrong with them is that they do not do all the things that are done in prison. Why should they not, as in the state of Massachusetts, consist half of education in the widest sense and half of community reparation? By education I mean education, job skills, substance abuse treatment, mental and health treatment and social skills; in other words, all the things that are done with people in prison. Why do you have to go to prison in order to get those things? Why should there not be proper male and female adult offender teams, looking after such people in the community in the same way as the young offender teams do, so that there is proper, meaningful supervision.
All that has been said, so why do we need to say it all again and why do we need secondary legislation to introduce things that have already been proven? I am confused. My appeal to the Minister is that if we are seriously to help the Government move forward on this, could they please ensure that at the end of our debate in Committee people take note this time of the fact that we cannot afford not to do these things. I think of all the effort that was taken to introduce changes, amendments, adjustments and advice during the passage of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, only to have it all rubbished down the other end, where it was said that it was budgetary and therefore we could take no account of it. These things should not be dismissed for budgetary reasons because there may well be savings, not least in the lives of the people whom we hope to improve.
Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, in the debate on the Queen's Speech on 9 May in another place, the Prime Minister said that the National Crime Agency would be employed to tackle human trafficking. That was very welcome news indeed. However, as there is no direct mention of human trafficking in relation to the National Crime Agency in the Bill, I would be grateful if the Minister would set out how the proposals for the NCA will change the Government's approach to human trafficking and improve the UK's effectiveness in tackling this terrible crime. Will the changes meet the UK's obligations under the European directive on human trafficking under Articles 9(3) and 9(4),
On a point of detail, I would be grateful if the Minister would tell the House where the UK Human Trafficking Centre will sit in this new organisation. The Serious Organised Crime Agency website states:
"The UK Human Trafficking Centre ... is a multi-agency organisation led by SOCA. Its role is to provide a central point of expertise and coordination in relation to the UK's response to the trafficking of human beings".
As SOCA will be disbanded under this Bill, it is important to be clear where the responsibilities for the UK Human Trafficking Centre will sit. If it is to sit within the National Crime Agency, it will be vital to ensure that the focus on policing and tackling crime does not reduce work on its other much needed functions of protection and prosecution.
Noble Lords will be aware that I am particularly concerned about the protection of human trafficking victims, especially the care of child victims. The SOCA website states that the UK Human Trafficking Centre works,
In the debate on the Protection of Freedoms Bill on 15 February, I moved an amendment and set out evidence that suggests that we are not providing this sort of care for trafficked children through the provisions of the Children Act on which the Government depend: namely, Section 26 on advocacy services, Section 23ZB on independent visitors, and Section 25 on independent reviewing officers. I made the case that these provisions are not sufficient and should be made good through the introduction of a legal advocate for trafficked children, or somebody to act as a friend and a mentor, who would know his way around the immigration jungles to help them. My speech can be found at columns 844 to 848 of Hansard for 15 February.
In response, the Minister said that the Government were not ready to accept the introduction of this entity for rescued trafficked children-a legal advocate or whatever it would be called-but that he would invite the Children's Commissioner for England to review the current arrangements for the care of child victims of trafficking, with the intention of providing advice to the Government on whether improvements in care are needed. Three months on, can the Minister provide the House with an update on whether there might be scope within this Bill for the Government to take forward any aspect of our amendment, which is deemed useful by the Children Commissioner's report?
Lord Touhig: My Lords, I will direct my remarks to Clause 20 of Part 2, the provisions in the Bill that will make offenders liable to pay new administrative costs to the Courts and Tribunals Service in cases where they do not meet fine payments in full or on time. In particular, I hope that when the Minister comes to reply he will specify the arrangements relating to consideration of means in these circumstances. The Government's intention behind making offenders liable for administration costs-which include those incurred by Courts and Tribunals Service in recovery-related tasks such as issuing payment reminders and tracing outstanding sums-is to increase compliance with payment plans and to make cost savings.
However, unless the offender's financial means are taken into account when applying costs, the change may not achieve either goal. Instead we will force more people further into debt, with little hope of eventual repayment. Those working with the poorest people in our communities understand that there are a number of circumstances which may result in offenders missing payment dates or not being able to meet the prescribed sum at a given point. Many of those who find themselves before the courts already face significant personal challenges. Indeed, the Government's own impact assessment recognises that some offenders lead chaotic lives. Other outstanding debts, unexpected family situations or confusion about the system may cause people to default.
I am certainly not advocating that additional administrative costs presented by such situations should fall automatically and completely to the taxpayer-far from it. I believe that people should face up to their financial responsibilities. However, if the amount owed were increased without any reference to the individual's means, it could result in unnecessary hardship, even when their intention is already to comply with payment of the initial fine.
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