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Of course, I went through all this when I sat on the seat on which the Chairman of Committees now sits. Time and again the House has to be reminded that the noble Lord has not put down recommendations of people who should go on the committee. I suspect that his calculations on how many people are Eurosceptics, Europhobes or whatever is totally misguided. The European Select Committee does a very good job on behalf of your Lordships. It does not put forward policy. It examines evidence from expert witnesses and produces its reports on that basis. They are then debated in your Lordships House. We should totally ignore what the noble Lord has said today.
Lord Vinson: My Lords, that last comment misses the point. We toil and strive, and some of us even weave no doubt, to modify much European legislation that is put, prior to enactment in Europe, before this House. The fact is that we have practically no effect. In other words, the scrutiny committees of both Houses, through which we are meant to exercise our democratic influence over Europe, simply do not work. There is a mega democratic deficit, which the House should recognise.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, is a problem arising here? I understand the objection, although I do not agree with it. But that is not the point. Is there a problem because you cannot have minority reports on these committees? I understand that the drill is that you cannot. If you could, there would be a way to meet the problem that has arisen. To be clear, I do not agree with the objection, but it is right that there should be consideration of those who take another view.
Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I was surprised at the intervention made by the noble Lord, Lord Tordoff, who is such a reasonable person. He said that we should disregard entirely the views of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I do not see why we should disregard those views at all. My noble friend may take views that are contrary to some of ours, but he is entirely entitled to hold those views and to disseminate them. When the Chairman of Committees said, I think that we can dispose of this quite quickly and get over it quite quickly, I thought that that was offensive. My noble friend has, in his view and that of many other people, a legitimate cause for grievance and he should be heard.
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I would usually agree with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, but the point that I put to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, was that we get this same debate every year and the noble Lord fails to put forward any alternative names. He is perfectly free, if that is his view, to put forward
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I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, that we do not normally have minority reports, but it is entirely possible to put amendments down to reportseven quite substantial amendmentswhich can be voted on and would appear in the report of that committee.
That a Select Committee be appointed to set the policy framework for the administration of the House and to provide non-executive guidance to the Management Board; to approve the Houses strategic, business and financial plans; to agree the annual Estimates and Supplementary Estimates; to supervise the arrangements relating to Members expenses; and to approve the House of Lords Annual Report;
L Baker of Dorking, L Brabazon of Tara, L Bradley, L Craig of Radley, B DSouza, B Hayman (Chairman), B Hollis of Heigham, L McNally, B Royall of Blaisdon (Lord President), L Strathclyde, L Tordoff, L Wakeham;
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there are 38 Members on the speakers list for the debate on the humble Address today. If Back-Bench contributions are kept to nine minutes, we should rise at around the target rising time of 10 pm.
Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majestys most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled, beg leave to thank Your Majesty for the most gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, it is a great privilege to be opening todays debate on Her Majestys gracious Speech. Today, we discuss the Governments proposals on home affairs, justice and constitutional affairs for the current parliamentary Session. These include the policing and crime Bill, the borders, immigration and citizenship Bill and the coroners and justice Bill. I am delighted to be joined by my noble friend Lord Bach who will wind up this debate. The measures we plan to introduce will go some way toward underpinning the Governments wider objective of making sure that we are creating a fair society with fair rules where people can have a fair say on how those rules are applied. I am sure noble Lords will agree that this is more crucial than ever in the difficult economic times that the country and indeed the world are facing.
The gracious Speech made clear our commitment to support families and businesses through these challenging times. That is why we are aiming to apply these measures to reinforce our commitment to economic security at the same time as we strengthen our borders and bolster the ties that bind our communities together.
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The good news is that we have already seen tremendous progress in many of these areas. Indeed, since 1997 crime overall has dropped by nearly 40 per cent, while burglary and car crime have more than halved. That demonstrates the tremendous job that the police and their partners are doing across the country. Neighbourhood policing is well established in every neighbourhood throughout England and Wales, and by the end of the year we will build on that even further with a new policing pledge for every force. The policing pledge represents a new deal between the police and the public. On the one hand, the public will be aware of the standards of service that they can expect and the police will be more accountable to the public they serve through advances in crime mapping, regular information updates, and via monthly meetings. On the other hand, we have also listened closely to what the police have asked us to do, which is why the policing pledge removes some of the administrative burden from officers. To that end, we are removing performance targets set from Whitehall and replacing them with just oneto deliver improved levels of public confidence.
Not only that, but we are scrapping the stop and account form and streamlining the process of crime recording for police forces; not least with the introduction of electronic hand-held devices that will give the police the tools they need to stay out on the beat where the public want them. The policing and crime Bill will also establish the fair rules that prevent low-level crime and disorder taking root in our communities. One way that we plan to do this is by introducing measures to tackle binge drinking through a new mandatory code for responsible alcohol sales. We plan to take even tougher action against retailers and bars that sell alcohol to children, and ensure that the industry plays its part in ending irresponsible promotions such as All you can drink offers.
Again, following the lead of the public, we will tighten the controls on lap dancing clubs, giving people a greater say in whether these clubs should be allowed to operate in the local area. In another move, we will set out new protections for vulnerable groups, particularly women and children, by attempting to tackle demand for prostitution and strengthening our powers to deal with sex offenders.
I think that noble Lords will agree that criminals should not be able to squirrel away their ill-gotten gains as this is vital in reassuring the public that justice is done, and seen to be done. As such, we have also acted in relation to recovering criminal assets. Here again, we plan to make the system fairer to victims by giving the police, prosecutors and other law enforcement agencies additional powers to improve the recovery of
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Another key element in building the confidence of the public lies in the sentencing framework. The Sentencing Advisory Panel and the Sentencing Guidelines Council have done much to ensure greater consistency in sentencing, but there is scope to do more. Consequently, the Bill will establish a sentencing council for England and Wales with a remit to produce comprehensive guidelines for sentences, further enhancing consistency and enabling more accurate predictions to be made of the demand for prison and probation resources.
The public sense of fair play demands that criminals should not benefit from their crimes. That is why the Bill will introduce a civil scheme for the recovery of proceeds from criminal memoirs. It is difficult enough for the victims of crime, particularly violent crime, to come to terms with their harrowing experience without having to go through the anxiety and hurt all over again when they see the perpetrator of the offence being paid for an interview or a book launch. That is why it is so important to put a stop to it and to keep our promise to be on the side of the victim.
In a similar vein, we also propose to improve the service that bereaved families receive from a reformed coroners system. At present, when a person dies their bereaved family and friends rightly want to know the cause of death. However, if this is unknown, unnatural or the circumstances are such that a criminal prosecution cannot be brought, it can be difficult to have the death properly and independently investigated. We plan to rectify such situations by having a new chief coroner setting national standards and presiding over a new accessible appeals system that families can use if they are unhappy with a coroners decisions.
Before I move on I should flag up one further provision in the Bill. I want it to be quite clear that the Government will not shrink from taking the necessary steps to protect personal data. We have already taken steps to strengthen data security in government departments but we can do more. The Bill will therefore strengthen the audit and inspection powers of the Information Commissioner and ensure that his office has the resources it needs to ensure compliance with data protection principles across the public and private sectors.
This month the United Kingdom will formally ratify the Council of Europes convention on human trafficking. We all recognise the need to be vigilant against this evil trade but the integrity of the UKs borders is vital for many other reasons besides. That is why the provisions in the borders, immigration and citizenship Bill are so important. Our borders are already among the most secure in the world but we are
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Equally, we need to be sure that the rules are fair to both those who want to come to Britain and those already here, which is why the rules ensure that only those with the skills we need can come here to work or study. That is why we recently issued the first ID cards to foreign nationals, protecting our citizens against identity fraud and illegal working as well as making it easier for people to prove that they are who they say they are. That is also why we have introduced tiers 2 and 5 of the point-based system to allow us to control immigration by raising and lowering the bar, depending on the needs of the country.
The Bill also sets out our plans for major changes to what we expect of migrants before they can earn British citizenship. British citizenship is a privilege and with it comes responsibilities. As such, there will no longer be an automatic right to stay here after five years; migrants will have to speak English, work and play by the rules if they want to stay and build a new life in Britain. Just as the Bill introduces these new responsibilities, we will also create a new duty for the UK Border Agency to take into account the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in its operations. These measures, together with our commitment to strong enforcement of the law, will deliver an immigration system that is firm but also fair to genuine migrants.
However, fairness also means being tough on those who would break the law, which is why we are being even tougher in operations to stop traffickers, disrupt smuggling and clamp down on illegal immigration. We are already issuing biometric visas as a matter of course to anyone applying to travel here. Indeed, they have proved to be an instant success as we have detected more than 4,600 cases of identity swaps across the 3.3 million sets of fingerprints already enrolled in the system. In addition, we will be reintroducing border controls and exit checks and will soon be able to count non-EEA nationals in and out of the United Kingdom.
Finally, the borders, immigration and citizenship Bill will give UK Border Agency officers the integrated powers they need to ensure that immigration and Customs operate seamlessly together for our protection.
The measures we are introducing are based on the Governments ongoing commitment to protect the rights of the vulnerable and the interests of the law-abiding majority. I look forward to the forthcoming debates on these important issues, and hope that your Lordships will support the thrust of these measures.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, when I listened to the gracious Speech last week, and as I have listened today to the Ministers recitation of ongoing activity and tinkering measures, I have had the impression of a Government who lack a programme of substance. A number of important measures have been left out of their legislative programme, and I want briefly to touch on a couple of them.
We had expected to see a transport security Bill establishing new arrangements for airport security and implementing our international obligations to combat terrorist acts at sea. The proposals to improve airport security, which we welcome in principle, are now scattered about in the policing and crime Bill. But, at a time when piracy is a real and growing threat and terrorism remains a severe threat, the Government have not carried forward measures to implement our international obligations to combat these acts at sea. It would be helpful if the Minister explained why. It is vital that the Royal Navy knows what action it can take against pirates.
The other area where the Government have little substance is in their own programme for constitutional renewal. My noble friend Lord Kingsland will speak on constitutional issues in greater detail; I would point out only that the Government have gone against their own promise to put in place a Bill of Rights; that despite a general consensus that Parliament should ratify treaties, a proposal to that effect has not been taken forward; and that we do not see a great effort to place the Civil Service on a statutory footing.
It is odd that there is no proposal to bring forward a Civil Service Bill when the Government seem so keen to assert the binding obligations on civil servants in the Civil Service Code. We now need a full statement of the relationship between civil servant and Ministerwhat a Minister may properly ask a civil servant to do, as well as the civil servants duties to the Government of the day.
Enshrining in law the core values of the Civil Serviceimpartiality, integrity, honesty and objectivityhas now become extremely important, but it is also important to recognise that civil servants work in the public interest, as do Members of your Lordships House and of the other place. We must ensure that that work is not impeded or disrupted. So I was rather struck by the statement from the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office, Sir David Normington, when he said that leaks of information were undermining the effectiveness of his department. At least one of the leaks in question, identifying that thousands of illegal immigrants had been given official clearance to work as security guards, very clearly demonstrated the ineffectiveness of the Home Office.
I fear that we have a department with no strong sense of direction, one that may indeed be guilty of aggravating the problems with which it is meant to deal or of allowing them to develop. I shall give your Lordships some examples. The legislative programme before us is indicative of the problem. Let us look at the proposed policing and crime Bill. The Government have been ineffective and incompetent in reducing crime. They have liberalised alcohol sales, which have fuelled the problem. What has been the result? The Minister said that crime overall had gone down, but unfortunately violent crime, which is something the public care a lot about, has nearly doubled since 1997. In the first year following the introduction of the 24-hour licensing laws, there was a 25 per cent increase in the most serious violent crimes. It is hard not to believe that there is some connection.
At a time when violent crime is on the up and the public feel less safe, the police are constrained in what action they can take. I was glad to hear the Minister announce measures which will reduce the time that the police spend on bureaucratic paper-filling, but we have a long way to go. The Police Federation has said that,
The Government are trying to find answers to all these problemsproblems that they have helped to create or exacerbate. We on these Benches will look at the outcome of the review of happy hours and promotions, but we do not think that it will by itself address the problems of binge drinking, alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour which so blight the inner city these days. I wonder whether it is right that we legislate on such things as happy hours and promotions; surely it is a matter for policy guidance or local bylaws rather than for primary legislation. For months, we have called on the Government to reverse 24-hour drinking and replace it with local authority control.
The only measures in the Bill which have some substance are those that aim to increase police accountability and, by implication, effectiveness. But its proposal that elected crime and policing representatives should sit on existing police authorities is a pale alternative to the proposal of these Benches for elected police commissioners. The trouble with the Governments proposal is that their elected representatives, because of the small electoral groups and areas in which they operate, could be open to single-issue interest groups. I hope that the Government will consider that. Real accountability can be achieved only by making each police force accountable to an individual directly elected by the citizens of that police area. Those police commissioners would seek re-election on their record, answering to the public for their success or failure in reducing crime. Similarly, on a point of local accountability, we have called for local authorities to have the power to decide whether a lap dancing club is appropriate in their areait should not be a matter of central control.
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