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Lords Chamber

Volume 685: debated on Wednesday 18 October 2006

House of Lords

Wednesday, 18 October 2006.

The House met at three of the clock (Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Newcastle): the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Roads: Congestion

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether their current highways investment programme addresses the problems of congestion on the M25 and other major highways.

My Lords, we are delivering a range of measures to tackle congestion across the whole of the motorway network, including a significant programme of motorway widening, better management of the network through the introduction of Highways Agency traffic officers, and the use of national and regional control centres. We are trialling new measures to make best use of motorway capacity. We are also exploring the scope for developing a national system of road pricing.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his response. Does he agree that the vital role in our economy played by road freight transport and the extra carbon emissions from traffic congestion both argue for a higher priority to be given to road improvement and construction? Our existing road system is showing its age and there are numerous congestion black spots that are crying out for traffic-easing investment. As for new roads, have the Government given any consideration, for example, to the possible construction of an outer M25 ring road around London?

My Lords, on the latter point, no, not at this juncture. On the noble Lord’s basic point, roads are of course essential to our economy and that is why we propose to spend£1.7 billion over the next two years on at least23 major schemes. But I want to give the House the assurance that we intend to lock in the benefits of motorway widening by effective traffic management so that we do not produce additional congestion in due course.

My Lords, when the Government came to power nearly 10 years ago, they inherited a very comprehensive road-building programme which they then abandoned because there was to be a 10-year transport plan from the Deputy Prime Minister. Does the Minister regret that he did not leave it in place because they reinstated most of those projects five years later? If they had left the programme in place, it is possible that the roads would have been built by now.

My Lords, the House will recall that expenditure plans under this Government have increased significantly and often despite criticism from the Opposition. The answer to the noble Lord’s question is straightforward. We are giving priority to improvements to our roads but we need a comprehensive transport plan, particularly in the context of the problems of climate change. That is also why there is such heavy investment in the railways.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that spending huge sums on motorway widening is both inconvenient and exceedingly expensive? Will he therefore tell us more about the plans for introducing road pricing, which seem to have been long delayed?

My Lords, I am not sure that the average road user in areas where motorway widening has taken place, such as the M25 near London airport, regards it as a waste of money; quite the opposite. More generally, we already have one illustration of effective road pricing with the congestion charge in London. We are looking at further development and are offering financial support to local authorities to introduce road pricing where they can establish that congestion can be tackled adequately, and in the longer run we will have to look at other areas of the road network in addition to city and town centres.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a problem throughout the whole motorway system, in this country and in other countries, and they all eventually come to the same conclusion—that you cannot stop cars using motorways? You have to control the vehicles rather than spend lots more money building new roads.

My Lords, there is a great deal in what the noble Lord says—we will need to manage traffic more effectively. We have in place, of course, traffic management officers, who ensure that when incidents occur on motorways they are dealt with more effectively. I agree with the noble Lord. As has been shown by the American experience and elsewhere, one has to look towards rewarding cars that are fully laden—that is, with more than just the driver and carrying additional passengers at certain times—and ensuring that we tackle the problem of peak periods. It is a staggering fact that a very high percentage of our cars are on the road at one particular hour in the day, called the school run.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the Highways Agency and those working with it deserve the highest praise and commendation for the way in which they are managing the road widening on the M1 between junctions 6 and 9? Can he encourage the Highways Agency to put up an electronic sign detailing the large numbers of drivers who are being fined for risking the lives of those who are working on the road widening by ignoring the speed limit?

My Lords, we are careful to enforce speed limits where people working on the roads are at risk. My noble friend will recognise that there is a 50 miles per hour speed limit there.

My Lords, it is a 40 miles per hour speed limit on this particular stretch. I am grateful. It is a little while since I used that particularly effective part of the motorway. Of course, my noble friend will recognise that it was necessary to widen that stretch because it has been a notorious bottleneck in recent years.

My Lords, can the Minister explain why the dangerous A1 road north of Newcastle has now been downgraded from a route of national importance to one of regional importance, with the result that two long-awaited dualling schemes that were due to start, according to previous plans, in 2008-09 have now been postponed to 2019?

My Lords, the noble Lord questioned me on this issue three months ago and I have not got a great deal to add to the response I gave then. I recognise his point about the significance of the road, but he will recognise that we have concentrated on the southern stretches of the A1—if I can call them “southern”—south of Newcastle to London. Most of that road, of course, is dual carriageway and in very many places is now of motorway standard.

Post Offices

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What plans they have for the future of the post office network; and what assessment they have made of the impact of those plans on the livelihood of sub-postmasters.

My Lords, the Government have made an unprecedented investment of more than £2 billion since 1999 to help the post office network adapt to the changing needs of customers. But there are further challenges facing the network and the Government are working closely with Post Office Ltd and sub-postmasters to meet them and to provide a long-term, sustainable basis for a national post office network.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that today more than 3,000 sub-postmasters have held a rally, are lobbying Parliament and have presented the largest petition in history, containing more than 4 million signatures, at 10 Downing Street? They have done so because they are very concerned about the future of the Post Office card, about the subsidy to the Post Office coming to an end in 2008, and about the loss of TV licence and vehicle excise licence business. Can my noble friend assure these hard-working men and women that they have a future? Can he tell us what the Government have in mind to preserve rural post offices?

My Lords, we are indeed aware of the rally. It is important to realise that the sub-postmasters themselves have said that in its present form the network is unsustainable. We are working with them and with Post Office Ltd to produce a network which is sustainable in the future, and we will make an announcement before Christmas.

My Lords, will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm in one of the Houses of Parliament the comment by the Secretary of State this morning on “Today” that it is accepted by Her Majesty's Government that a subsidy will be required to the post ofice network after 2008? Will he also indicate that when the Government make their Statement to both Houses with regard to the future of the post office network, postponing or abandoning the cancellation of the Post Office card account in 2010 will be on the agenda? Bearing in mind that there are more than 13,000 post offices but Royal Mail’s view is that only 4,000 are required to deliver a proper Royal Mail service, will the Government consider allowing altering the terms of post office licences so that they can deal with mail other than that of the Royal Mail?

My Lords, the Government recognise the social and economic role that the post office plays, particularly in urban deprived areas and rural areas. We also recognise that there will be post offices that will never be commercially viable but which play an important social and economic role and will require public subsidy in the future. I confirm that no decision has yet been taken about POCA or the replacement after 2010.

My Lords, will the Minister bear it in mind that it is not just a question of the livelihood of the sub-postmasters and postmistresses? So many thousands of elderly people, particularly in villages, have had their own post office closed a year or two back and now the one in the next village might be closed, and it will be so difficult for them to manage. The fact that post offices cannot now do so many things has surely contributed to their financial difficulties.

My Lords, as I said, we are very well aware of the social and economic role played by post offices. This is particularly important for elderly people, and we will bear that in mind when looking at this question.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the Post Office Superannuation Fund. Does the Minister agree—I will tell him if he does not—that in my time as chairman of the Post Office, the Government provided 60 per of its business and that if they go ahead with all their plans, they will be providing 10 per cent? Does he agree with the chairman of the Postal Services Commission that the voice of the public should be heard and that as part of the Government’s belated attempt to introduce some joined-up thinking, there will be consultation with users of post offices to find out what they want, rather than decisions being taken for them without consultation?

My Lords, the issue of government services gained through the Post Office is key. It is not about one government department trying to get a slightly better service and putting a burden on another one. There are very striking differences in cost between the services provided by the Post Office and other means. For example, it costs nearly £1 to make a payment into a Post Office card account, compared with 1p into a bank account. We have to decide whether this is the best and most effective way of meeting our social obligations. We are of course consulting users throughout the process.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the further closure of post offices in rural areas will hit low-income families, pensioners and the unemployed the hardest? What action will the Government take to ensure that the Post Office enters into partnerships with village halls, pubs and churches so that a local service is provided in those areas where it is most needed?

My Lords, we are very aware that this is not simply a question of bricks and mortar, but one about service to people. That is why we have been pushing the Post Office to look at other ways in which to deliver the same services, such as mobile post vans, delivering more post office services directly to people’s houses and hosting post offices at other businesses, such as pubs, community centres and town halls. As I say, this is not just bricks and mortar but a question of delivering a social service to people, and we are very aware of that point.

My Lords, will my noble friend consider the “hub and spoke” system that is being thought about, which would answer the problem to which the noble Baroness, Lady Knight, alludes, by ensuring that services in rural areas are provided, albeit on a weekly rather than a daily basis?

My Lords, the methods that I referred to were, in fact, all on a hub and spoke basis. We have to look very seriously at those kinds of operations, because it is a startling fact that on average fewer than 16 people a week use the 800 smallest rural offices, at a loss of £17 per visit to the taxpayer. We have to consider whether that is a sustainable position and whether there might be more creative ways in which to deal with this social obligation.

Housing: Affordable Homes

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Whether there will be an express stipulation on the acquiring party for provision of social housing when the Ministry of Defence sells the Chelsea Barracks site.

My Lords, any proposals for the development of the site will be subject to Westminster City Council’s unitary development plan, which reflects the policies in the London Plan. The city council’s strategic planning brief, which providesa detailed planning policy framework for the assessment of planning applications relating tothe site, confirms that the city council expects the maximum amount of residential accommodation, including up to 50 per cent affordable housing.

My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend for that reply and the indication that affordable housing will be part of this plan. But is this not an extreme example of a situation in the Westminster area where we have recently been disposing of public assets in areas with a chronic absence of affordable housing of all forms of tenure? In this case, that was admirably chronicled in a report by the noble Lord, Lord Best, who I am glad to see in his place. Should not the first call on land disposed of by public authorities in areas of high housing stress be to provide affordable homes for people in that area after consulting the local authority?

My Lords, we certainly recognise the enormous housing stresses in London and the contribution that this site will make. What is instructive about it is to see how closely the MoD has worked with Westminster City Council and other partners in developing the planning brief, which will lead to the 50 per cent of affordable housing. That is not atypical. Indeed, the MoD has six sites around London through its project MoD Estates London—MoDEL—which will release a great deal of housing for development. It is working with English Partnerships in close association. That is a very good and positive example of how the disposal of public land can make a real contribution to meeting our housing needs.

My Lords, does the Minister really think that at a time when the Treasury is very short of money and the Chancellor is having to make major cuts in public spending it is sensible to reduce probably quite significantly the proceeds from selling this absolutely top-value site for subsidised housing? The reduction in what the Treasury gets from the sale will inevitably come out of other very desirable government spending programmes.

My Lords, clearly the MoD has to follow the Treasury guidelines, but clearly too it has to balance that with the Government’s housing objectives which seek more sustainable housing in London to meet the great housing needs in London. I am impressed by how the MoD is achieving that balance by close partnership. It is a very instructive demonstration of the way forward.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that in areas such as Westminster the chronic shortage of affordable housing means that there is chronic shortage of key workers and that there are times when narrow Treasury objectives should be weighed up and put second to wider community considerations?

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right about the need for key worker housing, and I am pleased to say that the policy is a success: we have housed 22,000 people through the key worker living scheme. Interestingly, servicemen are classified as key workers. It is important because they aspire to home ownership just as everyone else does and the scheme helps them prepare for a return to civilian life.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, for his references to the Westminster Housing Commission, which I had the honour to chair. Might the Minister be able to use her good offices at the Department for Communities and Local Government to bring together the key people from the Treasury, the Housing Corporation and English Partnerships to look not just at the Ministry of Defence’s disposal policy, but at those of all government departments and all other statutory bodies, so that we have some protocols for when it is a good idea for land to be sold for affordable housing and when it is not, instead of the rather more anarchic situation we have at the moment?

My Lords, I always listen to my noble friend. In fact, the Westminster Housing Commission report that he has produced is an admirable document, and I hope that Westminster Council listens closely to what he has to say. We have a precedent for a sort of protocol in the way that English Partnerships works with those who dispose of public land to ensure that it meets government housing objectives, so we have something in place that I think might guide us.

My Lords, may we be assured that social housing provision outside the central activity zone will be based on 50 per cent of the total square footage of the development asagainst 50 per cent of the units? That would avoid what happened at the Bowater development in Knightsbridge, where Candy and Candy ended up, under the so-called policy for London on planning, providing only 11 per cent of the total development space for social housing?

My Lords, 50 per cent for affordable housing is the target in the London plan, and the Mayor is very serious about that. I hear what my noble friend says about the methodology. That is something we have recognised, as indeed has the Mayor himself. I will go back and think about what my noble friend has said.

My Lords, in view of the two recent decisions taken by the Deputy Prime Minister regarding skyscrapers on the riverside being allowed and justified because of the inclusion of affordable housing, will the Minister undertake that her department will abide by the wishes of Westminster City Council that the whole development on this site should be of low and medium-rise buildings?

My Lords, the planning decision will rest with Westminster Council. Nothing in the London Plan requires tall buildings to be scattered around London, and clearly the Westminster plan has to conform to the London Plan. The Secretary of State has a reserve power of call-in if what is decided goes against national objectives and determined criteria. I am sure that Westminster, having looked at its planning brief, has a very sound sense of what is needed on that site.

My Lords, will the Government give an assurance through the Minister that every house built under the heading of “affordable social housing” will cost no more than £200,000 for young couples to be able to buy it?

I wish I could, my Lords. We are building a great many more houses in order to reduce the cost specifically for the first-time buyer.

Russia and Georgia

asked Her Majesty’s Government:

What representations they are making, in co-operation with their partners in the European Union and NATO, in response to increasing tensions between Russia and Georgia.

My Lords, through the EU we have called on both sides to exercise restraint, to tone down the public rhetoric and to reopen normal diplomatic dialogue. With NATO allies, we have called on both sides to refrain from provocative actions. Last week, when calling on the Georgian president, my right honourable friend the Minister for Europe urged a constructive approach. We have directly raised with the Russians the desirability of their lifting the measures taken against Georgia.

My Lords, I am grateful for that reply, but does the Minister accept that the push for NATO to intensify its dialogue with Georgia served to feed Russian paranoia over our own foreign policy intentions and threatens to undermine attempts to secure Russia’s co-operation further afield? Given that the two are likely to be mutually exclusive, what assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the benefits to the United Kingdom of Georgia’s co-operation with and support for NATO, compared to the benefits of co-operation and support from Russia, in our efforts to resolve crises in the Middle East, Afghanistan, North Korea and elsewhere in the world? If the Government have made such an assessment, will the Minister share those thoughts with us?

My Lords, there is no desire on our part to make relations with Russia more difficult, but it is worth identifying the basis on which applications to join NATO are made. For example, the decision by NATO to offer intensified dialogue to Georgia, which we supported, was made by consensus of all NATO allies in response to a Georgian request. The process is designed to support and stimulate modernisation and reform, promoting Georgia’s development asa secure, stable and successful country. The responsibility for doing all those things lies with Georgia. The NATO Secretary-General said when Georgia was granted ID that it was of great importance that all parties should strive for a peaceful solution to local conflicts and, indeed, for good relations across the whole of the south Caucasus.

My Lords, with the expulsion of members of the Georgian diaspora in Russia, the economic blockade and the Russian reluctance to accept or to obey international conventions in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, are there not some worrying tendencies in Russia to fail to accept the realities of the post-Soviet world in the Caucasus? Although my noble friend mentioned the decision taken by the EU Council yesterday, is it not true that the Council failed to respond to the appeal of President Saakashvili, printed in yesterday’s edition of Le Monde, for more EU help and in particular for EU borders to be opened to allow further trade from Georgia and to permit greater access for students and business people from Georgia? Therefore, yesterday’s EU declaration did not amount to much.

My Lords, the EU declaration was directed at ensuring that Russia should,

“not pursue measures of targeting Georgians”.

It expressed grave concern and looked forward to a change in economic relations. The EU Foreign Ministers have sent Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner to Georgia to advance those discussions.

I intend to be extremely careful and as even-handed as I can be in this response. We are talking about a part of the world in which the capacity of different combatants to engage with each other, with the most alarming and dangerous regional consequences, is pronounced. For those reasons we must strive not to wag our fingers at people, however tempting that may be, but to produce the conditions for normalisation and stabilisation.

My Lords, while the Minister wants to be even-handed, which I completely understand, is he aware that last week the temperature in Georgia fell to -20 degrees centigrade? Therefore, the decision to cut off gas supplies from Russia to Georgia—although they have now been restored at last—was an act of extreme brutality. Will the Minister convey to our Russian friends that, whatever their quarrels—he may be even-handed between the two countries—that is not a good way of conducting international relations and does not bode well for the future of our wish to purchase Russian gas to keep ourselves warm?

My Lords, the disruption of gas to Georgia is a very serious matter, as it was when it happened for the first time last January. There has never been a satisfactory explanation for the two explosions that occurred more or less simultaneously and cut both pipelines. It is absolutely imperative that the sanctions currently exercised against the Georgian people are not continued, that normal diplomatic relations are resumed and that some of the actions taken against Russia by Georgia, which are unquestionably provocative and unhelpful, are reconsidered, as has been repeatedly requested.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that if this matter is not raised with President Putin when he has dinner with the heads of government of the European Union later this week, he will undoubtedly draw the conclusion that it is not high priority for the European Union? Does the Minister therefore agree that the Prime Minister and his colleagues need to say to President Putin that, while they wish to be even-handed, they do not like bullying?

My Lords, whatever the rights and wrongs on both sides of this very complicated situation, which has been developing over the past 16 years, it really is over the top to impose the level of economic blockade that the Russians are now doing to Georgia. Are Her Majesty’s Government pushing hard within the EUto provide the open markets and the economic assistance that Georgia clearly needs?

My Lords, we are concerned to make sure that the economic assistance that is required is provided, largely by the enhancement of trade links. I do not want to be squeamish at all on one point; we regard the measures that have been taken as very unhelpful. That is why I have made—and I repeat—the point that this is one of the sources of tension that could be removed immediately. The return of those accused of espionage by the Georgians to the Russians should have been a helpful first step in easing that tension. We have to build on that and make sure that these sanctions are removed as rapidly as possible.

Police and Justice Bill

Read a third time.

Clause 5 [Police authorities as best value authorities]:

Page 3, leave out line 13.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, as I indicated on Report, I am returning to the issue of best value. My explanations to date must not have been persuasive enough, because the Government apparently still have difficulty in grasping why their proposals cause a problem for police authorities; so I will try once more. The amendment has a different focus from those that I tabled previously, but before the noble Lord accuses me of inconsistency and not knowing what I want, which I am sure he would not do, I will explain.

Police authorities are perfectly happy to have a duty to secure best value, provided they have the tools to make sure that it happens; but they object to being left with a duty, but with no power to do anything about it, which is what the Bill will effectively do. That is an impossible situation to be in. My previous amendments tried to deal with it by removing the best value duty, but the Government have made it clear that they do not like that idea, although they have never satisfactorily explained why, to me anyway.

I am now trying a different tack to resolve the situation. The amendment will give authorities back the power to conduct best value reviews. That is, it will give authorities back the power to make sure that best value happens. I am sympathetic to the view that best value, as applied by what is now the Department for Communities and Local Government, has become a classic example of unnecessary red tape; I am trying to help the Government out here. My amendment would also remove best value inspections from policing, which account for a great deal of bureaucracy surrounding best value.

I think we all agree that the principles of best value are sound; it is the practice that became a problem, surrounded by burdensome red tape. To offer reassurance to the Government about this, I am sure that the Association of Police Authorities would be willing to work with the Home Office, or any other department with an interest in this area, to develop a sort of “best value lite” regime. That would keep what is good about best value as a tool for effective scrutiny of force activity and performance improvement, but would lose what has become negative about it, the excessive bureaucracy, and would focus on the process, rather than outcomes.

I am sure that the Minister will consider thisoffer seriously and at least explore whether the Government might consider that alternative approach, if for no other reason than because he will not have to listen to any more speeches from me on the topic. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am rather sad at the noble Baroness’ last comment; I always enjoy her speeches on best value—it is one of my first thoughts when I wake up in the morning. I have become used to them and they have become part of the familiar landscape of my daily routine. I would not wish to deny the noble Baroness the opportunity to talk to me further about best value.

I have listened carefully to the noble Baroness and I appreciate that she is trying a different tack. I am intrigued, if not a little pleased, at her offer of a best value “lite” regime. That was an interesting step forward and I suspect that we might want to consider that after we have rejected her amendment. The problem with her approach is that we are both arguing from a similar position; we both want to strip away unnecessary bureaucracy, but we disagree about the means by which we achieve it.

We believe that we are removing an overly bureaucratic and excessively resource-intensive process. The noble Baroness, with honesty and integrity, is trying to leave in place a framework that she believes will help keep the best value review process in place. I suspect that she thinks that without that framework it will not happen. I am more optimistic.

We should retain our approach and we do not need a statutory power to carry out best value reviews. Police authorities can draw on their powers in Section 22 of the Police Act 1996 to request a report from their chief officer on best value approaches. Police authorities will still be able to discharge their general duty to secure continuous improvement in the way in which the functions of police officers are delivered. That general duty is well worth retaining.

The noble Baroness did not speak to Amendment No. 2 in this group, but I shall do so, because it has been a point of difference between us in earlier debates. Amendment No. 2 should be considered in conjunction with the Government’s amendments to Part 4, which we will reach later. These have removed the provision for the Audit Commission to act jointly with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in inspecting police authorities, which I know has raised the noble Baroness’ ire and concern. Her amendment, however, seeks to remove altogether the current role of the Audit Commission in the inspection of police authorities as best value authorities.

I understand, but do not share, the noble Baroness’ concerns about the role that the Audit Commission would have played in joint inspections with the new inspectorate, but this amendment goes too far. The Bill retains the overarching duty on police authorities to make arrangements to secure continuous improvement in the way its functions are exercised, having regard to a combination of economy, efficiency and effectiveness. To ensure compliance with this duty, the Audit Commission would work with the Inspectorate of Constabulary, and that needs to continue to have the powers set out in the Local Government Act.

Furthermore, I strongly believe that the Audit Commission has a valuable role to play. Historically, it has acted in the inspection of the quality and cost-effectiveness of a whole range of local authority services through the comprehensive performance assessment framework. It regularly works with other inspectorates. For example, it works with Ofsted to deliver comprehensive performance assessments and joint area reviews of children and young persons’ services, and with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary to deliver community safety. With its wealth of experience, it makes sense for the Audit Commission to continue to have a role in carrying out inspections of a best-value authority’s compliance with Part 1 of the Local Government Act 1999.

I hope that, in the light of that explanation, the noble Baroness will feel confident and happy to withdraw the amendment. I await her response with interest.

My Lords, as ever, I am deeply grateful to the Minister for once again explaining the inexplicable, which the Government seem to have no real grasp of—in this Bill anyway. I deeply regret that. I hope that, when looking further at my amendment, they will see that it has a great deal of merit and that it can be applied throughout the best-value regime.

I think that I have flogged a dead horse on the Audit Commission. So, without further ado and making absolutely sure that I leave the Minister still feeling very bruised from his lack of understanding as I see the position, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

After Clause 13, insert the following new clause-

“POWER TO SEARCH AEROPLANES

(1) If the Secretary of State is aware of intelligence that any aircraft entering British airspace is being, has been or may be involved in an act of unlawful rendition then he may require that aircraft to land at a designated suitable airport and inform a responsible person that he has done so.

(2) If any plane is required to land in accordance with subsection (1) a responsible person shall as soon as practicable make arrangements to-

(a) enter the aircraft; or (b) arrange for a police constable to enter the aircraft. (3) If the Secretary of State or other responsible person is aware of intelligence that an aircraft using airport facilities in the United Kingdom is being, has been or may be involved in an act of unlawful rendition then a responsible person shall as soon as practicable make arrangements to-

(a) enter the aircraft; or (b) arrange for a police constable to enter the aircraft. (4) A person who enters an aircraft under subsection (2) or (3) above shall endeavour to ascertain-

(a) whether the aircraft is being, has been or may be used for an act of unlawful rendition; (b) whether a criminal offence has been committed; (c) whether allowing the aircraft to continue could place the United Kingdom in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights; and for these purposes may search the aircraft. (5) In order to comply with a power under subsection (4)(a) any item may be removed from the aircraft.

(6) The powers in this section are exercisable only in circumstances where it is not reasonably practicable to obtain a warrant of entry in accordance with section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60).

(7) For the purposes of this section-

“an act of unlawful rendition” is an act involving the transportation of a person to a territory where international human rights standards, in particular protections against torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, are not routinely observed, such transportation not being in accordance with formal lawful extradition or deportation procedures; “a responsible person” means- (a) the chief officer of police of a police force maintained for a police area in England and Wales; (b) the chief constable of a police force maintained under the Police (Scotland) Act 1967 (c. 77); (c) the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, following two very helpful meetings with the Minister and her officials, I and my colleagues have nevertheless decided to move this amendment once again. I shall not detain your Lordships for long but shall clarify very briefly why we have taken this decision.

The Government have told us that adequate laws already exist to deal with any possible case of extraordinary rendition. However, careful scrutiny of Sections 1, 8 and 17 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and Sections 2, 33, 34 and 163 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, although wide, do not cover the illegal detention and transfer of persons to places where torture is likely to occur. Existing domestic legislation, including that proposed in the current Police and Justice Bill, addresses smuggling, stolen goods, prohibited articles or exceptionally urgent circumstances required to save life or limb. It does not cover kidnapped individuals who may transit UK airspace or land at UK aerodromes via state or military flights.

The Government may well argue that, unless there is evidence that such an individual is destined for a country or place where torture is likely, no arrestable crime has been committed. However, first, it may well be that such information is not routinely requested by the UK Government from their international partners; secondly, that information may not be forthcoming; and, thirdly, there is absolutely no way of ascertaining either of those two possibilities because of the diplomatic clearances in force.

That does not inspire confidence that the practice of extraordinary rendition does not take place. It is unlikely that there will ever be evidence of this odious practice; it is, by its nature, covert. But that does not mean that it does not or cannot take place. I emphasise that the Council of Europe has categorically stated that extraordinary rendition flights have used EU space and EU airfields, including in the UK. The Vienna Commission and the Joint Committee on Human Rights have both called for special legislation to fulfil domestic and international obligations and to ensure that extraordinary rendition never happens in future.

I am not sure that that argument is any longer about convincing the Government but it is in answer to other bodies that have expressed serious concerns about the UK's involvement in the practice of ER and the adequacy of existing legislation. To my mind, it is the duty of Parliament to bring about legislation that covers a possible illegality. Of course, there is crossover in legislation—that is inevitable—but where uncertainty exists, as it certainly does in this case, it is entirely legitimate to call for clarification.

I finish with a statement given by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer to the Constitutional Affairs Committee on 28 February this year.

“If there were a reason for us to believe that rendition through this country was taking place, and by extraordinary rendition I mean people being rendered to another country for the purposes of torturing them, we would have an obligation to investigate it and stop it in so far as it was happening in this country”.

Surely, the Government would wish to abolish all uncertainty or doubt as to the use of UK facilities to enable extraordinary rendition to take place. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the amendment on the basis of the argument advanced by my noble friend Lord Kingsland on18 July in a debate concerning relevant arrangements. I ask that an investigation be reconsidered into the material which suggests a high level of suspicion. It was recognised by independent authorities—the Foreign Affairs Committee in another place—that there was a duty to inquire. I want to put the position of support totally straight. My noble friend Lord Kingsland said:

“The Opposition”—

I very seldom speak for the Opposition—

“have stated that the Government must establish beyond doubt that United Kingdom territory or airspace has not been used for extraordinary rendition, and we maintain this position. We accept the assurances of the Foreign Secretary that the United Kingdom would not facilitate the transfer of an individual from or through the United Kingdom where there are grounds to believe that that person would face a real risk of torture; but we are asking the Government to reconsider carrying out investigations into these flights”.—[Official Report, 18/7/06;col. 1221.]

That is where I stand. The integrity of the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, and of the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland of Asthal, is in no way called into question. Fortunately I am no longer at the disadvantageof having discourse with a probabilities mathematician—the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, explained the levels of probability. As I see the situation, one cannot approach this on that basis of a mathematical level of probabilities; one cannot even do that before one starts proceedings in the criminal courts. One has to assess fairly, on the available evidence and using one's common sense, what is the question of degree. The noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and I favour that approach over a mathematical one—I cannot add up, anyway.

On the available material from a recognised independent authority, the Foreign Affairs Committee of another place, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and other bodies have concluded that an inquiry should be set up. That material referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, has an evidential quality, quite apart from mere assertion. What quality is quite another matter. I have had and continue to have many happy discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, and have great respect for his integrity, but his approach is rather different from mine.

If the arrangements referred to on 18 July have already been investigated—I cannot say why, but I have reason to believe they have—that warrants further investigation by an independent body. That should not be in the public arena, however, so as to safeguard intelligence and security, as I said at col. 1211 on 18 July. I am therefore supporting this amendment as an opportunity to, yet again, ask the Government to reconsider.

My Lords, my name is also on this amendment. The issues are clear and well known; I will not rehearse them again. We have cross-party and government agreement that transporting people to countries for the purposes of torture is both unacceptable and illegal. When we have raised these issues, as we did during the passage of the Civil Aviation Bill, the Government have taken the view that no new legislation is needed to ensure thatflights for the purpose of torture—extraordinary rendition—are kept out of the United Kingdom. We have indeed signed up to international conventions putting a duty on us to observe international law for flights landing in the UK or transiting our airspace. As the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, has pointed out, however, there are gaps, or perceived gaps, in the middle of this. We must ensure that those gaps do not exist.

Despite all the strong statements from the Government about the unacceptability of extraordinary rendition, there remains widespread concern, which noble Lords have expressed both today and in the past, that some flights sponsored by the United States Central Intelligence Agency have used United Kingdom airfields and airspace while moving to locations that, we believe, have been used for the interrogation of suspects. We also now know that the United States Government have adopted a rather different interpretation of what constitutes “torture” from that adopted by the United Kingdom. It is therefore presumably possible that the United States authorities could give assurances that the flights were not for the purposes of interrogation under torture under a United States definition, where international and United Kingdom law might take another view.

I hope that, this time, the Government will welcome this amendment as a way of clarifying the powers and responsibilities of all who may be concerned with suspicious flights. The amendment would also make the United Kingdom’s position on illegal rendition clear to the international community. Given that there are separate, particular difficulties with military airfields, I shall be tabling a parallel amendment as the Armed Forces Bill goes through your Lordships’ House. The two amendments together would give us a coherent approach to a serious problem, and I urge the Government to take the opportunity to adopt the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza.

My Lords, we are on well trodden ground. The proposal of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, was debated three times during the progress of the Civil Aviation Bill; it was debated in Committee on the present Bill; it was the subject of an Unstarred Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway; and it was debated last week in a slightly different form in an amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Garden, to the Armed Forces Bill. Anyone might be forgiven for wondering what there is left to say. But a number of unanswered questions remain, and the basis for the noble Baroness’s anxiety is as clear now as when she first expressed it. Our discussions over that period may simply have deferred the time when we have to take a decision.

The revisions to the amendment that she originally tabled reflect two factors that emerged from our earlier debates. First, as she indicated, and as the noble Lord, Lord Garden, mentioned, there are divergent views about how far existing statutory powers are sufficient to ensure that the United Kingdom complies with its international obligations under the torture convention. Secondly, there is—so far as I am concerned, at least—an uneasy suspicion that there is a culture in some circles of not wanting to ruffle any feathers, particularly American feathers.

I am delighted that the noble Baroness has redrafted the amendment so that there would now be not merely a power to enter the aircraft, but a duty to do so. So where United Kingdom facilities may be being abused, the provision is no longer permissive, but mandatory.

Perhaps it would help to spend a moment clarifying what is now common ground and what remains debateable. I accept unreservedly that the Government totally condemn torture for the purpose of interrogation or for any other purpose. It hardly needs saying that I accept without hesitation that my noble friend on the Front Bench would not knowingly be complicit in the use of torture by the agents of this or any other country. I echo the gratitude expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, for the willingness of my noble friend and her officials to discuss this in order to assist in narrowing the area of dispute. I am not aware of any evidence to suggest that agents of this country have made use of torture, but what is in question is whether the Government have taken all the steps reasonably open to them to ensure so far as possible that no facilities have been made available to assist others with less scrupulous standards to subject anyone to the risk of torture. The torture convention imposes an obligation on states and individuals not to be complicit in acts of torture, an obligation of which the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, reminded us last week. If that gives rise to a number of questions on which debate is not concluded, perhaps we may be forgiven for at least adverting to them.

First, is there evidence that facilities in this country have been abused to assist rendition to a destination where there was a risk of torture? The evidence is overwhelming that the actions of the CIA have led to people suffering torture. I regret having to state that so bluntly, as some of my friends are employed by the CIA. I am certainly not suggesting that every official of the CIA is complicit in the practice, and I appreciate the difficulty of controlling agents operating in foreign countries.

We examined some of the evidence in the debates on the Civil Aviation Bill on 28 March and we reviewed it again in Committee on this Bill on 4 July. It is also reviewed in the Amnesty International report Partners in Crime. It was dealt with in some detail in the Council of Europe report by Senator Dick Marty and it was summarised by the Secretary General, Mr Terry Davis. It was even set out in the report Torture by Proxy: International and Domestic Law Applicable to “Extraordinary Renditions” by the committee on international human rights of the New York Bar and by the United States Center for Human Rights and Global Justice. Furthermore, in the United States there is considerable concern about the practice.

I am grateful to Liberty for its very helpful briefing on this subject, which was prepared in anticipation of our debates on the Bill. Of course the evidence does not establish that the facilities in the United Kingdom were used in the course of rendition. Its relevance is that it establishes the propensity of some CIA agents unscrupulously to practise extraordinary rendition—and any country offering facilities to aircraft operated by the CIA would be turning the proverbial blind eye if it ignored the record of those with whom it was dealing.

Even the United Kingdom is confronted by uncomfortable questions that need to be answered. Both the Council of Europe and the Amnesty reports referred to the case of Bisher Al-Rawi and Jamil El-Banna, which led to proceedings in the High Court for judicial review. They were arrested in Gambia, apparently in consequence of their travel arrangements supplied by United Kingdom officials, and were then sent by the CIA to Afghanistan. It is important to establish, if possible, whether the United Kingdom officials who supplied that information were aware of what was intended. Perhaps my noble friend will address that question when she replies.

The second question that requires to be answered is what precautions, in the light of the CIA's known record, can and should be taken to ensure that the United Kingdom is not used unwittingly in extraordinary rendition. Aircraft are not transparent; the only way to ascertain who is on board and in what circumstances is to enter the aircraft and look. An aircraft in state service—an expression that includes aircraft in military, customs or police service—is not entitled to fly over or land on the territory of another state without authorisation. I must confess that until the debate last week I had derived some comfort from that, as I had assumed that authorisation would be required prior to each such flight and it would be known when an aircraft was operated by the CIA. But, in the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Garden, my noble friend Lord Drayson informed a startled House—at col. 440—that separate authorisation is not required, as there is a system of what is euphemistically called “diplomatic clearance”, which means that someone has given what appears to be blanket permission, and specific clearance by the airfield authorities is not required. I should be grateful if my noble friend would spell that out in a little more detail.

Does someone in this country have to be notified if it is proposed that a CIA-operated aircraft will fly over United Kingdom territory and make use of airport facilities, or is it done on a “Don't bother to mention it” basis for the whole category of military aircraft? Does it apply to all military aircraft or only to those of the USA? Is there a requirement to provide information on the purpose and destination of the flight? Does someone decide whether a specific flight calls for further inquiry? If so, who? Or does diplomatic clearance mean that no one asks any questions?

Of course, it is not suggested that every aircraft operated by the CIA should be searched. It is accepted that there is a stage where investigation may appear as harassment and that that may occasion friction with the United States. The proposal is that an aircraft should be liable to a requirement to land if the Secretary of State is aware of intelligence that it is being or may be used for unlawful rendition. Of course, there is room for discussion about the standard of intelligence required. The noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, helpfully provided an analysis of that question in our debate on 18 July, at col. 1220. But that problem is not incapable of resolution between us.

If there is such intelligence, surely the United Kingdom is under an international obligation to make inquiries before permitting such an aircraft to proceed. If the aircraft is required to land, there is surely no difficulty in having an official or constable available to conduct a search. The inconvenience to the aircraft is surely minimal by comparison with the risk that someone may be tortured.

The remaining question is the one referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, as to whether there exists a power under existing domestic law to enter and search an aircraft. The Government maintain that the whole proposal is unnecessary because the statutory power exists already. The noble Baroness, Lady D'Souza, has already addressed that matter; we have debated it more than once and I shall not weary your Lordships by rehearsing the argument again now. However, it would be helpful if, when my noble friend replies, she would say whether that is the only stumbling block that the Government see. If they are convinced that there is a need for something more than that, the other matters, which we have debated at such length, do not really prevent their acceding to the proposal. In any event, the question now largely falls because the proposal is that there should be a mandatory requirement, not merely a power. What troubles some of us is that this country may become complicit in these appalling practices, however unwittingly, because no one cared enough to ask the right questions and to conduct a simple search.

My Lords, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Archer of Sandwell, has shown clearly how a coach and horses can be driven through the good intentions and political correctness of this country. I am delighted that the Foreign Secretary has stated on behalf of Her Majesty's Government that detention without trial is ineffective against terrorism. That is a small step forward, but I point out that indefinite detention continues at Guantanamo Bay.

I go further and draw attention to an article in today's International Herald Tribune, which describes the sad case of Mr Sami al-Hajj, an employeeof Al-Jazeera television, who was arrested in Afghanistan and is still, five years later, in detention without trial at Guantanamo. I also point out that, following the signature of a new Bill in the United States, it is not clear to what extent the right of habeas corpus still applies in that country. It is also not clear whether extended sleep deprivation is a legitimate method of preparing people for interrogation within the United States. I suggest to your Lordships that the amendment is for the removal of doubt. It is therefore especially appropriate for Third Reading and I support it strongly.

My Lords, I rise briefly to support the principle underlying the amendment. It is essential that the western world should not have double standards and should not be thought to have double standards. It is not good enough merely to pay lip-service to our opposition to extraordinary rendition. We must satisfy the world at large that we really mean what we say. The Minister will remember that we are currently prosecuting several officers before a court martial for allegedly turning a blind eye in slightly similar circumstances. As I say, double standards are not acceptable. I am sure that they are not acceptable to the Minister, and we want the strongest and clearest of assurances that this is something not only that we can do but that we must and will do.

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and my noble and learned friend Lord Archer for showing me the courtesy of talking to me about these issues in a little more detail before today. I am very grateful to them, as I am to all noble Lords for the care with which they have approached this issue. I confirm that I absolutely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Garden, that we have total cross-party agreement on this issue. There is nothing between us.

I also understand why there is anxiety about this issue. As a result, I do not hesitate to repeat what I have said on behalf of the Government on several occasions—that we have not approved, and will not approve, a policy of facilitating the transfer of individuals through United Kingdom airspace or territory, including overseas territories, where there are substantial grounds for believing that those individuals would face a real risk of torture. I know that all Members of your Lordships’ House are of one mind on this point, but it is important that we understand how we are currently protected. I heard what the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, and my noble and learned friend Lord Archer said about the question mark over possible gaps in conventions. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, asked whether the gaps were a perception or a reality and said that we must be sure. I hope that I will be able to explain to your Lordships that the anxiety of the House on this issue is not merited.

Again, I reassure the noble Lord, Lord Garden, that our position on rendition is clearly understood by our international partners, in particular—I say this for clarity, not emphasis—the United States. Again, I hear what my noble and learned friend Lord Archer says about people being worried about ruffling American feathers. I assure the House that I have never suffered from such a disability; it is not one that has afflicted me, as I think my visit to the United States to discuss our concerns over extradition has perhaps demonstrated to our American colleagues—with some success, if I may humbly suggest to the House. We are not resistant to making that clear. Our international partners have clearly understood the message about where we stand, and it is right that I make that clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, asks how this has been demonstrated, whether we have had a review, and what our position has been. Again, I draw the attention of the House to the Written Ministerial Statement made by the then Foreign Secretary on 20 January, which set out the results of the extensive review of official records going back to May 1997. That review identified four cases where the United States requested permission to render one or more detainees through the United Kingdom or overseas territories. That is what it promised to do, and what it appears it did do on those occasions. Records show that the Government refused permission in two cases, but granted it in the other two. In the two cases where the request was granted, the individuals were transferred to stand trialfor terrorism charges in the United States and subsequently convicted. That is the context in which we must examine the proposals in the amendment in the names of the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, the noble Lord, Lord Garden, my noble and learned friend and others.

On the first point arising from the amendment, if we could create a mechanism to render unlawful rendition impossible we would do so. However, as this amendment does not create any powers that we do not already have in practice, perhaps I may respectfully suggest that it would have no effect whatever on the likelihood of unlawful rendition taking place. As my noble and learned friend Lord Archer said, there has been a divergence in views. I should therefore like, with your Lordships’ permission and to make it plain for others who may read this debate, to take a little time to explain why.

The second point in the amendment—

My Lords, I apologise. There is a point of clarification here. I take the point that when permission was sought, it was granted in one case and refused in two. But we have since been told that you do not have to ask for permission. In the arrangements that apply to this rendition and to the arms affair, you do not have to ask for permission. If that is the position, where do we go from there? Is not the only way to qualify those arrangements, consult and investigate? I ask only for clarification.

My Lords, I understand the way in which the noble Lord has put it. We would say that in each case a request should be made. Aircraft used in military, Customs and police services are deemed to be state aircraft. They are not covered by the Chicago Convention but by customary international law whose principles are, I accept, less clear. State aircraft need authorisation to fly over the territory of another state. US military flights, along with military flights of a number of other countries, have for decades been given advance diplomatic clearance in accordance with bilateral arrangements.

I cite the United States for the purposes of this debate but we expect anyone crossing our airspace in the way that the noble Lord has indicated to seek permission to render detainees via United Kingdom territory and airspace, including overseas territories. We will grant permission only if we are satisfied that the rendition would accord with UK law and our international obligations. The next point is how we understand our obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Government have been very clear that the United States would not render a detainee through United Kingdom territory or airspace without our permission. We have not reached this conclusion without close examination of the matter. That is why, when my right honourable friend the then Home Secretary made his Statement, he affirmed that we had reviewed the records going back to May 1997 and had found four cases, in two of which we had given permission and two of which we had denied it. It is for that reason that I gave the information to the House earlier.

The second point is whether there is a gap. Is the perception of my noble and learned friend Lord Archer real? We would say that it is not. Section 8 of PACE allows a justice of the peace to issue a search warrant authorising a constable to enter and search premises if there are reasonable grounds for believing that an indictable offence has been committed and that there is material on the premises likely to assist in the investigation of the offence. In the case of unlawful rendition, if the person is being held unlawfully in the aircraft, the common law offence of false imprisonment is likely to have been committed and would provide a basis for intervention under Section 8. So I do not accept that kidnapping would not be covered in the way that the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, fears; we believe that it would. This provision would be effective in any suspected example of unlawful rendition when credible intelligence suggests that an offence has been committed. Clearly, if the intelligence is not credible, no action would be taken.

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. Does not Section 8 also require that there has to be reason for believing that there is material on the premises that would assist in the investigation? I think my noble friend said that a few moments ago. While there may be a logbook or something like it in the aircraft, is she satisfied that in every situation where there is a suspicion of this kind, the logbook could be said to be material which would assist in the investigation?

My Lords, it is not simply material. Section 8 of PACE allows a constable to enter and search if there are reasonable grounds for believing that an indictable offence has been committed and there is material on the premises that is likely to assist in the investigation of the offence. If someone was being rendered unlawfully across our airspace and being unlawfully imprisoned, we believe that they would fall within Section 8. That is our view of where the law currently is. So it is covered.

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Section 8 of PACE refers to search by warrant, but the amendment we have put forward refers specifically to those instances where it is not practicable to secure a warrant.

My Lords, the amendment deals with the case where it is not practicable to secure a warrant. However, it should always be practicable to secure one because there is a 24-hour opportunity to do so. One gets the warrant; the piece of paper may come later, but the warrant should always be immediately available. I respectfully suggest that that is not something which need be an impediment. How these things work in practice is always fairly opaque, and I am happy to clarify the position for the noble Baroness. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, who I see is in her place, has probably granted many such applications when sitting as a magistrate.

Section 17 of PACE is also relevant because it provides that a constable may enter any premises for the purposes of arresting a person for an indictable offence. This provision would be relevant in any case involving an ongoing offence such as, for example, false imprisonment. Again, as with Section 8, there must be reasonable grounds to believe that the person being sought is on the premises. For the purposes of these provisions, an aircraft would be a premises. That is a somewhat interesting legal construction, but it is where we are. This means that if there was credible intelligence that a person was on an aircraft and was being unlawfully rendered to places where there were substantial grounds to believe that they would face a real risk of torture, there would be a legal basis to intervene under Section 17 as well Section 8 of PACE. Section 23 of PACE confirms that the references to “any premises” in Sections 8 and 17 do include an aircraft.

Noble Lords have already referred to the convention. This of course is paragraph (c) ofArticle 3 of the Chicago Convention which permits state aircraft to overfly territory of other states only with permission and on the terms of the state whose territory is to be used. Any flight of whatever nature not taking place on these terms would be contrary to the convention and could, at least in theory, be required to land and be searched under the powers I have mentioned.

I hope that I have been able to satisfy your Lordships that there is no legal gap in police powers to investigate suspected acts of unlawful rendition. But of course the real question may be practical rather than legal, as I tried to explain on 4 July when the Bill was being examined in Committee. That is at col. 217 of the Official Report. I shall not repeat the points I made then. With your Lordships’ indulgence, suffice it to say that if the security and law enforcement agencies ever received intelligence that could give rise to the types of action envisaged in the amendment, and on a timescale which would permit such an action, they would already be able to undertake it. But the chances of that happening are negligible.

I am conscious that we have spent a great deal of time discussing this issue. However, I felt that I needed to give my noble and learned friend Lord Archer a specific answer on the Al-Rawi and El-Banna question. First, I am pleased to note that the Court of Appeal has confirmed the propriety of the Government’s actions with regard to their decision. Secondly, as regards the point raised by my noble and learned friend, I can confirm that the UK did not request the detention of Mr Al-Rawi or Mr El-Banna in the Gambia and played no role in their transfer to Bagram and Guantanamo Bay. I hope that that satisfies the House.

I am conscious that this issue has caused concern and I am grateful for this opportunity to better explain our position and why we think the anxieties expressed by the House—although we understand them—are not founded in fact. I therefore hope the noble Baroness will feel content to withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her care and patience not only in meeting us but in going to such lengths to explain her interpretation of the law and how it would deal with this odious issue of extraordinary rendition. She argues very persuasively that the law is adequate. However, I feel that there is still room for specific legislation in this field—to deal not only with the reality but also, as has been said, with the perception that it occurs.

The amendment goes one step further in that it deals with people and individuals. It also, in a very important way, imposes a duty to inspect aircraft which are in any way suspected of being implicated in extraordinary rendition. The issue has been raised that there is a lack of transparency in agreements about the landing and refuelling of foreign aircraft and I think it is important that we should have such a duty. In view of that, I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Clause 19 [Local authority scrutiny of crime and disorder matters]:

Page 13, line 35, leave out from “provision” to “about” inline 36.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am introducing these amendments in response to those tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, on Report last week. I gave a commitment and promised that I would introduce these amendments. It gives me great pleasure to—I hope—make the noble Lord a much happier person.

The noble Lord understandably expressed concerns about how the arrangements for scrutiny of crime and disorder matters provided for in what is now Clause 19 would operate in the City of London. I recognise that the City is far from being a typical local authority. It has distinctive governance arrangements, and it is our ambition to work with the grain of those arrangements and try to secure a sensible and appropriate method for scrutiny for the City in terms of crime and disorder issues. Accordingly, these amendments, together with the subsequent regulations and guidance, will enable the City to use its existing committee structure rather than force it to set up a specially tailored crime and disorder committee, which we accept would be somewhat disproportionate. The Common Council will subsequently be able to act as both the local authority and the crime and disorder committee.

I hope that these amendments meet with the approval of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for bringing forward these amendments to address the City’s concerns. I am also grateful for the Minister’s indication that the City will be consulted about the drafting of regulations and guidance. Doubtless that will give the opportunity to iron out what might also cause difficulties in practical operation of the provisions as they affect the City.

At the level of generality, the Minister, as he sought, has made me a happier man. I am sure he will not mind my asking about one point. The amendments do not quite follow the form of those I tabled on Report. I make no complaint about that, but there is a practical aspect on which I would be grateful for clarification. Paragraph 11(1) of Schedule 8 will enable the functions of the crime and disorder committee to be performed by the Common Council itself. That will no doubt happen where the crime and disorder matter under consideration is of particular importance. In those circumstances, Clause 19(1)(b) of the Bill will give the Common Council the power to make reports and recommendations “to the local authority”. By Clause 19(11) that means, in the case of the City, the Common Council. In other words, it provides a power for the Common Council to report to itself.

I understand the need to include a reference tothe making of reports and recommendations by the Common Council in the Bill, because it links into the requirement on the City’s other crime and disorder partners to respond to such reports and recommendations when copies are issued to them under Clause 19(8). However, I am struggling with the notion that, in the circumstances I have described, the Common Council should be a subject of statutory power to inform itself about its own deliberations. It would seem more apt if the requirement were on the City’s other crime and disorder partners to respond to reports or recommendations made by the Common Council, and not made to the Common Council.

I realise that Parliament reports to itself on the Report stage of a Bill, and that paradigm makes the amendment a form of compliment to the Common Council. The analogy is less than perfect, however, because a Parliamentary Report stage is fluid and subject to further consideration and amendment, whereas a report of the Common Council’s conclusions on a crime and disorder matter will be a final document. Reporting it back again will produce an additional step, which in practical terms will be otiose. I realise this observation may seem churlish, after the Government’s response to my amendments on Report in resolving at a technical level the crux I posed, but I simply make it because the method used has this mild Alice in Wonderland aspect.

If I can offer an olive branch in expiation of any churlishness on my part, I would be grateful if the Minister could confirm that the intended mechanism is indeed that Common Council should make reports and recommendations to itself in order to trigger a response requirement from its crime and disorder partners. Subject to that point of clarification, I again thank the Minister for the positive response to my amendments.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, for his kind comments. He has put his finger on something that I suppose could be described as a difficulty. I was intrigued by his description of the measure as an Alice in Wonderland approach.

One has to look at this matter in a practical light. The aim of the amendments is to enable the Common Council to delegate issues to its existing committee structure which will then issue reports and recommendations. It would be possible for the Common Council, in its capacity as a crime and disorder committee, to issue such reports and recommendations itself, but we do not foresee this creating any difficulties in practice. Indeed, the noble Lord anticipated how that might work and drew a parallel with parliamentary procedure. The House of Lords resolves itself into a Committee and that Committee reports back to the House of Lords in its guise as the Chamber which considers statutory matters. While it might seem somewhat odd to work in that way, there is a parallel on which we can draw. In practice, I guess that the Common Council will want to devolve these matters to a committee and ensure that it receives that committee’s reports to enable it to consider and finalise its own strategy. That arrangement works well in other local authorities. I hope that I have assured the noble Lord that the provision is workable and that the Common Council welcomes the amendment and is more than capable of dealing with it.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 13, line 37, after “arrangements” insert “, made up of provision corresponding to that made by section 21 of the Local Government Act 2000 and particular provision for the City of London”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 23 [Parenting contracts: local authorities and registered social landlords]:

Page 16, leave out from beginning of line 38 to end of line 3 on page 18.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment No. 6 and speak to Amendments Nos. 7 to 11, which are grouped with it. These amendments were tabled on Report, but were not moved. The amendments would retain the proposal that a local authority should be able to enter into parenting contracts or to apply for parenting orders. It would, however, remove the proposal to give these powers to registered social landlords. As we said in Committee, the latter suggestion was opposed in the strongest terms by all agencies working with children and families as it was perceived as being a highly inappropriate role for the RSLs to play—and we agree with them.

Families who are really struggling to manage or control their children—something many of us here may have experienced from time to time—need highly skilled, sensitive and professional help, particularly when a parenting contract is being considered and even more so when a parenting order may be necessary. Parents can easily feel resentful, inadequate and defensive while being desperate for things to change and careful work must be done with both parents and children. Imposing restrictions on the one hand and working constructively with both parents and children on the other and knowing what resources and support are available requires particular skill and knowledge which is simply not part of a landlord’s role or training—and nor should it be.

However, as I mentioned in Committee, there is a lot to be said for RSLs having a working partnership with local authorities, and housing officers could appropriately be involved in an application for an order when this is done with other agencies who would be the professionals able to work directly with families and an order. This kind of inter-agency working is the right model to be developing, using different knowledge and expertise to solve problems which are invariably extremely complex and difficult to manage. The National Housing Federation recognises that it would not be appropriate for it to become the responsible officer to give effect to a parenting order. We wholeheartedly agree with this view and hope that the Government will too. I beg to move.

My Lords, first, as I have said on a number of occasions, I understand the noble Baroness’s passion about keeping children safe and making sure that families have the best possible support to help them to change poor behaviour. I think she will accept that she and I have no disagreement on any of those issues. It is a consummation devoutly to be wished and one on which we all work. The amendments would drive a significant hole through our policy of allowing more agencies to enter into parenting contracts and apply for parenting orders, as set out in the respect action plan. I know that in one sense that is precisely what the noble Baroness would like.

Clauses 23 and 24 enable not only a local authority but a registered social landlord to enter into a parenting contract or seek a parenting order in respect of a parent of a child or young person if they have reason to believe that the child or young person has engaged or, in the case of contracts, is likely to engage in anti-social behaviour. The noble Baroness will know that on a number of occasions social landlords are prevailed on by neighbours and others to remove families because of the disturbance and chagrin that they cause to their neighbours. Such evictions can lead to desperate consequences for the children housed in such homes, such as movement from school, disjunction of family relationships and instability. We know that frequent changes of home, when done erratically, can materially undermine the well-being and health of the child, so to minimise such changes is crucial.

Currently, 52 per cent of social housing is owned by registered social landlords, and they therefore play an important and growing role in managing housing and wider neighbourhoods, including tackling anti-social behaviour. I am sure the noble Baroness would accept with me that it would be better to have an intervention that would perhaps prevent, or at the very least delay, an eviction if behaviour of an anti-social nature could be contained to enable the family to remain in situ. As set out in the respect action plan, the Government are determined to increase the levels of parenting support available to all parents and to ensure that those who are unlikely to seek help voluntarily receive help through formal contracts and court orders.

I remind the House that parenting contracts and parenting orders are early interventions, which are supposed to nip problems in the bud. I respectfully suggest to the noble Baroness that preventing registered social landlords entering into parenting contracts or seeking parenting orders, as these amendments would do, makes no sense when they already have much more coercive powers at their disposal.

Registered social landlords can seek the eviction of a family without any further ado if they are satisfied about the anti-social behaviour and they can already enter into an acceptable behaviour contract with a family. They can also seek anti-social behaviour orders and injunctions against their tenants and others in the community. It is surely illogical to prevent them entering into arrangements that may help to remove the need for stronger sanctions against these families.

If action is not taken, there is a significant risk of families losing their homes or being taken to court. We want to remove one level of intervention and help social landlords think more creatively about other solutions that may be available to them before they reach for eviction or for more coercive sanctions. That would be a better way of protecting children than proceeding more quickly to eviction, if there is a sensible, viable and workable alternative.

We have made it clear that registered social landlords must be able to work in partnership with specialist agencies. These clauses allow for an official of a registered social landlord to be eligible to undertake the role of responsible officer. But the registered social landlord may well want to nominate another person from a specialist agency who is better placed and has the requisite specialist skills in areas of parenting support, and the Bill will enable the registered social landlord to do that.

It is important to be clear that parenting contracts and orders are not designed to criminalise parents but are instead concerned with providing support to parents to enable them to guide and protect their children more effectively. It is crucial to stress that, in addition to any constraints imposed by the guidance, parenting contracts must be agreed by the parents and parenting orders are subject to approval by the courts. These are vital safeguards in preventing an overbearing approach.

I know that the noble Baroness agrees with me in commending the good practice that is starting to take place in CDRP areas of multi-agency working, shared good practice and appropriate specialist support. We would expect that in many areas there would be a multi-disciplinary approach with the appropriate agency being invited to join in partnership to deliver appropriate intervention.

I understand the noble Baroness’s anxiety, but I do not believe that she would rather wish a child to be evicted with the family than provide an opportunity to explore a more creative resolution to what to others may seem an intractable and unpleasant situation. Given that reassurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment, so that we can do some joint good work.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her thoughtful reply. I agree that we are as one on the importance of sustaining and maintaining families together at home. It is a matter of how you achieve that objective and from where the emphasis comes. I endorse the principle of inter-agency working and the more that we can do that, the better.

The important part of my argument is in relation to where the authority comes from, and professionally qualified people should take on that role, using the work of the housing officers and so on. I shall watch with keen interest how this issue develops over the next few months, because I am yet to be convinced that there is not something a bit wrong with the current situation. Time will tell. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 [Parenting orders: local authorities and registered social landlords]:

[Amendments Nos. 7 to 13 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Contracting out of local authority functions with regard to parenting contracts and parenting orders]:

Page 22, line 13, at end insert-

“28B TREATMENT OF ORGANISATIONS PERFORMING PARENTING CONTRACT AND PARENTING ORDER FUNCTIONS AS PUBLIC AUTHORITIES

(1) Any person with whom arrangements are made under or by virtue of section 28A for the performance of the functions under section 25A or 26A shall, in the discharge of those functions, be treated as a public authority for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998.

(2) For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that nothing in this section affects the meaning of “public authority” in section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 or the determination of whether functions, other than those referred to in subsection (1) above, are functions of a public nature for the purposes of section 6.””

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 14, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 63. We did not move these amendments on Report, as our intention was to return to them at this stage of the Bill. They affect the relationship between the application of human rights considerations and parenting contracts.

The first amendment would ensure that bodies entering into parenting contracts and applying for parenting orders would be required to respect the human rights of those concerned. Local authorities also have the power to subcontract their anti-social behaviour powers. The second amendment in the group would require bodies to which such powers had been subcontracted to respect human rights standards when exercising these powers.

These amendments build on old Amendments Nos. 137A and 137B debated during the third day of Committee. In both cases, we have added a new subsection (2). Perhaps I may recall the position. The Human Rights Act 1998 requires public authorities to act in a way that is compatible with the human rights that the Act protects. When local authorities exercise their powers with respect to parenting contracts and orders, they are required to comply with these basic human rights standards, as they are clearly “public authorities” for the purposes of the Human Rights Act. Liberty, among others, believes that if other bodies are to be given these powers, they, too, should be required to comply with the human rights of those affected by parenting contracts and orders.

However, your Lordships will be aware that the courts' interpretation of Section 6 of the 1998 Act has made it unclear whether private bodies will indeed be covered—thus the need for these amendments to the Bill to spell out that any body exercising the powers in Clause 24 should be treated as a public authority for human rights purposes.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights set out the case well, and I hope that your Lordships will bear with me if I quote its comments. In paragraph 1.29 on page 13 of its report, it states:

“The provision in the Bill for contracting out local authority functions of entering into parenting contracts and applying for parenting orders, however, does give some cause for concern on human rights grounds”.

It goes on to say:

“The continuing uncertainty about the meaning of ‘public authority’ in s. 6(3)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998, caused by the Leonard Cheshire decision, means that it cannot be predicted whether the person(s) specified by the Secretary of State as a person to whom the local authority’s functions can be contracted out will be treated by the courts as a public authority for the purposes of the HRA”.

It continues:

“Although the court which must decide whether to make a parenting order must itself act compatibly with Article 8 when deciding whether or not to make the order, it is an additional safeguard for Article 8 rights that the body entitled to apply for such an order is itself a public authority with an obligation to act compatibly with Convention rights when deciding whether or not to apply for such an order”.

It finishes conclusively by saying:

“In our view it would be desirable if the Bill were to provide explicitly that the person to whom the functions are contracted out is to be treated as a public authority for the purposes of the HRA 1998 in the discharge of those functions”.

In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, did not disagree with the principle underlying these amendments; he only expressed reservations about whether inclusion of the proposed clause in the Bill was the most appropriate means of clarifying this position. He referred to the Johnson v Havering case and a possible change in interpretation by the courts.

Liberty, in my view convincingly, questions whether the possibility of a future change in the approach by the judiciary should prevent Parliament from clarifying its intention in the mean time. There is no constitutional reason why Parliament should not clarify the law on a case-by-case basis, pending a judicial decision. Indeed, while it is hoped that the court may change its interpretation, there is no guarantee of that, and our inaction on this issue could lead to a failure to provide protection for the human rights of people affected by the actions of private bodies to which public functions are contracted out.

In response to the secondary concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that these provisions may cast doubt on previous legislation in which the position is intended to be the same but has not been explicitly stated, we have added the new subsection (2) in each of the two amendments to clarify that that is not the effect. I hope that that will enable clarification of the position in this legislation, while avoiding wider, undesired consequences.

I hope that, with these drafting improvements, the Minister will seriously consider these amendments, especially as he does not disagree in principle. I beg to move.

My Lords, I welcome these two amendments, particularly as they come from the Front Bench of the official Opposition. They give me an opportunity to ask whether acceptable behaviour contracts will, if possible, always be used before proceeding to antisocial behaviour orders. It is highly desirable that restorative justice principles should be used whenever possible. I suggest that that will have the effect of an aggrieved person ending up being satisfied; if there is no particular aggrieved person, the local community, whose peace and quiet enjoyment has been disrupted, will also receive some satisfaction.

My Lords, it is my turn to respond to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, on this matter. I know that my noble friend Lord Bassam took up this burden on the previous occasion, but now I have the pleasure.

Perhaps I can briefly state where we are. The noble Viscount will know that my right honourable friend the then Home Secretary wrote to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on 23 May, explaining that, in the Government’s view, such a person is a public authority for such purposes. I do not believe that that response was included in the Joint Committee’s 12th report, which was published on22 May, but we have always made it plain that that was our understanding. That was our understanding in relation to the previous legislation and all of us thought that it was plain. If one looks at the expression of intent by the Government, one sees that it is there in the debates. We know that a different view, which has to be considered, has been taken; it was considered in the Johnson v Havering case, and we have to await the outcome. The importance of waiting concerns clarity. If we were to have yet another definition, which we all believe is absolutely clear—we all say that such a person should be a public authority—that would then have to be determined by a further challenge, and I respectfully suggest that we may find that we would be back to where we are now.

Clause 25 provides for the making of an order by the Secretary of State to enable local authorities to operate with flexibility in making local decisions to ensure that their functions are carried out as effectively as possible. The ability to contract out all or some of their parenting contract and order-seeking functions to other bodies may assist authorities in their management of strategic and operational functions. The new section is modelled closely on similar provisions in Section 1F of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which was inserted by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, under which the Secretary of State may make an order that enables a local authority to contract out its functions of applying for anti-social behaviour orders and similar matters.

As noble Lords know, the Government are seeking to clarify the general meaning of “public authority”. I have made that plain, as did my noble friend Lord Bassam. A problem has arisen when care services are contracted out by a local authority, as a particularly narrow interpretation of the scope of the Act has been adopted by the courts. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights recommended in its 2004 report on the subject and as the Government agree—I say that a second time so that everyone knows that there is no dispute about where we are—a successful intervention presents the best possibility of our resolving this issue.

I expect that the functions to which this amendment relates are clearly,

“functions of a public nature”,

under the Human Rights Act 1998. Therefore, the person to whom such functions have been delegated would be treated as a public authority for the purposes of the Act in discharging those functions. That is the Government’s clear intention. I say that just in case there is any future misunderstanding of how we intend it to be used. I absolutely understand why the noble Lord may consider that confirming that intention in the Bill would be wise. However, to do so could considerably confuse the legislative scheme, given the broad reach of the Human Rights Act, which does not list the functions to which it applies, specifying only that a public authority has,

“functions of a public nature”.

That gives it the broadest possible reach.

The effect of the amendment would be to start a list, albeit not in the Act. That would create two problems. First, it would cast doubt over other functions for which legislation does not similarly provide that they are public functions. To try to insert such references retrospectively, as the noble Viscount’s other amendment would do for anti-social behaviour orders, is not the answer. I respectfully tell the noble Lord that there would simply be too many references.

Secondly, for any future function created in legislation, such a reference would need to be included,

“For the avoidance of doubt”.

Thus we would create a distributed list, with all the attendant difficulties that lists in legislation create—not least that it would defeat the way in which the Human Rights Act has been drafted, to be of general application. If the meaning of “public authority” in Section 6 of the Human Rights Act ultimately needs legislative clarification—for instance, if the Government’s interventions in cases do not succeed—this must be done in a considered and co-ordinated manner. Therefore, although I understand the intention behind this amendment, I hope that I have made the Government’s interpretation very clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has quite rightly jumped on the passing bus to make some good points. The ABCs—anti-social behaviour contracts—are a good tool. In accordance with good practice, many practitioners will seek to engage individuals in a contract before going to anti-social behaviour orders. The risk is in the nature of the anti-social behaviour when the matter first comes up. On many occasions, if the behaviour is serious, there may be a question of going to prosecution, which might lead to a conviction, or trying an anti-social behaviour order instead. It is difficult to be prescriptive and to say that this should happen in all cases. I certainly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, however, that ABCs are extremely valuable and have played a powerful role. They are often not spoken of, but they are effective.

I also agree with the noble Lord about the benefits that often accrue from restorative justice models, which are being used to some good effect. For instance, they are illustrative of the good work in the Community Justice Centre in Liverpool, which is adopting restorative measures on occasion. I agree with the noble Lord on all those points and I am glad that he has given me another opportunity to say how much there is in what he says.

I hope that I have said enough to the noble Viscount, Lord Bridgeman, to invite him to withdraw his amendment with good conscience. He has ably established, as on so many other occasions, that we are in total agreement about the outcome, if not, perhaps, the method.

My Lords, I am pleased to be the vehicle through which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, raised the question of ASBOs and restorative justice. I thank the Minister for that comprehensive explanation. I am particularly reassured by the clarification of the definition of “public authority” and, on that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Leave out Clause 25.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in view of our earlier debate, it is perhaps somewhat perverse of me to move Amendment No. 16. I do so because there are one or two aspects of the matter that I wish to place on the record and about which I wish to hear the Minister’s reply.

The amendment means that the Secretary of State would not have the power to provide by order that local authorities may subcontract to specific types of body their powers to enter into parenting contracts or to apply for parenting orders; the powers would be retained by the local authority. As we have already discussed, the scope of the legal power to apply for a parenting order or to enter into a parenting contract gives enormous discretion to those who exercise it and requires skill, knowledge, expertise and objectivity. Tenant-run management organisations, which are one of the bodies proposed, would, by definition, be very close to the issue, and that would run the risk of inappropriate applications being made.

The Government’s view is that the process would be more efficient if local authorities could relinquish responsibility for applying for parenting orders or for entering into contracts, but that argument is not good enough when the issue is serious. The Minister assured the House that there will be conditions in the parenting order to protect families and ensure good practice, but since no draft parenting order has been presented for scrutiny we do not know whether the conditions specified in it would give us any comfort. Furthermore, any order would be subject to the negative resolution procedure. It is worrying that this House is expected to use its time to scrutinise legislation without being in a position to do so. There are risks here that need not and should not be run. However, I agree with the Minister that agencies can and should work together and I look forward to her reply. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Linklater, for the way in which she has opened this issue, because it gives me an opportunity to respond and explain how we see it. Clause 25 is significant because local authorities must have the flexibility to make appropriate local decisions to ensure that their functions are carried out as effectively as possible, not least those of tackling anti-social behaviour by young people and providing effective support to parents. We have touched on our agreement on multi-agency working. The ability to contract out all or some of their parenting contract and order-seeking powers to other bodies, organisations or agencies may assist authorities in their management of strategic and operational functions.

Clause 25 inserts a new Section 28A into the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003 to make it possible for the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales to make an order enabling a local authority to contract out to a specified person the functions of entering into parenting contracts and applying for parenting orders. There may sometimes be a separate specialist agency to which it would be wholly appropriate to contract out, and I know that the noble Baroness would endorse such specialist intervention and approval. Subsection (2) of the new section makes it clear that the order may provide that the local authority’s power to contract out is subject to conditions specified in the order and to any other conditions that the local authority considers appropriate.

Local authorities will have discretion on whether to contract out parenting contract and order functions to those bodies specified in the order and will retain the power to discharge that function in their own right whether or not they have contracted out that function. So we have given them the ability to say, “No, we do not want to do this; we want to do it ourselves, and this is how we are going to do it internally”. Moreover, local authorities, and the persons to whom they contract out, will be required to have regard to guidance issued by the Secretary of State or the National Assembly for Wales, as appropriate.

Given the safeguards, we believe that Clause 25 is a perfectly proper provision to include in the Bill and would enable better delivery of what the noble Baroness would like to happen, particularly for multi-agency working and the use of specialists who may be more appropriate to discharge certain functions.

The noble Baroness raised the issue of tenant management organisations. There are built-in safeguards in the right to manage process, by which a tenant management organisation takes over management responsibilities from a local housing authority. These safeguards ensure that the tenant management organisation is an accountable and properly constituted body that is competent to undertake housing management functions and has the support of the majority of affected tenants. It is important to bear in mind that many tenant management organisations are made up not of a group of “Don’t have a clue” type of tenants but of the more active, more engaged and energetic type of tenants who all live in the same block of flats, and in most cases, the tenant management organisation is run by professional housing managers, support staff and blue-collar workers. I am sure that the noble Baroness knows of other instances in which very effective and committed local people have managed these circumstances much better because they have had a very direct purchase on the outcome.

I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness and put on record how we believe that this provision could be used most effectively. With that assurance, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. However, I remain unconvinced. My reservation, which I have just raised, particularly concerns the conditions that will be written into the parenting contracts without knowing the detail and whether the best interests of very vulnerable, albeit very difficult, families and their children are being properly attended to. However, in the light of the Minister’s reply and in the light of experience over the next few months, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF PRISONS

(1) In section 5A of the Prison Act 1952 (c. 52) (appointment and functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons), after subsection (6) there is inserted-

“(7) Schedule A1 to this Act (which makes further provision about the Chief Inspector) has effect.”

(2) At the beginning of the Schedules to that Act there is inserted-

SCHEDULE A1

Section 5AFURTHER PROVISION ABOUT HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF PRISONS Delegation of functions 1 (1) The Chief Inspector may delegate any of his functions (to such extent as he may determine) to another public authority.

(2) If the carrying out of an inspection is delegated under sub-paragraph (1) above it is nevertheless to be regarded for the purposes of section 5A of this Act and this Schedule as carried out by the Chief Inspector.

(3) In sub-paragraph (1) above “public authority” includes any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature.

Inspection programmes and inspection frameworks 2 (1) The Chief Inspector shall from time to time, or at such times as the Secretary of State may specify by order, prepare-

(a) a document setting out what inspections he proposes to carry out (an “inspection programme”); (b) a document setting out the manner in which he proposes to carry out his functions of inspecting and reporting (an “inspection framework”). (2) Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the Chief Inspector shall consult-

(a) the Secretary of State, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, (f) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (g) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (h) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (i) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (j) the Auditor General for Wales, and (k) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Secretary of State, and he shall send to each of those persons or bodies a copy of each programme or framework once it is prepared. (3) The Secretary of State may by order specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take.

(4) Nothing in any inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing the Chief Inspector from making visits without notice.

Inspections by other inspectors of organisations within Chief Inspector's remit 3 (1) If-

(a) a person or body within sub-paragraph (2) below is proposing to carry out an inspection that would involve inspecting a specified organisation, and (b) the Chief Inspector considers that the proposed inspection would impose an unreasonable burden on that organisation, or would do so if carried out in a particular manner, the Chief Inspector shall, subject to sub-paragraph (7) below, give a notice to that person or body not to carry out the proposed inspection, or not to carry it out in that manner. (2) The persons or bodies within this sub-paragraph are-

(a) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales; (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills; (c) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection; (d) the Commission for Social Care Inspection; (e) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales. (3) The Secretary of State may by order amend sub-paragraph (2) above.

(4) In sub-paragraph (1)(a) above “specified organisation” means a person or body specified by order made by the Secretary of State.

(5) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) above only if it exercises functions in relation to any prison or other institution or matter falling with the scope of the Chief Inspector's duties under section 5A of this Act.

(6) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) above in relation to particular functions that it has.

In the case of a person or body so specified, sub-paragraph (1)(a) above is to be read as referring to an inspection that would involve inspecting the discharge of any of its functions in relation to which it is specified. (7) The Secretary of State may by order specify cases or circumstances in which a notice need not, or may not, be given under this paragraph.

(8) Where a notice is given under this paragraph, the proposed inspection is not to be carried out, or (as the case may be) is not to be carried out in the manner mentioned in the notice.

This is subject to sub-paragraph (9) below. (9) The Secretary of State, if satisfied that the proposed inspection-

(a) would not impose an unreasonable burden on the organisation in question, or (b) would not do so if carried out in a particular manner, may give consent to the inspection being carried out, or being carried out in that manner. (10) The Secretary of State may by order make provision supplementing that made by this paragraph, including in particular-

(a) provision about the form of notices; (b) provision prescribing the period within which notices are to be given; (c) provision prescribing circumstances in which notices are, or are not, to be made public; (d) provision for revising or withdrawing notices; (e) provision for setting aside notices not validly given. Co-operation 4 (1) The Chief Inspector shall co-operate with-

(a) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (c) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (f) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (g) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (h) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (i) the Auditor General for Wales, and (j) any other public authority specified by order made by the Secretary of State, where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions. Joint action 5 The Chief Inspector may act jointly with another public authority where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions.

Assistance for other public authorities 6 (1) The Chief Inspector may if he thinks it appropriate to do so provide assistance to any other public authority for the purpose of the exercise by that authority of its functions.

(2) Assistance under this paragraph may be provided on such terms (including terms as to payment) as the Chief Inspector thinks fit.””

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to speak to the whole series of amendments regarding how we will deliver inspection. I hope I have made plain on behalf of the Government throughout these debates that our starting point has always been that the best way to provide a modern, joined-up inspection regime for the criminal justice system is to have one single inspectorate rather than several. We remain convinced that a unified inspection regime would support frontline staff by minimising the additional work that inspection involves and provide an enhanced capacity to challenge whether the system is in practice giving the public the best possible service by looking more effectively at the system as a whole.

The Government remain committed to a simplified inspection landscape across the public sector as a whole. But at the same time we recognise the concerns expressed by the House about how that regime is and should be delivered. It is perhaps only appropriate that I say that I was disappointed and perhaps a little surprised by some of the comments made when we debated the matter on Report. There was almost an unsaid implication that the Government were creating a justice, community, safety and custody inspectorate precisely with the intention of diminishing the strong voice of the prisons inspectorate.

We have made clear all along that that was not our purpose. If anything, we wanted to enhance the voice of the inspectorate to give even greater power, acuity and effectiveness so that we could deliver not just that which we currently do but much more. It is perhaps right if I put on record that Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, has made absolutely clear to me that she has never ascribed such a motive to the Government's proposal. It is perhaps as well that I say that for the purposes of the record.

We have therefore looked very carefully at how we can deliver that which all sides wanted but in a way that might be more acceptable. We always made clear that we wanted any new arrangement to combine the existing strengths, which I have just described, and the expertise of the five inspectorates with the benefits of a more joined-up approach, but felt we could not guarantee the delivery of those benefits without statutory provisions.

However, discussions have taken place during the past few days between Ministers and the five existing chief inspectors and we have been impressed by the chief inspectors’ determination to work towards the benefits of joined-up working. As part of those discussions, chief inspectors have entered into four commitments.

First, they have reaffirmed their commitment to the streamlined and modernised inspection programme as set out in the policy statement of November 2005, and to the Government’s 10 principles of public service inspection.

Secondly, they have agreed to develop a joint business planning process to provide a framework for joint inspection work to be developed from priorities indicated by the three Ministers. They will produce the first joint plan for 2007-08. Early priorities will include an enhanced thematic programme and clarity about how the inspectorates intend to work towards mainstream inspection of end-to-end processes across agency boundaries. An important early step will be the creation of a common secretariat drawn from existing staff to support that work.

Thirdly, they have agreed to review the use of resources and back-office support to identify any efficiency gains which can be redeployed to joint working. Finally, they have agreed to report quarterly to Ministers on the progress of those arrangements.

These proposals have convinced the Government that we can achieve our objectives for the criminal justice system more quickly and effectively by focusing our efforts on strengthening and improving joint working across the inspectorates, rather than on proposals for organisational merger at this time. That is underpinned by the clear commitments of each of the chief inspectors to deliver real improvements in joint working, as I have just outlined.

We therefore now propose to withdraw the bulk of Part 4. In its place, we will apply to each of the existing inspectorates the provisions in Part 4 for delegation of functions, inspection programmes and frameworks, gatekeeping in respect of inspections by other inspectorates, co-operation, joint action and assistance for other public authorities. That will provide the statutory underpinning for the more efficient and effective joint working to which we know that the inspectorates are committed.

I wish to make clear that the amendments do not change the existing remits of the respective inspectors; the additional responsibilities originally provided for in the Bill do not obtain. They are simply intended to provide ways in which they can exercise their current functions more co-operatively and flexibly. I do not think that there can be any doubt that that is a desirable aim. Indeed, that view has been expressed by many and I know that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in particular, has been a fearsome advocate for such joint working for some time.

To ensure that this is made clear, we have acknowledged the concern that has been expressed by the Joint Committee on Human Rights about the ability of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons to continue to make unannounced inspections by providing expressly that the requirement to produce inspections programmes and frameworks does not prevent unannounced visits, either by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons or any of the other inspectors. That is the new provision, which explains matters more clearly.

We will keep these changes under review and expect to see early progress; for example, in joint business planning. As part of this, we will be looking further at the merger proposals and intend to keep under active review the option of re-introducing legislation. To that end, we will press ahead with work already begun in order to achieve our policy aspiration of a more joined-up inspection regime for the justice system by April 2008.

Some minor technical adjustments may have to be made, given that we now have five separate inspectors, but the substance of all the amendments will remain unchanged. I hope that the amendments will enable the House to feel, first, that the Government have stayed true to the principle of independent and rigorous inspections, and, secondly, that we have been able to deliver the joined-up additional strengthening that we sought and in a way that enables the House to feel content that the nature of the inspection is better assured. I beg to move.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that statement. May I say how grateful I am, as I am sure many other Members of this House are, for what she has said and for the depth that the Government have clearly gone into with the inspectors, who are the people most concerned about what she has just described? Before our debates in this House, the inspectors were feeling somewhat separated from the process, which is thoroughly unfortunate.

Throughout this process, the Minister has mentioned her keenness for joint inspections. That has been very much at the heart of the work of the inspectors for a very long time, as I know myself. In 1999, we recommended having the secretariat that the Minister has just announced, and we asked for regular meetings with Ministers, neither of which were given. I am therefore particularly pleased that, in the statement released yesterday by the Home Secretary, he told all five inspectors that the Government will want to meet them regularly to ensure that satisfactory progress is being made and to provide them with clear direction about the Government’s priorities across the criminal justice system. That will be wholly helpful and positive. The inspectors have been hoping for that for a very long time, and I am delighted that it is there.

It would be churlish to question a great deal of what has been said, and I do not intend to do so. I welcome what has been done, because the Government have maintained the strength of the inspectorates unencumbered. Indeed, the strength of the inspection of different elements of the criminal justice system is the aggregation of the separate parts, not the merger of them. By being undiminished, they will be able to contribute far more strongly to the process that the Minister so clearly wants and this House so clearly endorses than if they had been weakened by the compromise that is inevitably part of a merger. I obviously accept and understand that the Government will want to keep the process under review and I am sure that the inspectors will want to do that, but I beg the Minister to accept what has been said on a number of occasions in this House. The burden on the people administering the services is not that imposed by the inspectorates, which in the case of the prisons inspectorate is once every five years, but that imposed by the plethora of regulators, auditors and other organisations which impose themselves far more regularly and in a far more demanding way than do the inspectorates. Inspection is a different process from regulation and audit and has a very particular purpose. It is hugely important that this should not be confused in the whole process of looking at the criminal justice system.

The Minister has said many times that it is no part of the Government’s intention to restrict, limit or water down the independence, rigour and vigour necessary to undertake robust and effective inspections but there are one or two elements that I should like to mention concerning the detail. Of course, in the hurry with which this was produced, it has not been refined. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that refinement can follow, particularly when the Bill moves to the other House. For example, I am concerned about one point that has not been made, particularly in respect of prisons inspection. In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, made the point that prisons inspection certainly must have an independent head, not someone derived from the Prison Service or Home Office. I am interested that in an answer on a specific question on this, the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, said that when the post of chief inspector came up, there would be no bar to people from the Prison Service or Home Office applying. But I shall be interested to see what happens when Anne Owers retires in March 2008 and whether the principle until now of the person not coming fromthe Prison Service or the Home Office is observed in the selection of the new chief inspector.

I am interested in the proposed new Schedule A1(2)(2), which states:

“Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the Chief Inspector shall consult”,

a whole list of people, including some who I never would have thought of consulting over my prison programme inspection, such as the Chief Inspectors of Constabulary, of the Crown Prosecution Service, and of Court Administration and the Audit Commission or the Auditor General for Wales. I hope that this is something on which the Minister will consider refinement. The prisons inspector has to prepare the programme for the inspection of prisons and others can come around it. That programme would include consultation and liaison with all the other elements that need to take part. That is what happens now, but I am concerned that the proposal might go too far.

Under proposed new Schedule A1(2)(3), the content of inspections or the way in which inspections are to be conducted will be subject to ministerial direction, which is contrary to what has been said many times. Ministers have been at pains to protest that they will not specify either the content or the way in which inspections are conducted. I beg the Minister to realise that—I speak with the voice of experience—if you want an inspection conducted, you leave that to the chief inspector and do not try to micromanage it. By all means, say what the programme might be and limit it, but please do not try to micromanage.

I conclude from all this that the Government are now where the inspectors were in 1999, with dedicated inspectorates committing themselves to relevant joint working and consulting with each other as appropriate without reducing the potency of their single-service focus, which is so important for Ministers if they are going to deliver what is required. I fully accept that additional things have to happen now. For example, I see the inspector of constabulary consulting the inspector of prisons to see at what stage the inspector of prisons might conduct inspections of police cells, and I see the same thing for the courts administration in the inspection of court cells. That is absolutely right, but there is one thing missing which I would beg the Minister to consider—and it is something I have raised many times. I refer to the use of the word “regular”. At present, the inspection of prisons is carried out once every five years. That raises timing and resource implications because the inspector has got to deliver that inspection every five years. It would be helpful to everyone concerned if that regularity could be included at this stage. It is a point that was made by the Joint Committee on Human Rights and it applies as much to places of detention as it does to prisons.

My reason for raising this is that, unless that is an absolute requirement on the Chief Inspector of Prisons, there is a danger that the requirement to carry out the additional tasks such as the inspection of police cells, court cells and escorts, will eat into the frequency of prison inspection unless extra resources are provided. A balance has to be struck here. The Minister has assured us that resources are going to be maintained at their current level, and that is fine for the current level of operation, but additional operations will need either extra resources or they will have to be conducted at the expense of something else. I am sure that that is not something that the Minister or anyone in the House would resist.

Finally, I am really pleased that, in talking to the chief inspectors, the Government have said:

“We have recognised the serious concerns about aspects of our proposals and agree with you that the focus of our efforts should now be on finding ways to strengthen and improve joint working rather than on proposals for organisational merger”.

Each time we debated this issue, the whole House spoke, not just one part of it, and I recognise particularly the courage of Members on the government Benches who spoke and voted as they did the other night. In thanking the Minister, I have to say that I am enormously encouraged by where this Bill has now got to.

My Lords, as I have tabled amendments in this group I shall speak at this point rather than wait until the end as I would otherwise have done. I support the government amendments, but with the reservations that have been so clearly set out by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. We hope that they might form part of the refinements to which the Minister referred, and we understand that these matters had to be rushed because the Government were pressed for time in producing a different approach to the way the inspectorates are going to run themselves. I am also aware that there are significant rules about what amendments may or may not be part of the process when the Bill reaches another place, but we have shown goodwill over the past 24 hours and I know that we will do our best within the rules to continue to show that goodwill.

However, it is right that I put on the record a comment about the difficulties that the Opposition and other Members around the House have faced as a result of the nature of the process we have all been going through. We were unable to signal our disquiet on the matters referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because the 20 pages of government amendments were made available to noble Lords just minutes before the 5 o’clock deadline for tabling Third Reading amendments. We therefore could not see them before the deadline for tabling our amendments expired. Noble Lords will be aware that manuscript amendments are not permitted at Third Reading, and therefore noble Lords were prevented from tabling any amendments to the government amendments today, and that has actually prevented some of the refinements being brought forward today, which could have been a very practical way of progressing. It is clearly not a satisfactory process—I am talking about the process, not the government amendments—and perhaps the Procedure Committee might take note of the problem for future discussion. This could well be an example of where our Third Reading rules are too restrictive rather than not restrictive enough, as some have argued in the past.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, was right to set out in detail the three issues on which he has some difficulty within the government amendments, and I support him on all of them. The main point today is that it is clear that the Government have abandoned their plans to create the mega-inspectorate that we believe would have threatened the independence and authority of the prisons inspectorate. That is most welcome. It has been a rocky road to this destination but the Government have listened to the arguments put to them in this House at Second Reading, in Committee and on Report. Not one Member of the House spoke in support of the Minister on any of those occasions. Passionate and informed opposition came from around the House, including from the Minister’s own Benches. It came from those who are very loyal to Her Majesty’s Government and for whom it must have been very hard indeed to express their dissent. I suspect that their contribution was very influential.

I spoke at some length both at Second Reading and in Committee, but I recognised at Report stage, at the end of a long debate, that others had expressed views that covered the whole gamut of the subject so forcefully and persuasively that it was not the time for me to go on at length—so I did not. That meant that I did not speak to the amendments that were in my name at that stage. I said that I would bring them back, and here they are. In fact, they have been tabled by both the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and myself. Again, however, I do not need to speak to them because the Minister, in her wisdom, in her amendments today has adopted the approach that I had hoped for. My amendments are there to probethe wisdom of going ahead with the whole of the organisational structure, and I homed in on the questions about the constabulary—but that all now goes by the board.

I can therefore be very brief today and add just a couple of points. The result of the Division last week indicated the strength of feeling in the House onthis issue. It showed that this House believes that the Government’s choice of structural change for the prisons inspectorate was simply wrong. The Minister referred in her speech to her feeling that perhaps some questioned the principled stand that the Government were taking and the motives behind it. We were not questioning motives; we were questioning the outcome of what the Government were trying to achieve. I do not know what the Government’s intentions were—that is entirely for them—but the noble Baroness has steadfastly presented them as being to improve the management structures. Whatever the intentions behind the original proposal, there was agreement that it would have damaged the authority and independence of the inspectorate.

I argued in Committee that there are alternative, preferable options for improving its operation within the criminal justice family without damage to the inspectorate itself. In particular, like the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, I record the work done by the chief inspectors back in 1999 to have a joint secretariat. Like him, I am very pleased that today the Government have accepted that it is right to go down the alternative, more appropriate route of reform, which should focus on strengthening and improving joint working but will not involve organisational merger.

Finally, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on his eloquent and determined leadership throughout this long process. All the inspectorates will have a stronger future as a result.

My Lords, I add my thanks to the Minister. The only criticism I had about the Bill was that the issue of inspection did not have adequate time for discussion in the other place. Those of us who often refer to the intention of the other place were rather short in trying to obtain the views of Members of Parliament. There has been a long series of debates on this matter. As far as I can remember, year in, year out, we have discussed this issue ever since the idea of an inspectorate was floated by the Government. There was a very informative debate in which noble Lords participated on Report, whenthe Minister gave a very robust defence of the Government’s position.

However powerful the case made by the House of Lords, it ultimately remained for the Minister to convince her colleagues about what was appropriate for this House. She has been able to do that, for which I am most grateful. I am glad that there is now a clear statement on the Government’s intentions as well as from the inspectors on how they intend to proceed.

I put on record the thanks of most, if not all, of my colleagues on these Benches for the work that the Minister has done in convincing her colleagues. Let us hope that we will have future opportunities to iron out issues that reflect what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has identified to see how we can put them right. My noble friend Lady Harris will comment on some of the amendments, but in the mean time I thank the Minister.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, suggested several important refinements, but in general I offer my thanks and congratulations to the Government on arriving at such a satisfactory conclusion, particularly with regard to the Chief Inspector of Prisons. I especially thank my noble friend Lady Scotland for the partshe has played in this happy result. I never like disagreeing with her, and I am more than happy to be at one with her again.

My Lords, I have tabled a number of amendments in this large group. I added my name to Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 which, happily, have been overtaken by events. However, I wanted to draw your Lordships’ attention to the necessity of all HMICs retaining their royal warrant. I would be most grateful for an assurance.

I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 66 to 69 which are, once again, about the Audit Commission. Before I do so, I have a few questions for the Minister which refer to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, with regard to Schedule 4A(2), looking at the issue from a police authority perspective. It is worth asking the questions to allow the Minister time to get an answer while I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 66 and 69.

Does subsection (2)(2) of Amendment No. 17 also mean that HMIC will consult the bodies to be inspected? It was in the latest version of the Bill in Schedule 9(9)(3) on page 110, but it does not appear in this legislation, and I would like an explanation. With regard to subsection (3)(4) of AmendmentNo. 17, can the Minister say how the Secretary of State would envisage using such an order-making power and for what purpose? Does it allow him to mandate joint inspections or just to say who the lead inspectorate will be and then leave it to the discretion of the chief inspector to decide? Specifically, will it allow the Secretary of State to specify that police authorities will be inspected by HMIC?

I agree with the points made about the great range of the new amendments. It has been extremely difficult to find the detail in them, and I could not find anywhere a reference to inspection of police authorities. The old wording in the Bill on Report included reference to that. At page 24, Clause 29(3), they are one of the organisations listed as sitting within the criminal justice system, which would have fallen within the remit of the single inspectorate.At page 112, paragraph 12, which one of my amendments addresses, police authorities are listed as one of the bodies—CDRPs being the other—that would have been subject to joint inspection between the CJS inspectorate and the Audit Commission. But the new wording does not include reference to them. Although the wording itself is not new, the context is, which alters the way in which the wording might be read and needs to be examined afresh in light of the Government’s amendments.

I am sure that if the Minister is unable to answer these questions today, she will be able to do so at a later point, having read carefully what I have said in Hansard. But is she able to tell me how the new amendment will allow for inspection of police authorities?

With my Amendments Nos. 64 and 65, I turn to the matter of enabling police authority expertise to be used in inspecting police authorities. It seems that I must continue to disagree with the Minister about whether current wording adequately allows for that. For instance, “sufficient expertise” implies quantity rather than quality, so does not necessarily mean that the chief inspector has access to the right sort of expertise. My amendment tries to address this issue. However, it also explicitly allows for the inclusion of police authority expertise in police authority inspections.

I have explained before why I think that that is important, so I will not rehearse those arguments again. But I point out that it does not imply a cosy relationship, which the Minister seemed to suggest in our previous debate. I am suggesting that police authority expertise should contribute to police authority inspections, but certainly not be wholly responsible for them. It is certainly no more questionable than the idea that police officers should inspect police forces, which, indeed, they do. I do not believe that the Minister would question the professionalism and independence of HMIC.

In an effort to come up with a compromise that might be more acceptable to the Government, I suggest that the Association of Police Authorities should be consulted by the chief inspector about ensuring that he has appropriate expertise available to him. This is a change to the previous suggestion that the APA should be able to nominate suitable people. It is just slightly different.

With Amendments Nos. 66 to 69, I have been very busy checking the legislation. For the avoidance of confusion, my previous amendment was about the Audit Commission’s role in best value. Best value appears in Section 24 of the Local Government Act 1999, where it says that HMIC will inspect police authorities for their compliance with best value. The Audit Commission has no role mentioned in that Act whatever.

Amendments Nos. 66 to 69 address the involvement of the Audit Commission in police authority inspections. Nothing that the Minister has said has convinced me that it has the requisite knowledge or expertise to undertake this role. I know that the Minister is a great fan of its work with local authorities, and I acknowledge, as I have throughout, that it has a wealth of experience in this field, although I do not share the views about its total effectiveness. That aside, local authorities are not the same as police authorities. They have different functions and structures, and it is a mistake to think that techniques and frameworks used in inspecting local authorities can be applied to police authorities; they cannot.

My second amendment would ensure that the Audit Commission sticks to what it knows about: auditing police authorities, not inspecting them. That is the very point made by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, for which I was very grateful. In addition, however, I was rather taken aback to hear the noble Lord speaking at Second Reading on this section of the Bill. He said the amendment he was then proposing, which is now part of the Bill, gave the Audit Commission a power to act jointly with the chief inspector, where the commissioner had no power to inspect. I am sorry, but if the Audit Commission has no legal remit to inspect, it has no business conducting inspections, joint or otherwise. My amendment seeks to make that plain.

I have also made sure with this amendment that it is the chief inspector, not the Audit Commission, who decides that the involvement of the commission might be helpful, although in practice, because of my other amendments, that will be restricted to inspections of crime and disorder reduction partnerships.

My Lords, I, too, am very grateful for the Government’s clear change of heart in answer to the strong feelings expressed by this House. I admired the Minister’s necessary performance asSt Sebastian, as arrow after arrow was fired in with, unfortunately, no support from anywhere.

The question of motive was raised. I believe that the Minister sincerely and profoundly believed in what she was putting before the House and in what she was saying and that she sincerely and profoundly believes in what is now being put in substitution. If I make some criticisms or probe the matter, it is in no sense an attack on her motive or sincerity and I hope that she will therefore forgive me more readily than she might otherwise have been prepared to.

I tend to conceive of things visually, as my St Sebastian image might have indicated. If one thought of the Times cartoonist Peter Brookes, one might see two cartoons. The first shows what the Home Secretary and the Home Office originally designed for the Bill: complete control from on high, with all the chief inspectors subordinated in the manner against which this House rebelled. The second cartoon, I am afraid, now shows the Home Secretary as a spider—but not the Minister, I am sure, unless she is a smaller spider—who, having been frustrated in the original objectives, has now been determined to tie up the inspectorates in red tape.

I heard with pleasure the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, say today that it was the Government’s objective to strip away bureaucracy in the Bill. I also heard the noble Baroness, Lady Scotland, say that the object was to minimise additional work and that the Government remained committed to a simplified inspection landscape. I have to confess that when I read the amendments that we are discussing and saw the enormous amount of consultation that is supposed to take place—some distinguished commentators doubt that it will—I thought that this is not a simplified landscape at all, but an incredibly bureaucratic one. Perhaps the Minister will tell us what costing the Government have made of the extra bureaucrats who will be needed to carry out all this consultation and response to consultation.

I am concerned that the power of the Home Office to give directions remains very great. I hope that the Government will not seek to put back, through the ping-pong process, any power for the Crown Prosecution Service to become judge and jury in their own cases and to impose penalties and level of penalties. I hope that has gone for good, at least as far as this Bill is concerned. Whether or not that is the case, it is extremely important that the inspectorates should remain independent. I hope that that will be acknowledged.

I wish to make one or two points of detail. If we are to have a framework of consultation, we should bear in mind the fact that the Crown Prosecution Service, the whole prosecuting process and the Attorney-General are not the Government. Prosecutions are not carried out by government; they are carried out by the wholly independent prosecuting authorities. It is the absolute constitutional duty of the Attorney-General to ensure that that is the case and that it is protected. None the less, the Crown Prosecution Service must very properly work extremely closely with the police and the courts. I notice that at present there is no requirement for the Attorney-General, the DPP or anybody in the Crown Prosecution Service to be consulted about inspections. That may be deliberate or it may be an oversight. Perhaps it could be thought about and the views of the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General inquired into.

I fear that we are going down a wrong road, but I know that the noble Baroness sincerely believes in what she is doing.

My Lords, having last week expressed my concern about what the Government then proposed and voted accordingly, I wish to put on record how much I welcome the statement by my noble friend the Minister this evening, for the various reasons that have been given. The proposal will ensure the co-ordination that is needed and which I understand the various inspectors have willingly committed themselves to, and yet at the same time will eliminate any danger of important, separate issues being subsumed in a reorganisation of the kind that we discussed last week.

I, too, accept that in some areas we may be talking about perception rather than reality. I certainly accept my noble friend’s assurances that there was no government agenda to weaken the inspectorates, including the prisons inspectorate. Indeed, I did not suspect that that was the Government’s motive in bringing forward the original proposals.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and thenoble Baroness who speaks for the Conservative Opposition on these issues referred to the contributions that some noble Lords on the Government Benches had made. As a new Member of your Lordships’ House, I say to my noble friend that I have not been emboldened by this experience to make me wish to repeat such rebellious behaviour regularly. I recognise that the measure that we are discussing represents a satisfactory outcome. I also recognise the efforts made by my noble friend and her colleagues in bringing about this solution.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken. I am struggling with the image evoked by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell of Markyate, of St Sebastian transfigured into a wicked spider, as it were. I thank the noble and learned Lord for that image, which will delight me for some time.

I hope that I shall reassure noble Lords on these matters. As regards speed, bearing in mind the nature and extent of the debates that we have had in this House, we came to the view that, if there were to be a change, it should be proposed in this House at the earliest possible opportunity. I assure your Lordships that strenuous efforts were made, first, to resolve this issue, secondly, to draft amendments that were most likely to meet the concerns that noble Lords had expressed and, thirdly, to lay those amendments as swiftly as possible. It is to that end that I sought to give notice to the Benches opposite that this was an endeavour that we were embarked on, although I was not absolutely confident about when it might come to fruition.

I assure the House that I understand the difficulties that noble Lords might have in contemplating and considering the detailed amendments, but I hoped that the nature of those amendments would give noble Lords such pleasure that on this occasion—and I accept on this occasion only—I might just be forgiven for my haste. I particularly thank my noble friends, because we are once again in total charity, and it gives me pleasure to acknowledge that, particularly in relation to the noble Lord, Lord Acton. I agree with him that separation is always such dangerous sorrow.

I will now go through the issues that noble Lords have raised, and I will deal first with consultation. Your Lordships will see that all the consultees in the list are in fact the consultees who are consulted bythe five inspectorates at the moment. The long list is similar to that which was in the Bill earlier. That is why I said that technical adjustments may have to be made. We are in consultation with the five inspectorates, and we will enter into dialogue with them to refine the consultation process in an appropriate way. The direction about the form of the programmes will be about the administrative form and not about the substantive content or the form of the inspection itself.

I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, who asked about the possible change in the well established recruitment process. I assure the noble Lord that we have no plans to change the well established recruitment process for the Chief Inspector of Prisons; we hope that similarly robust and vigorous independent-minded people will continue to inspect all our services for the foreseeable future. As I said earlier, if one looked at intent through history, one would see that that is clearly demonstrated. Given the fact that those who are seeking to recruit the new chief inspector came to entice the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, he need not fear that the brief that they were given was to find someone who was compliant. I assure him that there is anticipated to be no change.

The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, asked about the Chief Inspector of Constabulary and the requirement regarding police forces and police authorities. I hope that this will please the noble Baroness. We will expect the inspectors to consult police authorities in any event, but we can always make that a mandatory requirement by adding those bodies by order to the list of statutory consultees. As I said, we are in discussion with the inspectors about the consultation requirements.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, questioned the meaning of “regular”. We are not in any way altering by these provisions the existing inspection remits of the five chief inspectors; we are simply adding strengthened and improved joint working. Matters relating to the way in which each inspectorate conducts its own existing programmes would be better addressed in the individual contexts. We are not changing that. It will still be entirely open to each inspector to determine regularity of inspections, but with the added benefit of less duplication through increased joint working.

The noble Baroness, Lady Harris, asked about the retention of royal warrants. It flows from what I have just said that all inspectors will retain the royal warrants, as now, and there is no change. I am surprised that the noble Baroness did not immediately appreciate that none of the existing inspectorates will have their remit extended as a result of the government amendments. Accordingly, for now, there will be no provision for the inspection of police authorities or crime and disorder reduction partnerships. We will have to return to that issue at another time.

While I know that the burden of doing so much can be high, I had hoped that my noble friend Lord Bassam had made it clear, in response to Amendment No. 2, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, that, as a result of the changes that we are making in Part 4, the provision for the Audit Commission to act jointly with the inspectorate of constabulary in inspecting police authorities is removed. I know that the noble Baroness was concerned about that and I had thought that we might have heard a whoop of delight when my noble friend said that. She may not have noticed the pleasure that that statement was intended to give her—but I give it to her now.

My Lords, I understand that that can provide more pleasure, so I shall allow the noble Baroness to enjoy and savour the gift.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lyell, raised the issue of the Attorney-General. I assure the noble and learned Lord that the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, the Home Secretary, the Attorney-General and I are intimately involved in these arrangements. The Attorney-General has been appropriately consulted and will continue to be consulted. I hope that the noble Lord will be reassured by paragraph 2(2)(a) of the new schedule added by Amendment No. 18.

On the issue of increased red tape, the five inspectors will now share a joint secretariat. We hope that any consultation will involve minimal bureaucracy and that the added benefits of joint working will mean cost savings and less red tape.

My Lords, yes, I have seen paragraph 2(2)(a) in Amendment No. 18, relating to the Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate, but my point was that the work of the Crown Prosecution Service is intimately connected with that of the police and the Courts Service and that a similar consultation requirement does not appear in relation to that.

My Lords, yes, I understand that; it is why my noble and learned friend the Attorney-General will continue to be intimately involved in this matter—he will be consulted and those matters will be dealt with. I hope that that reassures the noble and learned Lord.

I hope that I have dealt with all the issues raised by noble Lords in relation to this matter and I also hope that noble Lords will agree with me that, given the interest that this House has had, it is to this place that we should properly have come to enable noble Lords to have a say in how these matters are dealt with before the Bill goes to the other place for consideration of Lords amendments. We thought that that was the better course and I had hoped that this House would have been pleased to have had such an opportunity. I join my voice to those who commended the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, on this matter. I may not always agree with him but he certainly put forward a very powerful argument.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORS OF CONSTABULARY

(1) In section 54 of the Police Act 1996 (c. 16) (appointment and functions of Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary), after subsection (5) there is inserted-

“(6) Schedule 4A (which makes further provision about the inspectors of constabulary) has effect.”

(2) After Schedule 4 to that Act there is inserted-

SCHEDULE 4A

Section 54FURTHER PROVISION ABOUT HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORS OF CONSTABULARY Delegation of functions 1 (1) An inspector of constabulary may delegate any of his functions (to such extent as he may determine) to another public authority.

(2) If an inspector of constabulary delegates the carrying out of an inspection under sub-paragraph (1) it is nevertheless to be regarded for the purposes of section 54 and this Schedule as carried out by the inspector.

(3) In sub-paragraph (1) “public authority” includes any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature.

Inspection programmes and inspection frameworks 2 (1) The chief inspector of constabulary shall from time to time, or at such times as the Secretary of State may specify by order, prepare-

(a) a document setting out what inspections he proposes to carry out (an “inspection programme”); (b) a document setting out the manner in which he proposes to carry out his functions of inspecting and reporting (an “inspection framework”). (2) Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the chief inspector of constabulary shall consult-

(a) the Secretary of State, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, (f) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (g) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (h) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (i) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (j) the Auditor General for Wales, and (k) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Secretary of State, and he shall send to each of those persons or bodies a copy of each programme or framework once it is prepared. (3) The Secretary of State may by order specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take.

(4) Nothing in any inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing the inspectors of constabulary from making visits without notice.

Inspections by other inspectors of organisations within remit of inspectors of constabulary 3 (1) If-

(a) a person or body within sub-paragraph (2) is proposing to carry out an inspection that would involve inspecting a specified organisation, and (b) the chief inspector of constabulary considers that the proposed inspection would impose an unreasonable burden on that organisation, or would do so if carried out in a particular manner, the chief inspector of constabulary shall, subject to sub-paragraph (7), give a notice to that person or body not to carry out the proposed inspection, or not to carry it out in that manner. (2) The persons or bodies within this sub-paragraph are-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons; (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service; (c) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales; (d) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales. (3) The Secretary of State may by order amend sub-paragraph (2).

(4) In sub-paragraph (1)(a) “specified organisation” means a person or body specified by order made by the Secretary of State.

(5) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) only if it exercises functions in relation to any matter falling with the scope of the duties of the inspectors of constabulary under section 54 of this Act.

(6) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) in relation to particular functions that it has.

In the case of a person or body so specified, sub-paragraph (1)(a) is to be read as referring to an inspection that would involve inspecting the discharge of any of its functions in relation to which it is specified. (7) The Secretary of State may by order specify cases or circumstances in which a notice need not, or may not, be given under this paragraph.

(8) Where a notice is given under this paragraph, the proposed inspection is not to be carried out, or (as the case may be) is not to be carried out in the manner mentioned in the notice.

This is subject to sub-paragraph (9). (9) The Secretary of State, if satisfied that the proposed inspection-

(a) would not impose an unreasonable burden on the organisation in question, or (b) would not do so if carried out in a particular manner, may give consent to the inspection being carried out, or being carried out in that manner. (10) The Secretary of State may by order make provision supplementing that made by this paragraph, including in particular-

(a) provision about the form of notices; (b) provision prescribing the period within which notices are to be given; (c) provision prescribing circumstances in which notices are, or are not, to be made public; (d) provision for revising or withdrawing notices; (e) provision for setting aside notices not validly given. Co-operation 4 The inspectors of constabulary shall co-operate with-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (c) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (f) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (g) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (h) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (i) the Auditor General for Wales, and (j) any other public authority specified by order made by the Secretary of State, where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of the functions of the inspectors of constabulary. Joint action 5 The inspectors of constabulary may act jointly with another public authority where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of their functions.

Assistance for other public authorities 6 (1) The chief inspector of constabulary may if he thinks it appropriate to do so provide assistance to any other public authority for the purpose of the exercise by that authority of its functions.

(2) Assistance under this paragraph may be provided on such terms (including terms as to payment) as the chief inspector of constabulary thinks fit.

Orders under this Schedule 7 A statutory instrument containing an order under this Schedule shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE

(1) In section 2 of the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate Act 2000 (c. 10) (functions of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service), after subsection (4) there is inserted-

“(5) The Schedule to this Act (which makes further provision about the Chief Inspector) has effect.”

(2) At the end of that Act there is inserted-

SCHEDULE

Section 2FURTHER PROVISION ABOUT HER MAJESTY'S CHIEF INSPECTOR OF THE CROWN PROSECUTION SERVICE Delegation of functions 1 (1) The Chief Inspector may delegate any of his functions (to such extent as he may determine) to another public authority.

(2) If the carrying out of an inspection is delegated under sub-paragraph (1) it is nevertheless to be regarded for the purposes of this Act as carried out by the Chief Inspector.

(3) In sub-paragraph (1) “public authority” includes any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature.

Inspection programmes and inspection frameworks 2 (1) The Chief Inspector shall from time to time, or at such times as the Attorney General may specify by order, prepare-

(a) a document setting out what inspections he proposes to carry out (an “inspection programme”); (b) a document setting out the manner in which he proposes to carry out his functions of inspecting and reporting (an “inspection framework”). (2) Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the Chief Inspector shall consult-

(a) the Attorney General, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, (f) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (g) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (h) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (i) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (j) the Auditor General for Wales, and (k) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Attorney General, and he shall send to each of those persons or bodies a copy of each programme or framework once it is prepared. (3) The Attorney General may by order specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take.

(4) Nothing in any inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing the Chief Inspector from making visits, or causing visits to be made, without notice.

Co-operation 3 (1) The Chief Inspector shall co-operate with-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (f) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (g) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (h) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (i) the Auditor General for Wales, and (j) any other public authority specified by order made by the Attorney General, where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions. Joint action 4 The Chief Inspector may act jointly with another public authority where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions.

Assistance for other public authorities 5 (1) The Chief Inspector may if he thinks it appropriate to do so provide assistance to any other public authority for the purpose of the exercise by that authority of its functions.

(2) Assistance under this paragraph may be provided on such terms (including terms as to payment) as the Chief Inspector thinks fit.

Powers of inspectors regarding documents 6 (1) An inspector may for the purposes of an inspection under this Act-

(a) require documents to be produced; (b) inspect, copy or take away any documents produced; (c) require an explanation to be given of any document produced; (d) require any other information to be provided. (2) A reference in sub-paragraph (1) to the production of a document includes a reference to the production of-

(a) a legible and intelligible copy of information recorded otherwise than in legible form, or (b) information in a form from which it can readily be produced in legible and intelligible form. (3) A person exercising the power under sub-paragraph (1) to inspect documents-

(a) is entitled to have access to, and inspect and check the operation of, any computer and associated apparatus or material that is or has been in use in connection with the documents in question; (b) may require- (i) the person by whom or on whose behalf the computer is or has been used, or (ii) any person having charge of, or otherwise concerned with the operation of, the computer, apparatus or material, to afford him such reasonable assistance as he may require. Orders under this Schedule 7 (1) The power to make an order under this Schedule is exercisable by statutory instrument.

(2) A statutory instrument containing such an order shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.””

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORATE OF THE NATIONAL PROBATION SERVICE FOR ENGLAND AND WALES

(1) In section 7 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000 (c. 43) (functions of Her Majesty's Inspector of the National Probation Service for England and Wales), after subsection (6) there is inserted-

“(7) Schedule 1A (which makes further provision about the inspectorate) has effect.”

(2) After Schedule 1 to that Act there is inserted-

SCHEDULE 1A

Section 7 FURTHER PROVISION ABOUT THE INSPECTORATE Delegation of functions 1 (1) A member of the inspectorate may delegate any of his functions (to such extent as he may determine) to another public authority.

(2) If a member of the inspectorate delegates the carrying out of an inspection under sub-paragraph (1) it is nevertheless to be regarded for the purposes of section 7 and this Schedule as carried out by that member.

(3) In sub-paragraph (1) “public authority” includes any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature.

Inspection programmes and inspection frameworks 2 (1) The chief inspector shall from time to time, or at such times as the Secretary of State may specify by order, prepare-

(a) a document setting out what inspections he proposes to carry out (an “inspection programme”); (b) a document setting out the manner in which he proposes to carry out his functions of inspecting and reporting (an “inspection framework”). (2) Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the chief inspector shall consult-

(a) the Secretary of State, (b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, (f) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (g) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (h) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (i) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (j) the Auditor General for Wales, and (k) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Secretary of State, and he shall send to each of those persons or bodies a copy of each programme or framework once it is prepared. (3) The Secretary of State may by order specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take.

(4) Nothing in any inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing the inspectorate from making visits without notice.

Inspections by other inspectors of organisations within Chief Inspector's remit 3 (1) If-

(a) a person or body within sub-paragraph (2) is proposing to carry out an inspection that would involve inspecting a specified organisation, and (b) the chief inspector considers that the proposed inspection would impose an unreasonable burden on that organisation, or would do so if carried out in a particular manner, the chief inspector shall, subject to sub-paragraph (7), give a notice to that person or body not to carry out the proposed inspection, or not to carry it out in that manner. (2) The persons or bodies within this sub-paragraph are-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons; (b) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection; (c) the Commission for Social Care Inspection; (d) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales. (3) The Secretary of State may by order amend sub-paragraph (2).

(4) In sub-paragraph (1)(a) “specified organisation” means a person or body specified by order made by the Secretary of State.

(5) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) only if it exercises functions in relation to any matter falling with the scope of the duties of the inspectorate under section 7.

(6) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (4) in relation to particular functions that it has.

In the case of a person or body so specified, sub-paragraph (1)(a) is to be read as referring to an inspection that would involve inspecting the discharge of any of its functions in relation to which it is specified. (7) The Secretary of State may by order specify cases or circumstances in which a notice need not, or may not, be given under this paragraph.

(8) Where a notice is given under this paragraph, the proposed inspection is not to be carried out, or (as the case may be) is not to be carried out in the manner mentioned in the notice.

This is subject to sub-paragraph (9). (9) The Secretary of State, if satisfied that the proposed inspection-

(a) would not impose an unreasonable burden on the organisation in question, or (b) would not do so if carried out in a particular manner, may give consent to the inspection being carried out, or being carried out in that manner. (10) The Secretary of State may by order make provision supplementing that made by this paragraph, including in particular-

(a) provision about the form of notices; (b) provision prescribing the period within which notices are to be given; (c) provision prescribing circumstances in which notices are, or are not, to be made public; (d) provision for revising or withdrawing notices; (e) provision for setting aside notices not validly given. Co-operation 4 (1) The inspectorate shall co-operate with-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Court Administration, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (f) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (g) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (h) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (i) the Auditor General for Wales, and (j) any other public authority specified by order made by the Secretary of State, where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of the functions of the inspectorate. Joint action 5 The inspectorate may act jointly with another public authority where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions.

Assistance for other public authorities 6 (1) The chief inspector may if he thinks it appropriate to do so provide assistance to any other public authority for the purpose of the exercise by that authority of its functions.

(2) Assistance under this paragraph may be provided on such terms (including terms as to payment) as the chief inspector thinks fit.””

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“HER MAJESTY'S INSPECTORATE OF COURT ADMINISTRATION

(1) In Part 5 of the Courts Act 2003 (c. 39) (inspectors of court administration), after section 61 there is inserted-

“61A FURTHER PROVISION ABOUT THE INSPECTORATE

Schedule 3A (further provision about the inspectorate) has effect.”

(2) After Schedule 3 to that Act there is inserted-

SCHEDULE 3A

Section 61AFURTHER PROVISION ABOUT THE INSPECTORS OF COURT ADMINISTRATION Delegation of functions 1 (1) An inspector of court administration may delegate any of his functions (to such extent as he may determine) to another public authority.

(2) If an inspector of court administration delegates the carrying out of an inspection under sub-paragraph (1) it is nevertheless to be regarded for the purposes of this Part as carried out by the inspector.

(3) In sub-paragraph (1) “public authority” includes any person certain of whose functions are functions of a public nature.

Inspection programmes and inspection frameworks 2 (1) The Chief Inspector shall from time to time, or at such times as the Lord Chancellor may specify by order, prepare-

(a) a document setting out what inspections he proposes to carry out (an “inspection programme”); (b) a document setting out the manner in which he proposes to carry out his functions of inspecting and reporting (an “inspection framework”). (2) Before preparing an inspection programme or an inspection framework the Chief Inspector shall consult-

(a) the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, (b) the Lord Chancellor, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (d) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (f) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (g) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (h) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (i) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (j) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (k) the Auditor General for Wales, and (l) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Lord Chancellor, and he shall send to each of those persons or bodies a copy of each programme or framework once it is prepared. (3) The Lord Chancellor may by order specify the form that inspection programmes or inspection frameworks are to take.

(4) Nothing in any inspection programme or inspection framework is to be read as preventing the inspectors of court administration from making visits without notice.

Inspections by other inspectors of organisations within Chief Inspector's remit 3 (1) If-

(a) a person or body within sub-paragraph (2) is proposing to carry out an inspection that would involve inspecting a specified organisation, and (b) the Chief Inspector considers that the proposed inspection would impose an unreasonable burden on that organisation, or would do so if carried out in a particular manner, the Chief Inspector shall, subject to sub-paragraph (6), give a notice to that person or body not to carry out the proposed inspection, or not to carry it out in that manner. (2) The persons or bodies within this sub-paragraph are-

(a) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales; (b) any other person or body specified by an order made by the Lord Chancellor. (3) In sub-paragraph (1)(a) “specified organisation” means a person or body specified by order made by the Lord Chancellor.

(4) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (3) only if it exercises functions in relation to any matter falling with the scope of the inspectors of court administration under section 59 of this Act.

(5) A person or body may be specified under sub-paragraph (3) in relation to particular functions that it has.

In the case of a person or body so specified, sub-paragraph (1)(a) is to be read as referring to an inspection that would involve inspecting the discharge of any of its functions in relation to which it is specified. (6) The Lord Chancellor may by order specify cases or circumstances in which a notice need not, or may not, be given under this paragraph.

(7) Where a notice is given under this paragraph, the proposed inspection is not to be carried out, or (as the case may be) is not to be carried out in the manner mentioned in the notice.

This is subject to sub-paragraph (8). (8) The Lord Chancellor, if satisfied that the proposed inspection-

(a) would not impose an unreasonable burden on the organisation in question, or (b) would not do so if carried out in a particular manner, may give consent to the inspection being carried out, or being carried out in that manner. (9) The Lord Chancellor may by order make provision supplementing that made by this paragraph, including in particular-

(a) provision about the form of notices; (b) provision prescribing the period within which notices are to be given; (c) provision prescribing circumstances in which notices are, or are not, to be made public; (d) provision for revising or withdrawing notices; (e) provision for setting aside notices not validly given. Co-operation 4 (1) The Chief Inspector shall co-operate with-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, (e) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, (f) the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, (g) the Commission for Social Care Inspection, (h) the Audit Commission for Local Government and the National Health Service in England and Wales, (i) the Auditor General for Wales, and (j) any other public authority specified by order made by the Lord Chancellor, where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions. Joint action 5 The Chief Inspector may act jointly with another public authority where it is appropriate to do so for the efficient and effective discharge of his functions.

Assistance for other public authorities 6 (1) The Chief Inspector may if he thinks it appropriate to do so provide assistance to any other public authority for the purpose of the exercise by that authority of its functions.

(2) Assistance under this paragraph may be provided on such terms (including terms as to payment) as the Chief Inspector thinks fit.””

Before Clause 28, insert the following new clause-

“TRANSITIONAL PROVISION

In relation to any time before the commencement of the provision in Part 8 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 establishing the office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education, Children's Services and Skills, a reference to that inspector in any provision inserted by this Part is to be read as a reference to-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England, and (b) the Adult Learning Inspectorate.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 28 [Appointment of Chief Inspector]:

Leave out Clause 28.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 29 [General duty of Chief Inspector]:

[Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 not moved.]

Leave out Clause 29.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Power to confer additional functions on Chief Inspector]:

Leave out Clause 30.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 31 [Ministerial directions]:

Leave out Clause 31.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 32 [Powers of persons carrying out inspections]:

Leave out Clause 32.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 33 [Reports by Chief Inspector]:

Leave out Clause 33.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 34 [Further provision]:

Leave out Clause 34.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 35 [Abolition of existing inspectorates]:

Leave out Clause 35.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 36 [Transfer of staff and property etc]:

Leave out Clause 36.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 37 [Consequential amendments]:

Leave out Clause 37.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 38 [Interpretation]:

Leave out Clause 38.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 50 [Attendance by accused at certain preliminary or sentencing hearings]:

Page 36, line 32, after “court” insert “in the circumstances provided for in sections 57B, 57BA and 57C”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Clause 50 provides for defendants in custody to appear at a preliminary hearing over a live link, and it allows defendants who are in police custody at a police station to appear by live link.

In Committee, and again on Report, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, expressed concern about the possible disadvantage to a defendant in custody of being obliged to appear by live link. She tabled amendments that would require the defendant’s consent before a live link direction could be made.

The Government are content to take account of those concerns by adding such a consent requirement. In this regard, we all have the same purpose, and we think that it could be delivered perfectly efficiently and effectively in this way.

At the same time, the fact that the existing clause would mean that a live link would not be available for a defendant who qualified for police bail is arguably anomalous. It would seem to disadvantage defendants who do not pose enough of a risk to be detained, as they would be unable to make an appearance by live link, even if they were anxious to plead guilty as soon as possible. The Government’s amendments would enable both categories of defendant—those who are detained and those who are bailed—to benefit from the live link facility if they wish to do so.

To meet any concerns about the potential disadvantage of appearing over a live link, we have included an express requirement for the defendant’s consent to a live link direction, both in cases where he or she is bailed and where he or she is detained at the police station.

To ensure that the amendments operate in conjunction with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, we have amended that Act to make provision for bailed defendants to appear over a live link. The amendments create within PACE a special class of bail—that is, live link bail.

The amendments also provide for what should happen when a scheduled live link involving a bailed defendant does not take place because, for example, he does not wish to participate or because a live link is not available. In those circumstances, the police will have all the powers, under PACE, that they would have had when the person was arrested so that they may bail the defendant to appear in court in the usual way on another date.

We are conscious of the need to ensure that defendants appearing in this way have access to appropriate legal advice, and discussions are under way to achieve that objective in the proposed pilot.

The Government believe that the amendments will enable the most effective use to be made of live links from police station to court, thereby providing speedier justice, while ensuring that the defendant has the safeguard of an entirely consensual process. I hope that that will satisfy all Members of the House who have expressed an interest in this issue. I beg to move.

My Lords, I support these government amendments without reservation. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for taking on board so effectively the concerns that I expressed at previous stages relating to consent—that live link directions will be given only when there has been express consent. I think the proposal to extend that provision to those who have been granted bail is a very practical and appropriate one.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Page 36, leave out line 34.

Page 36, leave out line 37.

Page 36, leave out from beginning of line 39 to end of line 4 on page 37 and insert-

““custody”- (a) includes local authority accommodation to which a person is remanded or committed by virtue of section 23 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1969; but (b) does not include police detention;”

Page 37, leave out lines 10 to 13.

Page 37, line 13 at end insert-

““police detention” has the meaning given by section 118(2) of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984;”

Page 37, line 31, at end insert “where accused is in custody”

Page 37, leave out lines 32 to 37 and insert-

“(1) This section applies in relation to a preliminary hearing in a magistrates' court or the Crown Court.

(2) Where it appears to the court before which the preliminary hearing is to take place that the accused is likely to be held in custody during the hearing, the court may give a live link direction under this section in relation to the attendance of the accused at the hearing.

(2A) A live link direction under this section is a direction requiring the accused, if he is being held in custody during the hearing, to attend it through a live link from the place at which he is being held.”

Page 37, line 43, at end insert-

“( ) If in a case where it has power to do so a magistrates' court decides not to give a live link direction under this section, it must-

(a) state in open court its reasons for not doing so; and (b) cause those reasons to be entered in the register of its proceedings.”

Page 37, line 43, at end insert-

“57BA USE OF LIVE LINK AT PRELIMINARY HEARINGS WHERE ACCUSED IS AT POLICE STATION

(1) This section applies in relation to a preliminary hearing in a magistrates' court.

(2) Where subsection (3) or (4) applies to the accused, the court may give a live link direction in relation to his attendance at the preliminary hearing.

(3) This subsection applies to the accused if-

(a) he is in police detention at a police station in connection with the offence; and (b) it appears to the court that he is likely to remain at that station in police detention until the beginning of the preliminary hearing. (4) This subsection applies to the accused if he is at a police station in answer to live link bail in connection with the offence.

(5) A live link direction under this section is a direction requiring the accused to attend the preliminary hearing through a live link from the police station.

(6) But a direction given in relation to an accused to whom subsection (3) applies has no effect if he does not remain in police detention at the police station until the beginning of the preliminary hearing.

(7) A live link direction under this section may not be given unless the accused has given his consent to the court.

(8) A magistrates' court may rescind a live link direction under this section at any time before or during a hearing to which it relates.

(9) A magistrates' court may require or permit-

(a) the accused to give or withhold consent under subsection (7) through a live link; and (b) any party to the proceedings who wishes to make representations in relation to the giving or rescission of a live link direction under this section to do so through a live link. (10) Where a live link direction under this section is made in relation to an accused person who is answering to live link bail he is to be treated as having surrendered to the custody of the court (as from the time when the direction is made).

(11) In this section, “live link bail” means bail granted under Part 4 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 subject to the duty mentioned in section 47(3)(b) of that Act.”

Page 37, line 44, at beginning insert-

“57BB CONTINUED USE OF LIVE LINK FOR SENTENCING HEARING FOLLOWING A PRELIMINARY HEARING”.

Page 37, line 45, leave out “this section” and insert “section 57B or 57BA”

Page 38, leave out lines 19 to 23.

Page 38, line 29, at end insert-

“(2A) A live link direction under this section is a direction requiring the accused, if he is being held in custody during the hearing, to attend it through a live link from the place at which he is being held.”

Page 38, line 30, leave out “The” and insert “Such a”

Page 38, line 36, leave out second “the” and insert “such a”

Page 38, line 40, leave out second “the” and insert “such a”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

After Clause 50, insert the following new clause-

“LIVE LINK BAIL

(1) The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (c. 60) is amended as follows.

(2) After section 34(7) (persons who are to be treated as arrested) there is inserted-

“(8) Subsection (7) does not apply in relation to a person who is granted bail subject to the duty mentioned in section 47(3)(b) and who either-

(a) attends a police station to answer to such bail, or (b) is arrested under section 46A for failing to do so, (provision as to the treatment of such persons for the purposes of this Part being made by section 46ZA).” (3) After section 46 (detention after charge) there is inserted-

“46ZA PERSONS GRANTED LIVE LINK BAIL

(1) This section applies in relation to bail granted under this Part subject to the duty mentioned in section 47(3)(b) (“live link bail”).

(2) An accused person who attends a police station to answer to live link bail is not to be treated as in police detention for the purposes of this Act.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply in relation to an accused person if-

(a) at any time before the beginning of proceedings in relation to a live link direction under section 57BA of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 in relation to him, he informs a constable that he does not intend to give his consent to the direction; (b) at any such time, a constable informs him that a live link will not be available for his use for the purposes of that section; (c) proceedings in relation to a live link direction under that section have begun but he does not give his consent to the direction; or (d) the court determines for any other reason not to give such a direction. (4) If any of paragraphs (a) to (d) of subsection (3) apply in relation to a person, he is to be treated for the purposes of this Part-

(a) as if he had been arrested for and charged with the offence in connection with which he was granted bail, and (b) as if he had been so charged at the time when that paragraph first applied in relation to him. (5) An accused person who is arrested under section 46A for failing to attend at a police station to answer to live link bail, and who is brought to a police station in accordance with that section, is to be treated for the purposes of this Part-

(a) as if he had been arrested for and charged with the offence in connection with which he was granted bail, and (b) as if he had been so charged at the time when he is brought to the station. (6) Nothing in subsection (4) or (5) affects the operation of section 47(6).”

(4) In section 46A (power of arrest for failure to answer to police bail) after subsection (1) there is inserted-

“(1ZA) The reference in subsection (1) to a person who fails to attend at a police station at the time appointed for him to do so includes a reference to a person who-

(a) attends at a police station to answer to bail granted subject to the duty mentioned in section 47(3)(b), but (b) leaves the police station at any time before the beginning of proceedings in relation to a live link direction under section 57BA of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 in relation to him, without informing a constable that he does not intend to give his consent to the direction.” (5) In section 47 (bail after arrest)-

(a) in subsection (3) for paragraphs (a) and (b) and the words following them there is substituted- “(a) to appear before a magistrates' court at such time and such place as the custody officer may appoint; (b) to attend at such police station as the custody officer may appoint at such time as he may appoint for the purposes of- (i) proceedings in relation to a live link direction under section 57BA of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (use of live link direction at preliminary hearings where accused is at police station); and (ii) any preliminary hearing in relation to which such a direction is given; or (c) to attend at such police station as the custody officer may appoint at such time as he may appoint for purposes other than those mentioned in paragraph (b).”; and. (b) in subsection (7) at the end insert “or to a person to whom section 46(ZA)(4) or (5) applies”. (6) In section 54 (searches of detained persons) in subsection (1)(b) after “37 above” there is inserted “or as a person to whom section 46ZA(4) or (5) applies”.”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 53 [Orders and regulations]:

Page 42, leave out lines 9 and 10.

Page 42, line 13, leave out “section 30(3)(a) or (b) or”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 58 [Extent]:

Page 45, leave out line 20.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 [National Policing Improvement Agency]:

Page 57, line 29, leave out “for Justice, Community Safety and Custody” and insert “of Constabulary”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Amendments to the Police Act 1996]:

Page 75, line 33, at end insert-

“A relevant council or joint committee shall exercise its powers to appoint members of a police authority under paragraph 2 so as to ensure that, so far as is practicable, in the case of the members for whose appointment it is responsible, the proportion that are members of any given political party-

(a) where it is a council that is responsible for their appointment, is the same as the proportion of the members of the council who are members of that party; and (b) where it is a joint committee that is so responsible, is the same as the proportion of the members of the relevant councils taken as a whole who are members of that party.”

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 57 and 58 relate to putting into primary legislation the principle of ensuring political balance on police authorities. Notwithstanding the peace and enjoyment that we have had from the Minister this afternoon—a wonderful array of goodies—and unless she is able to assure me differently in her response, I believe that we may have reached the watermark on this.

At Second Reading, the Minister agreed that this was an important principle, following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, which highlighted why that was so and what might happen if this principle were not followed. However, the noble Baroness also made it clear that she thought that flexibility was more important and confirmed that this matter would be in secondary rather than primary legislation.

The purpose of my amendment is to ask her to reconsider that position. There is general agreement that key principles need to go into primary legislation, while the detail can be left to secondary legislation. Many of the debates on other parts of the Bill have concerned where that line should be drawn and in some areas drawing a line is not very easy. I do not see how ensuring that councillor representation on police authorities is politically balanced can be considered a mere detail. Surely, it is an underlying principle that permeates the whole concept of accountability. It is the key to the way in which police authorities operate. It has kept them free from party politics as well as from narrow interest groups, as I learnt to my great advantage a number of years ago when I chaired my own police authority. That is not to say that there have not been political debates about policing, but it means that one particular view has not been able to dominate completely to the detriment of others. It means that decisions are, for the most part, reached by consensus, reflecting a full range of views in the area, both political and non-party political. It also means that there is no question of undue partisan influence being brought to bear on the chief officer. That is an important and valuable principle.

I am gratified that the Government agree, but if they agree with that, surely it is important enough to be in primary legislation, as it currently is. I cannot believe that the Government are suggesting that they may need to change this key, underlying principle about the way the authorities are made up. If they do not intend to change this, why do they need the flexibility that will allow them to do so? I beg to move.

My Lords, I had a sense of déjà vu when I saw these amendments on the Marshalled List, so much so that I feel not in the least bit inhibited by the fact that I missed the early remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, because I am sure that the arguments that she put forward were very similar to those that we heard in detail on Report.

I agree with every word that the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, said about why a balance of elected representatives is a critical part of the governance of police authorities. However, giventhe clear assurance from the Minister on Report that the Government saw this as important, clearly saying that it would be part of regulations, I did not feel it was appropriate to press the amendment again. We have that assurance. Subject to the Minister’s statement that there is no intention to change it, then—unless we are being told that one of the opposition parties plans to dispense with the principle of political balance in the far future—we should surely accept what the Government have made clear.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Harris of Richmond, for repeating her arguments, and the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, for making my case for me. It was a pleasure to hear.

My argument has not changed since last week either. I do not apologise for that, but take delight in repeating the assurance I gave then: our view onthe acceptance of the principle of political proportionality is as it was, and it is not our intention to change it. I expressed that view last week, and again today. I again give the undertaking that we will enshrine that in regulations.

There is a need for flexibility from time to time. There may be some reason, which I cannot currently imagine, for our needing to tweak the secondary legislation to protect the principle. However, that is the better way of doing it. We have struck the right balance, and I can see no point in drawing ourselves into a lengthy debate this evening on whether primary or secondary legislation is the best way to do so. The important points have been made by my noble friend Lord Harris.

I give the reassurance again. I hope that it will be accepted on the Liberal Democrat Benches and that the noble Baroness will feel confident in withdrawing her amendment.

My Lords, sadly not. I am grateful to the Minister for reiterating his stance, but it does not take us forward in anyway. It does not answer my key question of whythe Government feel they need the flexibility of secondary legislation if they have no intention of changing the current arrangements. I note that the Minister said that there may be something in the future.

I am grateful to the Minister for stating once again that the principle of proportionality is as it was. However, the arrangements setting out political balance are currently in primary legislation. That is extremely important. I am not just advocating that something in primary legislation should remain setin stone for the sake of it. Key principles with a constitutional purpose should not be moved into secondary legislation for administrative convenience alone. It is fundamentally important that policing should remain non-party political, and that police authorities should be properly balanced to reflect and represent the full variety of views in the communities they serve. It is essential to the success of police authorities, and surely exactly the sort of key principle that should be clear in the Bill.

Because I do not feel entirely confident that the Minister has reassured me as perfectly as I would love to have been, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

[Amendment No. 58 not moved.]

Page 79, line 39, at end insert “and that the Mayor of London in making such an appointment or appointments shall have regard to any representations that may be made by the members of the Authority”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we have made remarkable progress on the Bill. A whole series of changes have been made and introduced by the Government, responding positively to the representations that have been made. A desire for compromise is clearly in the air. A few moments ago I demonstrated my personal desire to meet the Government half way in accepting the assurances that they gave the House on Report. In moving Amendment No. 59, I have moved from the position that I expressed on Report about the importance of the Metropolitan Police Authority having the opportunity to elect its own vice-chairs, despite the slightly tortuous arguments that the Minister consistently put forward throughout that day about why it was so significant that the leading person in a particular organisation should also appoint the deputies.

Having seen that the Government seem adamant about that point, I thought that it was worth suggesting what is, after all, a very minor change to the Bill, which is to say that having appointed the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority—which will be the only police authority in the country unable to elect its own chair—before the Mayor of London simply appoints the vice-chairs, he should have regard to any representations that may be made by members of the authority. That would give an opportunity for the members of the authority to express a view as to which of their colleagues were taking an active interest in the proceedings of the authority or what was needed to balance the viewpoints within the authority.

I think that that is an entirely helpful amendment and entirely in tune with the Government's proposals. It is for that reason that I propose it. I do not think that it does any damage to the general thrust of the legislation. I do not think that it does any damage to the logic—albeit tortuous—that the Government set out as to why it was so important that the vice-chairs of the police authority be appointed by the same person who appoints the chair. But it does mean that there would at least be some sense of ownership by the whole police authority of the appointments of the vice-chair or vice-chairs of the Metropolitan Police Authority, in that they would have had the opportunity to make representations to the Mayor and the Mayor would have had the opportunity to consider them prior to making any decisions on the matter. I beg to move.

My Lords, in this comity of action at this time in the evening, I ask the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, to address a question when he comes to consider whether to press his amendment. When we deal with amendments in this House and use the phrase “shall have regard to” any representations, there is always a debate about what happens if the body then does not have regard to those representations. I sense that what the noble Lord is trying to achieve is a sensible, practical way forward. However, while one ought to have at least an idea of what are people’s views, if you do not make the appointment that the majority of those people who have expressed their opinion want, should there be recourse to action against you? For example, what if not all members make representations? What if some do but some do not? Some difficult consequences might flow from that, and I wonder whether the noble Lord is wedded to that particular terminology, or whether there is some other terminology that does not have the ramifications of someone taking legal action if they find that they are not appointed after most of those making representations recommend a particular man or woman.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris, has advanced a carefully crafted argument, as he always does on these occasions. Indeed, he has done so so skilfully that he has begun to make me feel rather bad about what I am about to say. If he can take anything away from this discussion, which we have had in two or three stages of the Bill, it is that, I am afraid. I am rather drawn to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, because we often have this strange debate about “shall” meaning “must”. One can get into difficulty if someone “must” have regard to representations made, particularly if there is a challenge.

I shall repeat much of what I said on Report. We are bringing the appointment of the vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority into line with the way in which the vice-chairmen of other Greater London Authority functional bodies, such as Transport for London and the London development agencies, are appointed. As I think has been said in the past, the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority appoints its own vice-chairman from among its members.

Our primary reason for enabling the Mayor to appoint the vice-chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority is that the vice-chairman can act as chairman in his absence. It is therefore logical for the chairman and the vice-chairman to be appointed in the same way. I expect, however, that members of the Metropolitan Police Authority will want to make—indeed, are very likely to make—representations about the appointment of vice-chairmen to the Mayor. I have little doubt that any Mayor, and not simply our current incumbent, would be foolish indeed if they did not “have regard to” those representations when making the appointment. I understand the principle of what my noble friend Lord Harris is seeking to achieve, but I do not think that an amendment is required to achieve it. In any event, members of the authority do not need a particular statutory power to make the quality and nature of representations that they have. In part because of the argument that the noble Baroness has begun to advance about the terminology, I think that there may be an unintended or hidden consequence in making such a power.

I assure my noble friend that members will be free to make the representations that they have always been able to make. That is the best way to achieve the outcome that he seeks and, although the logic may have been tortuous in the past, I think that our point is the right one and that the arrangement is best left as it is. For those reasons, I hope that, although he has made his arguments well, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend’s reply. I am not surprised by it; I expect a reply of that nature and quality on occasions such as this. It was thoughtful, detailed and thorough, looking into all the different issues that might arise. I am grateful for his analogy with the various functional bodies of the governance systems in London. When the Greater London Authority Act passed through this House and the other place, it was noted with considerable interest that every one of the functional bodies under the Mayor had a different governance structure. In four instances, the Mayor appointed the chair. In two of those instances, he also appointed the vice-chair. In one instance, the Mayor did not appoint the chair or the vice-chair and, in the fourth instance, did not appoint the vice-chair. The elected representatives of some functional bodies were expressly forbidden from holding office, and in others only London borough councillors were forbidden. There was no consistency between the functional bodies. If it is an aim of government policy to achieve that, no doubt there will be more signs of it in the forthcoming legislation on local government, although I am not aware that that is part of government policy.

This amendment was put forward to make sure that the Mayor, in making appointments of vice-chairs, listens and thinks about the consequences for the police authority and makes sure that the right balance is achieved in the way that it functions. I was careful in choosing the words,

“have regard to any representations”.

I am aware that that is fairly strong phraseology in legal terms. I used those terms because, while the Mayor might not be bound to accept the collective views of the police authority, I want any Mayor to give extremely clear and cogent reasons why he does not accept such representations. Perhaps there is better phraseology to achieve what I want, but it is very sad that we will not have the opportunity in this House to consider the matter. It was put forward for precisely that purpose and in the knowledge that it was a fairly strong statement.

The Minister was kind enough to say that members of the police authority would have the right to make representations and that any sensible Mayor would think about those, which is a statement of the obvious. No one was suggesting that members of the police authority should be forbidden from making representations or that the Mayor would not be allowed to look at them before making any appointment. If my noble friend is suggesting—as I am sure that he is—that in the regulations there will be an encouragement to members of the police authority to make representations to the Mayor and that there will be phraseology to imply that the Mayor should consider them, if not have regard to them, then I am sure that that would be sufficient reason for me not to press this amendment to a vote.

My Lords, the noble Lord is being a bit provocative, but no matter. He has persuaded me that when we think about the guidance, we should give further thought to the issue, perhaps in similar terms to those which he suggested. I will not go any further than that, but I am grateful to him for his last contribution.

My Lords, given that fulsome assurance from my noble friend and the clarity with which he said that he anticipates that these changes will be incorporated into the regulations—he perhaps inadvertently talked about guidance—I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 8 [Further provision about crime and disorder committees of certain local authorities]:

Page 101, line 13, leave out from “that” to first “to” in line 15 and insert “acts as its crime and disorder committee and also acts in one or more other capacities, the reference in sub-paragraph (1)”

Page 102, line 19, leave out sub-paragraph (2).

Page 102, line 25, at end insert-

“Application to the City of London 10 Paragraph 8 does not apply to the crime and disorder committee of the Common Council or to a sub-committee of that committee.

11 (1) The Common Council may discharge its duty under section 18(1) by itself acting as the crime and disorder committee of the Council, and sub-paragraphs (2) to (4) apply if it does so.

(2) In section 18 or 19 or this Schedule, or in section 5 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 (c. 37) (authorities responsible for crime and disorder strategies), a reference to the crime and disorder committee of a local authority includes a reference to the Common Council in its capacity as crime and disorder committee.

(3) Paragraph 2, in its application to the Common Council, has effect with the omission of sub-paragraph (2).

(4) Paragraph 9, in its application to the Common Council, applies only so far as it relates to sub-committees.

12 In paragraphs 10 and 11 “the Common Council” means the Common Council of the City of London.”

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 9 [Amendments to the Crime and Disorder Act 1998]:

[Amendment No. 63 not moved.]

Schedule 11 [Her Majesty's Chief Inspector for Justice and Community Safety]:

[Amendments Nos. 64 to 69 not moved.]

Leave out Schedule 11.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 12 [Transfer of staff and property etc to the Chief Inspector]:

Leave out Schedule 12.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 13 [The Chief Inspector: consequential amendments]:

Leave out Schedule 13.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 17 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Page 153, line 2, at end insert-

“Prison Act 1952 (c. 52) (1) Section 52 of the Prison Act 1952 (exercise of power to make orders, rules and regulations) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1), after “of this Act” there is inserted “or under Schedule A1 to this Act”.

(3) After subsection (2) there is inserted-

“(2A) A statutory instrument containing an order under Schedule A1 to this Act shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.”

(4) In subsection (3), after “of this Act” there is inserted “or under Schedule A1 to this Act”.”

Page 160, line 9, at end insert-

“Audit Commission Act 1998 (c. 18) (1) Section 37 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 is amended as follows.

(2) In the heading, for “CHAI and CSCI” there is substituted “other bodies and persons”.

(3) After subsection (1) there is inserted-

“(1A) The Audit Commission may provide assistance to-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, and (e) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, in the discharge of any of their functions.” (4) For subsection (2) there is substituted-

“(2) Assistance under subsection (1) or (1A) may be provided on such terms, including terms as to payment, as the Audit Commission and the body or person in question may agree.””

Page 166, line 18, at end insert-

“Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 (c. 23) After section 67 of the Public Audit (Wales) Act 2004 there is inserted-

“67A ASSISTANCE BY AUDITOR GENERAL TO INSPECTORATES

(1) The Auditor General for Wales may provide assistance to-

(a) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, (b) Her Majesty's Inspectors of Constabulary, (c) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of the Crown Prosecution Service, (d) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the National Probation Service for England and Wales, and (e) Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Court Administration, in the discharge of any of their functions. (2) Assistance under subsection (1) may be provided on such terms, including terms as to payment, as the Auditor General for Wales and the body or person in question may agree.””

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 18 [Repeals and revocations]:

Page 170, line 30, leave out from beginning to end of line 38 on page 171.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

In the Title

Line 7, leave out from “to” to first “to” in line 8 and insert “make further provision about certain inspectorates;”

On Question, amendment agreed to.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Scotland of Asthal.)

My Lords, when the Bill began, it was perceived in the media as being rather dull but large, and one that might not interest many people. This House has proved the media wrong. It takes its role very seriously in scrutinising government legislation, even those parts of it—and there were some parts like that in the Bill—that we agree with. Today we saw a change in respect of the inspectorate which was most welcome. I recognise there, as I do elsewhere, the work of the noble Baroness throughout. I say that because I know that she has also been handling other significant Bills that have excited far more interest in the media than this. We send the Bill to another place having shown the views of Members here not only on Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons, but also on police force mergers, extradition, the Secretary of State’s directions to chief officers of police and conditional cautions. We give the other place much to think about, but as ever our regret may be that they will not be given much time to consider it.

My Lords, with the noble Baroness, I wish to express the grateful thanks of Members on these Benches to the Minister who has, with her usual courtesy and encouragement, helped us through a difficult Bill. It is quite technical and many changes have been made to it, not least taking out the provision to merge police forces at the very beginning. That was a significant achievement and one that we trust will be maintained in the other place. Perhaps I may put on the record my thanks and those of Members on these Benches to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord who have led us through with courtesy and charm.

My Lords, flushed as I am with such embarrassing compliments, I thank noble Lords for them. But I also thank this House for its good humour, its passion and its devotion to duty. I wish the Bill very well indeed in another place.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons with amendments.

Africa: Population Growth

rose to ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to contribute to the stabilisation of population growth in Africa.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my purpose in this debate is to urge the Government to restore family planning and concern about population to a central role in their policy to reduce poverty in Africa. Before I develop the argument, I should acknowledge my debt to a yet unpublished paper by Professor John Cleland and others. He is Professor of Medical Demography at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and an eminent authority on population and fertility.

Family planning used to occupy a central role. Until the time of the Cairo conference on population in 1994, it had been extremely successful. In developing countries, between 1960 and 2000 the average number of births per woman fell from six to about three, and the number of women who used contraception rose from fewer than 10 per cent to about 60 per cent. That was a huge achievement. Success was not confined to Asia and Latin America, but was also beginning to happen in sub-Saharan Africa. In Asia, it included some of the poorest countries such as Bangladesh and Nepal. What we saw at the time was a substantial increase in international funding. During the period between 1971 and 1985, funding rose from $168 million to $512 million.

Family planning and concern with population now appear to be out of fashion. Partly this may be due to a reaction against the draconian policies pursued by the Chinese, and earlier by Mrs Indira Gandhi, but more recently family planning has suffered from religious influences in the United States. Anyway, for a number of reasons, some of which I will develop later, between 1995 and 2003 international funding declined from $560 million to $460 million. The millennium development goals set by the United Nations in 2000 ignored the problem of rapid population growth. The Commission for Africa also ignored population growth and the need for family planning. No mention is made of either in the recent White Paper on international development issuedby DfID. The new priorities are HIV/AIDS, international migration, ageing and good governance. I am not arguing that these are unimportant, but I do argue that the decline of interest in family planning is already having adverse results and could be calamitous if it is not reversed.

Leaving aside for the moment the influence of religious dogma, there is a widespread belief—indeed, it has almost become part of conventional wisdom—that family planning will look after itself if we reduce poverty, because the poor need lots of children as a substitute for social security to support them in old age. Once poverty is reduced, runs the argument, and people are wealthier, they will have fewer children. Further, it is often asserted that family planning cannot be effective in the poorest nations. Neither belief is supported by evidence.

Many factors affect poverty but it is clear that large families make poverty worse and make it more difficult for the poor to become better off. There is less food to go round; children are less likely to be educated; and large families increase unemployment. Short intervals between births—less than 18 months is common in the absence of family planning—not only have a devastating effect on mortality rates among children under five but increase the incidence of low birth weight and premature births. They make it impossible for mothers to pursue non-domestic activities. In fact, reducing the birth rate from six—of whom several may die—to two or three is possibly one of the most important steps we can take towards liberating women. Contraception is a vital element in women’s rights.

It is argued that one of the most important measures for eradicating poverty is improving education. Of course it is. One aim of the millennium development goals is universal primary education for both sexes. But rapid population growth undermines that goal. It means that the number of teachers will have to double every 20 to 25 years; the supply of school equipment and the number of classrooms will have to double, and the cost of all that will be enormous. What will happen is that spending per pupil will fall and the quality of education suffer if population growth continues uncontrolled.

As to the second misconception that family planning is not effective in poor countries, in fact there is strong evidence of the benefits of reduced fertility and reduced population growth. To cite one recent study of 45 countries, it was estimated that in the 1980s the number of people living in poverty could have been reduced by a third if the birth rate had fallen by five in 1,000—that is, by one-half of1 per cent. Reduced fertility means that after 20 years or so the productive part of the population aged 15 to 65 starts to grow faster than the number of under 15s and over 65s. This could have a dramatic effect on economic growth in the least developed countries.

I have already mentioned that when family planning was central to development policy it proved effective in very poor countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh. Most governments in the poorest countries have policies in place for birth control, but today they lack the encouragement and funds to make them effective and the funds are now drying up.

AIDS in Africa is now top of the agenda, but I would suggest that stabilisation of population growth is even more important than reducing AIDS. In Ghana, more women are likely to die from unsafe abortions than from AIDS, and yet funds are being diverted from family planning to the fight against AIDS. Many African countries, despite AIDS, will double or treble in size in the next few decades. In Uganda, where AIDS is a moderately severe epidemic, the population is expected to grow from30 million to over 60 million by 2025 and to some120 million by the middle of this century. There is no official concern about population growth in Uganda and yet its impact on poverty is likely to be immense. Niger is facing a catastrophe, partly as a result of overpopulation. But in Niger there are more meetings about sterility—not an obvious problem—and sex among the elderly than there are about population growth or family planning.

I should also mention the effect on the environment. Uncontrolled population growth will mean more depletion of soil fertility, more soil erosion, more overgrazing and even greater pressure to produce more food from less productive agricultural land. In Africa, the ratio of the number of people in farming to the amount of available arable land is rising steeply and will get far worse in the next few decades as a result of population pressure. There will also be an ever-increasing demand for an ever-decreasing amount of water.

Africa is the continent most likely to suffer most grievously from global warming, yet adaptation to the effects of climate change will become even more difficult with population growth.

Why has concern about population dropped out of fashion? One important reason is religious dogma. There is an unholy alliance between the Bush Administration, which opposes contraception, the Pope and the Catholic Church, which preaches that contraception is a sin, and Islam. This alliance hits the developing world with a double whammy: it prevents UN organisations distributing condoms in Africa, thereby condemning hundreds of thousands of Africans to death from AIDS. Even more seriously, it has cut back funding for family planning by international organisation.

Only Europe can give a lead. Within Europe, the UK could play a major part, but only if we face reality and recognise the problem. I hope to hear from the Minister that the Government recognise that what is needed is old-fashioned family planning to stabilise population growth. Apart, perhaps, from climate change, there is no bigger issue we face today than world poverty. There can be few more important moral issues and few, if any, that have such grave social and economic consequences for us all.

My Lords, like some of the other speakers this evening, I have been concerned about women’s right to reproductive health and contraceptive services for many years, so I am grateful to the noble Lord for asking this Question, and for concentrating on Africa, where population growth remains at such a high level. In fact, some of us consider that population growth is of equal importance to the very topical question of climate change. If, like most of the scientific community, we consider that the rapidly increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming are largely due to human activity, the two are inextricably linked.

The All-Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, of which I am a member, has recently completed a series of hearings on the link between poverty and rapid population growth. The report is not yet published—unfortunately, this debate came a week or two too soon for that—but those of us who attended some of the hearings are in little doubt about the link between poverty and rapid population growth. Although it is not so easy to attribute causation to one or the other, most of our witnesses emphasised that it is more difficult for a poor country to climb out of its poverty and increase its income per caput when there are more and more young capita to feed, house, clothe, immunise and educate every year.

If you look at the fertility map of the world, with high-fertility countries coloured dark red, shading down to off-white for low-fertility countries, it is striking how clearly Africa stands out, with nearly every sub-Saharan country at or near the deepest shade, corresponding to a fertility rate of over four children per woman, with several over six, compared with the world average of only 2.7. Niger, Mali and Uganda are at the top of the league, with 7.4, 7.1 and 7.1 respectively. The exceptions—winners, if you like—are Ghana, South Africa and its neighbouring countries, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana, all with rates under four. All are countries with a rising or reasonably high girls’ literacy rate and, except Ghana, a per capita income above the sub-Saharan average.

Although we are mainly considering Africa, it is worth looking at other countries which have not experienced the fall in fertility that has occurred in most countries in the past few decades. Afghanistan and Iraq stand out in western Asia, as does Pakistan and Laos further east, with Haiti and Guatemala in the western hemisphere. All except Iraq are very poor countries and most have experienced war or internal conflict. The birth rate frequently goes up during or after conflict involving loss of life or civil disruption. You could say that this is a kind of natural demographic insurance policy. But conflict makes it difficult to carry out any public health measures, which may include reproductive health provision and may in itself contribute to the high post-conflict fertility rate.

In Africa, conflict and internal disruption have affected around 20 countries with a combined population of more than 250 million—about one-third of the total sub-Saharan population—in the past couple of decades. Apart from Darfur and the uneasy situation in Zimbabwe, there seems to be a period of relative calm, although there are rumbling storm clouds on the horizon. Some might say that conflict resolution and the encouragement of good governance—always part of government policy—should be a first step and have higher priority than programmes to assist with public health, including family planning. Many noble Lords might disagree with that, however, and urge that development assistance, including health—especially reproductive health—is in itself part of the process of building societies that are less likely to tolerate conflict and lawlessness.

I hope very much that my noble friend will giveus some encouraging information on what the Government, through DfID, are doing to assist sub-Saharan countries with reproductive health measures. I look forward to hearing the Minister on that subject. It is extremely good news that the right of all women to have access to reproductive health services has recently been included in millennium development goal 5 by a vote in the General Assembly of the United Nations. I hope that will result in an answer to some of the pleas of the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for more secure funding, particularly for UNFPA, and that the donor countries and international financial institutions will increase their support of that vital work. I am not forgetting the important contribution of the international NGOs in this field.

It would be good if a lot of the increase in funding that we are hoping for could come from the other side of the Atlantic. We may have to wait for another election, but we are always hopeful that it will start a bit sooner than that.

I shall end by talking about the unmet need for modern contraceptives in the developing world,which is now estimated by UNFPA to run at about 137 million women, with an additional 64 million women using ineffective traditional methods. It is a paradox that, as contraceptive use rises, so does the unmet need among the rest of the population, until it reaches quite a high level. These women appreciate the benefits that contraceptive users in their communities gain only after they have seen it in operation. These gains include more time to engage in income-generating activities; ability to devote more time to each child; and more money to go round generally. It is then that the desired family size comes down. The provision of mother-and-child health services with better chances of child survival, together with the education of girls, helps to lower the size of families that communities feel is the ideal.

In summing up, the point that seems most important to me is that there is no single way to slow down Africa’s population explosion. It must be tackled from both ends. There is actually room for more people in many parts of Africa, if the population were better distributed, but such expansion must go together with, or after, economic development, and not before it. Meanwhile, there is an urgent need for a holding operation to help women achieve their desired family size, to go hand in glove with the achievement of the better child survival rates that are part of the millennium development goals.

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on bringing this important matter to the attention of the House. Almost everything was said in the two previous speeches, but I will find something different to say, I hope.

A few figures first of all: we should remind ourselves that the estimated population of Africa is about 800 million, but by 2050 it will be 1.8 billion, because the fertility rate in that continent is about38 per 1,000 and the mortality rate is 14 per 1,000. HIV/AIDS has been mentioned. Many people think that it will decimate the African population; we know that it is having a huge economic impact in some countries. If you do your sums, however, you will find that if all the 24.5 million people who it is reckoned are AIDS sufferers in Africa at the moment died tomorrow, a population growth of 2.4 per cent per annum means that in less than 18 months those people would be replaced. That is the scale of the problem and of the huge growth of population in Africa.

As we have heard, the All-Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health has in the last few months held hearings on the effect of world population growth on the millennium development goals. The group has been chaired brilliantly and very ably by Richard Ottaway MP in the other place, and our report will be published soon. I do not want to pre-empt the report, as it is not quite ready yet, but I beg noble Lords to read it. It is important for our future development policies in Africa and elsewhere.

We have heard about the Cairo conference in 1994. I want to remind your Lordships that that was in the good times when family planning, as my noble friend said, was popular and forging ahead. The 1994 programme of action said that we must meet the family planning needs of the populations of the world as soon as possible, and should,

“in all cases by the year 2015, seek to provide universal access to a full range of safe and reliable family-planning methods”.

But, as we have heard, little happened in Africa. Nothing has changed. There is still a huge unmet need. We used to think that education and economic prosperity were the only way forward to get small family sizes, but we know from surveys all over Africa that if women are given the opportunity and shown how to use methods of contraception, they will leap at the chance. They know instinctively that it improves their health and the health of their family, and allows them to be more productive.

Why has nothing happened? “Control” has become a dirty word since the 1970s and 1980s, when there were countries that employed coercive techniques, but the funds that were pledged at Cairo either did not materialise or were diverted into the great fight against AIDS. Sadly, although this did not apply to our own Department for International Development, the treatment of and funding for AIDS from much of the international community have concentrated on drugs, which has meant that that very useful little commodity, the simple condom, which is such a good way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, has not been properly funded—as I said, the money hasgone into drugs instead. Only 1 per cent of the development budget is now spent on family planning.

The simple, time-honoured male condom—a wonderful thing—can prevent AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. It has an availability in Africa of between 1 and 4 per man per annum. I suggest that that would not be adequate even in this House—sorry—let alone Africa, where nearly everyone is under 40. It is a shocking statistic. It is not funny; it is appalling. The female condom is not popular here. It is very difficult to obtain in Africa but is very popular with women there, once they are introduced to it. Hormonal methods of contraception, especially injectables, which are so convenient, are rarely used except in the wonderful work done in clinics by NGOs such as Marie Stopes International. I name that body as I have seen so much of its work, which is very good indeed.

The propaganda against family planning being put out by bodies such as the Roman Catholic Church is damaging and we would love the Pope to issue a new ruling on that. But, on the ground, Catholic NGOs perform much good work and tend to turn a blind eye to what is going on. Nevertheless, a word from on high would be hugely helpful in that regard, if we could only get it.

The USA has stopped funding UNFPA programmes because of their links with safe abortion—which is so essential—and abortion counselling, which means that all over the world reproductive health programmes have had to be cut. Have the Government made any progress in that regard recently?

As a doctor, I know that myths and stories about different family planning techniques abound. Even in this country people tell you the most incredible stories about what the pill does to you and how dangerous it is, and claim that condoms cause AIDS rather than prevent it. In African countries where people receive little education, these stories are very much worse.

So what must we do? We must increase the proportion of aid dedicated to this matter. We must do something about the supply chain to get contraceptives out there. Everywhere you go in Africa, you can get Coca-Cola and Fanta. I can never understand why you cannot get condoms just as easily. Why is there not liaison between Coca-Cola and Durex to supply condoms taped to every bottle? It might be a good idea to do that in this country as well. Why do those commodities get everywhere whereas something as essential as condoms do not appear? We must have positive propaganda. We must ensure that people understand that even the most dangerous contraceptive methods, such as the very high dose pill that we used in the old days, would be hundreds of times safer than pregnancy.

I just have time to tell noble Lords about the Roman Catholic Bishop of Mozambique who has tried to get round the laws of the Roman Catholic Church and promote the use of condoms. He said in a sermon in the past couple of years that if you are HIV positive and have unprotected sex, you are committing murder, and that is a sin in the eyes of God. He also said that if you are a healthy individual but have unprotected sex with someone who may be HIV positive, you are committing suicide, which is also a sin in the eyes of God. Therefore, he argues that not using a condom is a sin in the eyes of God. That is a nice argument.

Finally, we must set up chains of health workers. Family planning techniques do not need doctors or nurses to deliver. I have seen wonderful schemes in Uganda, where HIV patients and village workers have delivered the message, delivered the condoms and taught the people. I have been to Senegal, where there is a marvellous organisation called Tostan, which is based on villagers being educated by villagers and spreading that out in their area. It includes not just contraception, because that would be too offensive, but messages about clean water, education and how to feed your family. I ask DfID to look carefully at its very excellent programmes and to make absolutely sure that in the future family planning is given a much higher priority, for the sake of all the people of Africa and for the sake of the millennium development goals, which, as we have heard, will never be achieved unless we deal with population growth.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and I particularly congratulate him on his very ambitious tour d’horizon of the whole subject in exactly 10 minutes. It was quite an achievement. I am afraid that I am not going to offer as much practical advice as the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. For more than 20 years, I have been a vice-chair of the All-Party Group on Population, Development and Reproductive Health, and I happen to think that this is one of the most important subjects that we can discuss. My interest in that group is clearly shown on the register.

As the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, said, we have been compiling a report based on population and the MDGs. Naturally enough, the MDGs provide the framework of the consideration of the committee, which is producing the report. I have been sitting on the committee to hear the evidence with, as the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, says, Richard Ottaway as our chair. We are only at second draft stage at present, so people might have to wait a bit for the final report. I know that it is keenly awaited with much interest, and I am sure that what I say here will benefit from the evidence that we have heard.

As we know, the achievement of the MDGs will be extremely difficult, and in many cases impossible, in the time scale envisaged. In addition, it will be very much more difficult to achieve almost all thosegoals without the assistance of some input from the field of reproductive health and considerations of population. As part of this, some of us are trying to reassert the good intentions of the ICPD Cairo conference agreement of 1994, which has already been referred to. I will frame some of my following remarks around some of the MDGs, and I hope to show how Africa, and the agreed aim of poverty reduction, would benefit from a substantially increased regard to reproductive health.

First, we should remind ourselves that the footprint of the developed nations is very much included in MDG 7 on environmental sustainability. For example, there are issues such as fresh water and carbon emissions which apply globally. In our group’s report, the “northern” scale of consumption and the damage that we do to the planet is acknowledged and must be borne in mind when we are talking about the problems of Africa. In MDG 8, our responsibility for being involved in global partnerships for development is set out. That includes fair trade and finance and also co-operating in many fields with developing countries.

To address the Unstarred Question directly, we should be offering parts of Africa the means—of which reproductive health is but a small part—and helping to create the conditions, background and infrastructure where countries can benefit from and use what reproductive health can offer. There is absolutely no coercion, but there is evidence that sub-Saharan Africa could eventually have the benefit of the demographic dividend in the distant future, but there is much to be put in place to achieve that.

I will mention in more detail than the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that we are very fortunate that the work and the lobbying that have been done to get reproductive health recognised in the MDGs have recently borne fruit. The new target that has been added and adopted under the heading MDG 5 is,

“to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015”.

The UN General Assembly took note of that in a report by the Secretary-General and implicitly endorsed that recommendation. It should be noted that after that happened the United States said from the floor that it did not agree with what had been added and noted. I understand that regardless of that, the endorsement by the UN General Assembly will enable universal access to reproductive health to be monitored within the framework of the MDGs.

Further detailed work is needed to measure progress in this particular field by framing and agreeing indicators by which monitoring of progress can meaningfully take place. Given that the theoretical deadline is 2015, I hope that agreement can be reached fairly swiftly on what those measures will be. A further two years’ delay would be unacceptable and I hope that DfID can make sure that progress continues.

Defining the age parameters, for example, for the contraceptive prevalence rate and for the unmet need for family planning will be very difficult; but when agreed, both should be invaluable international measures as to the progress that is being made. The variable of unmet need in the developing world, as the noble Lord, Lord Rea, said, of those who would like to be able to control their fertility but who are unable to do so has varying estimates, but is invariably more than 100 million, sometimes double that. It will be extremely valuable to have an internationally agreed figure.

A large proportion of that figure is estimated to be in Africa. In the report of the parliamentary group that I referred to, there will be considerable evidence from both written and oral sources on the direction of causation and the relationship of severe poverty to population size. In this short debate, it is not possible to go into too much detail.

Similarly, addressing the subject of the Question as to what steps the Government might take can be done only in general terms here. I hope that, following the report I mentioned, the Government through DfID can take an even stronger lead internationally than at present in putting the issue of population into the wider field of our concerns, where it belongs. The additional target for MDGs will provide the perfect platform. I am not forgetting that as much of the impetus for that as is possible needs to come from the developing countries—sometimes the poorest—which will understandably manifest more immediate and urgent needs.

We need to help win the argument on population, in both the long and short terms, on the basis of evidence and need; and we need to ensure that sufficient resources are made available, both financial and tangible. One problem that arose during the evidence that was heard for the all-party group's report was that some donor countries made the allocation of resources under a very wide and general heading and it was increasingly difficult to identify for what purpose some funds were actually being used.

I usually try to avoid quoting numbers in this field, particularly in a debate such as this, but some of the sub-Saharan statistics, if the continuing rates of increase are maintained, are remarkable. The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, mentioned figures for Uganda and Niger. If the present rate of increase in population in Niger continues, from the present level of 14 million it might reach 50 million by 2050—and it is a very small country. It would be too much to expect that education services or food supply could begin to match such an increase. Similar examples could be given.

After the good intentions of the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, the issue of population growth gradually lost prominence. That trend led to the under-appreciation of population size and growth alone. A present theme might be that numbers do count, at the same time as we are challenged to “make every person count”. I hope that when the all-party group's report on population and the MDGs is published shortly, it will be studied with keen attention by all.

Perhaps I may end with the encouraging use of the word “population” and the specific endorsement of that issue in a quotation from Mr Kofi Annan. He stated:

“The Millennium Developments Goals, particularly the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, cannot be achieved if questions of population and reproductive health are not squarely addressed. And that means stronger efforts to promote women’s rights, and greater investment in education and health, including reproductive health and family planning”.

My Lords, I, too, congratulate my noble friend on raising this issue, which is important not only to the people of the continent of Africa but also to the viability of the human race on planet Earth.

Why should we be bothered about Africa’s population increase? After all, Africa covers 22 per cent of the world’s total land area, yet has only 13 per cent of the world’s total population. There are three basic problems. First, much of Africa’s land is unproductive—particularly the deserts, which include the Sahara and the Kalahari. Secondly, climate change means that drought conditions now occur more frequently there. Thirdly, projections showthat Africa’s population, which is currently around 800 million, is likely to double over 33 years.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the populations of some countries are expected to triple by 2050: those of Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger and Uganda. Between now and 2050, four of the nine countries expected to account for half the world’s total projected population increase are in Africa—Nigeria, the DRC, Uganda and Ethiopia—and each of those will add more people to the planet than the world’s most populous nation, China.

This increase in population will create additional demands, particularly on water and food supplies. Let us take Ethiopia as an example. The World Resources Institute tells us that in 1950 its population was18 million; by 2002, this had risen to 66 million; and in 2025 it is likely to be 113 million—a sixfold increase in 75 years.

That creates another problem. In many parts of Africa, population growth, with more mouths to feed, is leading to soil depletion. Farmers are reducing the length of fallow periods or doing away with them altogether to make it possible to plant more crops. Also, the larger the population, the more firewood is needed for cooking and the greater the need to cut down forests to provide more land for crops. The resultant reduced firewood availability has led to animal dung being used for fuel rather than for fertiliser. Marginal lands, which are not really suitable for agriculture, have increasingly been used and protected areas encroached upon. Sharing farms between sons has led to a reduction in farm size to the point where they are inadequate, and many people become landless.

It is difficult to believe that, even if climate, agricultural and other remedial measures were successfully implemented in Ethiopia, food supplies could be secured in the face of such a massive population increase and the already incurred environmental deterioration. Even if on a global scale an effective reduction in adverse climate effects were achieved, it is doubtful whether Ethiopia or other countries south of the Sahara could achieve food security if the population continued to grow as projected.

An additional problem is that most of the countries with the fastest growing populations are poor. Indeed, that is one reason why fertility rates are so high, with each woman producing, on average, five, six or seven children. They know that, because of poor health facilities, some of their offspring are likely to die, and parents see children as the only guarantee of help as they themselves get older and more frail.

However, the news is not all bad. Some countries in Africa already have fertility rates nearing European levels. South Africa has reduced its fertility rate to2.8; Botswana to 3.0; Namibia to 3.3; and Lesotho to 3.4. Tragically, this progress towards stabilising populations has been dealt a body blow by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Noble Lords will know of my special interest in Botswana and of my declared interests in the register. Botswana faces a particular population challenge. The country is large—larger than France and Belgium put together—but has a population of just 1.7 million. Over 30 per cent of the population of Botswana are HIV positive. In one respect they are fortunate to live in that enlightened country because the Government have built up healthcare facilities and are able to afford to provide the medicines to help each infected person live longer. However, the UN says that the country's population is slowly reducing.

A few years ago, in a nationwide address, the President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, startled his people when he said, “Our country faces extinction”. The country is grappling to educate the population, particularly the younger generation, to change behaviour patterns. Like other countries in Africa, Botswana is promoting the ABC campaign to prevent more people catching HIV: A for abstinence; B for be faithful—have only one partner; and C for use condoms. Fortunately, even the Roman Catholic Church has joined in this campaign. It is to be congratulated on recognising the seriousness of the problem.

Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa also have high rates of HIV and shrinking populations. Elsewhere on the continent the recording of HIV levels is patchy because testing is not routinely carried out. While lower rates of HIV are published for other countries in Africa, we cannot be sure of the true picture. Uganda, one of the most heavily populated countries in the continent, was thought at one time to have the highest incidence of HIV. It was one of the first countries to recognise the problem and to take steps to tackle it, even though the amount spent on healthcare per person was, and remains, very low. Unfortunately, Uganda today still has a very high fertility rate of 6.8 children per woman and the population is soaring.

So what can the UK Government do about Africa's problem of increasing population? Education is certainly one part of the answer. Encouraging a better role for women so that they are not seen just as baby-making machines is another. Reinstating family planning in our development programme is vital, as my noble friend said. We need to achieve worldwide trade agreements which will drive up average incomes in Africa to see whether there is a direct link between improving incomes and reducing fertility rates.

In their book Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update, D. H. Meadows et al paint a picture of how, under certain circumstances, population growth slows then levels off at less than 8 billion wordwide; pollution peaks, then falls before it causes irreversible damage; by the end of the current century there is enough food for everyone; and the sustainable society has been ushered in. Here are some of the circumstances which must be fulfilled to reach that goal: all people must be assured by their societies of acceptance, respect, material security, and care in their old age, no matter how few children they have; all couples must have access to effective birth control technologies; and all couples must decide to limit their family size to two children. Unfortunately, the authors say that the last two of these conditions needed to be achieved by 2002, the year of the simulation. Those are not the only conditions. The book also says that the world must develop powerful technologies for pollution abatement, land yield enhancement, land protection, and conservation of non-renewable resources, all at once.

The model used to develop this scenario does not take into account possible wars, labour strikes, corruption, drug addiction, crime and terrorism, many of which have plagued and continue to plague Africa. So, we must all work to help Africa stabilise its population. It will not be easy.

My Lords, this is a very timely debate. I would go further than making the usual genuflection towards congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Taverne. He has hit a lot of nails on the head and, without any collusion, I shall make many of the same points. I declare an interest as cofounder and vice-chair of the All-Party Group on Africa, although what I am about to say does not purport in any way to be a collective view.

My central theme is why Africa does not fit what I shall call the rather benign DfID model. Poverty is clearly a function of GDP per head and income distribution. To cure it, we must increase the sustainable GDP rate of growth and achieve better distribution. Everybody ought to be able to agree on that. In passing, I wish that all NGOs were as economically literate as my noble friend Lord Rea. The questions are: what creates economic development, and what explains African exceptionalism compared with the globalisation from which it seems to have excluded itself?

There is another side to the coin, of course. Some things make growth less likely—excessive population growth, in particular. There have been hugely impressive technical studies. Attention has already been drawn to Population and Poverty, published by the United Nations Population Fund in 2003, which quotes a study by Eastwood and Lipton showing that a reduction of 5 per 1,000 in the net birth rate can increase GDP by 1.36 per cent for a country with a median GDP per capita.

So we come to the puzzle—it is not too much of a puzzle, but DfID finds it so: the reasons for African exceptionalism. What creates the virtuous circle of east Asia—which is not a global virtuous circle which everyone can get to via some inevitable Darwinian process—whereby the number of births per woman reduces and the GDP per head rises sustainably? How on earth do countries such as Niger, Mali and Uganda get there? They have six, seven or eight births per woman whereas the replacement rate, as in the UK, is nearer two. There is a close correlation, if you look at the statistics for all 190-odd countries, between births per woman and the scatter diagram of GDP per head and its growth.

I am not making a fetish of two births per woman. That is a long way off, given the social and anthropological reasons for many people, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, wanting to have a lot of children—leaving aside those who do not want to have children and do not have access to birth control. Declining fertility via family planning programmes makes a dramatic improvement. Sexual mores are unfortunately changing for the worse among many young people. We all have to use the euphemism “family planning”, but we ought to get beyond euphemisms. There is no sign of “family” with precocious sexual behaviour from the age of six, seven or eight in many parts of Africa.

If we are going to do anything to improve African living standards, we must clearly proclaim the importance of reducing births per woman as central to our development strategy. That is why I am sorry to say that I find it little short of scandalous that chapter 5 of the White Paper Making Governance Work for the Poor—which was published in May 2006 and does not have a narrow scope; it has an excellent chapter on climate change, for example—contains not one word on the question of excessive population growth. Why is that? The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, has come up with two ideas. He mentioned religion, I think, and I would add to that the fear of neo-colonialism. Those may be explanations. If my facts are wrong, I hope that my noble friend—to whom I have given notice of my line of argument and the sources I am citing—will correct me. If I am accurate, however, the next question is why we are so silent and mealy-mouthed in our profile on this. I am not talking about the Government making erudite submissions in obscure seminars but about the fact that nothing is said loud and clear in the central reports published by DfID on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government or, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, mentioned, in the report of the Commission for Africa.

If the reason is religious sensitivity, we should tell the truth on the basis of rigorous economic analysis. We should render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s. We should be as robust in dealing with pseudo-religious claims as we are in dealing with false claims of neo-colonialism. I am not anti-religious—I am a member of the Church of England—but I am appalled by the way in which we seem to be censoring ourselves and not saying what needs to be said on this subject.

I welcome and echo what my noble friend Lord Rea said about the alarming connection between population growth and desertification and the destruction of habitat. In Madagascar, where I was this summer, 80 per cent of the rainforest has been slashed and burnt in the past 40 years. There is now bare rock in many places and the habitat of animals such as lemurs is shrinking. I shall come back in a second to the problem of disaffected youths—the young men who hang around the streets of Antananarivo. A compelling study by an academic offshoot of the UN demonstrates very vividly how the conflict in Darfur arose essentially from the destruction of habitat in the nomadic areas, which led to migration and inevitable clashes over land at the most sensitive junction of so many ethnic and religious traditions, leaving aside the odd legacy of straight lines on the map from the colonial era in Sudan and other places.

As noble Lords have said, getting Africa to change is not easy. The recipe is all too reminiscent of the famous recipe for jugged hare that begins, “First, catch your hare”. That is very difficult. There has to be dialogue with the African Union and with all parts of Africa, and it will have to be robust. Unemployment may be one way into it, and it is absolutely necessary to consider that, but the other way may be to look at migration, given that a state governor in Nigeria said that if more aid did not come there, more people would come to Europe. People are putting that on the agenda and we must be honest and robust in addressing it.

My Lords, I echo the congratulations expressed to my noble friend Lord Taverne on his brilliant speech, in which he argued most effectively that a reduction in the rate of population growth is an effective means of promoting development in Africa. That sentiment has been echoed by every other noble Lord who has spoken.

Last year, the UN report on population challenges and development goals concluded that reduction of birth rates led to a “demographic bonus” whereby the number of people of working age increased relative to those of the children and the elderly, contributing significantly to economic growth and poverty reduction. But the UN study of world population prospects in 2004 showed that, over the last 30 years, the lowest reductions in fertility occurred in 12 African high-fertility countries, as has been mentioned. These countries are forecast to have the highest population growth, coupled with the lowest chance of reaching the millennium development goals, particularly as regards infant and maternal mortality and universal primary education.

The Africa Commission said that Africa's population is exploding and that millions are migrating to the slums of cities, where the young are unemployed and disaffected. Yet it fails to link the population explosion with Africa’s underdevelopment or to emphasise the negative feedback between high rates of growth and the acute environmental risks affecting the continent. That point was mentioned by several noble Lords. The commission recommends that donors should do all that they can to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive services, including the provision of an extra $300 million in commodity requirements. But it offers no suggestions about how to overcome the inertia or obstruction by Governments and religious organisations to these programmes, a matter to which my noble friend Lord Taverne referred.

There have been shortages of condoms in Africa. Last year, there was a particular shortage in Uganda, to which my noble friend referred. I think that that shortage was partly caused by the American plan for AIDS relief driven by the religious right, which emphasises abstinence. The DfID profile on Uganda rightly praises the Government of President Museveni for reducing the prevalence of HIV and AIDS from 18 per cent to 6 per cent in a decade. But many women are still unable to exercise freedom of choice over their own fertility. One-third of Ugandan women say that they would like to stop or postpone having children if they could. They are among the100 million to 200 million whom the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, referred to who want to control their fertility but who do not have the means of doing so.

According to UN estimates—and this was also referred to by my noble friend—Uganda's population may treble from 42 million in 2005 to 127 million in 2050. With similar increases in other countries in that region, climate change—which is linked to population increase, as the noble Lord, Lord Jones, remarked, and is likely to reduce agricultural production because of extended desertification, lack of water, loss of soil fertility and reduction of crop yields—could bring about conflicts over resources, mass starvation and large-scale emigration long before the mid-century arrives. Droughts have increased in frequency in the Horn from one in eight years to one in three, and there are too many cattle for the carrying capacity of the people, but too few to feed the increasing number of mouths. In Somalia, the desperation of people living on the edge of survival is already reinforcing the growth of radical Islam. Even war-torn Somalia, without a functioning Government or health service, is estimated to have a population increase from8 million in 2005 to 21 million in 2050, while the combined populations of Kenya and Tanzania will double over the same period to 150 million. It is inconceivable that east Africa can sustain increases of this order.

The question is: what can the countries themselves and the donor community do to avert the looming catastrophe? A far greater emphasis on the MDG of promoting gender equality and empowering women would be an essential part of any strategy, because if women controlled their own fertility they would not have very large families. Bill Gates wrote in the Independent the other day:

“Abstinence is not an option for some poor men and girls who have no choice but to marry at an early age ... And using condoms is not a decision that a woman can make by herself; it depends on a man”.

I would argue that abstinence is in any case an unworkable policy and contrary to human nature, but if women themselves decided when to get married and could decide on whether contraceptives should be used, both population growth and HIV/AIDS infections would be reduced, as has been remarked, and women liberated from the burden and health risks of constant childbearing would be able to make a far greater contribution to the economy, especially in agriculture.

In fact, 120 million women in sub-Saharan Africa are illiterate and most African women have less access to land and education than ever before. Elizabeth Chacko of George Washington University points out that Kerala in India has a low fertility rate compared with that of India as a whole because the women of Kerala have a relatively high status, are well educated and are integrated into the workforce. She says that whether a woman can read, can understand what methods of contraception are available to her and is empowered to use them can have a great impact on fertility rates.

DfID says that one of its key priorities is to get more girls into school, leading to greater economic growth, less poverty and reduced fertility, and that is an important contribution towards attaining the MDG of promoting gender equality. But six years ago DfID also said in an excellent report on poverty and women's empowerment that education alone would not be enough—inequalities needed to be tackled across the board in economic, political, social and cultural life. The Beijing World Conference on Women of 1995 identified 12 critical areas of concern, of which one was unequal access to education and training—one very important one, but not the only one. So I suggest to the Minister that it is time for DfID to review the strategy for poverty elimination and the empowerment of women and to upgrade accordingly its country programmes for Africa. That is not only the right policy for its own sake, but the best way to harness the talent and energies of half the population of Africa and to prevent a Malthusian catastrophe from overwhelming the continent within two generations.

My Lords, I must apologise to the House for not being here at the start of the debate. I had to attend a funeral and, needless to say, the train was late. I pray your Lordships’ indulgence. As the time for this debate has also changed, I asked my noble friend Lady Seccombe to come to my rescue. I am most grateful to her for agreeing and for filling me in on the very impressive introduction from the noble Lord, Lord Taverne.

I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for giving us the opportunity to debate this very important Question. Current population projections suggest that Africa's population will double again within a generation—as it did during the previous generation—while the figures in some individual sub-Saharan countries are even more dramatic. Despite high mortality rates, there is no evidence that points to the rate of population growth slowing.

Such sharp demographic change brings with it many problems and prevents solutions being found to existing problems—not least, economic ones. As long as population growth continues at the current rate, it will be very hard to achieve economic growth in real terms. Even where countries are seeing GDP growth, that is more often than not offset by even greater population expansion. Rapid population growth therefore potentially represents one of the biggest barriers to tackling poverty. Continuing to throw money and aid at the problem, while admirable in sentiment, will struggle to have any lasting effect unless the population explosion ends.

There are equally marked demographic links to hunger and starvation. Population growth is leading to over-exploitation of farmland. More than 80 per cent of farmland in sub-Saharan Africa is now severely degraded, as we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Jones. Nutrients are disappearing from the soil because of overuse due to the pressure of feeding an ever-increasing number of people. As the cycle continues, African farmland will become incapable of sustaining its already undernourished people.

Many noble Lords have rightly stressed that the pressure on the land also causes other problems, such as deforestation, inadequate supplies of fresh water and, inevitably, climate change, as the noble Lords, Lord Rea and Lord Lea, mentioned. In Ethiopia, for example, nearly half the country was forested only a century ago. Now only 4 per cent of the country is covered with trees, as the land is required to help feed the population. As the population grows, it will also create new difficulties. It will become increasingly difficult to maintain adequate numbers of schools and hospitals and to improve these and other basic services.

The fertility rates in Africa are astonishing. In the rest of the world, including developing nations in Latin America and Asia, birth rates have steadily declined to an average of 2.3 children per mother. Most nations will experience only modest population growth in the next few decades. Yet, in large portions of Africa, the position is very different. In Uganda, as the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, mentioned, the average mother gives birth to seven children. This remarkable fertility rate has been constant for more than 30 years. Are the Government aware of these birth rates, and do they accept that the continent simply cannot support the numbers? Given that the population of Africa is set to increase from around 750 million today to nearly 1.7 billion people by 2050, does the Minister agree with the noble Lord, Lord Rea, that such a development would place a huge strain on natural resources and the environment?

Fewer than one in five married women in Uganda have access to contraception. This is a very typical cross-section. What practical steps are the Government taking to improve the awareness of birth control in Africa? Can we expect any increase in the availability of contraception? Does the Minister agree that it is often the poorest and less educated women who have the least access to family-planning services? As the poorest and less educated women have larger families, unlike the educated women in Kerala, whom the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, mentioned, what can the Government do to tackle this problem?

I recently returned from South Africa, where I had the opportunity to study the Anglo-American programme which raises awareness of, and provides treatment for, AIDS for all its employees. Run by the very enlightened Dr Brian Brink, this excellent programme has been in place for several years, and works in various ways. It focuses on prevention, which is so important. The programme ranges from practical measures, such as the distribution of contraception, to behaviour-based education and targeting young audiences. Does the Minister accept that the frightening spread of HIV shares many roots with uncontrolled population growth, and that there can and should be a similar approach to both? Will the Government look into the impressive Anglo-American programme developed by Dr Brian Brink and encourage others to follow?

Some of the figures relating to population growth that we have heard from many noble Lords today are so striking that there must be an appreciation of the fact that urgent measures are needed. Without the stabilisation of its population, Africa will find it impossible to address and to resolve many of the issues that noble Lords have clearly identified today. This is especially true of the economic problems that have attracted so much recent popular interest all over the world.

My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, for securing this debate and to other noble Lords for their valuable contributions. I also welcome the recent series of parliamentary hearings by the APPG on population, development and reproductive health which have helped to raise the profile of this issue. I pay tribute to the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, for his sterling work in the APPG, and for the group’s work for many years to ensure that this important issue does not slip down the political agenda.

Population—people—are at the centre of the Government’s business. The biggest obstacles to population stabilisation in Africa are poverty, lack of sexual and reproductive health rights and lack of access to basic services. We are certainly aware of the birth rates. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Taverne, that sexual and reproductive health are an important part of this Government’s international development policy. However, discussion about limiting population growth has to be firmly based in a rights context. Underlying high levels of population growth is deep-rooted gender inequality. Women’s low status, lack of decision-making power and control, poor access to information and care, restricted mobility, early age of marriage, and low political priority and resources all contribute to high fertility rates by limiting their ability to make informed choices to ensure healthy sexual and reproductive lives. As the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, said, it is the poorest women who have the fewest choices. The attainment of universal sexual and reproductive health rights underpins the achievement of the millennium development goals on poverty reduction, maternal and child mortality, gender empowerment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. The noble Viscount is right that we have to create conditions and means whereby sexual and reproductive health can thrive.

Like the noble Lord, Lord Rea, and the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon, I warmly welcomethe new target in the MDG framework to includethe International Conference on Population and Development goal of universal access to reproductive health by 2015. Indeed, the UK worked very hard to achieve that outcome and strongly supports inclusion of this target. One indicator for consideration of the new target was the unmet need for family planning. The Secretary-General recommended inclusion of this in his report that was noted by the UN General Assembly in October. Sadly, the Holy See and USA raised some last minute objections, and negotiations to ensure inclusion of the target and to agree appropriate monitoring indicators are continuing. However, we are committed to work on this diligently because we want to ensure the appropriate outcome.

The noble Lord, Lord Taverne, and others have rightly mentioned that the US and parts of the Church heavily promote abstinence-only programmes as a response to preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. DfID does not promote abstinence-only messages as a strategy for HIV prevention and pregnancy reduction for young people. The noble Lord, Lord Jones of Cheltenham, mentioned ABC—abstinence, be faithful, correct and consistent condom use. DfID promotes the full ABC message as a balanced strategy for HIV prevention and pregnancy reduction for young people, but I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, that for many women abstinence is not an option. I deeply regret that in Ethiopia, for example, the loss of nearly US$500,000 per year of US funding to the Ethiopian Family Guidance Association, is equivalent to the loss of reproductive health services to 500,000 men and women in urban areas every year.

Marie Stopes International lost $60,000 and hadto close several health posts. Funding cuts have caused cutbacks or discontinuations in emergency contraceptive programmes, outreach services, voluntary counselling and testing for HIV. However, DfID is actively addressing that through increased attention to improving funding for abortion and sexual and reproductive health, including family planning and male and female condoms.

Better sexual and reproductive health and poverty reduction is a virtuous circle. Education, better health and greater rights for women and girls enhance choice and opportunity. Fewer and better spaced births improve maternal and child health. Families can invest more in their children. Slower population growth means that countries can invest more per head in basic services. All this helps to reduce poverty. Efforts to slow population growth and reduce poverty are mutually reinforcing.

On the White Paper, I am pleased to inform noble Lords that the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Population Development and Reproductive Health took part in the consultation process. However, I believe they recognised that not every subject that was raised in the consultation process could be dealt with fully. The White Paper takes account of population changes as part of its wider review of environmental and economic pressures, and a key part of the White Paper is about the delivery of basic services, including health and education to poor people. Better sexual and reproductive health is and will remain an essential element of this. I can assure noble Lords that the Government, in the words of my noble friend Lord Lea, are not mealy-mouthed or secretive about population or about sexual and reproductive health. Indeed, we have a very loud voice in the UN and the EU, as well as in our bilateral discussions with countries in Africa, as I will seek to demonstrate. The African Union itself recently held a meeting of health Ministers on sexual health and reproduction, and those Ministers are determined to keep these issues high on the political agenda.

In Africa, as elsewhere, DfID is keen to contribute to poverty reduction by supporting country-ledand country-owned policies and strategies. Where appropriate, our preferred way of supporting development in Africa is to provide budgetary support to national governments’ overall plans and budgets. Within that context we can then support governments as they define and deliver their own priorities, including basic health and education services, and reduce barriers to accessing those services. Prioritising issues such as sexual and reproductive health in national planning processes such as poverty reduction strategies is critical. That is why in countries like Sierra Leone we are helping donors and the Government to include performance indicators for sexual and reproductive health at the highest level. In addition, in a number of African countries we are directly supporting long-term investments to rebuild and strengthen health systems. In Malawi, for example, DfID’s emergency human resources programme is improving incentives for the recruitment and retention of health staff and enabling a significant expansion of domestic training capacity. We are also supporting a Marie Stopes International partner which is delivering services to such women, precisely because we understand the importance of family planning.

Access to good quality sexual and reproductive health information, services and supplies, including family planning, is central to giving people more choice over family spacing and size. These help both to stabilise population growth and to tackle AIDS. I must say that I rather like the idea of a free condom with every bottle of Coke. In Mozambique, DfID is investing over £13 million to increase access to reproductive and sexual health services. In Sierra Leone, DfID is considering a joint programme with the World Bank to improve sexual, reproductive and child health. Improving access to family planning will be a key component from the outset. The noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, asked about the simple but important condom. For the past 10 years, DfID has been the fourth largest provider of condoms to developing countries, supporting the distribution of around 150 million condoms annually. DfID has provided nearly £4 million for condoms and hormonal contraceptives in Ethiopia, £500,000 for a social marketing programme to maintain family planning services in DRC, and nearly £2 million for maintaining access to family planning services for women with HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe. DfID is providing the vast majority of condoms for distribution through the public sector and social marketing in Ghana, and 80 per cent of the condoms in Nigeria. In addition to our direct support for partner governments, DfID supports the global efforts of UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. We are currently providing £80 million over four years to UNFPA and£19.5 million to IPPF between 2004 and 2006.

Noble Lords have clearly demonstrated in their remarks that the unmet need for family planning is enormous. Some 137 million women who have expressed a desire to space or limit their family size are not using any form of contraception. This year alone an estimated 19 million women and girls will face an unintended and unwanted pregnancy. Many will suffer the deadly consequences of unsafe abortion, from which nearly 70,000 will die and many others will be left with long-term debilitating injuries. The UK has therefore taken the lead and, in February 2006, the Government committed an initial £3 million to the safe abortion action fund developed by the IPPF, which aims to reduce the 13 per cent of maternal deaths which result from unsafe abortion.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, referred to the DfID publication of 2000. Last year there was an evaluation across all DfID work looking at gender and the empowerment of women in relation to the achievement of the MDGs. One of the outcomes is that a senior management team is working to ensure that empowerment of women and gender are mainstreamed. Yes, an evaluation of the 2000 strategy would be interesting, but DfID believes that it is much more important to ensure that we are doing the job and empowering women. I will write to the noble Lord with further information about the evaluation.

My noble friend Lord Lea is absolutely right—it is important that data and analysis about population dynamics and their consequences are made available, disseminated and taken into account in the development of policy. DfID is currently working with the William and Flora Hewlitt Foundation and the Population Reference Bureau to convene an October seminar at DfID on poverty reduction and economic growth, the role of population dynamics and reproductive health. Earlier this year my honourable friend Gareth Thomas attended the population conference in Paris, which highlighted many of the links between demographic change and poverty reduction.

As the noble Lord, Lord Jones, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, demonstrated, population growth in Africa, the environment and climate change are inextricably linked and they are clearly adversely affected by poverty. This was recognised by the Commission for Africa, which clearly considered both population and sexual and reproductive health, although I recognise that it was not considered as fully as noble Lords might have wished. But that is precisely why the focus of DfID’s policy is the elimination of poverty. It is also clear that when women have full sexual and reproductive health and rights they are able to participate more fully in education, sustainable livelihoods, markets and the economy, decision-making and the political processes.

As mentioned by my noble friend, increased migration is also a result of both poverty and population growth. In September, I participatedin the UN high-level dialogue on international migration and development and there is now real recognition that development plays an important role in tackling the causes which compel people to migrate and that migration could be a positive force for development.

The UK Government remain firmly committed to the stabilisation of population in Africa. We will seek to ensure that the achievements we have seen to date are consolidated and continued. We will work with others to ensure that critical constraints, both at the global policy level and at the country level, are overcome. I understand that the Germans, in both their EU and G8 presidencies, will focus on Africa, so there may be room there to develop this work.

But although we will continue to play our part, it is also the responsibility of African Governments to take leadership to address this issue. That is why we are putting our resources into their development plans and channelling them through their systems. The UK has shown continuous leadership and lobbied at the highest level for full attention to sexual and reproductive health and rights, including family planning. I can assure the House that we will continue to do so.

House adjourned at twenty-nine minutes past eight o’clock.