Skip to main content

Queen’s Speech

Volume 754: debated on Monday 9 June 2014

Debate (3rd Day)

Moved on Wednesday 4 June by Lord Fowler

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

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

My Lords, we are resuming the debate which was adjourned last Thursday and I appreciate that there are Peers who are not taking part in it. Perhaps I may encourage them to leave fairly swiftly though quietly. There is a considerable list of those who are interested in the debate today and I know that they wish the Minister to begin fairly promptly.

My Lords, I would like first to express how grateful I am to be afforded the opportunity to open this debate on Her Majesty’s gracious Speech for the first time. I am confident of a constructive and lively debate worthy of this House on the matters of law and justice, home affairs, health and education. I also look forward to the maiden speeches from my noble friend Lord Glendonbrook and from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford.

I turn first to the Government’s law and justice business. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, carried over from the third Session, represents the next stage of significant and far-reaching reforms to the justice system. It is intended to make sure that criminals are properly punished, young offenders turn their lives around through education and modern courts run efficiently and effectively. Part 1 of the Bill introduces a package of sentencing and criminal justice reforms targeted at keeping our communities safe and continuing our pledge to put victims at the heart of the criminal justice process. It will make certain that no one convicted of either the rape of a child or serious terrorism offences can be released automatically at the midway point of their sentence. It will ensure that when offenders are released on licence, we have all the powers we need to make the best possible use of new and innovative technology to track their whereabouts while under supervision, and it will deal with those who go on the run after being recalled to custody. A new offence will make sure that those who remain unlawfully at large do not go unpunished.

On Report, this Government introduced further new clauses to the Bill to continue our focus on offending behaviour that causes the most harm to victims and our communities. These clauses introduce tougher sentences for those who kill or seriously injure when driving while disqualified and ensure that anyone convicted of murdering a police or prison officer in the course of duty faces a whole life sentence.

For young offenders, this Government continue to believe that there is more that we can do to turn their lives around. The current system is simply not working well enough, and with reoffending rates of more than 69%, maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. Part 2 of the Bill includes clauses to create secure colleges so that we can trial a new approach to youth custody, with a stronger focus on the education and rehabilitation of young offenders, giving them the skills, support and training that they need to turn their backs on crime.

Part 3 of the Bill addresses our courts and tribunals system. In such constrained financial times, this Government believe that we can and must continue to find ways to ease the burden on the taxpayer. That is why provisions in this part will ensure that criminals contribute to the cost of their court case through the introduction of a court charge. Repayment of the charge can be set at a rate that the offender can afford, and offenders who play by the rules in taking all reasonable steps to comply with payment terms and not reoffend will be able to apply to have the charge cancelled after a set period of time. The Bill also introduces a more proportionate and efficient approach to uncontested regulatory cases, allowing them to be heard by a single magistrate, thus freeing up valuable court time.

Finally, let me turn to the reforms to judicial review which make up Part 4 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill. Let me be clear: this Government are committed to making sure that judicial review continues its crucial role in holding authorities and others to account. However, it is also committed to making sure that it is used appropriately and proportionately and is not open to abuse by people in order to cause delays or to pursue a campaign at the expense of ordinary taxpayers. Clauses in the Bill seek to achieve that aim.

I also hope, and am confident, that noble Lords will not rush to judgment about the relevant provisions. The introduction of modest changes to legal aid remuneration at the application stage was met in a debate recently in your Lordships’ House with suggestions that any changes in judicial review were an attack on the rule of law, and with ad hominem attacks on the Lord Chancellor. What, with respect, is needed is a mature debate about these changes which have followed a detailed consultation on the subject. I should emphasise, as strongly as I properly can do, that this Government remain passionately committed to the rule of law. It is one of the many aspects of this country which commands admiration throughout the world and makes people want to live here and invest here.

I turn now to the Government’s plans to introduce a Bill on social action, responsibility and heroism. We often hear reports about people not wishing to get involved when somebody needs assistance because they are worried about being held liable if something goes wrong. Some noble Lords may be aware of the survey of volunteering and charitable giving which was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research in 2007. That survey found that as many as 47% of would-be volunteers were concerned about this issue. While there are, of course, many different factors which might stop people getting involved, we cannot ignore the fact that worries about liability are a real issue for many people.

The growth of this perception has coincided with the actual growth of compensation claims in the United Kingdom. It is a worrying trend which could reduce the pool of people who are willing to play an active part in civil society, and also have a chilling effect on volunteering rates. We have already taken steps to curb the growth of the so-called compensation culture; for example, we made important reforms to no-win no-fee arrangements in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012. Those changes have, among other things, discouraged personal injury firms from championing spurious claims by abolishing the recovery of success fees from the losing side and by limiting the success fee that a lawyer may charge to their own client to 25% of the damages awarded. However, we can do more to allay people’s concerns about the risk of liability, to reverse the commonly held belief that it is safer not to get involved, and to encourage active participation in volunteering and other activities which benefit both individuals and society in general.

The coalition agreement included a specific commitment to,

“take a range of measures to encourage volunteering and involvement in social action”.

The social action, responsibility and heroism Bill will help to deliver this by reassuring the public that if they are acting for the benefit of society, take a generally responsible approach towards the safety of others when carrying out an activity or intervene in an emergency, the court will take full and careful account of the context of their actions in the event that they are sued for negligence.

The Bill will not affect the overarching framework used by the courts when determining those sorts of claims. They will still need to look at whether a defendant met the appropriate standard of care in all the circumstances of the case. Nor will it introduce blanket exemptions to civil liability. There is an important balance to be struck between encouraging participation in civil society and being mindful of the impact that careless or risky actions could have on the very people that the defendant was trying to help. The Bill is not about removing protection and leaving victims without proper recourse in those circumstances. However, it will give valuable and needed reassurance to a wide range of people and send a powerful signal that the courts will take full account of the context of a person’s actions when determining a negligence claim. I hope that the House will support the intentions behind this Bill, and I look forward to debating the substantive provisions when we return to them in due course.

I would now like to address the Government’s business on matters of home affairs. The Queen’s Speech included the Serious Crime Bill, which was introduced in this place on 5 June. Serious and organised crime remains a potent threat to our national well-being. Nationally, it costs the country at least £24 billion a year and its impact is felt in local communities and blights ordinary lives. We see the effects of organised crime in lives ruined by drug abuse, child sexual exploitation and online fraud. To meet those threats, we have already established the National Crime Agency and are building up the capabilities of the nine regional organised crime units. However, to do their job, the NCA, police and prosecutors need up-to-date and effective powers.

Of course, an array of criminal and civil powers are already available to law enforcement agencies; but as organised criminals adapt their activities in an attempt to circumvent them, so, too, must the law respond. That is where the Serious Crime Bill comes in. To take but one example, the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 has been used with some success to seize the profits from criminal enterprises—some £746 million since 2010-11. However, its effectiveness is under constant legal attack from criminals, who do all they can to frustrate its intent. The Serious Crime Bill will close loopholes in the Act and help reinforce the old adage that crime does not, or certainly should not, pay. It will also enhance the effectiveness of serious crime prevention orders and gang injunctions.

Before the Minister moves on from the matter of strengthening the provisions of the Proceeds of Crime Act, perhaps I may say that I was a Minister at the time and helped to introduce it in the other place. Can he confirm that all the strengthening of the Act will apply to Scotland as well as to the rest of the United Kingdom?

Subject to correction, I think that I can reassure the noble Lord of that.

The Bill will also introduce a new participation offence directed at those who help sustain the operation of organised crime groups and ensure that the penalties for serious cyberattacks properly reflect the harm caused.

The Government are also taking the opportunity provided by the Bill to strengthen the protection of children by clarifying the law on child cruelty, closing a gap in the extraterritorial reach of the Female Genital Mutilation Act 2003 and introducing a new offence of possession of a paedophile manual.

The Government also plan to introduce a modern slavery Bill. Modern slavery is an appalling crime. Traffickers and slave masters, who are often part of organised crime groups, use whatever means they have at their disposal to coerce, deceive and force individuals into a life of abuse, servitude and inhumane treatment. I am sure that the whole House will join me in deploring the fact that this crime is taking place now in Britain.

The modern slavery Bill will give law enforcement agencies stronger tools to stamp out this complex crime, and it will ensure that perpetrators can receive the sentences they deserve—including, where appropriate, life sentences. The Bill also takes action to enhance protection and support for victims through a new statutory defence for victims who are compelled to commit crime.

Although not specifically referenced in the gracious Speech, the Government intend to introduce a draft Bill to reform the Riot (Damages) Act in the fourth Session. The draft Bill will be the culmination of detailed work undertaken since the events of August 2011 to ensure that the 1886 Act is modernised and provides clarity to stakeholders, individuals and businesses as to what compensation arrangements are to be put in place for the future. In November 2013, an independent review of the Riot (Damages) Act, commissioned by the Home Secretary, was published. The reviewer made a number of recommendations and these form the basis for the public consultation which we will launch shortly. We then plan to present a draft Bill for pre-legislative scrutiny.

Finally, I wish to mention the Government’s firm commitment to health and education. This Government believe in higher standards for all and we are committed to getting every child’s education right, which is why a substantial reform programme is well under way. This programme includes restoring rigour to exams, reforming vocational qualifications, bringing in performance-related pay, reforming teacher training, transforming schools through the academies programme and increasing the total number of apprenticeship places to 2 million by the end of this Parliament.

To improve education attainment and child health, all infants will receive a free school meal. Free childcare will be extended to more of the most disadvantaged two year-olds and a Bill will be introduced to help working families with childcare costs.

During the course of this Parliament this Government have developed a new health and care system which is more patient centred, led by health professionals and focused on delivering world-class health outcomes. We strengthened the role of the Care Quality Commission, with new chief inspectors, a new inspection regime and a new statutory duty of candour on the part of the healthcare providers. With local authorities leading local public health systems and Public Health England providing national leadership and vision on health protection and improvement, this Government have given public health a higher priority and dedicated resources. Through the Care Act 2014, we have delivered the most profound change to the care and support system for a generation, enabling people needing care to be treated with dignity and respect, improving the quality of that care and easing the burden of care costs. During the final Session of this Parliament, the Government will be focused on ensuring that the new health and social care system works with both purpose and integrity.

Some have criticised this Government for having too little by way of legislation in the Queen’s Speech. I reject that criticism. In the areas of law and justice and home affairs alone there is a great deal for Parliament to consider. Experience tells me that much of the detailed scrutiny will take place here in your Lordships’ House. The legislative programme as a whole contains some highly topical and important issues, which will benefit from such scrutiny. However, this Session will be concerned not just with legislation. I appreciate that in the speeches that follow mine there will be a range of issues raised by speakers; those issues, whether they are concerned directly with the Queen’s Speech or not, are likely to set much of the agenda for this final Session.

This coalition Government have achieved much already, but there is more still to achieve. I look forward greatly to the contributions to the debate from all around the House, which will help to indicate how best we can consolidate on these first four remarkable years of government.

My Lords, the Minister has gone into some considerable detail on the Bills before us, and we are grateful to him for doing so. However, I shall first take a wider view of the Government’s proposals, because this is an unprecedented Queens’s Speech. It is the first time that, towards the end of a Parliament, we have known exactly when the election will be. That is an opportunity to reflect on the work of the coalition and reflect more widely on whether it has lived up to the public expectations of co-operation between parties in government.

Yet again, we have a new government programme against the backdrop of greater disengagement with politicians and the political process. In the European and local elections, most people chose not to exercise the most basic expression of political involvement, the right to cast their vote. As the government parties lose votes, and as we get closer to the general election, the justifications about which government party is responsible for what will become even more bizarre, with the two parties both trying to gain advantage over the other.

In the last Session, we experienced the strange sight of Liberal Democrats in your Lordships’ House backing the bedroom tax, as their party president in the other place, recognising the disastrous unfairness and consequences for some of the most vulnerable in society, tried to distance his party and seek to change their policy of supporting such a dreadful tax. Since the recent elections, more and more senior Lib Dems have been prepared to speak out against the coalition, which has clearly damaged if not destroyed them as a potent electoral force in almost every part of the UK. That support for the bedroom tax, the disastrous fire sale of the Royal Mail, tax cuts for the rich, a massive cost of living and housing crisis, cuts in legal aid, support for new free schools where they are not needed and a failure to tackle child poverty have all taken their toll.

Press briefings and public rows are evidence of the growing disenchantment between the government parties and, as is now so glaringly obvious, within the government parties. It is all a bit of a shambles. What has always amazed me about the coalition is what the Liberal Democrats have failed to achieve—although perhaps they did not ask—on policies that they said during the general election were the most important to them, such as having no increase in tuition fees. Instead, they were satisfied with ministerial jobs and a failed referendum on a constitutional change that no one wanted to the voting system.

Apart from the obvious party-political considerations, that is a lesson for us all, a lesson to focus not on internal issues that are important only to politicians and political parties but on those issues that really matter to real people—to parents, workers and those struggling to pay bills or trying to buy or rent a home. The deal on the coalition agreement, which has never been put to the electorate, was not on policies on the cost of living, the health service or energy bills, or even tuition fees, but on electoral and parliamentary reform. When the electorate were asked if it was as important to them as it was to the Liberal Democrats, the answer was no. The Conservative Party got away with offering ministerial jobs rather than a genuine compromise around the policies on which they had failed to convince the electorate to elect them.

By contrast, today’s debate is about issues that are central to and affect the lives of all citizens: crime, justice, health and education. The disappointment with this Queen’s Speech, as with others we have seen from the Government, is that few people will consider that the coalition Government’s proposals will make any real difference to their lives. The Conservative Party is very confident about the economic recovery; Ministers regularly come to the Dispatch Box to tell us so. So, why is it, when I talk to people in the supermarket, the pub and at my local food bank, they do not feel the same confidence as David Cameron, George Osborne or, indeed, Nick Clegg? Will the Government explain why the number of working people claiming housing benefit has increased by 60%? Why are so many working families turning to food banks? Oxfam says that the number of people using them is now double that of last year. Why does Netmums report that one in five working families has had to choose between paying an essential bill and putting food on the table, while at the same time the Government give a tax cut to millionaires and those earning over £150,000 a year?

Although the Government say that they will do something about childcare costs, they have already risen by 30% since they came to office—that is five times faster than wages. Why, with such increased costs, are there fewer childcare places? I take Swindon, for example, although similar reports can be heard across the country. Despite massive public opposition and campaigning, four childcare centres closed, adding to the pressure on families who are already paying more than £110 for just 25 hours of childcare for those over two. These families deserve support, yet whereas our proposals for free childcare for three and four year-olds would help more than 1,800 children and their families in Swindon, the Government’s proposals in the Queen’s Speech barely scratch the surface.

When I opened the debate on Home Office issues last year, I warned the Government that their Immigration Bill, while seeking to be, in their words “tough on immigration”, would fail as its proposed actions included those which were either impossible to deliver and/or had not been worked out properly by the Government. We totally reject the dishonest UKIP rhetoric that all problems could be solved if only we stopped all immigration and withdrew from the EU. However, the Immigration Bill in the previous Session failed to include measures that would have made a difference such as the undercutting of wages, terms and conditions through the exploitation of foreign workers or effective improvements in the enforcement of the national minimum wage, as my noble friend Lord Young said during Oral Questions. Although your Lordships’ House brought forward substantial changes to improve the Bill and remove some of the unworkable rhetoric, the government parties have failed to deal with these specific issues so, while the Liberal Democrats boast about stopping another immigration Bill, it is a weak boast as these issues must be addressed. We believe that a Bill to address those concerns is needed and regret that the Government have again failed to tackle so many of the real issues.

We welcome the modern slavery Bill, which has benefited from its pre-legislative scrutiny, and are grateful to those Members of both Houses who have worked to address its deficiencies. We look forward to receiving and considering the much improved Bill in due course. We also look forward to our debates and deliberations on the Serious Crime Bill. As always, we will apply our tests of effective scrutiny—that is, an analysis of the problem we are seeking to address and whether the measures proposed would be effective in tackling the issue and workable in practice. My noble friend Lord Foulkes asked the Minister whether the measures on recovering the proceeds of crime would apply also in Scotland. We clearly need to revisit the Government’s failure to implement fully the National Crime Agency in Northern Ireland, and examine the seriousness of the loophole on the recovery of the proceeds of crime that exists there to understand fully the implications of the Bill and how proceeds of crime recovery can be addressed properly and effectively in future. The National Audit Office has been very critical of confiscation orders. This is an opportunity to address its recommendations. With only 12p in every £100 being confiscated, serious work is needed to get this right.

Greater protection for children and their families from sex offenders is welcomed, as are measures to tackle cybercrime. We will work with the Government to make any proposals as effective as possible. As the Minister knows, these crimes recognise no national borders and we will have to probe further on how the Government’s proposals to opt out—and perhaps opt back in again—from all European criminal justice measures impact on European and international co-operation.

The Government have also promised to tackle police corruption. The public have a right to be confident in the integrity of every single police officer, and I urge the Minister to ensure that government rhetoric also recognises the good work of the vast majority of police. However, if this were our programme, we would abolish the IPCC and replace it with a stronger, more effective police standards authority, so we will test the Government’s proposals against the standards and structures that we would introduce as a Government.

No child should ever have to live in an unsafe environment or suffer neglect, emotional abuse and cruelty. Easier and earlier intervention is needed. We welcome the Government’s commitment to tackle the barbarity of female genital mutilation, and I know from our deliberations in both these areas that their proposals will greatly benefit from the commitment and expertise of noble Lords across the House.

I must confess that despite the Minister’s comments at the beginning of the debate it is difficult to understand why we have no measures on health and social care in the final programme from this Government. However, perhaps we should be grateful, given their obsession with privatisation. I doubt that we would ever support or welcome the kind of Bill that this coalition Government would bring forward. However, especially in Carers Week, when we celebrate the dedication of the 7 million carers of all ages across the country, it would have been highly appropriate and warmly welcome to have seen something that addressed the issues around social care—and an indication that the Government are taking them seriously.

I know that other noble Lords will want to speak in greater detail on health and education issues. We are very concerned that the Government, and certainly Michael Gove, have an ideological obsession with structures in education rather than attainment and a healthy learning environment. Even the Academies Commission admits that,

“academy status alone is not a panacea for improvement”.

As this coalition Government run out of steam, they are failing to address the issues that can really make a difference to people’s lives—creating fairness in employment, or tackling the housing crisis and the cost of the weekly shop or the gas bill, for example. They are not being, and will not be, tackled by this Government. All Governments, of any complexion, need to understand that economic recovery is not an end in itself but a means to an end. We do not seek economic success for its own sake but for the benefits it brings to our citizens and society as a whole. To those of us on this side of your Lordships’ House it means high-quality education and health provided on the basis of need, not means or wealth. It means decent jobs and employment prospects, the opportunity for businesses to be innovative and offer secure safe employment, the right to a decent home, and confidence in the future for yourself and your family. It means support and dignity for carers, and respect for teachers. That is not an exclusive list, but it stresses the need for all citizens to have the right to be participants, not just bystanders, in any economic recovery.

In less than a year, there will be a new Government and a new Queen’s Speech. From this side of the House, we look forward to bringing forward measures that will address these issues.

My Lords, I welcome the gracious Speech and the opening remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks.

Time constraints have obliged the coalition Government to propose fewer legislative measures than has been the case in the past. This is a good example for future Governments. We have learnt that knee-jerk reactions or chasing headlines are not sensible ways in which to run the country. Just look at the plethora of criminal justice legislation promoted by political parties in the past. Many of the measures have become irrelevant to the changing situation in the country. Some of these measures have still to be implemented.

The past four years have seen some important changes for the better in the criminal justice system. The iniquitous IPP sentence has been abolished. Legislation has restricted the unnecessary use of remand in custody. The prison population has increased at a significantly slower rate than under the previous Government, and estimates of the future prison population have been scaled down.

It is particularly encouraging that there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of juveniles in custody, falling by 55% in the past five years. The number of women in prison has also fallen, from 4,200 in 2010 to 3,800 now. The Government have continued to commit to funding for a national network of liaison and diversion services at police stations and courts to divert mentally disordered offenders to treatment and care. We have passed legislation which, for the first time, will provide prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months with supervision and support on release.

The Government are taking steps to reduce the indefensible racial disproportionality in the use of stop and search. They have passed legislation to promote the use of restorative justice in the criminal justice process—here thanks are due to the initiative taken by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Woolf. They have implemented reforms to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act which will reduce the scope for unfair discrimination against former offenders in the job market and, because employment reduces reoffending, will also increase public safety. The Queen’s Speech announced two further welcome pieces of legislation in the modern slavery Bill and the Serious Crime Bill, which will contain measures to combat slavery, organised crime and child neglect. So far, so good. Regrettably, however, there are some clouds on the criminal justice horizon.

With a general election approaching, the past few months have seen signs of a heightened temptation for politicians to indulge in knee-jerk reactions which do nothing to promote justice or public safety. For example, the Secretary of State for Justice has recently banned the transfer of anyone who has previously absconded from an open prison. This means that an inadequate offender who absconds after receiving distressing news from his family, then thinks better of it a few hours later and hands himself in cannot be transferred back to an open prison later in his sentence. It is true that a small number of prisoners have gone out from an open prison and committed serious offences. However, in 2012 there were 485,000 releases on temporary licence and only 26 prisoners were arrested on suspicion of committing an offence—a rate of five failures in every 100,000 releases. It makes sense to be as rigorous as possible in assessing prisoners’ risk before transferring them to open conditions. However, it is not sensible to introduce sweeping restrictions on the use of open establishments, which greatly reduce overall reoffending by enabling prisoners to be released into the community on a gradual basis rather than suddenly after a period in completely closed conditions.

Over the past few weeks, we have seen the prison population start to rise sharply—by more than 500 in the second half of May—and this may well be in response to the tough rhetoric which is beginning to emerge as a general election approaches. During the next year, we would like to see the Government resist the temptation to engage in knee-jerk reactions or punitive rhetoric. Instead, they should use the next year to promote a series of further measures to improve our criminal justice system, either by implementing them during this Session or by preparing the ground for their implementation in a future Parliament.

First, we need to take further steps to reduce the unnecessary use of imprisonment. This country still uses imprisonment at a higher rate than any other western European country. We have 149 prisoners per 100,000 of the population compared with 100 in France and 77 in Germany. Why is there such an anomaly? Many prisons remain seriously overcrowded and more than 19,000 prisoners are held two to a cell designed for one person. At the same time, the need for public expenditure restrictions has led to a reduction in the number of prison officers relative to the number of prisoners: from 2.9 prisoners per officer in 2000 to 4.8 prisoners per officer last September. This reinforces the case for using prison more sparingly, particularly as community sentences have lower reconviction rates than prison sentences for comparable offenders. We should prohibit courts from using prison, except for dangerous offenders, unless they have first tried an intensive community supervision programme. We should also convert the sentences of existing IPP prisoners into determinate sentences once they have served a period equivalent to double their tariff.

Secondly, the Government should implement the recommendation of the draft Voting Eligibility (Prisoners) Bill Committee by enabling prisoners to vote if they are serving sentences of 12 months or less or are in the last six months of their sentence. It is now 10 years since the European Court of Human Rights judged that our blanket ban on voting by convicted prisoners violates the European Convention on Human Rights. The longer we continue to ignore our obligations under international law, the longer we are adopting a position which sits badly with our insistence that prisoners and other offenders should respect the rule of law. Respect for the rule of law involves an obligation for nation states as well as individuals to abide by binding legal rulings and not to pick and choose by abiding only by decisions that they choose to accept. We should waste no further time in making this relatively limited change, for which there are strong arguments based on considerations of citizenship and rehabilitation.

Thirdly, we should build on the welcome recent legislation which provides for restorative justice when sentences are deferred by making restorative justice one of the statutory purposes of sentencing and by enabling courts to include specific restorative justice requirements in community orders and youth rehabilitation orders.

Fourthly, the Government should reinforce the steps they are taking to reform stop and search by placing a clear statutory duty on all criminal justice agencies to adopt numerical targets for reducing racial disproportionality in their operations.

Finally, the Government should grasp the nettle and raise this country’s unusually low age of criminal responsibility—currently the lowest in Europe—from 10 to 12. The current position is incompatible with our obligations under international standards of juvenile justice and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Dealing with children of this age through non-criminal processes would hold out more hope of diverting them from offending than subjecting them to punishments in a criminal court. A short criminal justice Bill containing these measures would provide a legacy of which the coalition Government could be proud.

I know that noble Lords from all parties with an interest in the criminal justice and penal system will continue to press for changes along these lines, not only during the current Session but throughout future Parliaments. Let me conclude with a word of caution. We have yet to study detailed provisions of legislative measures proposed by the Government. We are also aware that we have a short parliamentary timetable available to get these measures through both Houses of Parliament. I trust that the Government will accept these sensible amendments. Let us work together so that sensible amendments form part of effective legislation.

My Lords, perhaps I can interrupt at this stage of the proceedings in the absence of a Whip to say that we have an advisory time of five minutes. I am most grateful for the contribution made by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia, but I know that other noble Lords will wish to move on, and I hope that they do not mind being reminded of that.

My Lords, I am pleased to be taking part in this debate following the gracious Speech, and I am particularly encouraged to speak more freely when I see the noble Earl, Lord Howe, in his place and know that he cannot answer me back or reply to my comments—at least not today. So if I do speak freely, I hope that he will understand.

Before doing that, I shall speak on two of the issues that are in the gracious Speech and in the notes accompanying it. The first relates to redundancy payments, particularly for public sector workers. We know that current statistics show that a quarter of the managers who have been given redundancy payments come back to some post or other, either as NHS employees or contractors. These are highly paid individuals and some of them were found not to be performing well. It is time that that was stopped.

My other comment relates to education. I welcome the fact that GCSE A-levels are to be reformed. Both the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Society have produced reports. The Royal Society report, which will come out on 26 June, alludes to the need for science and mathematics teaching in both primary and secondary schools. It also refers to the lack of appropriately qualified specialists in chemistry and other science subjects in both primary and secondary schools. Unless we tackle the issue, the comments we have heard from universities and employers about the lack of appropriately skilled people in science and mathematics and the lack of economic competitiveness as against our competitors will not be addressed. I hope we will have an opportunity to debate that.

I turn to the issues about which I can speak freely that were not in the gracious Speech. These represent missed opportunities. We have had draft Bills, and consultations and reviews conducted by the Department of Health, and yet nothing has come to legislation. Perhaps I may just list some of these issues because I do not have the time to go through them in detail.

First, the Law Commission report on the regulation of the nine regulators in health and social care. The Government asked the Law Commission to look at this in 2011 and it produced a clear report earlier this year which will be of benefit to both the regulators and, in the case of medicine, to improved patient care. The Government said that they were committed to bringing this in and yet there is no draft regulation or legislation and we do not know when we will get it. This will stop any further development or improvement in patient care, certainly as far as medicine regulation is concerned, because the current medical Act is draconian, bureaucratic and not fit for purpose. I do not know whether the Government can change this situation but I hope that they will at least produce a draft Bill before the next election.

My next point concerns caring, to which the Minister referred. Yes, we now have draft regulation and guidance, produced last week on 6 June, relating to Part 1 of the Care Act. Again, however, the legislation, guidance and regulation do not address the key issue—the vulnerability of old people who are abused through being provided with poor care and the lack of accountability of those who provide it. We need legislation to introduce a criminal offence and a penalty for those who do not treat old people properly. Some 500,000 elderly people are abused per year—50 per hour—and so, by the time we finish the debate, 250 more elderly people will have been abused. Regulation is required to fix this situation and I am sorry that I do not see it.

Parliament has said that it would like to see the plain packaging of tobacco products. There has been consultation and the Government produced draft regulation. I now realise that there has to be consultation time and, after that, the EU will have to have a consultation period. Therefore, the timescale is so prolonged that there is a risk that the issue will be kicked into the long grass if the Government do not produce something before the next election.

We have debated folic acid—I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, is in his place—and it is clear now that the folic levels in the general population of this country are low. One-third of pregnant women do not take the precaution of having adequate folic acid pre-pregnancy. This results in more than 300 babies being born with serious neural tube defects, spina bifida being one of them. However, several hundred others have their pregnancies terminated because of such defects. It is time now to address the issue by putting small quantities of folic acid in flour. However, there is no legislation to enable this.

We have also debated mitochondrial disease. About 3,500 women in this country probably carry mutant genes of mitochondrial DNA, which accounts for less than 1% of total DNA. Diseases related to mutations in mitochondrial genes are severe and affect mostly the brain, heart, liver, kidney and nervous system. One of the ways to help those who carry a CBL gene mutation is to replace the mitochondrial DNA.

Three reviews that the Government asked an expert committee of the HFEA to produce, and the report from the Nuffield Foundation ethics committee, all said that there was no reason why mitochondrial replacement techniques should not be given the go-ahead. However, legislation will be required before this can occur in humans, even for the purposes of research. These are five missed opportunities on issues that we have already discussed.

I turn finally in one minute to—

My Lords, there is an advisory speaking time of five minutes. Obviously the noble Lord could go beyond it, but in terms of courtesy to others, given the number of speakers in the debate, he might want to bear the time in mind.

As a courtesy, I will not go any further. However, I have to say that NHS reforms have not worked so far and we should take the opportunity to look at the issues again. I hope that we will be able to discuss them further.

My Lords, I should like to offer some comments on the welcome proposal set out by the Government in the gracious Speech to introduce the modern slavery Bill. I had the privilege of serving on the Joint Select Committee with other Members of your Lordships’ House under the superb chairmanship of Frank Field MP, and we all came to an agreement on a number of important issues. I want to comment on and offer some suggestions as to how we might handle the debate on this important topic, not least because much of the world is looking to see the terms in which such a Bill might be couched and how it is introduced. As I begin, I should remind the House of the irony of this moment. There is a movement to talk more positively about equality, freedom, democracy and transparency, but all the evidence shows increases in inequality, violence against women and slavery at this time. It is a very serious issue.

Noble Lords probably know that slavery is the second most profitable crime. It involves 21 million adults and 5.5 million children across the world. People are treated like commodities. Let us think of a Thai woman quite near this place who until recently was working in a brothel and being raped 10 times a day, day after day. That is modern slavery. I could take noble Lords to a house in Derby that has people crammed into a room with very few facilities. They have no money and they are working and working; they are being exploited.

Slavery is an emotive issue. The Prime Minister said of slavery in April 2013, “We must crush it”. The question is how to tackle the issue. In taking a lead, the Archbishop of Canterbury and Pope Francis are doing a lot of work internationally, because it is an international issue. In April of this year the Pope said that we need two things to tackle modern slavery: strategy and mercy. Our task is to marry up strategy and mercy and to show how Governments can work with the voluntary sector, especially the faith sector, to offer the kind of mercy that provides face-to-face support for victims. When the Bill is introduced, I think next Tuesday, we must look at how it will help us to define what slavery and exploitation are, whether by way of example or legal definition. We will have to look at proposals for child advocates. Children in slavery need people to walk alongside them, but although this is important, it is also expensive. Barnardo’s is trialling some schemes and we will have to consider them. We also need to look at confiscation and compensation.

Some outstanding things are not mentioned in the proposals. One of those is the review of the national referral mechanism by which people are identified as being enslaved. We have to make sure that the legislation recognises that the national referral mechanism benchmarks what good care looks like. What does mercy look like in terms of benefits, housing, and the provision of opportunities to offer support and space to recover? Not much mention is made of supply chains. Many of us here in this Chamber are wearing garments that may well have included slavery in the supply chain that delivered them to us. We need a strategy for supply chains.

Not much has been suggested about overseas domestic workers, who, because they cannot change employers, are trapped in a very severe kind of slavery. There will also be an anti-slavery commissioner, and we will have to work hard to ensure that that person has some real authority to listen, to learn and to take the thing forward.

I suspect that as we debate this issue and look at the proposals there will be three kinds of sieving mechanisms. One will be economic: can we afford it? We are trying to recover economically. There will be a question for us all about the financial cost of mercy. There will be a second line of questioning about supply chains in terms of red tape on business and undermining business efficiency. We will have to look at the organisational cost of mercy. There will be a lot of debate about how this interfaces with immigration. Actually, fewer than 2,000 people were identified as being in slavery last year so we are not talking about great numbers, but we will have to look at the cost of strangers being made friends when they are so appallingly treated.

I hope that we will encourage legislation which enables a creative working relationship with the voluntary sector that can produce face-to-face support for victims and walk alongside and deliver mercy in a human way. But the mark of a civilised society is the quality of care for those in such horrendous need—think of that Thai woman, think of those people crammed in that house in Derbyshire. Our challenge will be: how does the state craft a strategy that delivers mercy?

My Lords, I will begin where the right reverend Prelate finished, with the modern slavery Bill, which I welcome. Like him, I think it is broad in scope and we need to ensure that as it passes through the House the detail encompasses all the aspects he has mentioned. I welcome the increased maximum sentence of life imprisonment for this crime and the enhancement to confiscate criminals’ assets. I also welcome the anti-slavery commissioner. It is not very often that I would say that because I have a rather cynical view sometimes of these job titles that are attached to people. But I think that in this case it is a very important role and one that could make a big contribution. Of course, children’s need for child trafficking advocates will be very important.

Like the right reverend Prelate, I am concerned about people who enter this country as employees through a legitimate route but are domestic servants and very often can be identified as slaves. I hope that my noble friends on the Front Bench will ensure that in those circumstances diplomatic immunity of the employer will not allow people to slip through the net and find that they are not subject to the law of this land if they are treating people as slaves within their households.

I also welcome the Serious Crime Bill, in particular the emphasis on the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies, which, as the Bill recognises, need the tools to effectively tackle serious and organised crime, including cybercrime and the illegal drug trade. At First Reading last week my noble friend read out all the Bills that need amending in order for this Bill to proceed. That tells us very clearly, particularly in those areas of cybercrime and the illegal drug trade, how fast technology and information move. We need to change our legislation to keep up with them and to ensure that we are putting on the statute book laws that will allow us to bring people to justice and ensure that in those areas we have a system that is both effective and a deterrent.

I would like to briefly mention something that, to my mind, covers most of the big issues that this debate focuses on: crime, education, health and justice. It seems to me that over the years we have rather lost our way when it comes to how we view the ways in which these big public bodies are organised. Therefore I take this opportunity again to say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that, in any reforms in which we seek to improve the services and the way in which we execute those policies in this country, I hope we will have learnt the lesson that there is a difference between management and leadership. There has been far too much focus on management in previous years.

I put my hand up as somebody who worked as a manager in many ways in a previous existence. I am very happy to accept the term “manager”. But management in our public services has rather led to a culture of tick-boxes, centrally set targets and people who start to lose the authority, initiative and creativity needed to progress in any organisation, whether commercial or public sector. Therefore, in reforming our public services, let us encourage and train people to lead so that our public services are exemplars around the world. I fear that in all the subjects we are discussing today we have tended to slip behind—I am not talking about the people who work in them but the way in which we run them. It is a responsibility of government to set that framework and make sure that that happens.

Finally, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Patel, about the care industry. I am not asking for a Bill on health—I think my noble friend Lord Howe could do with a bit of a rest, as could, perhaps more so, the people who work in the health service. However, we must address the care industry and the need to make sure that vulnerable people are no longer subject to being cared for by people whose accountability can sometimes seem somewhat questionable.

My Lords, following Her Majesty’s gracious Speech, it is a privilege to take part in this debate. It was my first Speech, following my introduction into your noble House. As one of the newest Members of your Lordships’ House, I was honoured to be among my eminent peers.

The most gracious Speech set out the work that the Government intend to cover to the end of this Parliament. This includes plans to legislate for penalising those employers who fail to pay the minimum wage, to implement reforms to the electricity markets—even though this is an attempt to respond to a policy announced at last year’s Labour Party conference—and to reduce the use of plastic bags to help protect the environment. I am pleased that the Government are thinking about our environment but when families struggle to earn enough to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families, while worrying about how many hours of work they will get from zero-hours jobs, I think plastic bags will be low on their list of priorities.

I would like to add my contribution to the debate on education. Although I appreciate that education was included in the most gracious Speech, the Government have not gone far enough to address the plight of black and working-class young people failing in our schools. The most gracious Speech included the Government’s apprenticeship scheme, which should have a take-up of up to 2 million by the end of this Parliament. Apprenticeships help young people gain skills that equip them for a life of work. I would congratulate the Government if this led to long-term employment, as 850,000 young people are unemployed and we need to do more to get them into work.

However, I worry that the apprenticeships are a stop-gap to keep young people off the unemployment register, which gives the Government credit to show that their strategy for the economy is working. I can remember when young people leaving school saw apprenticeships leading to a long-term career with the firms that took them on. Apprenticeships should not be seen as a short-term fix for the unemployment crisis. There is currently no guarantee of employment at the end of the apprenticeship programme. One in five apprenticeships lasts for less than six months.

The gracious Speech also includes the Government’s desire to help more schools become free schools and academies. I have concern, however, that under this Government, schools are divided. Some are denied the freedom that would help them raise standards, while others are largely unaccountable to their local communities, allowing poor performance to go unchallenged. All schools should have freedom to help them raise standards, and all schools should be accountable to their local communities.

When we are addressing education, we will need to keep an eye on our young Caribbean boys who are underachieving, although it is not just Caribbean boys who are underachieving but young people from a working-class background. In the previous parliamentary Session, the Commons Committee on Education tackled the issue of underachievement in education by white working-class children. The Government need to make sure that the same opportunities and attention are given to all.

Achievement at school obviously has a strong influence on employment opportunities. Although it is encouraging that unemployment generally is falling, figures from last November showed that in the previous year it had actually risen in the black African and Caribbean community by more than 15%. The unemployment rate among young black men is shockingly high at 45%. I hope that in their approach to education, employment and training, the Government keep in mind the need to focus on improving life chances in all communities. We in the Labour Party are saying that the economy should be working for the many, not just a few.

My Lords, in terms of my interest in children and young people, I say how much I welcome the upcoming modern slavery Bill and the financial support for childcare. I laud the meals service scheme for infants due to be introduced this autumn and the extension of free childcare for the most disadvantaged. As we have said on so many occasions in this Chamber, if we get it right for children in preschool and early years, it has the biggest impact on their learning and development. Not giving young children the environment for play, learning, exploring and imagination makes it an uphill struggle all the way through formal education.

That is not to say, of course, that it has to be done in a formal setting or outside the family. My guess is that there was a collective sigh of relief in schools that the Queen’s Speech contained no proposals directly affecting schools and schooling. The past 10 years or so have seen cataclysmic changes, with every aspect of education turned over from top to bottom—the schools curriculum, training, examinations, conditions of service, inspection regimes and financing assessment. The changes have been breathtaking and it is to the credit and marvel of our schools that they have risen to the challenge. I can find no other European country that has undergone the changes that we have. Surely we now need a long period of just letting schools and teachers get on with the job that they are best at doing. Would it not be good if there was some consensus that we stop playing political football with our schools?

We are having this debate against the background of what has been happening in some schools in Birmingham: the so-called Trojan horse. I want to reflect on the issue for a few moments; I know that we are going to have a ministerial Statement. First and foremost, we need to do all we can to protect the pupils in those schools from the situation in which they find themselves. Many of these young people will be facing exams in the next few weeks, and to have television vans and crews outside their school and headlines in newspapers cannot be good for the stability that they need.

Many of us will remember that local authorities used to have responsibility for schools. They were responsible to the Secretary of State and provided the intervention, mentoring on everything from curriculum development to CPD and support at interviews. Indeed, there would always have been an LEA representative at governing body meetings. These advisers and inspectors had their finger on the pulse of each and every school and I really wonder whether it was wise to allow that complete divorce of schools from their local authorities, and indeed their local communities. We have seen local authorities denuded of resources to support schools in the way that they did and academies become free of local accountability and part of large chains, often with as many schools as some of our smallest LAs had. In my view, we cannot micromanage schools from the centre but neither can some regional commissioners take on the role of day-to-day support that schools so desperately need.

During the past 10 years, we have also seen the number of faith schools increase considerably. I speak as someone who was head of a faith school for five years. The notion that you separate children by their religion has to be carefully considered. Faith schools bring a caring and mutually respective ethos but children need to understand the tolerance of a multicultural community. My own daughter went to a Jewish school. She developed not only an understanding of different faiths but lasting friendships with children from other faiths. Faith schools should never be allowed to develop religious indoctrination and it is hugely important that they encourage and allow children from faiths other than their own to be enrolled.

We need not only to ensure that we know locally the learning and cultural environment of each school, but to have a consistent approach to inspection. It must be right that all schools, irrespective of their type—whether they are public or private, LA or free school—have the same inspection regime. I am delighted that Ofsted wants to carry out all inspections, as the notion that certain types of school could use a private inspection provider was fraught with danger. I hope that no more will a school be allowed to use the same private provider if that private provider is reliant on the school for the contract, and thus potentially turns a blind eye to some unacceptable practices. Inspection standards for schools of impartiality and rigour must be for all.

It is also important that all schools, irrespective of their pedigree, have a broad and balanced curriculum and it surely cannot be right that some schools have an overprovision of faith matters at the expense of that. Ofsted is our only means of knowing what is really going on in schools and should put “broad and balanced” as the hallmark of any inspection regime. Furthermore, schools that are deemed outstanding should not be left for many years before they are visited again.

Finally, I want to raise—but we are out of time so I cannot and will sit down.

My Lords, I think that the correct medical term for my condition is imposter syndrome. I have suffered from that for a long time. How could a boy from Southend who was not brought up going to church and who, aged 11, fell the wrong side of the line and went to a secondary modern school end up sitting on these red Benches and speaking in this House? Because of this, I want to say something today about the place of education in the life of our nation. However, I must begin by thanking your Lordships for the welcome I have received in this House and the staff and officers of the House for showing me the ropes. I also pay tribute to John Gladwin, my predecessor as Bishop of Chelmsford—he is well known to many of your Lordships—and to the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries of Pentregarth, who first took a punt on me 10 years ago when he invited me to be Bishop of Reading. These and many others are people who believed in me and, as I shall go on to say, without affirmation none of us can live well.

The diocese of Chelmsford, where I serve, is 100 years old this year. We have recently enjoyed splendid visits from Her Majesty the Queen and his Grace the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. The diocese is vast and varied, from the Olympic park in Stratford—yes, the London Olympics were in the Chelmsford diocese, as I like to tell the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London—to the end of Southend pier; from Tilbury to Harwich; and from Harlow to Saffron Walden. We are the second largest diocese in the Church of England and, without doubt, the most diverse. And we are in good heart. Many churches in east London and Essex are growing. More and more people want to engage with the possibility of faith and are rooting around for a set of values and a moral compass that shape and direct human flourishing.

As the church of this land, we exist first and foremost to make Christ known, but where Christ is known there is joy and well-being and this is something that people notice, particularly in our schools. One of the few things that parents and politicians agree on is that they want education to be about more than results. Ethos is what everyone is after, but how is it achieved? Most would agree that it comes from a common set of values, articulated by the head and shared by staff, governors, pupils and parents. As Madeleine Bunting wrote some years ago:

“This is where faith schools can have an advantage. They can fall back on a well-known, religious narrative to which there is still considerable adherence in some form. As the last census showed”,

over 50% of people in this country,

“still describe themselves as Christian; that may not mean going to church but it may mean wanting children to grow up with broadly Christian values”.

It is not that other schools cannot achieve this; of course they can, but it may be harder:

“Secular ethical traditions are honourable but they lack the familiarity, the symbols, the narratives and histories that bring the abstract to emotional life”.

Those are her words, not mine, and she was writing in the Guardian, not the usual champion of faith-based schools.

In Newham, the most culturally and ethnically diverse borough in the country, the diocese of Chelmsford has recently accepted an invitation to be a co-sponsor of—it is not a very snappy title—the London Design and Engineering University Technical College. Although pupils at this school will receive the very best technical and practical training available, all the school’s sponsors agree that that is not enough for either the modern workplace or the communities that we want to build. Religious education will therefore be given a high priority on the curriculum, for the trustees recognise that it is impossible to understand and inhabit the modern world, especially in east London, without a critical appreciation of faith and, even more than that, a mature spiritual, moral, social and cultural worldview. Moreover, good religious education has been shown to be one of the best ways of countering religious extremism.

Consequently, one of the first things that the school is doing is recruiting a chaplain. To me as a secondary modern schoolboy, it has always seemed rather strange that in English public schools, where many of our political class send their children, the presence of a chaplain is deemed essential, their role is understood and their contribution prized, yet in the state system this is seen as either irrelevant or an excessive luxury. If we want our children to be mature citizens of a cohesive multi-ethnic and multi-faith society, and if we really want to combat extremism by helping each of us to understand and appreciate the other and to love the stranger in our midst, we may need to think again.

Down the road in Dagenham, a community school that was struggling two years ago has become a Church of England school. I have visited it twice. Within 18 months of it reopening, with basically the same staff but a new set of values, a recent report has said that these values have transformed,

“the quality of relationships and effectiveness of learning within the school”.

This school, too, has a chaplain.

As this care needs to span the whole of a child’s upbringing, the diocese has recently pioneered a childcare venture called sparrows. We aim to support and strengthen churches and communities by providing high-quality, mixed-delivery childcare with Christian distinctiveness in church settings. This will provide the places that the new scheme to pay for childcare announced in the gracious Speech will make possible.

In my own life, I have experienced the best and worst of education. The school I went to, though good and well run in its own way, had pretty basic expectations. You left at 15 and got a job—“Bishop of Chelmsford” was all the job centre had when I went—and you took CSEs not O-levels. Clever children went somewhere else. The choice had already been made. I somehow managed to get three O-levels. As a consequence, I was considered at my school to be something of an intellectual. However, three O-levels were not enough to swap to the grammar school which had a proper sixth form. Believing I was capable of more, but not being in an environment where more was on offer, with two friends I enrolled in the sixth form of the secondary modern girls school next door. Since a school, whatever its title, is only as good as its teachers—although various politicians over the years do not seem to have grasped this fact—I found myself in an environment where teachers believed in me and saw my potential. Under the affirming gaze of their encouragement, I flourished and became, I think, only the second or third person from that school to get a degree.

Human beings need affirmation to live well. That attitude of believing and encouraging needs to encompass family, school, community and church. I was blessed to receive that affirmation in my family and eventually through that school. Without it, I do not know where I would be. The best schools—church schools serving their local communities and all sorts of others schools as well—know this. The proposed introduction of the so-called Cinderella law, which will criminalise the emotional abuse of children for the first time, is very welcome, for not only do thousands of children suffer in this way, but the need for this Bill is the shadow side of what the church believes should be at the centre of all educational policy and praxis: namely, that dogged and persistent determination to value and affirm every child and to nurture the God-given potential in everyone by giving them the greatest gift of all, which is the knowledge that they are valued and loved.

This is the Christian ethos that makes our work distinctive: you are valued not because of your birth, wealth or achievement, but because you are. Of course, it is our greatest desire that children receive this affirmation in their home, but the need for this law sadly reminds us that this is not always the case. It also reminds us that our schools should be places where this affirmation is commonplace. That will lead not only to better results but to a more loving and cohesive society. I am able to love and affirm others in their difference and their diversity, with their different gifts, cultures, faiths and personalities, because I have seen and received love and affirmation myself. It is therefore vital that resources for much needed school places go to where there is greatest need, and the Church of England stands ready to help the Government open new schools and develop pre-school childcare so that more places can be provided with the same high standards.

Coupled with my interest in the arts and with issues of peace and justice, I hope that my experience as someone who did not get an education the easy way, and who now leads a huge and diverse diocese, will be of service to this House and this nation as we seek to build a fairer education system where there is opportunity for all, especially for the poor and the excluded—and a set of values upon which a fruitful, cohesive and fairer society can be built. I do not know how to end speeches without saying “Amen”—so I will say thank you.

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford is to be congratulated on that amazing maiden speech. His commitment and knowledge, surrounded by a little humour to make his point, earns him a warm place in our hearts. We wish him well in this House.

Noble Lords will not be surprised at his background, as he has told us a little about it. He was ordained a deacon in 1984 and priested in 1985. He was an ordinand in the diocese of Chelmsford and, as he acknowledged in his own CV—which is where I found the humour—they are getting a return on their investment. The right reverend Prelate also served as a diocesan missioner in Wakefield. He has been for many years involved in developing and writing the Emmaus programme for evangelism, and that came over clearly today.

In 1997, he was a member of Springboard, an initiative for greater evangelism. In 2004, he became the area Bishop of Reading. He has written widely about evangelism and, in his spare time, managed to write a children’s book. His interests include reading, cooking and music and, as he said to us today, he wishes to promote joy and well-being and to communicate them to others. I wish the right reverend Prelate every success in this House. On behalf of all of us, he is most welcome.

I welcome many of the measures announced in the gracious Speech, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to securing the UK’s economic success in the long term. Without such an achievement, public services will not be able to grow and the demands placed on the NHS and education departments will be put under greater pressure. In my short time, I will focus on the NHS, deregulation and the need for greater broadband.

As some of your Lordships may be well aware, my husband Barrie died in November last year after a long struggle with bowel cancer. The treatment he received at the Osborne unit of the Leicester Royal Infirmary was outstanding; the care and support given to our family could not have been better. Equally important was the direct link between the medical services in hospital and social services. The care providers, his GP team, the district nurses and others worked closely together, easing us through a very difficult time. I want the Minister to know that this working together is absolutely crucial—my noble friend referred to this in his opening speech.

For many years I have spoken about the challenges faced by people living in rural areas and of the greater costs involved in providing services to them. One issue raised with me recently was that of pharmacy provision. I understand that some GPs are dispensing medicines from their surgeries and have created one-stop shops for their patients. I ask the Minister whether there are plans to expand this type of service, which seems to be very worth while.

I whole heartedly support the Government’s moves to make legislation more supportive of small businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses represents 4.9 million businesses, employing some 14 million people who will benefit from these plans. The government proposal should ensure that small businesses will be promptly paid, will have easier access to finance and will be able to compete for public procurement projects. We will welcome this Bill when it comes before the House.

However good the intentions are, the success of a Bill relies on its practicality, on its implementation and enforcement, and on review. Some recommendations made by the Richard Macdonald report on deregulation, which Defra commissioned three years ago, are still outstanding. I am sad that I will not be able to speak tomorrow, but I ask my noble friends to raise this when it is discussed tomorrow with my noble friend Lord De Mauley.

Small businesses require access to broadband, especially because government departments, including HMRC, demand that they should be used for all sorts of state business. I repeat for the umpteenth time that that is not physically possible in many rural areas. The rollout is some two years behind schedule and large swathes of the countryside are without service. Rural businesses cannot compete in such circumstances, file the returns demanded by the Rural Payments Agency, or conform to the new PAYE demands.

The gracious Speech recognises the importance of economic stability. The announced freeze on fuel duty, the Bill that will boost investment in infrastructure, and the proposals reforming planning law will help businesses and public service providers. They are essential steps to enable companies to grow and more jobs to be secured. I welcome those initiatives.

My Lords, I welcome the announcement in the gracious Speech that the Government are to introduce a slavery Bill and a Serious Crime Bill. I will touch upon three areas, and will put several suggestions to the Minister.

On the Serious Crime Bill, on Friday Mr Justice Dodgson is expected to pass sentence on Mashudur Choudhury, who was arrested on his return from Syria and whom a jury found guilty of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts. The Government estimate that around 400 Britons have travelled to Syria to join these radical jihadi groups. So far this year, police have arrested over 40 Britons who, like Mr Choudhury, they believe have returned to the UK after fighting and attending terrorist training camps in Syria.

Mr Choudhury has been convicted under Section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006, and as such faces a potential life sentence. However, that Act was drafted as a consequence of the dreadful London Tube bombings on 7 July 2005, long before the Syrian uprising of 2011, and was not crafted to deal with the proliferation of terrorist training activity by British-born citizens overseas. As a consequence, it may be difficult to prosecute many of those returning from Syria under Section 5 and, with no other suitable legislation, prosecutors may have to charge many returnees with lesser offences with lower sentencing tariffs. I welcome the provisions in the Serious Crime Bill, which the Government introduced in the House last Thursday, to provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction for the Section 5 offence and to extend the existing extraterritorial jurisdiction for the Section 6 offence. That will make it much clearer to those who seek to join jihadi groups in Syria that they will face prosecution on their return to the UK.

However, the Bill as currently drafted keeps sentencing tariffs for those offences at life imprisonment and a term not exceeding 10 years respectively. I believe that in respect of Section 6 offences the public rightly expect a higher tariff, and I ask the Government to consider amending the Bill to make provision for longer sentencing. With such an amendment the legislation would help prosecutors bring these would-be terrorists to justice. It would also reassure the British public that those who go to Syria to train in the tools of terrorism and return with the intent to cause harm will receive the most severe sentences.

While we must do everything we can to keep our community safe and protected from those who would do us harm, we must also do our best to provide a safe haven for those fleeing persecution in their own lands and seeking asylum in the UK. That brings me to my second point. Keeping us safe inevitably means that many asylum seekers will be kept in detention while their backgrounds and claims are properly investigated. I have no problem with this but we must also treat them with dignity throughout that process.

I have been troubled by ongoing reports of events at Yarl’s Wood detention centre—allegations of sexual abuse of vulnerable women by male guards, the failure of authorities to investigate the matters properly and the refusal to allow the United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women access to the detention centre during her fact-finding mission to the UK. The Yarl’s Wood website home page states:

“We focus on decency and respect in all aspects of care for our residents and use continuous innovation to further improve and develop our service”.

Yarl’s Wood is operated by a private contractor, and I note that the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee in the House of Commons has indicated that the contractor will be called before the committee. However, what can and will the Government do now to ensure that women held at Yarl’s Wood, or other immigration removal centres, are treated with dignity; that complaints they make are treated seriously and investigated properly; and that United Nations and any other appropriate monitoring officials are allowed free access? Is this something the noble Lord the Minister could consider tightening up by way of amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill, which will shortly make its way to this House from the other place?

I welcome the news that following detailed pre-legislative scrutiny a modern slavery Bill is to be introduced in this final session of Parliament. Slavery, in any form, is abhorrent, and many fall victim to it through human traffickers who exploit the poor and vulnerable. It is almost unbelievable that slavery can exist in Britain in the 21st century. Yet as we mark this year the 10th anniversary of the harrowing case of the 23 Chinese cockle-pickers who tragically died in Morecambe Bay, we continue to see further cases in the UK where vulnerable people, including children, have been forced into slavery and prostitution by traffickers.

Where Wilberforce led in the 19th century, I humbly suggest Britain must lead again in this century to rid the world of slavery, exploitation and trafficking.

I welcome the gracious Speech and in particular the good Liberal Democrat policies in it. I especially welcome the extension of 15 hours’ free care to more two year-olds, a policy introduced by the Liberal Democrat former Minister Sarah Teather. Despite all the free care currently available, the poorest fifth of our young children are still 19% below average by the time they reach the age of five. The best way of changing that is to provide more high-quality professional care and education, and make it available as early as possible. I do not underestimate the role of parents but the best quality early-years settings work with the parents, helping them to extend the good work when the child goes home. This is as it should be.

I also welcome the tax relief on childcare for working families, another Liberal Democrat policy. In Wrexham, near where I live, just over 4,000 working families will be eligible for up to £2,000 under this scheme. This will make a big difference to their family budget and enable more young parents to go to work to provide for their families and contribute to the economy. What is very important, however, is to ensure that good- quality places are available wherever they are needed, especially in the poorer areas where they can make so much difference.

I welcome the proposed changes in the Serious Crime Bill to change the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 to make it explicit that cruelty which is likely to cause psychological harm to a child will be an offence. The current law on neglect is outdated and inadequate. The UK is one of the only countries in the world that fails to recognise emotional neglect as the crime it is. That is about to change.

However, the Bill is not perfect and many of us will be working to improve it even further. Currently the Bill provides that cruelty to a child must be “wilful” to be considered a criminal offence. Replacing “wilful” with “intentional and reckless” could enable more effective identification and response to this offence. I am sure that we will talk about that as the Bill progresses. But while we work on the Serious Crime Bill, recognising emotional neglect as an offence, we must also take further steps towards prevention and ensure earlier, and more effective, interventions for neglected young people and prevention of neglect in general. Under this Government, there have been several very successful initiatives providing support for parents, helping them to develop positive parenting skills, and better support and interventions for families with problems such as domestic violence, drug and alcohol addictions and other issues. But we must do more. In this case, prevention is not just better than cure but cheaper too.

I welcome the modern slavery Bill and congratulate my noble friend Lord McColl on his role in particular in raising the issues relating to children. The 23 local authority trials of providing independent advocates have been successful and now we have an enabling power to put that on a statutory footing. I trust that the Secretary of State will use it at a later date. We will be watching. I particularly welcome the measure that provides that trafficked children are not prosecuted for crimes that they were forced to commit by their traffickers. At last the law will recognise that children are not equipped to resist the pressure put on them by those who exert total power over them. I know that there are those who are calling for other specific measures, and I suspect that we will have some interesting debates.

However, although there is much to welcome, there is something missing. I would have liked to see the Government announce an intention to clarify the law on reporting of child abuse and abuse of vulnerable adults, whether physical or sexual in nature, which comes to the attention of those working in public institutions. I am talking about mandatory reporting, which would address the issue raised by the noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Browning, about vulnerable elder people.

We have recently seen reports in the media of suspicions of sweeping under the carpet and covering up historic child abuse. Here I point out that there is no such thing as “historic” child abuse. Child abuse persists throughout the life of the abused person and often leads to mental and emotional illness later on. Unfortunately, there is currently no law under which those who become aware of offences against children or vulnerable adults in public institutions and do not report it to the relevant authorities can be held to account. Recently, we had a report from the NSPCC that showed that there are now more than 500 people who have made allegations about the offences of the late Jimmy Savile. Many of these offences were carried out against children in schools and vulnerable adults in Broadmoor. I cannot believe that these offences went unnoticed at the time or unreported by the victims, but nothing was done to stop it. We have also had a horrendous case of child neglect where the child subsequently died, although he was seen scavenging for food in the school dustbin and injuries were noticed on his body. This is not all in the past; it is happening now, today, in schools and institutions. It is whispered about, but it is not shouted from the rooftops, as it should be.

A few brave victims and journalists have highlighted the problems that we face today. The people who perpetrate these atrocities are clever. They hide in full view, relying on their charismatic personalities, gaining support from parents through their apparent care for children, while at the same time abusing them. A recent case of a teacher in international schools is a perfect example. It is time to bring a full stop to it. Abuse of children is a crime and the law should say so.

My Lords, it is not anticipated that there will be any substantial primary legislation on healthcare during this final Session of Parliament, but it is inevitable that your Lordships’ House will have to address issues with regard to healthcare, because the provision of effective health services is such an important responsibility of government, commanding such a substantial proportion of public expenditure and having such a profound impact on our fellow citizens.

I would like specifically to consider issues with regard not to primary or secondary legislation generated here in our own Parliament but the impact of ongoing directives and regulation from the European Union that affect the delivery of healthcare, and most importantly the potential consequences that might attend medical research of the proposed European data protection regulation, which has been considered by both the Commission and the European Parliament and will eventually, potentially in this Session, arrive for consideration in this Parliament. In so doing, I remind noble Lords of my interests as professor of surgery, University College, London, chairman, University College London Partners Ltd and UK business ambassador for healthcare and lifescience.

First, on the ongoing question of the European working time directive, in May 2010 the Government declared that they wished to renegotiate specific provisions of the directive affecting the training of certain groups of junior doctors and the provision of healthcare services more generally. Those in craft specialties such as mine who undergo training that is restricted by the working time directive are concerned that they will not develop the necessary skills and, indeed, judgment to serve as independent practitioners and consultant surgeons in the National Health Service. This issue must be addressed. The cost to the public purse of providing locums is estimated to be some £200 million a year to allow rotas to be developed covering the working time directive’s 48 hours provision. However, most worryingly, coroners are now starting to cite the working time directive in their narrative verdicts as a safety concern in the deaths of certain patients. Only last week, the newly appointed chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, cited the working time directive as potentially contributing to the closure of local hospitals which are so vital in providing community services for the elderly who are subject to many chronic diseases. At what stage are Her Majesty’s Government’s negotiations with regard to the working time directive and do they anticipate that the issues will be resolved by the end of this Parliament?

A second important issue is that of ensuring that all doctors in this country practise to the same standard. During this Parliament the Government have achieved remarkable success in enabling the General Medical Council to undertake language testing of all doctors who wish to register and practise in this country, including those from the European Union. However, there is still a deficit in assessing the skills and competence of doctors from anywhere in the world, including the European Union, who wish to practise in this country. This is a vital issue. Those graduating from our medical schools have their curriculum assessed by the General Medical Council—I declare my interest as a member of the GMC—but also have their competence tested in examinations in which the General Medical Council has an interest. International medical graduates coming from abroad will undergo tests but those from Europe will not. Do Her Majesty’s Government propose to address that issue in the remainder of this Parliament?

Finally, the data protection regulation will have a very serious impact on the potential to undertake certain forms of vital medical research. The original regulation as drafted by the Commission was satisfactory but amendments to Articles 81 and 83 passed by the European Parliament will have a detrimental impact on large-scale studies such as the UK Biobank, genome mapping and cancer registries. This will have a devastating impact on the progress of medical research and on our ability to undertake large epidemiological studies and more detailed and specific specialist studies which will drive the field of personalised medicine in this country. If this regulation were to be transposed into UK legislation, it would have a detrimental impact on medical research in this country. I would like to ask the Minister what position the Government will take to ensure that this does not happen.

My Lords, since my introduction, people often say to me that there must be few similarities between my career in the airline industry and the honour of an appointment to your Lordships’ House. To the contrary, some similarities have surprised me: long queues when voting, delays waiting for the vote and a shortage of baggage space. I will not delay your Lordships with further examples, as I am conscious of the need for brevity, but like the Lord High Executioner, noble Lords, too, will have their little list. I appreciate also that my speech has been bracketed with that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chelmsford—I, too, was once a Bishop. My gratefulness is deep and to many—in particular to my supporters, my noble friends Lord Baker and Lord Tugendhat—but it also extends to many Members from all sides of the House, and officials, who have shown me great kindness and support.

In this speech, I am mindful of its timing between the commemorations at the weekend of the Normandy landings 70 years ago and similar ceremonies later this summer to mark the beginning of the First World War. My grandfather was born in New Zealand. I am the son of an Australian father who fought in the Australian army during the First World War and who survived, albeit with a permanent disability, thus making me ever conscious of both the ultimate sacrifice and the lifelong injuries incurred by so many in conflict.

An important part of my heritage is the Commonwealth, which is a significant conduit for shared values and common goals. Today, there are important links between Australia and the United Kingdom, not least with the 400,000 Australians who live and work here, while the UK remains the largest source of migrants to Australia.

The gracious Speech has highlighted the Government’s intention significantly to strengthen the law for those guilty of human trafficking offences. The trade in slaves was abolished by an Act of Parliament in 1807, yet research conducted by the University of Utrecht suggests that there are more slaves in the world today than there were in the entire 350 years of the transatlantic slave trade.

I cannot make a speech on this subject without paying tribute to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery. This group has continually shone a light into the darker corners of this evil trade. Particular mention must be made of the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, and my noble friend Lord McColl for their leadership on the Anti-Slavery Day Act.

There are numerous good causes that I have been able to support over many years through my charitable trust, but one of the most important and rewarding to me has been as a founder donor to the UK Human Trafficking Foundation, a charity established in 2010 by the then Member of Parliament for Totnes, Mr Anthony Steen. The traditional image of slavery is only a fraction of its modern equivalent. There are many people who do not fully comprehend what is meant by human trafficking, so allow me to be absolutely clear that we are talking about the ultimate degradation in human misery in all its forms. It encompasses not only the trade in human beings but the non-consensual extraction of organs and tissues, forced labour and sexual slavery. Together it represents the most despicable betrayal of humanity in the 21st century, which we must do all in our power to curtail.

Now, some may have assumed that I would make my maiden speech on civil aviation, an industry in which I served for 45 years with the same company. I was particularly fortunate to join at the beginning of the jet age and witness the inauguration and discontinuation of supersonic commercial flights, leading into the sophisticated and very safe aircraft of today. But for my own contribution, I will summarise by merely paraphrasing WS Gilbert’s lyric for Sir Joseph Porter in “HMS Pinafore” thus:

“When I was lad, I served a term

As office boy to an airline firm.

I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor

And polished up the handle of the hangar door.

But that kind of life so suited me

That I soon became the ruler of an Air Navee!”

In keeping with convention to keep this speech short, I will now resume my seat, but in doing so, I hope that I may have left noble Lords with an impression, not just of some of the issues that are important to me, but of some of the subjects that have influenced my life.

My Lords, it gives me the greatest pleasure to speak after the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Glendonbrook—and I pronounce his name very carefully. The noble Lord was born Michael Bishop in the village of Bowdon, near Manchester. He sought permission from the Australian Government to call himself Lord Glendonbrook, Glendonbrook being, I believe, a Hunter Valley hamlet in Australia. He first visited it in 1965 as a young child, and his father, Clive, worked as a farmer there. I am sure that his decision was a wise one. I quote him:

“I knew that I would get a lot of correspondence that was not meant for me. It would be very confusing as I would be invited to say grace or give sermons or something. I would be constantly saying, ‘I am not the bishop of Bowdon’. So I thought it would be rather nice if I took an Australian title”.

The noble Lord spoke with great humour, passion and conviction, and I am sure that his comments and views on the atrocities of war and the abhorrence of human trafficking and modern slavery have the support of all of us in the House. His paraphrasing of WS Gilbert’s lyric for Sir Joseph Porter sums up very clearly and succinctly his own illustrious career in the aviation industry. He started at the front-line check-in counter and, by the tender age of 27, was chief executive of British Midland Airways. In fact, he was knighted in 1991 for his services to aviation. His talents extend much further and I could not do justice to them today. He can be described in a multitude of ways: aviation boss, advocate for gay rights, patron of the arts and Knight of the Empire. In addition, he has been chairman of Channel 4 television and is a great philanthropist. The noble Lord will undoubtedly bring an array of views and experiences to the House, and I, for one, look forward to his further contributions to our debates.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise an issue not contained in the gracious Speech but it is one which I believe is long-standing and urgent and on which I believe the Government could act now through a simple amendment to either the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill or the Serious Crime Bill. I hope that the Minister will give this careful consideration. I am focusing on the need to do more to protect the rights and welfare of children and vulnerable adults detained or interviewed by the police. I declare an interest as the president of the National Appropriate Adult Network, a charity and membership organisation which supports the development of effective appropriate adult policy and practice. I particularly thank its chief executive, Chris Bath, for his expert advice and briefing on this issue.

By way of background, under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 codes of practice, when detaining or interviewing a child or mentally disordered or mentally vulnerable adult, the police must secure an appropriate adult to protect their rights and welfare. The term “mentally vulnerable” includes, but is not limited to, people with mental ill-health, a learning disability or autistic spectrum disorder. If the police have any doubts at all about the mental state or capacity of a detainee, they may not continue with procedures such as fingerprinting, DNA swabs, intimate searches or interviews without an appropriate adult being present.

The appropriate adult role, conducted effectively, is complex and demanding. It includes a multitude of tasks but is absolutely crucial. Where parents or carers are unavailable, unsuitable or unwilling, a statutory duty requires youth offending teams to ensure the provision of appropriate adults for children, whether through paid or voluntary staff, but there is no such statutory duty to ensure the provision of appropriate adults for mentally vulnerable adults, and this is a key point that I will return to in a short while.

However, my first area of concern is in relation to children. In 2012, Joe Lawton, a 17 year-old boy, took his own life. His father found him dead and a police charge sheet at his feet. Two days earlier, he was held in a police cell overnight on suspicion of drunk-driving. In 2011, 17 year-old Edward Thornber was caught with 50p-worth of cannabis. Distraught at the thought of life with a criminal record, he hanged himself. These children were treated as adults in police custody and were not entitled to an appropriate adult. The case of Hughes Cousins-Chang, another 17 year-old, led to a judicial review. The Home Secretary, rightly, amended the PACE codes of practice without appeal, extending provision to 17 year-olds and rectifying a long-standing anomaly.

The Home Secretary’s action is welcome. However, if we are to avoid such tragedies in the future, there are three key issues which still need urgent action. First, with more 17 year-olds arrested than all 10 to 16 year-olds combined, funding is desperately needed. Seven months after the change to PACE Code C, no additional funding has been given to local government.

Secondly, the PACE Act must be amended to remove anomalies where 17 year-old boys and girls continue to be treated as adults in several critical respects, including a lack of parental consent around intimate body cavity searches and no requirement to transfer them to local authority accommodation post charge. The Criminal Justice and Courts Bill will ensure that 17 year-olds have an appropriate adult for the purposes of youth cautions and youth custodial cautions. I welcome the fact that the Ministry of Justice has moved so quickly to address this issue. It would make eminent sense for the Home Secretary and the Home Office to follow suit.

Thirdly, children across the country are too often contained in cells, contrary to Section 38(6) of PACE, which places a statutory duty on the police to effect the transfer of children unless it is impracticable for certain defined reasons. Local authorities must accommodate them under the Children Act 1989. This can cause unnecessary damage to children, puts unnecessary pressure on custody suites and increases the risk of costly remands. There are, of course, odd exceptions, but the system seems to have broken down nationwide and there appears to be no accountability. This is a cross-departmental issue, but one on which I would expect the Home Office to take the lead.

I turn to the matter of mentally vulnerable adults—and here I fear that we are heading towards a crisis which needs urgent action now by the Government. At any given time one in six British adults, or 8 million people, are experiencing at least one diagnosable mental health problem. Almost 40% of people in contact with the probation service have a current mental health condition—a number which is even higher in prisons. Up to 30% of people who offend have learning disabilities or difficulties that interfere with their ability to cope within the criminal justice system; yet as my noble friend Lord Bradley’s landmark report in 2009 noted, an analysis of 21,000 police custody records found that an appropriate adult had been used in only 38 cases. He had expected up to at least 3,000 cases. The lack of any statutory provision for vulnerable adults means that trained appropriate adults for this group are often unavailable or that provision is limited. In many areas, services are non-existent.

The Government must be congratulated on investing an extra £25 million this year into services to identify mentally vulnerable people in police stations and to ensure appropriate referrals. This will be a great support for custody sergeants, and I welcome the commitment to extend these liaison and diversion services to every custody suite in England by 2017. It is already the case that where there is no organised service, the search for an appropriate adult can make significant demands on police time. At busy times, police can be impelled not to identify an individual’s vulnerability at all. If the police are discouraged from identifying vulnerability due to poor provision of appropriate adults, it may present an unwelcome barrier to their referring to liaison and diversion. As things stand, the problem is actually set to worsen dramatically.

The non-statutory nature of appropriate adult services for vulnerable adults means that those areas with a service are defenceless in the face of budget cuts. In the short term, immediate action is needed to prevent the loss of existing services, many of which are delivered by committed volunteers. However, this cannot be at the expense of the proper solution—placing appropriate adult provision for mentally vulnerable adults on a statutory footing. I hope that the Minister will be able to respond positively to my concerns. We need to see a clear commitment by the Government to take action within this parliamentary Session to tackle these important issues. I fear that without such action, we are heading towards crisis and placing some of the most vulnerable people in our communities at serious risk.

My Lords, I shall focus on the section of the gracious Speech relevant to education and training:

“Further reforms to GCSEs and A-levels will be taken forward to raise standards in schools and prepare school pupils for employment”.

On reforms to school exams, none of us could doubt that in a fast-changing world school learning and assessment need constant updating. However, it is one thing to express this as a high-level intention but quite another to implement any such reforms. I have been a school teacher and have worked for an assessment and awarding body, so I know what it feels like to be on the sharp end of politically led changes. This was long before I ever imagined I would be on the political end.

We note the involvement of higher education institutions but reforms to GCSE and A-levels will call for experts across the board to translate the aims into a syllabus, a curriculum, teaching materials and rigorous assessments. The tests and benchmarks must have the respect of those who sit the tests and those who use the results for access to further study or employment. Let us not forget our teachers, who find themselves often with inadequate time and resources, tasked with translating the reforms into exciting and engaging classroom experiences for the students in their charge. I echo the words of my noble friend Lord Storey in paying tribute to those who have the responsibility to foster learning and aspiration in the next generation. I also hear the concerns of the noble Lord, Lord Patel, about shortages in science and maths teachers.

In a previous reform, this autumn will see the introduction of languages in the primary school curriculum. This measure will give young children the excitement of understanding different communications and cultures. It should strengthen the country’s woeful reputation for speaking only one language, and if in doubt speaking English very loudly. Only 6% of the world population speaks English as a first language. If we are to equip our young people with tools to succeed in a globalised world, mastering more than one language at an early stage will be enriching in both their personal and their working lives. Primary schools are already engaged in identifying which language or languages will be most appropriate for their teachers and children. For this measure to be successful, secondary schools will build on the skills and mastery of their feeder schools and from there into GCSE and A-level. It is greatly to be hoped that the tide is turning and the numbers of those continuing language studies will grow.

We have seen our language deficit highlighted in initiatives from the British Academy, the Chartered Institute of Linguists and the British Council. The Government have listened and taken action in different departments. The Foreign Office recently opened a state-of-the-art language learning centre, with the Foreign Secretary’s open aim that everyone working in that department should use the facilities to gain proficiency in one at least of the many languages on offer. The military saw the closure of its highly specialised centre of language excellence at Beaconsfield but earlier this year opened a language and culture centre at the Defence Academy at Shrivenham. Future adults embarking on these professional programmes will find their task easier and more rewarding if language learning within schools has been improved.

I ask the Minister—or perhaps even my noble friend the Education Minister, who is in his place—in his aim to reform GCSE and A-level, how far the proposed reforms will be taking into account the expertise of those in the different branches of the education sector. There has been a tendency in previous education reforms to listen more to policy experts than to those working on the front line. Will pilots be built into the development of these reforms? The timescales are very tight, but better by far to discover glitches and inconsistencies with a limited control group than to roll out full-scale untested revisions to the unfortunate masses.

Any serious intention to prepare young people for employment—and, indeed, for life—needs to place more emphasis on subjects such as citizenship and PSHE. Crucial, too, is provision for wide-ranging careers information, advice and guidance. I hope that in the last Session of this Parliament, and with the aim in the gracious Speech to prepare school pupils for employment, we shall see tangible progress in these areas.

I have not time to expand on apprenticeships except to applaud the valuable growth in apprenticeships—growth in numbers and in respect as a genuine alternative to university.

We look forward to working within the coalition to build on what has been achieved over the past four years to give all our children the best possible opportunities to live rewarding and productive lives.