HL Deb 31 January 2001 vol 621 cc685-7

2.40 p.m.

Lord Dholakia asked Her Majesty's Government:

What advice they have received from the Government's adviser on crime, Lord Birt, about the increase in the level of serious crime.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton)

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Birt, was appointed as an unpaid adviser by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary to look at criminality and long-term social trends. His work is being considered alongside work currently being undertaken by the Home Office, the Lord Chancellor's Department, the Law Officers' department and the Treasury, about which Parliament was informed on 7th November. This work is drawing together experience of improving the performance of the criminal justice system in England to identify the way forward for the longer term. The Government will ensure that any firm conclusions which emerge from this work will be reported to Parliament.

Lord Dholakia

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minster for that information. It is about eight months since the announcement of the appointment. Will he confirm that it was announced that the adviser would work one day a week drawing up law and order strategy. Perhaps I may ask three questions. First, when can we expect to discuss the recommendation or the advice offered by the noble Lord on these issues? Secondly, will it be published, as was the case with the advice of Keith Hellawell, the government adviser on drug initiatives? Thirdly, has there been any effect on the law and order situation in this country?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Birt, gives his advice regularly. Any firm conclusions or new policies which emerge from his regular reporting to the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister and other colleagues will be reported through to Parliament in due course.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, will those conclusions and the advice given be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, they will be, because they will be reported to Parliament.

Lord Ackner

My Lords, to what extent is the noble Lord, Lord Birt, working with or in connection with Lord Justice Auld?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, all new thinking that comes forward will be taken together in the round. Robin Auld's review of the criminal courts and John Halliday's review of our sentencing framework are matters which bear to be considered together because they inform the way we look at the criminal justice system.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, what is the expertise of the noble Lord, Lord Birt, in crime?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Birt, has extensive knowledge in a whole range of social areas. No doubt he brings his freshness of view and his—

Noble Lords


Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I believe governments stand to be advised by people with an interest in the subject. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, has an interest in this subject. I invite noble Lords to support that. It will give great aid to government formulation of policy.

Lord Cope of Berkeley

My Lords, how many times has the Minister met the noble Lord in his official capacity to discuss these matters? Can we expect to hear any result of this work in today's debate? I am grateful to the Minister for confirming that the advice will be made public.

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, I have not had the pleasure of meeting the noble Lord, Lord Birt, formally. Perhaps I should. He meets regularly with the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister. No doubt all those thoughts feed through to our increasingly successful strategy for dealing with crime and its reduction.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I also have extensive knowledge in this field. When will the Home Secretary appoint me to something?

Lord Bassam of Brighton

My Lords, since I have been a Minister in this House it is apparent that the noble Lord has a wide range of interests. We always listen to his views and concerns with great interest.