HC Deb 09 April 2001 vol 366 cc702-4
9. Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

What plans he has to increase the number of secure training centres.[156028]

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng)

The Youth Justice Board has responsibility for commissioning and purchasing places for young people in the juvenile secure estate and has recently announced a £250 million reform plan to improve youth custody arrangements. In the four-year plan, 400 new places will be made available in new secure units for boys and girls sentenced to custody. That will be a substantial addition to the present 130 secure training centre places.

Mr. Boswell

Has the right hon. Gentleman had a chance to study the excellent recent inspection report on the second secure training centre at Rainsborough in my constituency? Will he accept my own evidence from a follow-up visit that it is indeed working successfully? I notice that the Home Secretary nods. As the present ministerial team when in opposition rubbished the imaginative idea of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the then Home Secretary, and as it now appears to have had second thoughts about its merits, will the Government commit themselves to the target of 1,000 places that has been offered by the incoming Conservative Government?

Mr. Boateng

Conservative promises must be judged against the Conservatives' performance in office. They took the power to do this in 1994. It was not until this Government came into office that any were built. Again, it is all yack, yack, yack from the Conservatives. It takes a Labour Government to do anything about crime and disorder.

Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

The Minister will be aware that many of the young people who are likely to go into such secure units have very poor educational achievement and often a variety of other problems. Can he assure me that the units will be sufficiently well funded to provide good-quality support for those young people, meeting their education and other needs, so that they have a realistic chance of leaving the unit able to lead a law-abiding life it their community?

Mr. Boateng

I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Recently, Baroness Blackstone, the Minister for Education and Employment, and I visited one of the institutions where the link is being made between custodial experience and the importance of addressing numeracy and literacy deficits, and people's experience on release from custody. That is the objective in Medway and the other secure training centre. The Youth Justice Board is resourced precisely to achieve that objective. Those young people have a chance to improve their education; some of them have that chance for the first time. We must ensure that they do not lose it.