HL Deb 25 February 1991 vol 526 cc791-802

4.45 p.m.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement about the report of Lord Justice Woolf's inquiry into the disturbances last April at Strangeways Prison, Manchester, and other prisons which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary.

"I am grateful to Lord Justice Woolf and to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Judge Tumim, who joined in Part II of the inquiry, for such a wide-ranging and constructive report, which includes 12 recommendations and 204 proposals.

"The events of last April were unprecedented and unacceptable. Control of one of our largest prisons was lost for 25 days. Significant violence erupted at eight more prisons, and at others control was maintained with great difficulty. The country was shocked by the defiance and destruction which we saw nightly on our TV screens. I condemn utterly the behaviour of the small minority of the prisoners who joined in this orgy of destruction. As the House will be well aware, 183 persons have been convicted or are now awaiting trial on charges including murder and riot.

"The report concludes that some decisions might have been taken differently. Nevertheless, Lord Justice Woolf stresses, and I wish to stress to the House today, that the disturbances were handled with great skill and courage by the prison staff at all levels.

"Though Lord Justice Woolf makes some critical comments about the prison service, he also emphasises that the public have every reason to be extremely grateful to the members of the service who over a number of years have shown immense dedication, courage and professionalism. I want to endorse that judgment.

"Immediately after the end of the riot, my predecessor put in hand urgent action. Incidents of this sort must be dealt with firmly and quickly. We have therefore set up a new incident control centre, overhauled contingency plans and clarified the lines of responsibility for dealing with riots.

"More staff have been trained in the new and improved techniques of control and restraint which are necessary to handle dangerous incidents. The stock of riot control equipment has been increased. We have completed a review of the physical security of prisons, in particular access to roofs, and substantial improvements have been made.

"The country will not tolerate the kind of disgraceful behaviour witnessed last April. We must make clear our utter condemnation of it by introducing a new deterrent. We shall therefore, as we have already made clear, bring before the House proposals to create a new offence of prison mutiny, which will carry a maximum penalty of 10 extra years in prison. But Lord Justice Woolf emphasises that we need to balance security and control with justice and humanity, and I wholly endorse that view. Guilty criminals have to be punished by the loss of their liberty. Dangerous criminals have to be detained to protect the public. It is not the purpose of the prison system to provide holiday camps for prisoners. But it is not the purpose of the prison system to provide physical conditions which degrade and humiliate prisoners and strip away their self-respect. Prisons should be places which are austere but decent, providing a busy and positive regime which prepares criminals for their ultimate release.

"Many reforms are already in hand started by a major programme inaugurated by my noble friend Lord Whitelaw in 1979. Since 1979 eight new prisons have been built and 13 more are under construction.

"Over the next two years 12 new prisons will be opened. The prison population is now some 4,000 below what it was in September 1989. This means that we are in sight of the end of overcrowding. I believe that we can now take these reforms a major step further.

"I consider that the practice of prisoners having to slop out is degrading and intolerable. It makes it very difficult to run a sensible prison regime and should be brought to an end. The present target is to do this in 1997. Lord Justice Woolf recommends that it should not be later than February 1996. In my view we can and should do even better. I am now launching a programme to provide all prisoners with access to sanitation day and night by the end of 1994. This programme will cost an extra £36 million over the next four years. Half of this I will find from existing provision, but I am glad to say that an additional £18 million will be provided. I also consider that it is wrong for juveniles awaiting trial to be held in prison and I intend to bring that practice to an end.

"The report also makes many helpful recommendations about the regimes which we provide for prisoners. We must not forget that while imprisonment punishes the criminal and protects the public, its other purposes are rehabilitation and preparation for a return to the community. Since 1988 there has been a substantial increase in the hours spent on education, from 5.5 million to 7.7 million. I want to see more prisoners taking up educational courses and training in skills, so that they will have a better chance of leading a life free from crime when they are released. Prisoners must be kept constructively occupied in workshops and other activity, and Lord Justice Woolf makes important recommendations in this area.

"Lord Justice Woolf also emphasises how important it is for prisoners to retain their family ties. In my view it is vital that prisoners maintain that link so that they can assume their family responsibilities on release. It is also the thrust of Government thinking that everything should be done to avoid the break-up of families which itself can contribute to delinquency and crime. I therefore propose to increase the level of visits to prisoners and extend the arrangements for financially-assisted visits for visitors who are on low incomes. I have also decided to increase the opportunities for home leave in open prisons from three times a year to six times a year. I am placing details in the Library of the House.

"Lord Justice Woolf points out the value of cardphones, which allow prisoners to retain contact with their families. I am therefore announcing, subject to some limitation for security reasons, that cardphones paid for by prisoners will be provided in all those prisons which do not already have them.

"Despite the availability of cardphones, letters remain very important to most prisoners. Like Lord Justice Woolf, I believe that the present levels of censorship are unnecessary. I have therefore decided to abolish routine censorship in all establishments except dispersal prisons. Governors will retain for security reasons the right to censor.

"These measures represent a major series of reforms. But they cover only some of Lord Justice Woolf's recommendations. He makes many other proposals including the place of the prison service in the wider criminal justice system and the higher management of the service. I shall want to give those proposals the most careful consideration. I propose to issue a White Paper later this year which takes account of them and which will chart the direction of the prison service for the rest of the century and beyond.

"These changes will transform the living and working conditions of both prisoners and prison officers. But they depend crucially upon the managers and staff of the prison service. I have already visited many prisons and I have been very impressed with the dedication and the concern of the governors and the staff whom I have met.

"In the past industrial relations in the prison service have from time to time been troubled. The future wellbeing of the service requires a new spirit of co-operation on all the issues which we face. With this in mind I saw the trade unions representing all prison service staff earlier today. I very much hope they will respond in the spirit of Lord Justice Woolf's proposals.

"The events of last April marked a watershed in the history of our prison service. We cannot, and will not, tolerate the savagery and vandalism in our prisons which we saw then. We have already taken urgent action to remedy deficiencies. Lord Justice Woolf's report recognises that while prisoners do have to be held in secure conditions, a decent regime enhances security by making incidents such as those of last April less likely. The Woolf Report recommends constructive changes to our prison system which build on the substantial modernisation of the past decade. I have announced today further reforms and more will follow. I commend the report to the House."

My Lords, that concludes the text of the Statement.

4.47 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement that has been made in another place. We are also grateful to Lord Justice Woolf and to Judge Tumim for their report which is clearly thorough, far-reaching and comprehensive. I say that although I have not seen the report. I hope I may make a slight plea at this stage that we should look at our procedures in this House; frankly, they are ludicrous. When I asked at the Printed Paper Office whether I could see the report as I wished to reply to the Statement on behalf of the Opposition, I was told that the Printed Paper Office had the report but that I could not see it until after the Statement had been made. However one looks at it, that is absurd. I hope that something can be done about it.

It is right that we should echo the tributes paid by Lord Justice Woolf to the dedication, courage and professionalism of the members of the prison service. Such plaudits were not unexpected among those of us who have any connection, in a professional capacity or otherwise, with the members of the prison service. However, we are also right to wonder why it is that it takes a report of such a fundamental nature on a riot of such length and ferocity to produce even the limited response that we have heard from the Government today.

Strangeways was a riot waiting to happen. The signs were there to be read. Surely, the inquiries into the riots that occurred in 1986, 1988 and 1989 should have indicated to the Government that the poor quality of prison regimes would lead to explosive situations—and explode they did. Seeing who has repeated the Statement in this House today, namely, the noble Lord the Leader of the House who was the Home Secretary at that time, I cannot resist reminding the House that Labour Party recommendations urged the Government a year ago—long before the Strangeways riot—that there should be a national system of accredited standard; that there should be better prospects for prisoners to maintain links with their families; that there should be a revision of disciplinary procedures; and that there should be access to education, recreation and employment as of right.

I also remind the House that the then Home Secretary, who now sits on the Benches opposite, dismissed those proposals and treated them with derision. There is great joy in heaven over every sinner who repents, and I should have liked to have seen some small signs of repentance this afternoon from the noble Lord the Leader of the House when he made the Statement on behalf of the Government, who seem to have adopted a great deal of what my party urged upon them a year or so ago.

I particularly commend some of Lord Justice Woolf's recommendations, particularly those designed to give prisoners a greater degree of dignity and better access to rehabilitative treatment. Of course we support the end of slopping out by 1994. It is a degrading practice and should have ended a long time ago. It is interesting to note, however, that the Government can now find £36 million in order to speed up that process in the light of Lord Justice Woolf's recommendations when that money was apparently not available when the Government were urged to do so some time ago.

I particularly like the proposal that prisoners should be able to serve their sentences nearer to their homes. We all agree that continuity of family contact must be beneficial not only to the individual prisoner but also in terms of the security of the prison.

I feel strongly about two other provisions in Lord Justice Woolf's report: that we should consider new methods of dealing with sex offenders and those sentenced to life imprisonment. The existing terms of Rule 43 and the way that they are administered in our prisons is not the most glowing tribute to the way in which we deal with the problem of criminal offenders in this country. I also urge the Government to accept —and accept quickly—the recommendation which I understand is contained in the report that persons suffering from mental disorders should not be held in ordinary prisons but should be held in special hostels.

Those of us who practise in the courts cannot but fail to be struck by the fact that in recent years more and more of the people one represents seem to suffer from some kind of mental disorder. That may not be a new feature of the courts. However, all too often now care in the community appears to mean that somebody who gets into trouble with the authorities and breaks the law ends up in the prison system where he receives minimal care and rehabilitation. I believe that the House would approve if people suffering from mental disorder could be dealt with outside the normal prison context.

Reading the Statement of the Home Secretary in another place and repeated here today, the proposal for nationally determined standards is now accepted by the Government.

Whatever else the recommendations mean and their acceptance by the Government implies, they mean more resources. They mean better trained prison officers; they mean more and not less supervision. To produce what the Statement describes as "austere but decent" standards for all will be an expensive task. Therefore I have three specific questions for the Government.

First, the noble Lord the Leader of the House will not be surprised if I ask whether the money will be made available to carry out the recommendations of the Woolf Report which the Government accept. Secondly, when do the Government hope to produce their White Paper? I trust that it will be sooner rather than later. Also, when do they propose to take action on those parts of the Woolf Report which they accept? Can the Criminal Justice Bill, which is about to leave the other place and come to this House, be used for action on some of the Woolf Report recommendations which the Government accept?

Thirdly, the Statement says that there have been consultations this morning with all the trade unions representing people employed in the prison service. The Government ask for a new spirit of co-operation in the light of the Woolf Report. I understand that on the part of the Prison Officers' Association at least that co-operation was forthcoming. I should like the noble Lord the Leader of the House to confirm that. Will the Government also confirm that they recognise that co-operation is a two-way process and that the legitimate grievances of the Prison Officers' Association and those employed in the prison service will have to be taken into account and resolved at the same time as the Government appeal to them for a greater degree of co-operation?

It is sad that the recommendations are made in the light of the riot that took place. However, I believe that we have a unique opportunity—certainly one that will not occur very often—to put right those deficiencies in the prison service which the Woolf Report and all of us recognise exist.

Lord Harris of Greenwich

My Lords, I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Richard, in thanking the noble Lord the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement. It is particularly appropriate that he should do so because he was Home Secretary at the time when the disturbances took place. Not only did they take place during the period of office of the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, but major disturbances also took place during the period of office of Mr. Hurd. They also occurred in the period of office of the Labour Government.

I, too, should like to express my thanks to Lord Justice Woolf, Judge Tumim and the assessors who did an extremely good job in an extraordinarily short period of time. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, that the situation regarding the publication of the report and its issue to Members of this House and of another place is absurd. Governments of different parties have found it convenient to make Statements in both Houses without Members having a full copy of the report available to them. That is a pity and I hope that the matter will be looked into. It is done entirely for the convenience of Ministers. Copies of the report were made available under the usual lobby rules to the journalists who will comment on the report.

I recognise that many of the matters dealt with by Lord Justice Woolf are not dealt with in the Statement, for entirely understandable reasons. One concerns the proposal regarding local community gaols. That is a particularly interesting idea on which we shall be interested in due course to learn the Government's reaction. A second point is the question of a new prison rule aimed at the elimination of overcrowding.

I very much welcome a great deal of what the Home Secretary said in his Statement. The Statement points to major improvements in the prison system of this country. We should give unqualified praise for many of the policies which have been announced today.

The Home Secretary said in the Statement that it is not the purpose of the prison system to tolerate conditions which degrade and humiliate prisoners and damage their self-respect. Yet, as we all know, we have accepted such conditions for many decades. That being so, we are delighted that the slopping out process is to end by the end of 1994 and that the Government have gone further than the recommendation of Lord Justice Woolf. It is a truly disgusting system and we welcome the fact that additional resources will be made available to deal with the problem.

We support the Home Secretary's decision to expand the number of educational courses, to develop skills training and to improve the quantity of workshop activities. We also support emphatically the expansion of family visits and the use of cardphones so that prisoners can more easily maintain contact with their families.

Finally, we warmly welcome the decision to reduce drastically the level of censorship that takes place in prisons, except of course in dispersal prisons and in particular cases at the discretion of governors. A great deal of censorship has been wholly unnecessary. In fact it has been one of the least attractive restrictive practices applied in the prison system. It has absorbed countless hours of staff time which could have been far better used to improve the quality of regimes in many of our prison department establishments.

In conclusion, I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware—as I am sure that he is, given his recent ministerial experience—that it is now vital that there should be an improvement in industrial relations in the prison system. In his Statement the Home Secretary referred to industrial relations in the service having been troubled. If I may say so, that was a classic English understatement. As we all know, industrial relations in the prison service are worse than in any other part of British industry, either public or private.

Is he clear that the major changes announced today will not succeed if the relentless confrontation between some branches of the POA and management continues? We all recognise that additional manpower will be required as a result of the implementation of some of these recommendations. However, he must be aware I hat everyone in the prison service now has the responsibility to ensure that those major reforms succeed' and that they are not accompanied by massive and unrealistic demands for additional manpower, which can be afforded by neither this Government nor any other government that is likely to take power in this country.

I am sure that the noble Lord the Leader of the House will appreciate that the House will be eager to have an early debate on this matter. I hope very much that he will accept from these Benches our hope that he will provide time for such a debate.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, thanked Lord Justice Woolf and Judge Tumim for the work that they have done. I am sure that we all proffer our thanks. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that he had not seen the report, but despite that he seemed to have a very good grasp of it. I think that my words might be misinterpreted if I were to say that he was fortunate in not having had to read it. However, my meaning would be that it is a very weighty document indeed and Members of the House will wish to study it with care.

I must say that the noble Lord, Lord Richard, was ungenerous when he said that there had been a limited response to the report. I read out a number of decisions made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and I heard many times "Hear, hear" from the Labour Benches as I read them out. It is rather absurd to say that there was a limited response when I was able to announce that my right honourable friend said that in 1994 there would be an end to slopping-out, that there would be changes in censorship, an end to juvenile remands in prisons, an increase in family visits, an increase in facilities for Phonecards and so on.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that there was bound to be an explosion and asked why more had not been done. Again, that is an extraordinary comment from the Benches opposite. It was my noble friend Lord Whitelaw who persuaded the Government to embark on the first major prison building programme of this century in 1979. It is largely due to his marvellous work that we are in a position now to adopt many of the proposals made by Lord Justice Woolf in this report. Had we carried on as we were in 1979, without a penny being spent on new prisons, we should indeed be in an impossible position today. The noble Lord might have been more generous and pointed to the fact that we have made considerable progress since 1979 with the completion of eight prisons, 12 more prisons about to be completed in the next two years and 13 prisons altogether in a year or two after that.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, was glad that at last the Government had accepted the recommendation of the report that there should be access to education as of right. I do not wish the noble Lord to be under any misapprehension at all that in this report there are certain proposals to the effect that there should be some kind of contract or compact between the prison governor and the prisons. That has not been accepted thus far by my right honourable friend. One has only to think for a moment to understand some of the difficulties that might be involved, with continual allegations that in some way or other the contract had not been fulfilled.

However, I think we can all agree that what is necessary is that facilities for education should steadily be expanded in the prison service. That is precisely what has been happening during these past few years. It is very interesting to note—it was one of the tragedies of Strangeways with which I was brought face to face in April —the progress that had been made by Mr. Brendan O'Friel during the year before the outbreak of the riot. One could go round prison after prison in this country and see the progress that was being made.

Again, the noble Lord was very grudging in his praise of my right honourable friend for announcing an end to slopping-out and said that it should have been done long ago. It certainly was not done when his government were in office and little progress was made in that direction. I certainly agree with what he had to say about the far too large a number of people with mental disorders who find themselves in prison. He knows the great efforts that have been made to persuade the courts over the years that whenever possible they should not send such persons to prison.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked me three questions. He asked whether money would be made available for the recommendations that have been accepted, and the answer is yes. He asked when the White Paper will be produced. I think I recollect correctly that my right honourable friend said that it would be in the summer of this year. He also asked me about co-operation by the prison service and said in effect that there had always been co-operation by the prison service, or that is what he had been told. It is ridiculous to deny that there have been difficulties in the past and we must all work together to try to remove those difficulties. Now we are faced with all the new challenges identified by Lord Justice Woolf in his report.

The noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Richard, about the availability of reports of this nature when a Statement is to be made. Obviously it is something that has concerned Parliament over a very long period of time. I cannot make any rash promises but it is certainly something which I shall study and talk about to my colleagues. I am glad that he congratulated my right honourable friend on the steps taken to expand visits and to enable better contact to be maintained between a prisoner and his family. I myself believe that that is fundamental.

The noble Lord also welcomed the change in the censorship rules. I am grateful for what he had to say about industrial relations in the prison service.

5.9 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I congratulate the Government on moving forward to 1994 the end date for slopping-out. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord the Leader of the House if he would give attention to the methods to be employed. The methods that have been used quite widely in the past have meant putting in in-cell sanitation. That is certainly better than a chamber pot but only marginally so.

I think that everyone who has considered this matter would agree that this has to be done by electronically controlled doors from cells to lavatories. I am only anxious that the wrong things should not be done.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I think I am right in saying that Lord Justice Woolf suggests that one or the other system ought to be made available. I suppose that to some extent it depends on the physical characteristics of the individual establishment. Electronic locking and unlocking systems are quite difficult to install.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the constructive reaction by both Lord Justice Woolf and Her Majesty's Inspector of Prisons to the disgraceful scenes at Strangeways is much to be welcomed? Does he also appreciate that I greatly commend the response of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary?

Is my noble friend further aware and, and perhaps I may also ask kindly, is the noble Lord, Lord Richard, also aware, that to achieve improvements in our prisons against the background of the widespread indifference by the general public and the difficulty of obtaining money for them has defied all Home Secretaries over the years? All have done a great deal. However, it makes one extremely modest when one considers in the final event how little one has achieved. But it must be said time and again that that has much to do with the great indifference to the conditions of the staff and prisoners in our prisons—the staff greatly deserve better conditions—by the general public, Parliament and a large number of Members of Parliament. In the past I have often wondered, as I do today, how many Members of another place have ever been inside a prison. How many have ever seen the conditions? How many realise how enormous the expenditure must be to fulfil only some of the recommendations in the report?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his remarks. I wish that it had not happened in this way, but there is no doubt that the events of Strangeways have woken many people up to the problems in our prisons. Such an event concentrates people's minds on a problem which they may previously have avoided considering.

My noble friend does not do himself justice. In a sense he was the exception. He was able to win resources at a difficult time in order to embark on an extensive prison building programme. Together with changing practices of sentencing by the courts, it has reduced the prison population by 4,000 since 1989. It has helped to make possible the changes which are now demanded by Lord Justice Woolf.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, we very much welcome the reference to improvements in education and training. I hope that we shall be able to pursue them at much greater length in a debate. To what extent are the Government taking training on board? It is becoming a matter of great urgency. Training inside prisons is not of the slightest use unless it is possible for the prisoner when released to obtain work in the skill for which he has been trained. That has big implications for sentencing policy.

As I am sure the noble Lord knows, since 1975 the Germans have made training one of their major priorities with regard to sentencing in order that it can lead to employment. If it does not do so, there may be frustration and the discrediting of training. It is a matter of the greatest urgency. I declare an interest. I speak as chairman of Apex. The amount of money which has come through the TECs and is now available for training ex-prisoners is being seriously reduced. Training of ex-prisoners in order to obtain employment will be cut back drastically unless something is done about the amount of money available, and done now.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, I had better not embark now on the training of ex-prisoners. I shall speak on the contents of the report. I agree with the noble Baroness that one can hardly over emphasise the importance of training within prisons. It is not just a question of trying to prepare people for life once they have left prison but of keeping them gainfully employed while they are in prison so that they do not get into mischief; it is giving the prison service a more productive life. One can imagine nothing more destructive than having to work in a situation in which one is a mere turnkey, but if one is involved in trying to prepare people for life after prison then one is in a very important job indeed.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, perhaps I may—

Lord Elton

My Lords, is it not a Member from this side? It is not.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, did a very good job in his time. In another moment he will no doubt do so again. However, I cannot share the attitude of cosy self-congratulation which seems to be spreading on the Benches opposite. Anyone who has worked in prisons for a long time knows that conditions for prisoners are worse now than they were 20 years ago. Let us be clear on that fact. Anyone who has read the long series of scathing reports published by Judge Tumim is aware that the situation in our prisons is a national scandal.

I have not had the opportunity to read the report. I am ready to take an optimistic view. However, since sentencing was excluded, the worst feature does not come into the discussion. It is like an excellent performance of "Hamlet" without the Prince. As long as judges send too many people to prison, the conditions will be very bad.

The other aspect concerns the regimes. I am under the impression that regimes were excluded in the report. If I am wrong, since I have not read the report, the noble Lord will correct me. I believe that Judge Tumim is undertaking a fuller inquiry into the regimes. Until they are altered and prisoners do not spend abominably long hours in their cells—it is longer than it used to be—matters will not improve.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, is the noble Earl concentrating too much on the local prisons? No one doubts that we have a major problem in our local prisons. However, new, modern prisons such as Belmarsh in Woolwich and some in Lancashire are of a far higher standard than those available 20 years ago.

The noble Earl is right. One aspect of the problem concerns sentencing practice. We have addressed other aspects in the Criminal Justice Bill. So far as concerns the regimes, Lord Justice Woolf made it absolutely plain at the beginning of the report that I told him that he could set his own agenda. He was aware that if he wished to consider the importance of regimes he could do so.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I do not wish to comment on the report until I have read it. However, congratulations are in order to my noble friend upon having commissioned it, and to my noble friend Lord Whitelaw on having initiated a programme of expansion and refurbishment without which matters would be devastatingly worse.

My purpose for intervening is to remind noble Lords that the size of the problem depends to a large extent on the number of people sent to prison. It is not only sentencing policy which determines that. It is determined by the way in which we bring up, educate and guide our young people. Will my noble friend and his right honourable friend bear that factor very much in mind when considering the report? Will they pay close attention to the imperative (as I see it) of rendering our treatment of the young cost-effective by supporting those schemes within the voluntary sector designed to deflect young people in danger of offending from an offending career and those who have offended from custody? Programmes of rehabilitation within the community are more effective than any regime which can be produced in a custodial sentence.

I declare an interest as chairman of the Intermediate Treatment Fund. It was instituted to make such provision specifically for younger persons and juvenile offenders, and relates principally to the Department of Health. The department and the Home Secretary can rightly consider that organisation as a means of reducing the problem.

Lord Waddington

My Lords, my noble friend will agree that it is worth while to consider all the influences which may turn a child towards or away from crime. One has to consider parental responsibility. We address that in the Criminal Justice Bill. One has to consider the opportunities for young people to find useful things to do. One has to consider whether discipline in schools is properly organised. All those factors have an influence on the number of people who eventually become mixed up in the criminal justice system. My noble friend is entirely right.

Lord Richard

My Lords, the possibility of a debate was raised during the byplay this afternoon. Can the noble Lord the Leader of the House comment upon that? If his reply is that it is a matter for the usual channels, will he undertake to give them a kick, if that is not too mixed a metaphor?

Lord Waddington

My Lords, it is a matter for the usual channels but I should not be at all disappointed if there were a debate. In so far as I have any influence with the usual channels I shall exercise it.