HL Deb 26 May 1993 vol 546 cc358-84

7.55 p.m.

The Earl of Longford rose to ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of their Statement of 2nd March, what proposals they have in mind for the treatment of juvenile offenders.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, just before I came to the House, I received a letter from someone whom I revere very much—if possible, even more than most of my colleagues, and that is saying a lot. That is the noble Lord, Lord Rix. I regard him as having done more than anybody I can think of for the distressed in our time. Unfortunately, he cannot take part in this debate. But I should like to quote a passage from what the noble Lord would like to have said: I am sure noble Lords understand the vulnerability of offenders who have learning disabilities. Juvenile offenders with learning disabilities are not only vulnerable by their intellectual impairment, but by their inexperience of life through their lack of years which … is not a fault of their own making! It is crucial that their special needs are recognised immediately and that they receive the attention of trained specialist stall".

I am sure that the noble Earl should be regarded as something of a hero in that, having argued about something else all afternoon, he should join us again this evening to look after our debate. I cannot expect him to respond to what the noble Lord, Lord Rix, says. I have only just been notified myself. I am sure, however, that he will be sympathetic to what the noble Lord says.

I wish to concentrate on what I might call the narrow aspect of my Question in other words the proposals brought before the House of Commons, and repeated here, on 2nd March by the Home Secretary, Mr. Kenneth Clarke. But before doing so I wish to say a few general words about young offenders. Perhaps I may be forgiven for mentioning the fact that I have written a book on the matter. If any noble Lords are still in this country on 26th August they may want to buy it at that time. But that is a long way on. I should like to say something about juvenile crime and its background. I do not want to restrict anyone. This Motion throws the whole question of juvenile crime and young offending open to everybody.

I shall make just a few observations before coming to the main issues that I wish to raise. I do not know how many of my colleagues—there are not all that many of them here—have visited a Conservative conference in recent times. I had the pleasure of visiting a Conservative conference last October. I was suitably decked up with a little card on a chain round my neck which described me as a Catholic Herald reporter. Whether noble Lords want to go in that particular disguise or otherwise, I recommend the experience to them in their search for truth. I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Clarke speak. I shall not discuss that aspect. I heard him say with justifiable pride—worth bearing in mind when we hear the comments on juvenile crime, although it was last October: You will be as surprised as I was to be told that overall the number of young offenders is happily declining". That is the aspect that he wanted to present at that time. It was presented as a credit to the Government that they were managing to reduce the amount of juvenile crime. That was last October. A lot might have happened since then. I appreciate that one would have to embark on a statistical survey, which other noble Lords may wish to undertake, to analyse the figures. I shall not do that now. The fact is there.

On the other hand, there is also the fact, according to the criminal statistics, that overall crime in this country has been increasing over the past 10 years—and long before that—by about 6 per cent. That is the background to our discussion. It is an unfortunate fact about our society, which also has so many delightful features. It is a fact that crime is steadily increasing and it is difficult not to feel that young offenders play their part. On the evidence I would say that they play a smaller part than they used to play, even making allowance for the fact that they are a smaller proportion of the population. However, I shall not become involved in those issues tonight. I have been warned by the Home Office in a letter: We do not have any accurate measure of youth crime". That is the official view. I say that to try to preclude any suggestion that we are facing a situation of appalling youth crime.

I come to the Government's proposals. On 2nd March Mr. Clarke produced his proposals. The main feature was that a small number of secure units would be set up which would take care of persistent young offenders. There was also, it may be said, a wider philosophy involved; namely, that more discipline ought to be introduced into schools and children's homes. Tonight, I shall deal with the particular proposal that there should be a small number of units made available.

I do not think it was in the original statement but one way or another it became understood that the Home Secretary had in mind five units with 40 people in each. That is quite a small number: 200 compared with more than 300,000 young offenders who are convicted of small or great crimes during the course of a year. That is what he said: that there was a small number of young offenders and those units should be set up.

The proposal was immediately denounced by the leading penal reform and children's organisations. There was widespread criticism also in the serious—I suppose one might also say dispassionate press, most of which would normally favour our Conservative friends. The leading article in The Times was typical. Under the heading "Panic Over Crime" The Times greeted the proposals which the noble Earl, no doubt with extraordinary skill, will defend later this evening. The Times recognised the recent public alarm as a result of the murder of a two year-old boy allegedly by two boys of 10 and 11—and there have been one or two other appalling incidents. The Times concluded that the Home Secretary's statement had all the hallmarks of being conceived and announced in panic—I repeat, panic. It added that, the best thing Mr. Clarke can now do is to cast about for ideas from the public". I hope and believe that our debate tonight will play a part in providing those ideas from the enlightened public.

I am personally rather wet among penal reformers in regard to the proposals. I am not one of the people who denounce the whole idea of some new units. I am very strongly opposed, as I shall show as I proceed, to an important aspect of them. If that aspect is not corrected the proposals will do more harm than good. But in general I am not against the idea that some units of some kind are necessary.

I therefore approach this Question in the form of questions to myself and answers first provided by myself. Then, no doubt, other noble Lords will tackle them. The first question to myself is: do I agree that a limited number of young offenders aged 12 to 15, who have committed grave crimes or who have persistently offended, should be removed from home and put into some kind of secure unit? To that question I give a qualified yes. I believe that some people should be removed from home. I am sure that the number is very limited. I shall come to the question of how many we are talking about later. At the moment the Home Secretary appears to be talking about a figure of 200.

I would say that 200 may be more than is necessary at the moment. We must bear in mind that penal reformers—at any rate a leading penal reform organisation such as NACRO—would like to see the age raised to 18 and no one under that age referred to any kind of penal custody. That means that a lot of people aged 16 or 17 who are not given penal custody would have to go somewhere else. Very few people would say that they all ought to be let loose in the community.

If we are looking ahead, certainly as penal reformers we must ask ourselves what will be the future in the next few years of those people who are not going to go to local penal custody, to Feltham and such places. One has to ask where they would go. That means that more than 200 people will eventually have to be catered for in that way. That is the future. If we are discussing the issue and making plans for the next few years, we must think beyond the immediate situation for 12, 13, 14 and 15 year-olds.

The children we are talking about are all boys. Apparently, the question of girls does not arise. I do not think that anyone will complain about that. No one, however feminist (and I of course am a feminist and think all enlightened people are) will ask, "What about the girls?" We are able to discuss this matter in terms of boys. When we remove a child from home, we take a heavy responsibility. We must all agree with that. We are under a powerful obligation to provide a better environment for the child than is provided at his home. We know that in some, perhaps many, cases the home environment may be very unsatisfactory. We know that a large number of children in residential homes are abused in one way or another. Nevertheless, taking a child away from home certainly involves a heavy responsibility on those who undertake it, and it should not be undertaken lightly.

Foster homes may be part of the answer. I shall leave that over for the moment. Let us assume that we are not just saying to these people, "Well, we know what prison is like. Let us make it another form of prison or even another form of young offender institution." Something better has to be provided. It has to be something educational and therapeutic. That is the responsibility that we take upon ourselves when we remove these people from home.

The next question concerns which government department should accept responsibility for these young people. I hope that the Minister will not give the final answer tonight. I hope that he will keep a constructively open mind about the whole question. I hope that he will not say, "The Government's and Mr. Clarke's reputation depend on the Home Office doing it, so they have to do it". I hope that that will not be his answer. I would rather have no answer at all than that answer. But we must consider which government department will accept the responsibility.

Initially, on the face of it, the Government indicated that the Home Office should do it. That would be a grievous mistake. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, who is to follow me, knows much more about the world of the social worker than 1, though I try to keep in touch. I do not believe that any social worker or former social worker would think that the Home Office was best equipped to do it. We shall hear from the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, with her experience on the matter.

The approach of the Home Office at its most high minded is bound to be penal. It may just be a word but it represents in the minds of social workers an entirely different approach from their own. I cannot express sufficiently my own horror at the thought of the Home Office taking responsibility. I hope that it will not come about and there is no reason why it should. Mr. Clarke could go down in history as having invented a helpful idea as long as he did not claim the credit for himself or his department.

The situation today is that local government secure units—I have visited a good many of them—come under the Department of Health. It would be ludicrous for the Home Office to provide some units and the health department to provide others. Total chaos would result. That is all that one could expect. When I visited an exceptionally progressive local government secure unit, social workers were present. I was told that it had been assumed until recently that the Department of Health had a strategic plan for increasing the number and quality of local government secure units. Then, suddenly, Mr. Clarke emerged with a scheme of his own.

I sympathise with Mr. Clarke. People say to him, "You are the Minister for law and order. That is what you stand for. What are you doing about all these juvenile crimes?" What does Mr. Clarke say? He replies, "I am opening a lot of units. It is entirely my own idea." That is a difficulty he faces. I am not saying anything unpleasant about him. I am giving him credit for rising above that personal situation and joining in consultation with other Ministers to find the right answer.

The question then arises of whether the existing local government secure units provide the answer. I say that to a limited extent they do. I have visited quite a few. They vary dramatically in size, from two in some cases to 45 in the case of Aycliffe, which is an impressive and famous institution in the north of England. The units are scattered higgledy-piggledy throughout the country. There are only seven units with more than nine inmates, so they are usually small units. The south of England is badly represented.

One must recognise the point of view of the police. That is why I am not as unsympathetic to Mr. Clarke as it may be thought. If one talks to the police, for instance in Oxford, one finds that young people who are found joy-riding are picked up but laugh at the magistrates. They say, "We know that there is nowhere you can send us." Taking the country as a whole but the south of England particularly, there is nowhere that we can send these persistent young offenders at the present time. That is the situation.

The question arises further in relation to how large the units should be. In that I would not like to be dogmatic. The one that I mentioned earlier was exceptionally enlightened and had eight beds. On the other hand, it hopes to have 15 later. Is that the right answer? I cannot be dogmatic on that point. I am sure that in any plan drawn up by the Home Secretary—I will take this up with other Ministers—there will be the wish to consider carefully how large the unit should be. If one intended to send a young person away from home for a few months—say three—a unit with eight beds may be sufficient. But if it is to be one or two years, an extremely therapeutic task will need to be performed and something much larger will be needed. I am not dogmatic about it. It needs to be looked at in the context of a national scheme.

One or two questions arise to which there can be no perfect answer. First, how do we ensure that these people are kept in touch with their homes? We are talking of only a few hundred people out of thousands of offenders; I do not want to mislead anybody. If there are only a few units, with a few hundred people being taken away from home, then clearly every effort must be made to keep those people in the closest touch with their families. The obvious answer is to make it easier for the families to visit, and that is done in the case of one unit that I have in mind. It should also be made possible for the young people to visit their homes at weekends or whenever the occasion arises. There is no perfect answer. There are only a few units in existence and they cannot be situated next door to everybody.

There may be no answer to the second question regarding how we make sure young delinquents do not corrupt each other. There can never be an answer to that question. When people are taken away from home because they have gone wrong and are put with other people who have gone wrong, difficulties arise. The secret must lie not only in the dedication, but also in the human understanding and skill, of the social workers.

We require what are called specially trained staff in the units which are dealing with the most vulnerable people in our society. There are only a few hundred and we must have people specially trained to look after them. That training may take different forms. In a place like Aycliffe some of them are trained educationally, some in the social services and some as nurses.

I repeat that we must make sure that somehow or other the social workers involved with these exceptionally vulnerable people are specially trained for the job. I have gone on rather longer than I expected, but I reach one practical conclusion: we need a national plan. I might add that I do not like the word "unit"; I hate the thought of anybody being sent to a "unit". People hate the phrase "approved school" because schools have a bad name too. We must find a suitable name for these places.

Somehow or other, if a system of this kind is to be brought into existence, it will depend on a national plan. It will not happen through incidental initiatives from local authorities. It will certainly not happen through some brilliant intuition of a Home Secretary who has reasons for wanting to take positive action. We must have a national plan. It will need a great deal of working out, but that is what we must have.

These sound like administrative questions but they are deeply human questions. That is how I approach them. I suppose that social workers generally, whether they are Christian or non-Christian and whether consciously or not, are committed to the message conveyed in Matthew: 25, where Jesus Christ said, "I was in prison and you came to me. In as much as you have done it to the least of these my brethren you did it to me". That is the spirit which animates social workers, Christian or non-Christian. However feebly, that is what animates me.

8.20 p.m.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, first, I pay tribute to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers. He has sat through a long debate for the whole afternoon. We are all grateful to him for being on the Front Bench for this important debate this evening. I am sure that those on these Benches and noble Lords on other Benches would wish to thank him.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear!

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, this debate on juvenile crime, initiated by the noble Earl, Lord Longford, to whom we are indebted, asks Her Majesty's Government what proposals they have for the treatment of juvenile offenders. It is not clear in the Statement made by the Home Secretary on 2nd March 1993 whether he has put forward recommendations set in stone or whether they are proposals as a basis for consultation and discussion.

The Home Secretary stated: The courts will be provided with a new sentence, which for the present is this therefore a suggestion only or a policy?— I am calling a secure training order. The order will be available for 12 to 15 year-olds who have been convicted of three imprisonable offences and have proved unwilling or unable to comply with the requirements of supervision in the community while on remand or under sentence … The order might"— the Statement did not say "must" or "may"— last for up to two years".—[Official Report, Commons, 2/3/93; col. 139.] It is stated that the new secure training centres will be set up to provide high standards of care and discipline and opportunities for the juveniles to develop as individuals. It is further stated that the secure training orders will be different from anything that has been provided before. Does this apply to the order or to the type of secure training centre?

The Home Secretary went on to say that the Government had established a £10 million programme to help schools in 74 authorities to get to grips with the problem. It is not clear how this £10 million is to be spent. Is it to be spent on the secure training centres? Who is to administer such centres? Which are the 74 local authorities; and how were they chosen? Does this £10 million cover short-term, small local secure units, where a child's needs would be assessed and a plan made for greater co-operation with the parents? Does it cover the training of staff?

There are positive and commendable assertions in the Statement. The Statement says that parents should be involved in the responsibility for their children and that there must be a joint approach with the educational authorities, police, probation services and other agencies. On the assumption that the Home Secretary's Statement on 2nd March sought views and invited consultation, may I ask on what grounds the Home Secretary considers setting up secure training centres? These cannot be much different from the old approved schools where care, discipline, training and education were given.

Home Office Research Study No. 32 (1965–73) carried out at Kingswood Approved School, which was thought to have been the best of its type in the country, showed that in one house 70 per cent. of boys were reconvicted within two years, 69 per cent. in' a second house and 68 per cent. in a third house. In 1979 the University of Lancaster carried out research at Rochdale. It found that two-thirds of the boys from community homes with education were reconvicted within two years. In 1978 the Dartington research study headed Locking Up. Children showed high reconviction rates after discharge. Furthermore, the Department of Health and Social Security, as it then was, Research Report No. 5 (1979) also showed a high reconviction rate. The authors of the research wrote that, for the majority of boys the secure units"— the approved schools— provide a brief sojourn in an expensive ante-room to the penal system". I think it is accepted by us all that there must be local secure units where a child's individual needs may be assessed and a plan made for each individual child in co-operation with the parents. The children are all different. They are all individuals and their needs should be met individually and not by way of every child having two years and then being discharged.

What is going to be different in the composition of the secure training units? Should the country be spending £10 million on a scheme that has been proven to have failed by the Home Secretary's own department and other research units? On the assumption that the Home Secretary seeks the views of those whose work lies with juvenile crime, he must be aware that most young offenders can be best dealt with in the community. In 1983 the Department of Health and Social Security made available £15 million to finance intensive supervised activity schemes for juvenile offenders who would otherwise have received custodial sentences or care orders. The research shows that only 15 per cent. of juveniles attending those projects appeared in court for further offences. Such programmes allowed the boys to live at home. Attendance at the community centre involves training, sport and counselling.

I could take noble Lords to many good centres; notably, in Hampshire, Kent and up and down the country. I visited one of these centres run by Barnardos. I met a boy who had a long history of juvenile crime. He was living at home and attending the centre. He was helped through clubs, various recreational activities and also work. He also received counselling. I asked him why he was no longer involved in crime, as he had been for so many years. He said to me: I receive counselling two days a week. My counsellor has asked me about my home. My father drinks. He knocks my mother about. We are all very unhappy at home so the only thing for me to do is to get out, commit crime and get myself away from home. Now that I have had counselling I understand how unhappy my mother must be and how difficult my father is. The counsellor has suggested to me that I might help my mother and bring her sometimes to the club". The boy is no longer committing crime. That story is true of many other boys receiving counselling, support and help.

I was worried about the criminal justice legislation, approved schools and the fact that they were very expensive and achieving very little. Ten boys who had been in approved schools visited your Lordships' House. They came before a group of Peers, one of whom I believe was Lord Seebohm and another the noble Baroness, Lady Serota. Lord Seebohm asked a boy, "While in the approved school, were you happy?" The boy replied, "Well, it was good food and it was very comfortable". Lord Seebohm said, "What did you do when you came out?" The boy said, "I had learnt to pick a lock, I had learnt how to get out of a window and I had learnt to steal and not be caught. I was fit so that I could run away". That is what the approved school gave the boy. I suggest that it will be the same with the secure units which we understand are to be set up.

Furthermore, with community-based work parents are involved. Section 1 of the Children Act 1989 recommends that the welfare of the child is paramount, but responsibility for the children lies with their parents. If we make plans for children without the co-operation of the parents, we are cutting off one side of the child's life. Juveniles sent away to custodial care lose contact with parents, family and community. On discharge they are the children who become homeless. They are the children on our streets and a proportion of them take to drugs and prostitution and later become a cost to the state, usually within the penal system.

I am not putting forward these views personally; they are based on research done by the Salvation Army in co-operation with Reading University. I urge the Home Secretary to consider community-based projects rather than custodial care. Even juveniles who commit crime need care, education and training. They also have feelings for their homes, their parents and their community. It is those feelings which are distorted and damaged and which have to be fostered and developed and certainly not repressed.

I believe profoundly in the setting up of secure units. I accept that we must have such units, but I believe that they should take the form of assessment centres. Each child should be assessed as to his or her particular needs and a plan made, as I said earlier, in co-operation with the parents. If a plan is made for that child to move out of the assessment centre (that is, the secure unit), it may be that when he goes into a community base and to his home, he should go back before the court to give an assurance that he is willing to conform to community care.

In schools children are disruptive, difficult and uncooperative. Under the new Education Act, as it will become, I wonder whether children could be assessed at an earlier age, because many of them show disruptive, unhappy and delinquent tendencies at quite an early age. If those children are dealt with by the social workers and the teachers at an earlier age, those children may be caught young and therefore not go into delinquency at a later stage.

There are vacancies in independent residential schools run by charities which give a splendid service where such children could be cared for. Perhaps it would be helpful if they were to have the £10 million. Saddest and perhaps most significant of all, family life is diminished. The Hesley Group is running a family group centre for a month in the summer where children at risk and their families are taken in. There is another such centre which is called Frimshurst.

A wide sweep of policies needs to be addressed. Juvenile crime cannot be dealt with by one set of people, and not by the Home Office or the Department of Health or the Department for Education alone; they must all work together. If they were to do so when the children are much younger, we may not wipe out juvenile crime but at least we should diminish it to a very great extent. I beg the Home Secretary to listen, hear and act accordingly.

8.35 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, it often happens that when one has two such knowledgeable speakers earlier, much of what one wanted to say has been covered and in a better way than one can imagine oneself saying it. I find myself with many of the points that I considered making tonight in that situation. I also have a degree of sympathy for the noble Earl. Not only has he had to be here for almost the entire sitting but he also finds himself in a debate which touches on many departments beyond his own. As the noble Baroness has reminded us, the Department for Education is very much involved in this situation. If I remember the Statement correctly, on which we are holding this debate, the moral welfare of children and other types of education are involved.

As both previous speakers have said, nobody is denying that on occasions there will be a need for some restraint and custody for certain young people for the protection of society and of those people themselves. But these will be comparatively few cases. Also, it is well documented that custody tends to lead to a much higher level of reoffending. The noble Baroness has spoken about the academies of crime. We have heard about them very often and the fact that young offenders and adults go into prison and all they learn is how to survive there. That often leads to the greater use of violence because prisons, even with the best will and effort in the world, tend to be more violent establishments than the world outside. Prisons also teach people how to become criminals because that is the subject which invariably such people have in common and it is all they can talk about.

Even the limited amount of work which I have done in prisons and young offender institutions has shown me that people share this culture in which they have to survive and so they become part of it. It is very difficult to rehabilitate someone inside that culture. Now and again one is occasionally able to help a person to rehabilitate himself, but one cannot rehabilitate him.

When dealing with the very young, surely we want to avoid that situation wherever possible. For instance, it has been pointed out to me that, if we are considering some form of custodial sentence of up to two years—once again I agree with the noble Baroness that we are not quite sure what that means, although the figure of two years has been mentioned—we are actually imposing a slightly higher level of custody than we are for 16 year-olds, who are limited to one year. That is what I have been informed.

In addition, we are not sure who is to be in charge of the new units or whatever they are to be called. The simple reason is that we are considering social security, health and education aspects which come into this matter in a very important way. Therefore, there is a series of questions being asked: what exactly are the criteria for people to be sent to the units? I understand it has to be three "sensible" convictions. As the noble Baroness said, there are no hard and fast rules here. Everything is flexible as we are dealing with individuals.

I could go on in this vein, but I feel that I shall be repeating not only what has been said but also to a great extent what will probably be said later on. However, I should like to draw attention to and put some new dimensions on two very important points which were raised earlier on. One appeared in the letter written by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, and read out by the noble Earl, Lord Longford. It was also mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull. It refers to the fact that inside the prison system we have very many people who have educational problems.

A considerable amount of study has been done recently into the number of people in prison who have dyslexia. It suggests that those who are failures educationally thus become failures in the workplace and resort to crime. This and other special needs situations means that, if people start to fail young, there is a very good chance that their educational failure will lead to a higher incidence of offences being committed. Indeed, special needs is probably the only area that we have not yet considered in relation to crime. I say all this almost from instinct and for the simple reason that it is known that academic under-achievement tends to lead to bad behaviour. Virtually all teachers say that the least able pupil in the class is the one who is paying the least attention because he is getting the least out of the lesson.

If we are to try to avoid the problem of juvenile crime, we must address the problems which cause it. That means that we must invest in dealing with those problems. We must not merely lock those youngsters away, because in doing so we are locking them into what effectively becomes a pressure cooker environment or, ultimately, an academy of crime. That is what we have created whenever we have placed people in custodial situations, no matter how hard we have tried.

We must address the problems that arise when people are placed in custody. We cannot teach moral and spiritual values in places where people are denied even a degree of self-discipline and control because somebody else is imposing it upon them to a greater extent than would be the case in even a strict family regime. I suggest that everybody concerned looks very long and hard at any idea that suggests that we should lock more people away, especially when they are young.

8.41 p.m.

Baroness Mallalieu

My Lords, perhaps I may first pay tribute, as other noble Lords have done before me, to my noble friend Lord Longford, who is tireless in his work on behalf of those in trouble. He should know that his humanity is widely recognised and admired by those of us who come into contact with offenders in the course of our work. I am particularly grateful that he has tabled this Unstarred Question, not least because I hope that it will provide the noble Earl the Minister (who is, I know, also greatly concerned to reduce crime and to whose stamina in this Chamber I should like to pay tribute, as the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, has already done) with an opportunity to improve upon the Statement made by the Secretary of State on 2nd March, which I am afraid simply will not do.

I know that I am not alone in feeling that that Statement was profoundly pessimistic and depressing. Effectively, it contained no hope. There was no attempt in it at any new initiative or even encouragement to those who believe, as I do and as other speakers before me have indicated that they believe, that steps can and should be taken to discourage young people from becoming offenders in the first place or later from offending again. There was no apparent insight in that Statement into the causes of juvenile crime or even the will or intention to try to discover or to tackle them. Despite the wording of the Statement, it contained no new proposals, no new thinking and no hope.

To my noble friend Lord Longford, who has been in this House rather longer than I have, it must have seemed that we were coming around full circle and back to the old approved schools. The distilled essence of that Statement, cutting away the verbiage, was that all that this Government propose to do, it seems, is to lock up those who have already run through the system and become a public menace.

The Secretary of State's proposal was, I fear, made as a hasty response to then recent sensational press coverage of a small number of crimes which involved (or appeared to involve) young people. Now that some time has elapsed, I hope that in his response tonight the Minister will be able to be both more optimistic and more constructive than his colleague in another place was back in March.

The proposal for a secure training order for 12 to 15 year-olds is, I believe, misconceived. Further, I believe that it is likely actually to increase juvenile crime rather than reduce it. There are, I accept as others before me have done, a small number of 10 to 15 year-olds who will need to be detained. A figure of about 200 has been mentioned, but no one knows for certain. There are adequate powers to detain already—and in a variety of ways. Those under 14 can be placed in secure accommodation up to the age of 14 under a supervision order with a condition of residence in a secure unit, if need be. Those of 14 and above can be placed in secure accommodation under Section 53 of the Children and Young Persons Act. The powers are there for the courts if they choose to use them and are able to use them, but the facilities are often not there—at any rate not in the locality of the court.

Two years ago the Government made a promise that 65 further secure places would be provided. They have not been provided as yet. When the Minister replies, can he say whether it is still the intention of the Government to provide those 65 further secure places, and could he be good enough to give us an indication of the cost of such secure accommodation as compared with the cost of the proposed secure training order, for which a sum in the order of £2,000 per week per child has been suggested?

The existing secure units can be first-rate. Although my experience of them is rather less than that of the noble Lords and the noble Baroness who have already spoken, I hope that your Lordships will permit me to give a single recent example from my personal experience. It relates to a boy of 15 charged with rape. His mother was a single parent. There was no close male relative. Despite her very considerable efforts, she had been unable to prevent him from mixing with contemporaries in the area in which they lived who had bad records and who led him, via a history of truancy, into committing minor offences, until ultimately he was present and played a role (albeit minor) when others attacked a young girl. He was remanded into secure accommodation provided by the local authority where I visited him prior to his trial. There he had the good fortune to come under the care of a social worker who recognised him as a basically decent youngster. That social worker spent a considerable amount of time both with the boy and with his mother. He befriended the boy and helped the mother to obtain alternative accommodation. He accompanied the boy to his trial, stood with him and was present and helped him throughout that period. Even out of his own money he bought the boy a jacket so that he could appear in court looking smartly dressed.

After the boy's conviction and sentence, and after his release, the social worker continued to provide the male guidance which had been lacking, it seemed, throughout the boy's life. Only time will now tell if he reoffends. He was detained in secure accommodation where he was treated in a way that was based on care rather than punishment, which is surely the appropriate procedure in relation to someone of 15 who is, after all, only a child. I am in no doubt that that young man's chance of avoiding reoffending was greatly enhanced by his experiences in that unit.

Young offender institutions, whatever their intentions and whatever the quality of the staff within them (which may be of the highest), cannot produce that sort of individual care. Following that example, it came as no surprise to me to learn that the research that was carried out by the Home Office last year found that secure accommodation was more effective in reducing recidivism and in reintegrating children into the community than young offender institutions.

The proposed secure training order is effectively the approved school order rechristened. But approved schools did not work. That is why they were scrapped. Indeed, research back in the 1970s, of which I have no doubt the Minister is well aware, indicated that those who were graduates of approved schools were about 49 per cent. more likely to re-offend than those treated differently. Those of us who appear in the courts—this is something to which the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, referred—see day after day the antecedents of offenders which show the classic pattern of approved school, detention centre, Borstal and then on to prison as adults.

The Government's proposal goes backwards. It may well be more expensive, in any event, than providing extra secure places. I hope that the Minister will tell us. There will be a substantial delay before it can be implemented. Large capital expenditure would be needed before it could take place. It is likely to be less effective in preventing further crime and, it is fair to say—I do not believe that this is an exaggeration—that it returns to an approach which was tried and tested and which failed.

The powers to detain exist. What is needed is extra secure places in some areas. I urge the Minister to be constructive in his reply. I shall try to be so myself in what I say now. We need to try to identify those who go on to offend before they do so. It is clear that in many cases offending is related to family disturbance. If an illustration of that were needed, it is provided most graphically by the figures for the 10,000 or so 16 to 18 year-olds who leave care each year. Of those in young offender institutions, 38 per cent. have a care background, and 23 per cent. of those in adult prisons have been in care at some time.

Teachers tell me that they can spot potential offenders when they are young. Indeed, those of us who have small children come to know from them which children disrupt the class, or even the play-school class, at a very early age. Identifying those at risk of being the juvenile offenders of the future and heading them off is what the Government's prime task should be. It should not be just to deal with the effects.

What is needed is a true, comprehensive crime strategy, not just the paying of lip service to such a strategy, as we read and heard in the Statement. It must be implemented at a local level. As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said, it must involve not just the police, but parents, schools, social services, voluntary organisations and charities in a wide variety of different ways, ranging through merely befriending children in need, counselling them, providing them with activities and giving the help which may not be available within the family. The strategy must aim at picking up the problems which are the key to the offending which may come later—behavioural problems, lack of parental control, family breakdown, inadequacy and truancy—and giving help to those people at home, at school and, above all, in the community. We should not wait until the police become involved.

We need money to be directed to schools, not merely on the basis of pupil numbers, but specifically to those in disadvantaged areas so that parental care can be supplemented where necessary. To take one example, schools could be used by teachers and by others in the community outside school hours. There are many ways in which the estimated £2,000 per child per week that the secure training scheme will cost could be used to help. In many cases that would result in preventing crimes occurring later.

I said that the Statement was a depressing one. So much could have been said in that Statement and so little was said. So little is apparently to be done when so much needs to be done. Having heard similar views and criticisms of the Statement from all sides of the House, I hope that when he replies the Minister will feel that he can give us some cause for the optimism which was notably lacking from the Statement made by his colleague in another place back in March.

8.55 p.m.

Lord Desai

My Lords, as the last speaker and the least expert of all those who have gone before, I shall be brief. I thank my noble friend Lord Longford for allowing us to discuss the issue. Various false notions persist, and this proposal is a good example of that, as other speakers have already pointed out. One false notion is that the hard, tough, violent response to crime is more likely to cure a criminal or prevent a criminal returning to crime. It seems that labelling people as offenders early and putting them into prison is a good response. People argue that the soft strategy of trying to reform, paying a great deal of attention to the social, educational and parental background is somehow mollycoddling or indulging the person and will not cure the problem.

We have heard today that the more painstaking, slow and so-called soft, careful approach, which builds upon the community and parental background and uses schools, local authorities, probation officers, charities and so forth, is not merely likely to be more effective in preventing the person from reoffending but, if someone took care to examine the costs of the two rival approaches, they would find that that so-called soft approach may be cheaper in the short term but will definitely be cheaper in the long term. Once one labels someone at an early age—we are talking about 12, 13, 14 or 15—that person has been landed with a criminal character for a lifetime; and that person causes a great deal of damage, financial and otherwise to society. We know that they will reoffend.

That small boy of two was killed because we had had a complete failure of leadership on all sides. No one stood up and said, "Hang on, yes, it was a heinous crime. By some accident it was committed by very young boys, but that does not lead us to throw away everything we have learnt about the nature of crime and the way to approach it. That failure of leadership is what led to the Statement of 2nd March. We are looking forward to hearing about a correction of that failure from the Minister.

8.58 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I believe that it has been agreed by all speakers and most commentators on the not very well received Statement of March, that there is a need for secure units for a limited number of people. Where the disagreement starts, which is soon after the beginning of the discussion, is when we talk about what those secure units should be. The noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said tonight, as she said when the Statement was made in your Lordships' House, that there are suitable places available in independent institutions and also in local authority institutions which could be used for this purpose and which have a good record of dealing with youngsters of this kind.

I had the opportunity to discuss this issue with two senior magistrates only the day before yesterday. They were of the same view as the noble Baroness and gave the impression that that was a view widely held among the magistracy. However, they said that they thought that there were not enough of those places in independent institutions. If there are not enough places but they are the right places, surely it is more sensible to add to existing accommodation rather than to embark upon new building and a new scheme altogether.

The one good thing about the Statement is that it recognises that a great deal of money must be I committed to solving the problem. Noble Lords this evening have already produced a number of ways in which that money would be better spent in order to achieve the objectives which the Secretary of State wishes to achieve. Therefore, we do not start by being told that it is no good making suggestions because there is no money and therefore nothing can be done about the problem. The money is there and we are putting forward ways in which we believe that that money can be put to better use.

I believe that it is agreed also that, although there is a great deal of juvenile crime, only a very small number of youngsters are seriously and deeply into crime at an early stage. I understand that the people dealing with those problems recognise that that is the position. The numbers are not large and, to a large extent, it is known who are the people involved. We are not dealing with a vast number of people.

We talk about juvenile crime as though every offender were of the same order. That is wildly different from the truth. There are a small number of serious persistent offenders and there are a large number who get into trouble from time to time, who do not do anything desperately serious and who grow out of it. As one of my colleagues on the criminal Bench says, the thing to do to get rid of crime is to encourage people to grow old, because they drop it. We cannot do much about that, although your Lordships' House is rather good at it.

I wish to make the point that, since we know that there are not large numbers involved and since we recognise that money must be spent on solving the problem, the Secretary of State should be encouraged to re think how best to use that money. I speak now as chairman of the Apex Trust, which many of your Lordships have helped in the past. That trust is concerned with obtaining jobs for ex-offenders and very largely they are young ex-offenders, because a high proportion of ex-offenders are young. The Apex Trust has found that a youngster who has offended repeatedly as a child and a very young person is extraordinarily difficult to place. By the time such youngsters reach the Apex Trust, they are, except in a few fortunate cases, beyond what such an organisation is able to do for them. I suspect that that is the experience of any organisation which is attempting to deal with youngsters of that kind.

As young people grow older with long records of delinquency and offences, repeatedly serving prison sentences, they are an enormous burden not only to themselves but also to society. They will certainly cost society a great deal of money. Money spent on preventing that delinquency would pay one thousand fold—that may be a slight exaggeration but it would pay over and over again—compared with the cost to society if those people become perpetual offenders, constantly in and out of penal institutions. Therefore, if the Government will take a slightly longer-term view, they will see that that expenditure is not only intelligent and humane but it is also, in a hard-headed sense, the most economic step to take. We must plough in the money at an early stage to see that delinquency does not develop and, if it does, a great deal of trouble must be taken to deal with it.

I should like to say one or two things about how that money should be used. I suppose that we all remember the phrase, "give me a child until he is seven". As the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said, we are told by teachers that they can recognise very early on the children who are likely to turn into offenders. Not so long ago—and I hope it still happens in some cases but I am sure that it now happens to a much smaller extent—infant and primary schools were able to employ additional staff in order to help with children who were showing behavioural problems. If you can win the children round at that stage and head them off from the delinquent tendencies which they are already showing, you may avoid the problems which will otherwise develop.

One difficulty that we recognise is that that means collaboration between government departments. I believe that government departments are downright delinquent in the way they refuse to collaborate. We shall not solve this problem without collaboration between education and health departments and the Home Office working together. We must start to plough some of the money into schools so that extra help will be available to deal with these youngsters.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Faithfull, said and as the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, illustrated, when you are dealing with delinquent youngsters in trouble, it is almost certain that personal contact and personal links will make all the difference. Those links can be established only if there is a good teacher, a good social worker, or, if the youngsters are lucky enough, a good friend who is able to give the time, the guidance and help to encourage at a point in time at which that help is most urgently needed. Personal attention by skilled people is needed so that a young delinquent can understand the nature of, and reason for, what he is doing. That is hard personal casework which is time consuming and expensive. However, again and again, it shows results.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, gave one illustration and I shall give another. I know a family which is always in and out of trouble in one way or another. One child was constantly being picked up at school for stealing. On one occasion he was picked up at school with £80 which plainly did not belong to him. He was sent to an institution where there was a very high staffing ratio. One of the teachers there discovered that the boy was good at football and was able to build up his self-esteem and confidence by starting with the appreciation of his skill at the game. That boy, unlike the rest of the family, completed his training to be a carpenter and has never been out of a job. It all started, after the schools had failed, when someone in an institution with a high staffing ratio had the time and, having the skill, the training and the knowledge, was able successfully to turn the boy just at the point at which there was a chance of doing so.

It cannot be just chance that at least three speakers have been able to produce examples of that kind. I think that one would be hard put to produce similar examples resulting from locking people up in approved schools. Moreover, that is also very expensive. Therefore, money spent now on the right treatment, instead of spending much money on the wrong treatment, is surely one of the best ways to tackle the problem. I only wish that the Secretary of State would take the matter back and think again about the reallocation of resources and the collaboration between departments.

I have one further comment to make which may be quite beside the point. It relates to the serious offenders about whom we have talked. I detest organised games; indeed, I spent a great deal of time in my youth successfully avoiding them. But, having had three brothers, I am also aware of the enormous amount of aggression that the young male has to get rid of somehow or other. That is a very common experience and I believe—dare I say it?—that there is quite a considerable sex difference involved. I do not believe that women have quite the same amount of aggression that we have to get out of our system compared to a young male.

I believe it is absolutely deplorable that so many city schools have such totally inadequate playing facilities. The opportunity to give youngsters the chance to knock things about within a legal framework has been taken away from them. If they cannot knock things about in a legal framework, then they will do so in an illegal framework. If some money could go into providing better opportunities for hard, physical, rough games which would exhaust the youngsters and get the aggression out of them, we might solve a great proportion of these troubles.

9.10 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Longford is the latest and one of the most humane and civilised in a long line of people in this country who have been concerned with young offenders. We must be grateful to him for the initiative that he has taken this evening in raising the matter in your Lordships' House. The history of our treatment of young offenders is not a happy one. Without going any further back, 150 years ago the Australians refused to take any more transported people; that is, both young and old. So we had to build many more prisons where, quite rightly, the emphasis was that so far as possible children should be kept separate from adults. That developed into a system of reformatories many of which, incidentally—if not all—were privately run. Can the Minister say what is the likely gap between the establishment of the secure training units and their privatisation? As I said, many of them were privately run and by 1900 there were no fewer than 22,000 young people in such privately-run reformatories. It is a horrible thought that that was deemed to be necessary at the time.

In the 1920s we had the setting up of the borstals which were supposed to be a more civilised form of custody than the reformatories. Under the great Alexander Paterson, there was an attempt to civilise them further by making them more like public schools. Personally, that thought fills me with dread, but clearly it was thought to do some good. Then, as has been said, we had the approved school experience. All those experiences have surely shown that keeping children in custody away from their families and parents does not actually work.

We then come to 2nd March, or perhaps we should start a few weeks before, because in January there was the horrible murder of James Bulger in Bootle. Without any change whatever in the law, the immediate effect was that more magistrates and judges were giving custodial sentences to children. It is an astonishing state where magistrates and judges have the ability to choose the kind of sentence that they will give and where, because of the panic that followed the murder of James Bulger, so many more in fact chose to respond by giving custodial sentences.

I rather fear that the reaction of the Home Secretary when he made his Statement on 2nd March was very much the same. I believe that it was a panic reaction to a perceived problem which does not actually exist. All the evidence available shows that not only is juvenile crime not increasing, but also that the hard core of juvenile crime—which is what the Statement was supposed to be about—does not appear to be increasing. We must be cautious in that respect. Clearly there is an element of what the National Association of Senior Probation Officers call "diversion"; in other words, the increasing tendency for the police to give cautions to young people rather than to take them into the criminal justice system. If that results in less reoffending, that is a good thing. If it is caused by a lack of resources of the police and of the criminal justice system to enable them to deal with young people, clearly it is something we must consider with much greater scepticism.

However, the evidence is that, compared with detention for young people, cautions work. My noble friend Lady Mallalieu pointed out that the figures for recidivism among graduates of approved schools were 49 per cent. higher than among those who had been treated differently. Some 87 per cent. of those who have been cautioned do not reoffend within the next two years. That is a remarkable achievement. It requires a great deal more research to discover under what circumstances cautions can be used instead of bringing young people into the criminal justice system.

The conclusion reached on 4th and 5th March at a conference organised by Action on Youth Crime at Cumberland Lodge—the noble Baroness, Lady Faithful, and my noble friends Lady Hilton and Lord Henderson of Brompton were present at that conference—was that if we need anything it is improved standards and more comprehensive provision in existing institutions. We need to use existing methods in existing institutions rather than set up new institutions, new offences and new secure units. That is the conclusion that I draw from all the speeches we have heard tonight. I do not believe anyone has spoken of the justification for new secure units. Those at the conference also reached that conclusion.

At the time of the Statement on 2nd March it was pointed out that what is needed are more resources for local authorities to provide a youth service, to reduce exclusions from schools and to provide nursery places. It is well known that all those factors are heavily associated with lower levels of offences among young people. It is also well known that crime among young people and older people is heavily associated with poverty, bad housing, a poor environment, family break-up, difficult family problems and aversion to and exclusion from education. I do not say that crime is caused by those factors—I will not get caught in that trap—but I insist that unless we deal with those social problems our chances of reducing crime among young people and adults are severely reduced.

It has been made clear in this debate that what is being proposed by the Government is an extreme solution. It is an expensive, small-scale and long-delayed solution. It will be a long-delayed solution because it will require legislation. It is a solution that applies to a small number of people. What has been suggested by almost every speaker tonight is that there are alternatives which the Government should be considering. I agree with what has been said and I wish to spell out what we consider to be the right approach to this problem.

I have already said that cautions work. We should study the conditions under which cautions can be made to work better. We must improve the way in which we deal with young people who are on bail or on remand because one of the most significant problems as regards offences among young people is the number of offences that are committed when they are on bail. We need a better bail support and enforcement programme. We need, where necessary, to get these young people away from damaging home environments and therefore we need better provision for fostering for young people on remand. We need much closer supervision of young people who are on bail.

We also need something it does not matter what it is called that is comparable to a reparation order. That might be quite limited. It might only have to last for three months. Under such a scheme the young person would not just perform community service. He or she—I believe young women are involved in this matter despite what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said would be required to make reparation to the victim.

While that is taking place I suggest that we need to give greater support to the families of these young persons and to their parents. We need to concentrate on the young persons' education needs, as often an aversion to school, a failure at school or truancy from school are associated with offending. We need to provide leisure activities to occupy these young persons' time; if necessary, away from young people of the same age. Only as a last resort should we impose custodial sentences. Only as a last resort of that should we impose custodial sentences in new institutions because I am simply not convinced that supervision orders for under-14s, with a residential requirement, are not adequate for the purpose. There is special provision for those who are accused, or are convicted of, homicide. There is certainly perfectly good provision for those aged 14 and over who come within the age group the Home Secretary has been concerned with.

The setting up of secure accommodation in perhaps five centres throughout the country under the central direction of the Home Office rather than local authorities and the Department of Health is the last thing that we should want. Inevitably, those institutions will be remote from the young person's home and young people will be cut off from their families. Even though the centres are called "training institutions"—and perhaps significantly because they are called "training institutions"—there will be a break in any educational development. All the evidence has shown—I do not need to go back further than the 150 years I have already gone—that locking up young people in such institutions will result in more people, in the phrase of the Dartington Social Trust, moving into the ante-room of the criminal justice system.

I do not accuse anyone in the Home Office, Ministers or officials, of bad faith in this matter but I sincerely suggest that they may be mistaken.

9.21 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the House will be grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, for raising the important issue of juvenile offenders and how best to respond to the problems which they cause. It certainly has been a most interesting debate, as often happens in your Lordships' House, in particular late in the evening. The debate has been complemented by the participants having a knowledge of an intricate and important subject.

The noble Earl's Question refers to the Statement made by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary outlining a programme of measures aimed at alleviating some of the worst aspects of crime caused by juveniles. One of the main proposals is the new sentence which is provisionally called a "secure training order". That is designed for 12 to 15 year-olds who repeatedly offend and who have shown that they will not comply with community supervision.

During the past few years great efforts have been made to divert young people away from custody. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that cautioning works. I agree that it does and that it has been effective. The new guidance which is being issued to police forces will improve still further the process of cautioning. But it is precisely the success of cautioning and of other community-based responses to crime which has revealed a small hardcore of potential and persistent juvenile offenders who do not stop offending despite being cautioned or being given supervision orders. Police cautioning has proved to be an effective way of responding to minor crime. Less than 15 per cent. of those who were cautioned in 1985 were convicted again within two years. Supervision in the community has proved to be an effective method, and in some cases a good deal more effective than custody, of reducing reoffending. Those efforts have been successful for the large majority of young offenders.

The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, referred to the Apex Trust. I recognise the importance of trying to find offenders jobs when they have left custody. I agree that the Apex Trust offers a wide range of employment support to offenders. I am glad to say that the Home Office has funded the trust to the tune of £320,000 per year, which is a considerable sum of money. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that that is a recognition of the work which is done.

Many noble Lords referred to the regrettable fact that imprisonment can be an expensive way of making bad people worse. That of course applies equally to young offenders as to older ones. But for young people the removal from their home, their family, their school or even their work can have a particularly damaging effect, as many noble Lords have said. The Government have therefore tried to extend and to strengthen the range of community sentences which are available for young people.

The noble Baroness said that there should be collaboration among government departments. I agree that that is vital. In the Statement of 2nd March which my right honourable friend made, he announced initiatives by the Home Office, the Department of Health and the Department for Education, and that joint approach to juvenile offenders is continuing through a series of meetings at both ministerial and official levels.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, was also concerned about the joint approach to juvenile crime. I can tell her that the 24 criminal justice area liaison committees are already helping to develop that joint strategy. A circular called Young People and the Youth Court has been sent to relevant agencies on the operation of the youth court. That has already encouraged the police, probation and social services to work together to prepare for the youth court. It is important that those organisations and departments should work together.

Since October of last year the full range of community orders—probation orders, supervision orders and the new combination order which combines probation and community service—has been available for 16 and 17 year-olds. National standards have also been introduced for those orders. They include tough enforcement provisions if offenders fail to comply with the order.

The Criminal Justice Act 1991 has introduced new measures which will involve parents taking some responsibility for their children when they offend. However, there is a particular problem which relates to a small minority of juvenile offenders. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, and the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh of Haringey, referred to a decline in juvenile crime. The statistics are notoriously difficult. The discrepancy is partly explained by differences between the number of offenders and the number of offences. While the number of known offenders may have gone down, each known offender has on average committed more offences per caution or conviction.

Over the past 12 months the Government have been looking very closely at the problems which are caused by the small hard core of young criminals who commit a disproportionately large number of crimes. The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, said that there is no evidence of the need for that and that no one can see any justification for those orders. That may be the view of the noble Lord, but it is not everyone's view.

Those young people have shown themselves to be beyond the influence of the existing systems of child care and of criminal justice. They have shown themselves to have exhausted the ability and the resources of the community—and its ability to deal with reaction to crime. They are children who consistently play truant, who run away from their homes and who constantly continue to commit crimes. It is, of course, right that the Government and all those who deal with young people should do their utmost to bring up the young properly: to educate them; to cultivate their minds; to teach them to know what is right and what is wrong; and to understand the difference; and, where they go off the rails, to try to get them back on again with the least permanent damage. However, one has to accept that for some young people in the community that approach does not work.

Whenever I have been around the country and visited places where there have been disturbances, such as the Meadowell Estate in Newcastle, South Wales or Bristol and other places, I have invariably been told that there are a number of young people—sometimes 20, sometimes 12 and sometimes more—who are known to the police, who are known to be destructive and who ruin the lives of everyone else on the estates.

On many occasions those are young people—sometimes very young—for whom the law has so far had little impact and who hold it in no respect. My noble friend Lady Faithfull said that those young people ought to be rehabilitated within the community. She gave an example of a boy who was counselled and who gave up crime. That was an excellent example. I agree with her that counselling does a great deal of good, and I am glad that it worked. But I am also glad that my noble friend the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and even the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, agreed—

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Earl says "even".

Earl Ferrers

Yes, I say "even" because the noble Lord contradicted himself. They agreed that there was a place for secure units. The noble Viscount, Lord Addington, made an impressive speech and spoke with feeling.

Lord Addington

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for the promotion.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord said that custody leads to reoffending and therefore, by inference, that custody was bad. It is for those people that the secure training order has been devised. They have been given every chance and they have rejected it. For the people in the community whose lives have continued to be ruined by the young people, I think that the only course is to hook them out in order to give others a more peaceful life. It is for them that the secure training order has been devised.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull was worried about parental involvement in the secure training centres. Of course, they will be flexible and will assess the trainees as individuals and establish a care plan in conjunction, where possible, with the parents and the training supervising officer. We accept the need to draw in parents and involve them, where possible.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, does not like the word "units" and I do not blame him, but I am not sure that "institutions" is much better. Nevertheless, perhaps we may call them that for the time being.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I should not like them to be called "institutions" either.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is what I was saying. Let us not get involved in semantics but accept the expression for the moment. If the youngsters can be improved, so be it. However, I believe that the prime purpose of putting those young people into secure institutions must be realised to be for the benefit of the community from which they have come. Then we must try to improve them. It is in that order. Those children need to be provided with a place where they can be kept in security. They will be given education; they will be given care. And it is to be hoped that they will emerge better and more law-abiding citizens at the end.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that custodial institutions for juveniles of that age group have in the past failed and that youngsters who have left borstals and approved schools have in general only increased their rates of re-offending. In many cases, that has been so. My noble friend Lady Faithful] referred to the failure of the approved schools. However, in developing the secure training order, we shall be drawing on the lessons of past experience. The approved schools catered for a wide range of children in large numbers: they failed to ensure that the children were supervised when they returned to their home community. The secure training centres will not repeat those omissions.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, referred to the drawbacks of custodial institutions. I recognise that institutions can, as they say, be universities of crime. But the secure training centres will aim to prevent that by developing good, positive relationships between staff and the juvenile offenders and by having much smaller numbers of juveniles than was the case in the borstals and approved schools. The noble Lord was also worried about the culture in the secure training centres. The staff in the centres will strive to ensure that a criminal culture does not take hold. In a programme of care, education and discipline, offending behaviour will he tackled.

We hope that the failure of approved schools and borstals in the past will not be repeated this time, but we cannot be too starry-eyed. Some of those young people, for whatever reason, have shown themselves to be bad. We may not succeed in reforming them, but we have to try.

How will the institutions work? First, they will be limited to those children who genuinely need to be contained. Courts will only be able to make an order where statutory criteria are met. Secondly, the regime in the new secure facilities will concentrate on tackling offending behaviour. Many of the successful community programmes which have been developed in recent years have included techniques designed to confront offenders with the consequences of what they have done and make them realise the consequences, both for themselves and for society, of their continued bad behaviour.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, was worried that those people would be labelled as criminals if they were sent to a secure training centre. To qualify for a secure training order, the young person will already have been convicted of three imprisonable offences and will have proved unwilling or unable to comply with a supervision order. So he will have got into that position of his own volition.

One of the drawbacks of the existing secure accommodation for juvenile offenders is that it caters for a wide range of youngsters with a variety of problems. Some are related to offending. Others are not. The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, said that more secure accommodation was needed. But in the Statement on 2nd March it was said that regulations under the Children Act will be amended to allow private and voluntary sectors to provide secure accommodation.

The noble Baroness was also concerned about the extra 60 to 65 places in local authority accommodation. Those places are designed to end the remanding of 15 and 16 year-olds to prison. Plans for the extra accommodation are well advanced and the places are expected to be available in 1995.

In addition, the noble Baroness was concerned about the existing powers. Local authorities, and not the courts, have the responsibility of deciding whether a juvenile under 15 needs to be held in secure accommodation. The local authorities will be reminded of that responsibility. Section 53 of the 1933 Children and Young Persons Act allows the courts to detain only those 10 to 13 year-olds who are convicted of murder or manslaughter. The secure training order is designed to allow courts to deal with the persistent offender committing less grave crimes. The new orders will be served in places which are designed to deal with offending and also designed to deal with how to avoid it.

Then there is greater emphasis on what is termed "through care" or "aftercare". The period in security is only the beginning of the sentence. A later period of supervision when they are released will provide a bridge back to the community in which the youngsters will have returned to live. This is an area which previous custodial orders have not always addressed. My right honourable friend's Statement set out a number of other measures which are designed to prevent children from committing crime and for dealing better with those who do.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, concentrated in his remarks upon the new secure training order. He suggested that, in the words of The Times newspaper, the best thing for the Government to do would be, to cast about for ideas from the public". We are casting about for new ideas. No government—and certainly not this Government—can be sufficiently arrogant as to consider that they have a monopoly either of ideas or of innovation.

My noble friend Lady Faithfull was concerned about the expenditure of £10 million by the Department for Education. She asked whether we should be spending that on a scheme known to have failed. I tell my noble friend that the money has nothing to do with the secure training order. The £10 million is to help schools to tackle truancy.

We are discussing with interested individuals and organisations how best to put this new policy into practice. We have distributed copies of my right honourable friend's Statement widely, and we have invited comments from more than criminal justice and social work organisations. The replies from experts, interested parties and the public will play an important part in ensuring that the new order is as effective as possible in dealing with the small group of juveniles for whom other methods simply have not worked.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, raised a number of important questions to which the Government are still giving consideration. The precise number of places which are to be made available and their location has yet to be determined.

The answer to the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is that we intend that a variety of organisations from the public, the voluntary sector and the private sector will be able to provide the new places which will be required. But, of course, they must all meet the standards which are set by the Government.

The noble Baroness, Lady Mallalieu, referred to costs. I am bound to tell her that I cannot at present tell her what the cost is for places in secure training centres as we are still consulting interested parties on the likely content of the work which they will undertake.

We are still working out the likely specification for the new places. This is one of the areas about which we are particularly interested to hear from those who have experience, expertise or views and who can suggest the sort of regime which is likely to be the most effective.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, wanted to know which department was going to be responsible. He said that he hoped that my right honourable friend's reputation would not depend upon it being in the Home Office. He told me the answers that he did not want me to give. I do not know whether I will give him the answer that he would like me to give him, but I can tell him that—

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, would the noble Earl be good enough to repeat his last remarks?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I was reminding the noble Earl of what he said. He said that he wanted to know which department was to be responsible. He said that he hoped the reputation of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary would not depend upon it being the Home Office. I can assure him that my right honourable friend's reputation will not depend on such an important decision. He takes many such decisions.

The noble Earl also told me the answers that he did not want me to give. I said that I would give him the answer that I wanted to give him and I hoped that it would meet with his approval. He suggested that the new places should be overseen by the Department of Health and that those places should form part of a national network of secure accommodation.

We have established an interdepartmental working group, which includes representatives from the Home Office, the Department of Health, the Department for Education and other government departments. The noble Earl will be delighted to know that it is chaired by a senior Home Office official.

It is envisaged that the order will be a sentence of a court in criminal proceedings. The Home Office must, therefore, have responsibility for ensuring that places are available in which those sentences can be served. The new places may have some similarities to existing secure units, and they will certainly seek to provide high levels of care, discipline and education.

The Department of Health's social services inspectorate will play a part in ensuring that the standards are high. But the fact that all the youngsters in the new places will be persistent juvenile offenders—offenders who are serving a sentence of the court—makes it eminently sensible for the Home Office to be primarily responsible for them.

The proposed new order will require primary legislation and, in due course, your Lordships will have the opportunity to discuss in detail the criteria for the new sentence and how it will work in practice. As my right honourable friend said in his statement on 2nd March, we have not come forward lightly with proposals which have the serious effect of depriving children of their liberty and of removing them from their families. But we have to take account of the quite unacceptable and intolerable effect which constant criminal behaviour by some juveniles has had on the rest of the community of which they form a part. In school-boy language, "it is not fair" on the rest of the community that their lives should be ruined by selfish youths who have a total disregard both for the law and for others.

The noble Earl, Lord Longford, is quite right in saying that we have a moral duty to ensure that the children who become subject to this new order should be dealt with in a way which tries to enable them to become law abiding adults. It will not be easy. But we must certainly try.